A year ago, I introduced the newest version of my xHR/FB rate equation. One of its components is barrels per true by ball rate (Brls/TFB), which divides the Statcast Barrels count by fly balls – pop-ups. The use of true fly balls, rather than the batted ball events (BBE) count the Baseball Savant leaderboard shows us, pits all types of hitters on the same playing field, instead of unfairly penalizing extreme ground ball hitters or benefiting extreme fly ball hitters.
Let’s take a look at all hitters with at least 30 true fly balls that increased their Brls/TFB rate by at least 10%. Then I’ll discuss the interesting names.
|Player||2017 Brls/TFB||2018 Brls/TFB||Diff|
Holy guacamole Christian Yelich! And now you know what fueled his MVP campaign. It’s too bad he still hits so few fly balls. Of course, if he ever got that fly ball rate up to just a league average mark, how will it affect the rest of his performance?
It took a little longer than hoped, but Xander Bogaerts has finally enjoyed the power spike everyone was expecting. Note how minuscule that 2017 mark was compared to the league average. He could have easily been confused with some slap-hitting speedster that knocks just a couple of homers a year.
Surprise, surprise, we have both MVPs in the top three of Brls/TFB surgers! Part of Mookie Betts’ allure is his strong strikeout rate and amazing ability to make contact. These skills are all the more impressive when coupled with his power surge.
It took an extra year, but this was more of what we expected from Ian Desmond at Coors Field. Now he just needs to work on getting his fly ball rate back up to his pre-2016 days, because all that power is being wasted hitting so many grounders. He and Yelich should brainstorm.
It may come with tons of swings and misses and no plate patience, but man does Javier Baez possess mammoth power. Still, this is a skill set that scares the heck out of me. I just don’t think he’s worth the risk at the price he’ll likely cost on draft day.
Leonys Martin figures to earn a starting job in the Cleveland outfield this season, and his Brls/TFB spike makes him an interesting draft day buy, at what should likely be at a minimal cost. He also seemingly joined the fly ball revolution, posting a career high fly ball rate, the first time above 40%. His stolen base attempts have dried up, but he’s still capable of double digits, offering an intriguing mix of power and speed.
Nomar Mazara finally displayed the power projected of him, but his fly ball rate plummeted, so he hit exactly 20 homers for the third straight season. If and when that rate rebounds, he could threaten the 30 homer plateau.
There might be even more upside for Mitch Haniger, as his HR/FB rate and ISO were virtually unchanged from 2017 to 2018, but he barreled up his flies significantly more often this past season. Add a sprinkling of steals, and he’s one of the quieter all-around contributors, with solid skills across the board.
Don’t leave Ryan Braun for dead just yet, as his power is still very much still alive. Yes, health and playing time will remain a question mark, but with his speed, he’s an excellent target for his production while on the field. His value spikes even higher in daily transaction leagues.
It’s too bad that Gregory Polanco might miss a chunk of the season recovering from shoulder surgery, as his Brls/TFB hit a career high. His homer total was also boosted by a career best fly ball rate.
Ketel Marte’s HR/FB rate and ISO jumped to career highs, and that surge was supported by a jump in Brls/TFB. Sadly, he’s essentially stopped stealing bases to be a true power/speed threat, but he still possesses well above average speed, so the steal attempts could jump at any time.
Trey Mancini’s Brls/TFB was already solidly above average during his surprise 2017 debut, but he upped that even further to a truly elite level in 2018. The issue here is precisely what has plagued Yelich and Desmond discussed above — a strange penchant for grounders. Mancini’s grounder fetish isn’t as serious as the other two, but it’s crazy that he has posted GB% marks of at least 51% these past two seasons. A mark closer to the league average could push his homer total to near 30.
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.