2019 Pod vs Steamer — HR Upside

Welcome to the 2019 Pod vs Steamer series, in which I pit my Pod Projections against Steamer projections in a variety of categories. First, I’ll start with home runs and today will be the upside guys.

I have again decided to change the method I use to highlight the players my projections are more bullish and bearish on than Steamer. Last year, I switched to comparing ratios, opting for AB/HR, which is obviously far superior to just straight homers, since playing time plays a major role. However, that’s still not perfect, because if I project a hitter to homer every 150 at-bats, but Steamer says once every 250 at-bats, we have a 100 at-bat difference, but in reality, the two systems are only projecting a difference of 1.6 homers. That’s nothing.

Instead, I calculated the projected per-600 at-bat home run total for each system and then sorted by the difference, so we’re looking at 30 vs 24 homers, rather than four versus two homers.

Remember, there are three direct factors driving a hitter’s home run total — his strikeout rate, his fly ball rate, and his HR/FB rate. Of those, only the Steamer strikeout rate forecast is on FanGraphs. So we’ll have to guess the cause of the discrepancies.

Pod vs Steamer – HR Upside
Player Pod AB/HR Steamer AB/HR Pod HR – 600 AB Steamer HR – 600 AB Diff – 600 AB
Franchy Cordero 19.6 28.3 30.6 21.2 9.4
Peter O’Brien 16.3 21.8 36.8 27.5 9.4
Jose Martinez 23.8 32.1 25.2 18.7 6.5
Chris Taylor 29.1 38.1 20.6 15.7 4.9
Trevor Story 16.0 18.2 37.6 33.0 4.6
Aaron Hicks 19.9 23.4 30.2 25.7 4.5
Harrison Bader 25.0 30.8 24.0 19.5 4.5
Tommy Pham 21.0 24.9 28.5 24.1 4.4
Hunter Renfroe 16.7 19.0 35.8 31.6 4.3
Travis Shaw 17.0 19.4 35.2 31.0 4.3
Joey Gallo 11.8 12.8 51.0 46.9 4.1
Brandon Belt 22.2 26.1 27.0 23.0 4.0
Ramon Laureano 26.0 31.3 23.1 19.1 4.0

Oh Franchy. If you attended the Baseball HQ First Pitch Forum in NJ on Saturday, you would have learned that I’m a fan of Franchy Cordero. But beats the heck out of me how the playing time in that outfield is going to shake out. That said, he displayed massive power last year and actually led baseball in average home run distance (though the sample size was small at just seven dingers). Somehow my K% projection is identical to Steamer, so it could be either the fly ball or HR/FB, or a combo of both, I’m more optimistic on. For such a power guy, his fly ball rates have been rather low, so I’m betting on a realization that he should be hitting more balls in the air (though Eric Hosmer has yet to come to that very realization himself).

Yes, Peter O’Brien also strikes out a ton, but his power was nearly as impressive as Franchy’s last year. The discrepancy here is clearly the strikeout rate, as Steamer is projecting a 36% mark and I’m in the low 30% range. In a bad ball park and offense, he’s clearly just a cheap flyer in NL-Only leagues.

Someone, anyone, please free Jose Martinez! His xHR/FB rate suggests that he has major home run upside versus last year and his home run power only declined marginally from 2017. Pick him up immediately if he finds himself with an everyday job again.

Aaahhhh, so that’s why I keep rostering Chris Taylor for what I believe is ridiculously cheap! I’m projecting a slightly better strikeout rate and xHR/FB rate tells me that his 2017 and 2018 seasons were actually quite similar. It appears that Steamer is down on his power and think there’s another step down in that HR/FB rate. I just keep buying, as you also have the potential for double digit steals.

I guess I bought into Trevor Story as a super early pick this year. I’m a bit more bullish on his strikeout rate than Steamer and believe he’s absolutely a 20% HR/FB rate guy, rather than the lower mark he posted in 2017.

