2018 Average Fly Ball Distance Surgers

On Monday and Tuesday, I discussed the surgers and the decliners in one of my xHR/FB rate metrics, barrels per true fly ball (Brls/TFB). Today, I’ll move on to another component of the equation, average fly ball distance (AFBD, because I’m lazy).

You might assume that the two metrics would be highly correlated, resulting in very similar lists. They are indeed with a 0.76 correlation from 2015 to 2018, though that is actually a bit lower than I would have expected. So given that the correlation is high, but not extremely so, we might see some real differences between the two surgers lists. Let’s find out. I’ll list those hitters who increased their AFBD by at least 20 feet and hit at least 30 fly balls.

2018 Avg Fly Ball Dist Surgers
Player 2017 2018 Diff
Tyler Saladino 287 327 40
Christian Yelich 321 360 39
Elias Diaz 285 324 39
Omar Narvaez 275 308 33
Ian Desmond 324 352 28
Gorkys Hernandez 299 326 27
Steve Pearce 317 344 27
Mark Canha 298 324 26
Mookie Betts 311 335 24
Pablo Sandoval 317 341 24
Joe Mauer 312 334 22
Austin Romine 305 326 21
Starling Marte 314 335 21
Xander Bogaerts 304 324 20
League Average 321 319 -2

Raise your hand if you had Tyler Saladino leading baseball in AFBD increase.

Christian Yelich led our Brls/TFB surgers list on Monday, and he appears second here. Yeah, it was an unbelievable season.

Ian Desmond and Mookie Betts are two more who sit near the top of both surgers lists.

Starling Marte is the new name here. His Brls/TFB only rose from 21.9% to 25.6%, which isn’t all that much, but his AFBD surged by 21 feet, which is significant. Although the increase in Brls/TFB is actually greater on a percentage basis, he failed to make the gainers list. So our takeaway here is that his barrels became much more productive in 2018. Whether that’s sustainable or not, I don’t know, but it does validate the rebound in HR/FB rate.

A sleeper here is Mark Canha, who missed the Brls/TFB, but just barely. He could play first base and the outfield, and the Athletics don’t exactly have a stock of established vets. At the very least, he’ll pick up at-bats against lefthanders.

Everyone is always searching for a productive catcher, and Omar Narvaez’s appearance here and on the Brls/TFB list is interesting. Amazingly, he sported a 0% Brls/TFB rate last year! So the spike in that metric merely took him from pathetic to well below average. The AFBD in 2018 was much more respectable, though still below average. At the moment, Narvaez appear atop the catching depth chart on his new team, the Mariners. He’s got excellent plate discipline, so he gets a real boost in value in OBP leagues. Given his history, a power repeat is questionable, but he appears pretty safe not to kill you in deeper or AL-Only leagues.

Wait, is Pablo Sandoval capable of providing some offense again? His HR/FB rate spiked to a career high, and he rebounded in other areas as well. His fly ball rate fell to its lowest mark since his debut in 2008, so that should rebound back above 30%. He could play first and third base and is behind two guys who aren’t exactly the model of health. Why not take a cheap gamble in NL-Only leagues?

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.

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3 years ago

I had Yelich last year and obviously was aware of his big finish, but even I didn’t realize how insanely hot he was in the 2nd half. Yelich’s 2nd half (post AS Break)

367/449/770, .502 wOBA and 220 wRC+, 25 HR, 58 R, 67 RBI, 10 SB and 5.4 WAR

He led on all those categories except SB and HR (Khris Davis remarkably had 27 post ASB last year), and mostly by wide margins.