On Thursday, I discussed the six hitters whose average fly ball and home run distance increased most from 2012. Today, I will look at the opposite side of the coin, the decliners. While the surgers held onto half of their gains the following year, the decliners held onto about 65% of their decline, as their distance rebounded by just 35% . In other words, a decline in batted ball distance is more real than a surge. Or once again, regression at work, as higher batted ball distances are simply more likely to drop.
|Player||2013 HR/FB||2012 HR/FB||2013 Distance||2012 Distance||Diff|
From ranking 11th to 189th. That’s how far Ike Davis fell in the batted ball distance rankings. In 2010, his distance was nearly identical to his 2012 mark, so it’s clear that his struggles were far-reaching. But, his ISO finally did rebound in August after returning from a minor league demotion in early July. Before August, his distance sat at just 275.7 feet. But oddly, his distance actually dropped further to just 265.6 feet over the last month, even though his ISO was a more normal .232. I was optimistic about a rebound based on his sky high walk rate and improved contact percentage upon his return, along with the thought that his power returned in August. However, perhaps that apparent increased power was just a mirage. With no guarantee he’ll depart spring training with a starting job, he remains a complete crapshoot. Though he’s shown that he’s capable of serious power with those previous distances of 300+ feet, so he’s still worth speculating on.
After experiencing a surprise power surge in 2012, Carlos Ruiz fell back to Earth this season, but his distance was actually the lowest of his career since data has been published in 2007. The 2012 season looks like the clear outlier and at age 35, he may only be able to muster a minor rebound.
Josh Hamilton was a massive disappointment last year and his distance declined along with the rest of his skills. Rather than appearing near the top of the distance leaderboard, he hung out with the likes of Daniel Descalso and Brian Roberts. It’s hard to believe that Hamilton is already 33, so he should be expected to endure some age-related decline. He can’t be as bad as he was last year, but I wouldn’t expect him to approach 30 home runs again.
Well, of course. Matt Kemp suffered through like 347 injuries last year, limiting him to just 290 plate appearances. When he was actually on the field, you wouldn’t be laughed out for being convinced that another baseball player was actually occupying his body. With more injury/recovery issues to deal with over this past offseason, it might be another year before Kemp regains full health and has the chance to genuinely rebound. He likely won’t be cheap enough in drafts/auctions to be worth the risk.
As a rookie, Wilin Rosario impressively ranked fourth in baseball in distance in 2012. But the great times couldn’t last, as his distance dropped to a more reasonable and sustainable mark. Amazingly, Rosario has nary a Triple-A plate appearance to his name, yet has still managed to hit like one of the best offensive catchers in baseball. With such a limited track record, it’s hard to predict if his distance will jump back toward his 2012 mark and by how much. I am guessing that 308 feet is a bit over his head and he’ll settle into the 285-295 foot range. That’s of course plenty good enough and ensures that he hits 20 to 25 homers a year.
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.