2020 Review — HR/FB Rate Negative Validations

Last week, I used my xHR/FB v4.0 equation to share the names of the hitters who either enjoyed a HR/FB rate surge from 2019 or posted a surprise mark in 2020 after not playing in 2019. The wrinkle is that these players all posted xHR/FB rates that validated the HR/FB rate spikes. Today, let’s discuss hitters on the opposite end of the spectrum — those that suffered a surprise decline in HR/FB rate that was confirmed as a legit falloff by xHR/FB rate.

I limited the population to only those who recorded at least 30 fly balls and line drives so at least we have some sort of sample size that’s not ridiculously small.

HR/FB Rate Negative Validations
Player 2019 HR/FB 2020 HR/FB 2020 xHR/FB HR/FB Diff 2020 HR/FB – 2020 xHR/FB
Joey Gallo 37.3% 16.7% 20.0% -20.6% -3.3%
Ketel Marte 19.0% 3.8% 6.5% -15.3% -2.7%
Gleyber Torres 21.5% 7.1% 9.4% -14.3% -2.2%
Franmil Reyes 31.1% 18.4% 20.1% -12.7% -1.7%
Jose Altuve 23.3% 11.4% 14.2% -11.9% -2.9%
Khris Davis 18.3% 7.7% 10.3% -10.6% -2.6%

Typically, there’s one thing you can always count on from Joey Gallo — lots and lots of homers driven by a league or near league leading HR/FB rate. Without the power, he would generate negative value for fantasy teams because his killer batting average would have nothing to be offset by. That’s what happened in 2020. His HR/FB rate declined by more than half and his xHR/FB mostly confirmed the decline. His Std Dev of Dist FB+LD fell dramatically, while his Barrel FB% was cut in half. He’s still just 27 years old and I’m guessing if we dug into the data, we would find his high walk/high strikeout approach makes him super streaky. So it’s an easy call for me to believe this was just small sample noise and he’ll be back to what we usually expect in 2021.

From 2016-2019, Ketel Marte’s HR/FB rate swiftly rose each season from just 1.1% all the way up to 19.0%. Was his 2019 power breakout a new sustained level of skill or was he a one-season wonder destined to drop back to the high single digit HR/FB rate range? Or perhaps he would land somewhere between his 2017-2019 seasons. The answer was none of the above, as his HR/FB rate dropped far further than anyone would have guessed. With no word of playing through injury, I have no idea what happened. Now, 2021 becomes an even bigger crapshoot and we really have no idea what he’ll give us. His 2020 wasn’t enough of a sample size to be confident in saying 2019 was the fluke, so a repeat is still technically on the table.

Gleyber Torres was one of 2020’s surprise disappointments, as you don’t expect a 23 year old rising star to suddenly lose so much power. Many of his other metrics actually suggested real growth at the plate, but his power went missing in action and his xHR/FB rate confirms that he didn’t just get unlucky. I had felt Torres had been overvalued in previous season drafts, but I’m happy to roster him this year if his price drops to account for his down 2020.

You were probably fine with Franmil Reyes’ performance in 2020, but likely expected a bit more on the home run side. I would love to see a higher fly ball rate here, which does give us a path to upside, but he’s gotta correct whatever caused his xHR/FB rate to fall to a career low. The truth though is that he had massively outperformed his xHR/FB rate in both 2018 and 2019, so it’s possible that expectations got out of hand based on some good fortune. In 2020, that fortune reversed, as he actually posted a HR/FB rate just below his xHR/FB.

In 2019, Jose Altuve formally made the transition from speed only guy, to power/speed guy, to just power guy. However, it ended up lasting just one season, and now he’s in danger of becoming not any guy, as his speed stayed down, along with his power decline in 2020. Looking at his historical xHR/FB rates, it looks most likely that 2019 was the outlier, as every other year was in the mid-teens. The problem here is that he has stopped stealing bases and we just don’t know if he’ll turn the running game back on again, and at least get those steals back into double digits. He’ll still earn value of course as even mid-teens homers with 5-10 steals, and a solid batting average has its place on a roster, but it’s a far cry from peak fantasy Altuve.

So now it’s official – regardless of how you spell it, if your last name is Davis and first name pronounced kris, your offense is going to fall off a cliff. Chris Davis has already experienced such a decline, so now it was Khris Davis’ turn. He began his descent in 2019, but he still managed an 18.3% HR/FB rate. In 2020, over a tiny sample, even the power completely evaporated, as he failed to post a HR/FB rate into double digits. Will he even get an opportunity to rebound? Even on his new Rangers squad, it would be silly for them to give up on Willie Calhoun and not give him as long a leash as possible, which leaves Davis without any real opportunity.





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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will1331cbragg84 Recent comment authors
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cbragg84
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cbragg84

Good stuff, Mike.

Ketel Marte hit the DL on 9/9 with wrist inflammation. Not sure when he sustained the injury and how long he tried to play through it.

will1331
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will1331

There were also a reports of him pressing to repeat 2019’s success, which led to some disastrous decisions at the plate. He made more contact but lower quality contact. Swung less on meatball pitches, and had -6 Swing/Take Runs in the heart of the zone, compared to +12 in 2019. Max velo was still there (4th among qualifiers).

I didn’t see any comments from him regarding in-game video, but maybe it’s return helps? Seems like a decent buy-low opportunity.