2019 Review — FB Pull% Decliners

Yesterday, I discussed surgers in the final important component of my xHR/FB rate equation, FB Pull%. Today, I’ll move on to the decliners. What follows is a list of the hitters whose FB Pull% declined by at least 10 percentage points from 2018.

FB Pull% Decliners
Player 2018 2019 Diff
Daniel Descalso 33.3% 15.8% -17.5%
Jesus Aguilar 33.3% 17.6% -15.8%
Isiah Kiner-Falefa 29.0% 13.7% -15.3%
Yadier Molina 30.6% 17.9% -12.7%
Ryan O’Hearn 27.1% 14.5% -12.6%
Brandon Nimmo 33.0% 20.4% -12.6%
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. 33.3% 21.2% -12.1%
Trevor Story 29.0% 17.6% -11.4%
Jake Bauers 33.8% 22.7% -11.1%
Yasiel Puig 27.8% 16.8% -11.1%
Adam Engel 34.2% 23.4% -10.8%
Matt Carpenter 27.7% 16.9% -10.7%
Aledmys Diaz 32.0% 21.4% -10.6%
Dansby Swanson 26.1% 15.6% -10.6%
Tyler O’Neill 33.3% 22.9% -10.5%
Pablo Sandoval 28.3% 17.9% -10.4%
Jon Jay 16.9% 6.7% -10.2%
League Average 23.7% 24.1% 0.4%

Welp, now we know what was partially behind Jesus Aguilar’s disappearing power! All his other metrics looked good, but his ISO mysteriously fell from the mid-.250 range to just .153. I would be tooting his horn as a nice rebound candidate for cheap, but moving to the Marlins does him no favors. Of course, the Marlins are moving in fences, so it shouldn’t be as pitcher friendly as it has been. That said, it obviously won’t come anywhere close to rivaling Miller Park where he has spent the majority of his short career hitting and the lineup remains poor.

Was Ryan O’Hearn a favorite sleeper of yours heading into the season as the Royals starting first baseman? His ISO was nearly cut in half (well, he wasn’t going to repeat an ISO above .300!) and he played himself out of a job. He might get another chance this season to recover, but he’s gotta get back to pulling his flies for any chance to rebound.

Brandon Nimmo missed much time to injury, and the small sample means that his FB Pull% decline didn’t have a chance to affect his HR/FB rate. His 2018 power breakout was driven by a spike in FB Pull%, so it all comes down to his willingness to pull.

Lourdes Gurriel Jr. had an opportunity to play regularly, but injuries hampered his season. Despite a decline in FB Pull%, his HR/FB rate actually rose. Since his counting stats remain underwhelming due to the injuries, perhaps he’ll come at a discount. But I wouldn’t expect another 20% HR/FB rate again.

Somehow Trevor Story managed an identical HR/FB rate despite a drop in FB Pull%. I guess Coors Fields covers all flaws, but I still want to see that rate rebound before assuming another near 20% HR/FB rate.

Jake Bauers owns an interesting skill set for a former first baseman, but one that intrigued me. Unfortunately, he regressed from his poor 2018 debut, and a decline in FB Pull% helped drive his ISO lower. Now his playing time outlook is cloudy. That said, I’m willing to gamble again on the cheap.

A falloff in FB Pull% for Yasiel Puig to below the league average led to a HR/FB rate that touched his lowest mark since 2016. He remains an enigma with his ups and downs.

So it looks like 2018 was clearly Matt Carpenter’s peak power, though his FB Pull% had sat in the mid-20% range for three straight seasons before the decline this year. Since he barely steals bases and hasn’t contributed in batting average for many, many years, he’ll need to get his pull rate back up, especially to combat his rising strikeout rate.

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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Curious to know how many BIP are needed to get pull% to stabilize? Couldn’t find it in the Sample Size page on here.

Would be good going into next year to see if some of these players go back to pulling more and when we would be a good time to potentially believe in an approach change.