7 Potential Pitcher HR/FB Rate Improvers, June 2018

At the beginning of the year, I revealed the latest and greatest xHR/FB rate equation for hitters. I discovered that the new Statcast metric Barrels was highly correlated with home run totals (duh), but better yet, the ratio of barrels to true fly balls (which is just fly balls minus pop-ups), was even more correlated. If Brls/True FB is an important metric for hitter HR/FB rate, then it follows that it’s also important for pitchers as it relates to their HR/FB rate allowed. So let’s compare a pitcher’s Brls/True FB rate to his HR/FB rate and see if we could find any discrepancies that would hint at improvement.

Potential Pitcher HR/FB Improvers
Name HR/True FB Brls/True FB
Eduardo Rodriguez 12.2% 12.2%
Blake Snell 12.3% 16.4%
Jameson Taillon 13.6% 16.9%
CC Sabathia 14.3% 17.1%
Tanner Roark 13.6% 17.3%
Gerrit Cole 13.0% 17.4%
Jose Quintana 16.1% 17.7%
Population Average 14.0% 23.3%

My population was the 92 qualified starting pitchers and that’s what the population average line is calculated from.

Eduardo Rodriguez’s HR/True FB sits below the league average, but not by much. He actually ranks fifth lowest in Brls/True FB, and out of the top 11 that includes him, he has the highest mark, outside of two Rockies pitchers. Fenway Park isn’t a home run friendly park, so can’t blame it on that. While it’s questionable whether E-Rod could actually maintain such a sterling Brls/True FB mark, his HR/True FB rate should probably be in the single digits given what has happened so far. He has maintained that strikeout rate surge he enjoyed last year and is backed by an excellent offense. He should be owned in all formats.

Man, there have been a lot of things that Blake Snell has done to truly impress me. Add his weak contact induced on fly balls to the growing list. Interestingly, he also plays half his games in a home run suppressing park, so you would think that ranking 12th in Brls/True FB would also lead to a single digit HR/True FB rate. With Snell, you’ll always be wondering if his control is going to desert him, but so far, so good. I’m a big fan.

Jameson Taillon allowed a homer in yesterday’s start, and that’s likely to change these rates. That said, he’s the third of three who sits with a HR/True FB rate above what his Brls/True FB would suggest, despite calling a pitching friendly venue home. Taillon reminds me of Gerrit Cole in that his stuff suggests much gaudier strikeout rates. It’s likely a Pirates organizational thing, but it’s silly. What Cole has done in Houston should make the team realize that pitching to contact isn’t a winning strategy.

Wow, what a transformation CC Sabathia has made! As his velocity and strikeout rate has tumbled, he has become better and better at generating soft contact. He needs to sit Felix Hernandez down and teach him how to pitch with diminished stuff. He’s the first guy on here who plays in a home run friendly venue, which certainly would push his HR/FB rate higher than his Brls/True FB. Still, he should be better than this.

Tanner Roark quietly does his thing, putting up solid ERA marks, despite mediocre underlying skills. But this year he’s really squashing fly ball contact quality. His appearance returns us to the list of pitchers playing in pitcher’s parks. Bizarre.

Speak of the devil, I had forgotten that Gerrit Cole made the list when I mentioned him in the Taillon blurb. If there was anything else we could point to in order to describe his dominance.

Jose Quintana easily owns the highest HR/True FB rate on this list, which has conspired to push his ERA above 4.00. Issues with the longball only exacerbates his sudden struggle with control. Interestingly, he never had issues in Chicago, another friendly home run park, and Wrigley Field isn’t nearly as bad. I would still never own a pitcher with such a weak SwStk%, as I don’t believe in his low-to-mid 20% strikeout rate, but at the very least, Quintana’s HR/True FB should decline.

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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Joe Mannix
4 years ago

Taillon’s “homer” yesterday was a (yes, very long) fly ball that bounced into and out of Austin Meadow’s glove and over the wall!

Joe Mannix
4 years ago
Reply to  Joe Mannix

Clarification: Not a leaping-and-reaching-over-the-wall type of play but a two-feet-short-of-the-wall-outfielder-assisted thing!

4 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

Meadows reached back and had a quite difficult play to make.

BooBoo Berra
4 years ago
Reply to  Jim

The fact that Meadows was there, had the ball tracked and pretty much had it was rough to watch as a Taillon owner. The fact that Taillon would have had 7IP, 0 ER, 1.00 WHIP without that, hurts more.