2021 Pod vs Steamer — HR Downside

Yesterday, I compared my Pod Projections to the Steamer projections to identify the hitters with home run upside. I calculated each hitter’s AB/HR rate and then extrapolated it over 600 at-bats. At that point, I compared how many home runs each system is forecasting, given a 600 at-bat projection. Today, I’ll share the names of hitters Pod is projecting for significantly fewer home runs than Steamer.

HR Downside
Player Pod AB/HR Steamer AB/HR Pod HR – 600 AB Steamer HR – 600 AB Diff
Khris Davis 20.4 15.1 29.3 39.9 -10.5
Shogo Akiyama 76.1 37.6 7.9 16.0 -8.1
Ryan Jeffers 33.5 23.6 17.9 25.4 -7.5
Cody Bellinger 15.9 13.3 37.6 45.1 -7.4
Alejandro Kirk 39.0 27.0 15.4 22.2 -6.8
Juan Soto 15.8 13.5 38.0 44.5 -6.5
Rafael Devers 20.8 17.0 28.9 35.3 -6.4

Seriously, first it was Chris Davis, now it’s Khris Davis?! What is going on with the Davis boys who spell their first name differently but pronounce it the same way?! Khris Davis was traded to the Rangers over the offseason and while there’s a path to every day at-bats, he figures to open the season on the short time of a DH platoon. After posted mid-20% HR/FB rates for four straight seasons, his power has been in a downward spiral. First, his HR/FB rate dropped below 20% in 2019, while his ISO dropped below .200 for the first time, and then over a tiny sample in 2020, it all fell apart, with his HR/FB rate sliding into single digits and ISO dropping to what you might expect from a light-hitting middle infielder. Was injury to blame or was this just a swift decline that sometimes happens in the early 30s? His xHR/FB rate suggests bad luck wasn’t the culprit, as his marks have declined each season since their 2017 peak. Obviously, I’m projecting some sort of a rebound, near to his 2019 season, but that doesn’t compare at all to the rebound Steamer is forecasting, as if 2019 and 2020 never happened. It’s really anyone’s guess at this point.

Shogo Akiyama wasn’t supposed to be a complete zero in the power department, but he failed to hit a single homer in 155 at-bats during his 2020 debut. It’s not like he made up for it with doubles and triples though, as his ISO sat at just .052, and his xHR/FB rate was barely better than his 0% actual mark at 1.5%. He barely pulled any of his flies and liners and rarely hit a barrel, while posting a well below average batted ball distance. I am guessing Steamer is weighing Akiyama’s Nippon Professional Baseball home run record more heavily, but at age 32 already, it’s possible his power just won’t translate.

Ryan Jeffers skipped Triple-A and then more than doubled his High-A and Double-A HR/FB rates from 2019 during his small sample 2020 MLB debut. It’s hard for me to project the type of success Steamer is for a catcher that skipped Triple-A and barely even played at Double-A.

Cody Bellinger’s career HR/FB rates look like a roller coaster, going from mid-20% down to mid-teens, back up to mid-20%, and back down to mid-teens. Is the every other year trend going to continue with a rebound into the mid-20% range again in 2021? What’s funny is that although it’s been a bit more consistent than his actual marks, his xHR/FB rates tell a similar story. I’m taking he middle road here, but another difference driver is in his strikeout rate, where Steamer is easily the most optimistic. My xK% equation suggests he was lucky in both 2019 and 2020 and some regression should be expected in 2021.

Man, if you thought I was being cautious on Triple-A skipper Jeffers, imagine my thoughts on Alejandro Kirk, who skipped Double-A too! Amazingly, he made the jump straight from High-A, which is just ridiculous. He only managed a 6% HR/FB rate and .159 ISO at High-A in 2019, so it’s hard to believe he’ll post the .177 ISO Steamer projects, which is the highest of all the systems.

Welp, I guess I know why I passed on Juan Soto in favor of Mike Trout at fourth overall in LABR Mixed! I’m far less bullish on his homers than Steamer is, which is what’s likely driving the optimism by those selecting him inside the top four. It’s obvious where the bullishness comes from — he was a 21-year-old whose HR/FB rate just jumped from the low-to-mid 20% range to 36.1%, so fantasy owners are now buying a true talent 30% HR/FB rate guy, or close to it. I’m not. While his xHR/FB rate actually validates his 2020 outburst, he posted marks of only about 22% during his first two full seasons, while his latest mark was done over just a quarter of the flies + liners hit in 2019 and half of 2018. Also, it’s admittedly hard for me to believe that a then-21-year-old and now-22-year-old is really that good at baseball.

So it appears the disagreement about Rafael Devers actually stems from his strikeout rate, as I’m more bearish than Steamer and every other projection system. Simply looking at his xK% marks, it looks like so far, 2019 was the outlier, as his skills regressed back to his pre-2019 levels in 2020. Steamer is the biggest strikeout rate bull, far more optimistic than the rest of the systems, so that’s really driving the difference in AB/HR rate here.

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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Carlos Baerga
Carlos Baerga

Hey Mike, can you clarify if this is HR/AB or actually HR/PA?