Yesterday, I finally launched my never ending series of lists as we look toward the 2016 season by reviewing those fantasy relevant hitters who gained at least 15 feet of batted ball distance from 2014 to 2015. As you may have guessed, today I’ll look at the other end, those hitters who lost the most distance. Since there were surprisingly fewer extreme decliners, the list is going to include those who lost at least 10 feet of distance, rather than 15 feet like the gainers list included.
In Chad Young’s study, he found that those hitters who lost at least 10 feet of distance from year one to year two only bounced back marginally. The group that lost 10-15 feet actually only rebounded by 0.6 feet! The 15+ foot losers enjoyed more meaningful bounces, gaining back about seven of the 19 feet they had lost the prior year. So essentially, it’s an ominous sign if a hitter loses significant distance. Sure, he’ll probably rebound some, but not to the degree you might be hoping for.
|Name||2015 HR/FB||2014 HR/FB||2015 Dist||2014 Dist||Diff|
Of the 14 batters listed, 11 of them also experience a decline in HR/FB rate. But it feels like the drops weren’t as dramatic as the gains were in yesterday’s surgers list.
It shouldn’t be too shocking to find a catcher who was knocked out early in the year by a knee injury top our list. Yan Gomes missed a month and a half with a sprained MCL after a home plate collision, and since healthy knees obviously play a role in a hitter’s power and overall plate productivity, he was very likely affected by the issue when he returned. Interestingly, his HR/FB rate didn’t decline by such a massive amount, so he was probably a bit fortunate to still maintain a rate above 10% given that pitiful distance. There are some red flags here, namely his scary walk and strikeout rate combination, but the power should rebound and he could be undervalued.
This was more of a regression back to his mean for Carlos Santana, who had actually jumped 17 feet from 2013 to 2014 (which perfectly paired with a HR/FB rate spike). A consistently high Pull% means he gets the most out of his middling distance.
George Springer debuted with much fanfare in 2014 and he didn’t disappoint on the power front, posting a .237 ISO and ranking third in distance. But how often do hitters debut with an ISO that high and then sustain it the following year? You had to figure some regression, so this isn’t all that alarming. I’m more curious to see if he could hold onto those contact gains, as his power is going to be fine (especially since his FB% should rebound).
What are the odds that no team has stepped up to sign Justin Upton yet because they are concerned about his batted ball distance decline? This was the lowest distance mark of his career, which is concerning for someone who should still be performing at a relatively stable rate at his age. His projection will obviously depend on where he ends up.
We could probably chalk up Michael Brantley’s decline to injury, though I wonder if regression would have happened anyway even had he been healthy. Now having to return from shoulder surgery, he’s a major risk.
I hope you didn’t bet on a repeat from Victor Martinez’s magical 2014. Of course, he also falls into the Brantley camp in that his decline definitely had at least something to do with injury. But there most likely would have been regression either way. Since his BABIP is going to rebound, perhaps he becomes undervalued now. Though in leagues with 20 game eligibility, he’ll only qualify for the Util spot. I absolutely hate having Util only guys on my team and routinely let them go at a discount in my own auction leagues!
I left Justin Smoak on the list for two reason — a) because of how bullish I was heading into the 2015 season and b) because even though his power output did spike like I predicted, it did so in spite of his distance actually dropping! He somehow managed to nearly triple his HR/FB rate even though his distance fell by 11 feet. That’s bonkers.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.