2018 HR/FB Rate Negative Validations Using xHR/FB

Yesterday, I discussed 10 hitters with big HR/FB rates whose marks were actually validated by their xHR/FB rates. Comparing HR/FB rate to xHR/FB rate helps guide my 2019 Pod Projections. Now let’s flip it and check on the hitters who posted surprisingly low HR/FB rates, but that were actually validated by low xHR/FB rates.

Negative HR/FB Validations
Player Brls/True FB Avg FB Distance FB Pull% FB Oppo% HR/FB xHR/FB
Orlando Arcia 10.2% 301 15.2% 37.9% 4.5% 5.7%
Addison Russell 7.7% 307 17.0% 45.3% 4.7% 5.6%
Willie Calhoun 6.9% 301 40.6% 28.1% 6.3% 9.4%
Wilmer Flores 7.6% 311 27.8% 38.0% 7.0% 7.2%
Jay Bruce 19.8% 320 19.7% 29.9% 7.7% 12.2%
Adam Jones 15.6% 313 21.9% 38.8% 8.4% 10.1%
Corey Dickerson 18.8% 319 21.3% 42.0% 8.7% 12.2%
Joey Votto 21.4% 323 15.9% 48.4% 9.5% 14.6%
Population Avg 21.7% 319 23.7% 39.0% 12.9% 13.6%

So much for Orlando Arcia’s sleeper appeal fueled by his power/speed combo. His entire offense fell apart and he even spent some time in the minors. The Brewers don’t have any obvious replacement at shortstop, so Arcia has a little more time to prove that 2017 was closer to his true talent than 2018.

We could probably ignore Addison Russell thanks to his suspension, but figured I’d note how pathetic his power was last season. He didn’t barrel his flies, hit those flies far, or pull those flies. No wonder he managed a meager 4.7% HR/FB rate.

Once again, we won’t know until sometime during spring training how Willie Calhoun’s playing time situation looks. He looked like a potential classic post-hype sleeper given his contact heavy, power-laden results in the minors. But, the power part of the equation was missing in action in 2018. His xHR/FB rate was only 9.4% because of that absurdly high and unsustainable FB Pull%. Ignoring that, he posted the lowest Brls/True FB and Avg FB Distance on the entire list! Oh, and it wasn’t just an MLB thing as his power failed to materialize at Triple-A as well, as he posted just a 5.8% HR/FB rate. What happened Willie?? I would be much more enthusiastic if he continued to hit in the minors. Now I don’t know what to think.

Now with a full-time job in hand in Arizona, Wilmer Flores looked like he could be a popular sleeper. But his HR/FB rate plummeted into single digits in 2018 and xHR/FB rate confirms this was no bad luck. With the introduction of the humidor, Chase Field is now neutral for homers, so he’s not going to get much of a boost, if any, from the park switch.

While Jay Bruce’s xHR/FB rate was 4.5% higher than his actual mark, suggesting there was some bad luck involved, that xHR/FB rate still represented the lowest HR/FB rate of his entire career. Amazingly, Bruce had never posted a HR/FB mark below 2015’s 13.3%. I don’t know how often he’ll play in Seattle, but he’s going to come dirt cheap and should at least get back into the double digits in HR/FB rate. Buy in OBP leagues.

Adam Jones remains without a home and it’s easy to see why. His defense has been atrocious in center over the last two seasons and his HR/FB rate was nearly cut in half. This was the first single digit mark he has posted since his first full season in 2008. And it wasn’t bad luck either, as all three of Brls/True FB, Avg FB Distance, and FB Pull% have been tumbling each season.

So which version of Corey Dickerson shows up this year — the low strikeout, low power or higher strikeout, higher power version? Beats me if I know. What I could tell you, though, is that his Brls/True FB has taken a dive, plummeting each year since 2015. It makes sense for a hitter to shorten his strike to reduce his strikeout rate at the expense of power, but I’m not sure why he would make a conscious decision to make such a change in hitting approach. Funnily enough, his wOBA finished identical to his 2017 mark, which goes to show that their are many paths to the same output.

Yes, Joey Votto’s xHR/FB rate does suggest some bad luck, but, like Bruce above, that xHR/FB represented the lowest HR/FB rate in a full season in Votto’s career. There was clearly power degradation here, even if it wasn’t as much as the drop in HR/FB rate would have you think. Amazingly, Votto posted a Brls/True FB slightly below the league average, the first time in my sample set going back to 2015. His Avg FB Distance also slid below 330 for the first time in those four seasons. At age 35, it’s hard to say how much bounce back to expect. At the least, he should get back into the low teens in HR/FB rate, but will aging effects prevent him from rebounding further?

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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I have to wonder if Adam Jones is just on the traditional pre-PED aging curve and it’s taking us all a while to realize that’s what is normal.