Yesterday, I identified and discussed a smattering of hitters who made surprising appearances near the top of the barrels per true fly ball (Brls/TFB) leaderboard. Today, we flip to the opposite end of the list, moving to the laggards. These are going to be fantasy relevant guys you never expected to appear closer to the bottom of the leaderboard than the top.
There were far fewer surprises on the laggard side of the list than the leaders, most definitely because of the leaguewide power surge.
Even at age 34, it was exciting to imagine the things Daniel Murphy could do at the plate playing half his games at his new home, Coors Field. Unfortunately, it was another ho-hum season for the veteran, with his results mirroring his previous year and pre-2016 and 2017 peaks. So much for the Coors effect. He actually did take advantage of Coors, though not to the degree we expected, but he stunk on the road, averaging out to mediocrity. At the very least, he should be a strong batting average contributor, even if he wasn’t in 2019.
Whaaaaaa, Alex Bregman?! Yup. Surprisingly, he has actually finished below league average in Brls/TFB ever season he has played. He makes up for it, though, by pulling a high percentage of his flies. Surprisingly, he actually posted a higher Away HR/FB rate than Home. So it wasn’t a park thing that led to his ever rising HR/FB rate. Because he so dramatically outperformed his xHR/FB rate, and he did more of his damage away, I expect some serious regression next season.
Jose Ramirez posted a Brls/TFB just barely below the league average in 2018, but this year he reverted back to his 2017 level well below the league average. For a guy who has hit at least 23 homers the last three seasons, that might be surprising. But Ramirez isn’t hitting all those homers because of his mammoth power. Instead, it’s because he hits tons of flies (near 46% rate the last two years), and he rarely strikes out. That’s a super safe combination for continued home runs.
We know Travis Shaw endured a forgettable season and for whatever reason, he simply couldn’t barrel up his flies as often as he had previously. The previous two seasons he was above 20%, so this is a sizable decline. That said, he lands in another favorable hitting environment, so I’m buying any discount and crossing my fingers for a bounce back.
Joey Votto’s swift decline is sad to see, as he was one of the best pure hitters in baseball for many, many years. His Brls/TFB rate has now declined every season since 2015, the first year of Statcast data. I can’t find any glimmer of hope for a rebound.
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.