Departing the Fly Ball Revolution — May 2019, A Review

Yesterday, I reviewed the hitters who had increased their FB% by at least 10% through May 4 of the season and noted how they had performed over the rest of the season. As a group, they held onto a little bit less than half of their gains from 2018. It goes to show that regression toward historical averages are a powerful force, but that batted ball profiles are more controllable and changes could indicate a real change in approach. Will the same results show up when reviewing the hitters who “departed” the fly ball revolution through early May? Let’s find out if these guys got their FB% marks back to where they settled in 2018 or if the early marks were the first sign of an altered batted ball profile.

Early FB% Decliners
Name 2018 FB% 2019 FB% Through May 7 2019 FB% RoS
Carlos Santana 43.7% 26.1% 40.5%
Rafael Devers 38.6% 25.2% 36.7%
Joey Gallo 49.8% 37.7% 56.3%
Chris Owings 38.3% 26.5% 27.3%
Ender Inciarte 30.9% 20.5% 36.1%
Willy Adames 30.4% 20.8% 32.6%
J.T. Realmuto 37.4% 28.7% 40.1%
Josh Reddick 44.1% 35.8% 37.9%
Jeff McNeil 39.7% 31.5% 35.7%
Yasmani Grandal 41.7% 33.7% 39.2%
Wilson Ramos 24.7% 17.2% 19.7%
Nick Markakis 30.1% 22.7% 29.1%
Billy Hamilton 35.2% 28.2% 41.0%
Unweighted Group Avg 37.3% 27.3% 36.3%
League Avg 35.4% 36.3% 35.5%

Immediately we see that the group nearly fully rebounded to their 2018 FB% over the rest of the season after the early lows. The bounceback toward the 2018 marks was even more pronounced then the regression for the gainers.

It was odd to see Carlos Santana open the season with just a 26.1% fly ball rate. I questioned some of the FB% gainers yesterday who relied more on speed than power, and Santana should be similarly questioned, but for the opposite reason. He should continue hitting flies over 40% of the time, so I’m not sure what happened in April.

Rafael Devers’s breakout would not have occurred if he maintained that 25.2% FB% all season long. Because he was able to mostly rebound the rest of the way, he was able to fully take advantage of a high teen HR/FB rate and hit 30 homers. A significant improvement in strikeout rate helped as well.

Joey Gallo as a sub-40% fly ball guy?! BLASPHEMY! It’s kind of hilarious to see him overcompensate for the slow start by hitting an insane 56.3% of balls in the air over the rest of the season. At some point, a high FB% can get too high as it crushes BABIP. Suddenly, you’re a .150 hitter and all your batted balls either go over the wall or find outfielder’s gloves.

It was impossible to be bullish on Willy Adames‘ fantasy prospects after a 20.8% FB%, so it was encouraging to see him boost that above 30% over the rest of the season. With limited speed, you’re really just hoping he maintains that power and there’s further fly ball rate upside to benefit from the mid-to-high teens HR/FB rate.

J.T. Realmuto was on pace to disappoint after a sub-30% early FB%, but he quickly rebounded and ended up setting a new career high mark, albeit just barely. I’m surprised that he continues to steal bases, but it’s hard to keep forecasting high single digits from him.

Wilson Ramos was already a low FB% guy, which is quite surprising given three straight seasons of 20%+ HR/FB rates. So to see him drop even further to sub-20% was kind of laughable. Why is such a slow poke with excellent power hitting so many grounders?! He barely rebounded the rest of the way, failing to even exceed 20%. He’s got some real home run upside, with 20 dingers for the second time in his career, a real possibility, but only if his FB% moves closer to what a power hitter typically posts.

Really, Billy Hamilton? It was actually a good thing to see a sub-30% FB% from him early on, but then he decided to change his approach, perhaps in an effort to keep his job. There is no justification you can ever come up with for Hamilton to be hitting flies 41% of the time. It doesn’t make sense, and this is one of the main reasons he’s now out of a starting job. This is a good who should be hitting as few flies as possible, and spraying liners and grounders all over the field. It sounds simple, but I guess it isn’t simple to actually execute.

We hoped you liked reading Departing the Fly Ball Revolution — May 2019, A Review by Mike Podhorzer!

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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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