Yup, that’s why Aaron Hicks also always appear to be a bargain in my drafts and auction so far. This time, it’s not the strikeout rate, but likely the HR/FB rate. After a surge to a new career high, all projection systems are going to naturally project regression. How much regression to project is the million dollar question. I’m projecting almost the midpoint between 2017 and 2018, as he’s showcased nearly identical HR/FB rate skills these past two seasons that should result in something around a 17% mark. Now you just gotta cross your fingers that injuries don’t ruin his performance.

Harrison Bader is another strikeout rate divergence, probably because I’m using my hitter xK%, which is quite insightful when we have limited history to work with. His xHR/FB rate last year also suggested upside.

Wow, so Tommy Pham is definitely a strikeout rate thing. Maybe I’m a glass half full kinda guy when it comes to strikeouts? Umm, I’m also projecting a 30% fly ball rate for the first time in his career, because a player capable of posting a 20%+ HR/FB rate should be hitting more than 30% fly balls! There’s seemingly much more room for upside in that fly ball rate than downside.

The Padres have their pick of power hitting outfielders as Hunter Renfroe joins in on the home run upside fun. It’s not a strikeout rate thing this time as Steamer and I are projecting identical marks. I’m at a loss of what it could be, as my fly ball and HR/FB rate forecasts are essentially in line with how he has performed in the Majors so far.

Really, I’m high on Travis Shaw?! Never would have guessed. Miller Park is fantastic for left-handed home runs, so there’s little reason to think Shaw can’t continue what he has been doing, especially since the underlying skills support the HR/FB.

For a change, I’m actually the more pessimistic one on the strikeout rate, so it must come down to fly ball or HR/FB rate for Joey Gallo. Both of my projections are right near his career average, but maybe Steamer is thinking that a 50% fly ball rate is just really, really hard to sustain each year. Or is the 29% HR/FB rate?

Man, Brandon Belt would be a star if he didn’t call AT&T Park home. It’s gotta be the HR/FB rate, as I’m forecasting a nice little rebound, settling in above his career mark. That’s because of his more impressive xHR/FB rates, which do account for park factors. Of course, perhaps Belt is even more affected than others by his home park, which is certainly possible considering his 8.8% home HR/FB rate versus 14.2% away mark. The park’s home run factor isn’t that bad to cause such a gap, so he must be affected by a greater degree. Or just unlucky all these years 😉

Soooo, I thought Ramon Laureano was a trendy sleeper this year, but judging from my drafts so far (two snakes and an auction), that hasn’t been the case at all. Yet crazily, I still haven’t managed to roster him even once. I’m actually more bearish on his strikeout rate than Steamer, but am projecting a jump in fly ball rate given his 2017 and 2018 minor batted ball distributions, and xHR/FB rate actually spit out a 21.9% mark during his small sample of at-bats in his debut. He still owns a weak 8.9% HR/FB rate at Double-A in 2017 on his record, but that looks like the fluke, given that it’s surrounded by high teen marks and a 20% mark. I’m not thrilled about him likely batting toward the bottom of the lineup, but he could provide a scintillating blend of power and speed, and apparently, at a cheap price.

We hoped you liked reading 2019 Pod vs Steamer — HR Upside by Mike Podhorzer!

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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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Skin Blues
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Skin Blues

With how many people use Steamer projections, this is a great way to find an edge, and identify the guys that the algorithms don’t properly capture. I’ve been using your Pod Projections the past couple years and I like that there are differences from Steamer that provide buying opportunities.

Most of the guys on this list have been targets of mine (for obvious reasons…), and I agree on Laureano not going as high as I think he should. He’s kind of the total package. Power, speed, youth, can take a walk, and great defense that will keep him in the lineup every day. He hasn’t shown a ton of power yet, but he’s got the EV to be a power hitter if he can get his FB% up to 40% like it was in AAA.