2021 Review: Hitter Pull FB% Laggards

Yesterday, I discussed the leaders of another variable of my hitter xHR/FB rate equation, pulled fly ball percentage (PFB). Let’s now review the laggards. Rather than look at this list negatively, consider the potential upside here if these hitters decide to become more pull-happy.

Pull FB% Laggards
Player HR/FB Pull FB%
Yadiel Hernandez 19.1% 4.4%
Starlin Castro 4.2% 5.6%
Tyler Stephenson 14.3% 5.8%
Ke’Bryan Hayes 8.6% 7.3%
Nick Madrigal 5.6% 7.4%
Yonathan Daza 3.4% 7.5%
Danny Mendick 4.7% 7.7%
Kelvin Gutierrez 6.4% 8.0%
Nick Maton 6.9% 8.0%
Reese McGuire 1.8% 8.1%
Jake Meyers 18.8% 8.3%
Luis Guillorme 3.3% 8.3%
Miguel Cabrera 12.8% 8.5%
Eloy Jimenez 21.7% 8.6%
DJ LeMahieu 7.7% 8.6%
Andrew Knizner 2.7% 8.7%
Jace Peterson 8.8% 9.1%
Jonathan Davis 4.2% 9.1%
Magneuris Sierra 0.0% 9.1%
Corey Seager 16.5% 10.0%
Jorge Alfaro 9.1% 10.0%
Leody Taveras 8.6% 10.0%
Myles Straw 2.7% 10.0%
Population Avg 13.7% 26.1%

Yadiel Hernandez was a surprise deep league contributor, playing about a half season in his rookie year at age 33. He managed to post a strong HR/FB rate, despite rarely ever pulling his fly balls. He actually didn’t do anything particularly well, which is why my xHR/FB rate suggests he was quite lucky to post the HR/FB rate he did (14.1% xHR/FB rate). However, there’s obviously upside in that PFB, as it certainly can’t go much lower. We have no history to go by to see if he’s had a history of not pulling his flies, so it’s anyone’s guess what he’ll do this season.

Tyler Stephenson, the Reds’ third ranked prospect enjoyed a solid debut while earning eligibility both at catcher and first base. His HR/FB rate was well above anything he had posted in the minors, and he did that while rarely pulling his flies. Like Hernandez above, xHR/FB rate didn’t believe in Stephenson’s actual HR/FB rate (9.9% xHR/FB rate), so he’ll really need to boost that PFB up higher to avoid serious regression. There’s lots to like here as a catcher that won’t kill you, but his BABIP is likely to fall as well.

Ke’Bryan Hayes missed multiple chunks of games with a wrist injury that likely affected him all season. However, over a tiny sample, he wasn’t much of a pull hitter during his 2020 debut either, so instead, the wrist issue likely hampered his ability to barrel his liners (his Barrell FB% actually increased in 2021), while reducing the distance on his flies and liners. I think his 2020 HR/FB rate was clearly a fluke, but he’s also clearly better than what he showed in 2021.

Who would have expected to find Miguel Cabrera’s name on this list?! Surprise, since 2015, Cabrera’s PFB high has only been 15%. He has actually posted sub-10% marks in three of his last four seasons. So this isn’t a disappointing PFB for him, he just hasn’t pulled his flies very much over the last seven seasons. Instead, he goes the opposite way with his flies often and yet still typically posted a higher than average Barrel FB%. I wonder what he could have done if he decided to pull his flies instead of go the opposite way.

Eloy Jimenez is perhaps the first true shocking name to find on this list. However, he has posted below average PFB marks since his 2019 debut, with single digit marks the last two seasons. He has had no problem barreling his flies though, and he’s posted HR/FB rates over 20% each season, so I’m guessing there’s no real desire to fix what ain’t broke.

Want to know how DJ LeMahieu posted a 27% HR/FB rate over the short 2020 season? He pumped his Opposite FB% up to double the league average, a clear outlier in his history going back to 2015. That means lots of flies to the short porch in right field at Yankee Stadium, as he fully took advantage of his home park. I doubt that happens again, but I’m still happy to buy much cheaper this year given potentially all-around contributions.

Corey Seager is another surprising name on the list, but he too has never been much of a pull-hitter on his flies. In fact, his 10% PFB was actually his second highest mark since 2017, as from that year, he’s posted three seasons of single-digit marks. The move to the Rangers is going to be interesting as the park is much less favorable for right-handed home runs, if you choose to use those factors for Seager given his greater penchant for taking his flies the opposite way.





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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KCC26
8 months ago

thanks! you know what would be useful to see? year over year changes in flyball pull%. I feel like that context would highlight players for whom we should be changing our evaluations