2018 HR/FB Rate Positive Validations Using xHR/FB

One of the first steps you must take en route to completing a player projection is determining if the previous season’s performance was “for real”. We all use historical statistics as our baseline for future forecasts, and the Pod Projections are no different. How do we come up with a home run projection? There are a bunch of components driving that projection, one of which is the hitter’s HR/FB rate. We could use my xHR/FB rate equation to look back and help determine whether a hitter’s actual HR/FB rate was real. So let’s begin with the guys who posted high HR/FB rates that xHR/FB completely supported. Though the validation doesn’t automatically mean a repeat is in the cards, there’s certainly better odds than if the metric suggested great fortune was primarily behind the mark.

Positive HR/FB Validations
Player Brls/True FB Avg FB Distance FB Pull% FB Oppo% HR/FB xHR/FB
Luke Voit 57.1% 346 13.5% 43.2% 40.5% 30.8%
Christian Yelich 58.2% 360 16.5% 37.9% 35.0% 32.9%
Shohei Ohtani 51.4% 343 17.6% 45.9% 29.7% 28.1%
Franmil Reyes 42.0% 343 22.2% 37.0% 29.6% 24.0%
Max Muncy 40.2% 346 27.7% 40.3% 29.4% 25.8%
Tyler Austin 43.6% 337 20.7% 51.7% 29.3% 25.7%
Daniel Palka 42.2% 338 35.0% 34.0% 27.0% 26.4%
Tyler O’Neill 53.1% 354 33.3% 30.6% 25.0% 30.5%
Juan Soto 37.8% 352 11.2% 51.7% 24.7% 21.0%
Jake Cave 48.2% 332 12.5% 37.5% 23.2% 25.7%
Population Avg 21.7% 319 23.7% 39.0% 12.9% 13.6%

Look, I’m as nervous as you about rostering Luke Voit after his absurd 148 plate appearance run with the Yankees. It feels like a typical newbie move buying for 2019. Especially because Greg Bird still exists. But all the metrics, especially the power ones, point to a legitimately monstrous small sample performance. Interestingly, his FB Pull% was pretty tiny, which suggests to me that there’s upside here to offset if/when his Brls/TFB and Avg FB Dist regress. At a current NFBC ADP of about 191, as the 18th first baseman off the board, I’m buying. The risk just isn’t that high given the low cost and it’s easy to find a corner guy to replace him if he turns back into a pumpkin (heck, that would give Bird another shot, in which case you might as well take the plunge again!).

See Christian Yelich, you should be hitting more fly balls! If you barrel your flies so frequently and hit them so darn far, you should be hitting as many as you can.

Who knows how TJ surgery affects Shohei Ohtani’s hitting. But in 2018 at least, he was crushing the ball.

I love Franmil Reyes‘ power, but I don’t love the Padres’ glut of outfielders. They have five guys who could realistically earn a starting job, so his job security is lacking. High risk, high reward in 2019.

I have no idea where this came from, but Max Muncy’s power outburst was almost fully supported by his underlying skills. But because he did this is in triple the plate appearances as Voit, he’s going about 108th overall as the 10th first baseman off the NFBC board. It’s not too crazy a price, but he was a bit less consistent of a power source in the minors than Voit, though both vastly outperformed their track record. Give me the significantly cheaper Voit.

How much do you believe in C.J. Cron? He’s currently the only one standing in the powerful Tyler Austin’s path to regular at-bats. Austin is yet another out-of-nowhere first baseman in his mid-to-late twenties who delivered big power over a relatively small sample. The difference here is that Austin has been posting 20%+ HR/FB rates since 2016, whereas Voit and Muncy’s big power suddenly manifested during their time in the Majors. Austin is certainly worth a buck in an AL-Only league.

With first base and the designated hitter slot filled and a complete inability to play the outfield, Daniel Palka’s playing time outlook is murky at best. He was also putrid against lefties in 2018. But man did he give the ball a ride and pulled his flies like genuine power hitters do. Amazingly, he has posted double digit HR/FB rates at every single minor league stop he’s made throughout his career.

Tyler O’Neill has nowhere to play, given that the Cardinals already have four starting caliber outfielders, which makes the powerhouse the epitome of a deep league sleeper. Look at that Brls/True FB, Avg FB Dist, and FB Pull% marks! His xHR/FB rate suggest he was unlucky with a 25% HR/FB rate, if anything! Of course, along with that power came an embarrassing strikeout rate. He’ll need to find a happy medium between strikeouts and power. Perhaps he, Joey Gallo, and Miguel Sano could all hang out and figure it out together.

Was I the only one who hadn’t heard of Juan Soto until his call-up? Boy did he have a heck of a 2018 between the minors and Majors. More pulled flies would be a boon to his power output, and there’s ample room for his fly ball rate to increase as well. He rarely swings and misses already and posted an absurd 16% walk rate as a rookie. I’d be shocked if this kid doesn’t become a superstar.

Back to the Twins again, where this guy called Jake Cave struck out a third of the time, but was on a 26 homer pace over a full season. He has no job either at the moment, but hey, Byron Buxton could flop again!

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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5 years ago

Dumb question – can you see average FB length in the player profile page anywhere?

5 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

Thanks Mike!