ESPN Home Run Tracker Analysis: The Upsiders

Last week, I dug into the 2014 ESPN Home Run Tracker data and identified six hitters who applying the findings of my previous analysis are candidates for HR/FB rate downside this season. Today it’s time to take a look on the other side of the coin, those hitters who appear to have some serious upside. This time I’ll check in on the bottom of the “Just Enough” percentage (JE%) leaderboard. The thinking here is that an errant gust of wind here and there or a millimeter difference in where the bat meets the ball could push balls that had been fly outs to head just over the wall.

As a reminder, only those who hits at least 15 homers were considered for this list. The average JE% (unweighted for fly balls) was 32% for the group.

Buster Posey — 9% JE%

Remember how poorly the cross-referencing with xHR/FB performed in the downsiders version? Well, the two data points are already at odds. Posey’s HR/FB rate bounced off a career low in 2013, which xHR/FB rate suggested it should, but his distance in 2014 plummeted by 14 feet! There’s no real reason for his distance to suddenly plunge especially at age 27. His xHR/FB rate from this year suggests his actual HR/FB rate was a bit fortunate, so it’s strange that he posted the lowest JE% mark in baseball. I would assume the distance decline was just a blip, but it’s enough to side with the xHR/FB rate here and no project any further HR/FB rate upside this season.

Oswaldo Arcia — 10%

This is awesome. We’re now two for two! Arcia just appeared on my xHR/FB rate overachievers list posted last week! And yet here he is, having posted the second lowest JE% in baseball. Even more encouraging is that 50% of his homers were of the “No Doubt” variety, which tied Edwin Encarnacion for first in baseball! So many conflicting signs. But any optimism the Home Run Tracker numbers offer are offset by his lingering back woes. That remains the biggest question mark in my mind. If healthy, he’ll post a HR/FB rate in the mid-to-high teens, but will his health allow him to reach that ability?

Charlie Blackmon — 11%

And you thought there was no way Blackmon could possibly repeat his surprise 2014 performance. Of course, there was really nothing fluky going on there and his wOBA actually dropped from 2013. His home run outburst was the result of a jump in fly ball rate and rebound in strikeout rate. Finally, xHR/FB rate agrees with the ESPN data! His distance and angle were right about league average, but his SDD was comfortably above it, resulting in a 12.7% xHR/FB rate. My biggest concern isn’t a decline in rate stats, it’s a loss of playing time, particularly to left-handers. But since nearly everyone is going to be afraid to draft him given what appears to be an obvious risk of major regression, he may actually end up coming as a decent value.

Mike Moustakas — 13%

The breakout is near! Seriously, it might be. And xHR/FB rate agrees. His distance jumped to a career high, driving a 13.6% xHR/FB rate. Kauffman Stadium sports a 93 LHH home run park factor though, which is likely hampering his ability to match that xHR/FB rate mark. Though he’s posted just a slightly higher HR/FB rate mark away from KC. This is not the post to discuss all the positive trends in Moustakas’ profile, but this is just another data point to add to the potential optimism. Hopefully he won’t go bonkers during spring training like always or he’ll find himself on every sleeper list yet again.

Pedro Alvarez — 17%

Well this is a good sign that a rebound is imminent. Alvarez’s HR/FB rate dropped a whopping 10 percentage points and his ISO fell below .200 for the first time (excluding his 2011 half season). xHR/FB also suggests he was a bit unlucky, but it’s not aware of PNC Park’s suppression of home runs. Unfortunately, he’s going to be locked into a platoon with Corey Hart, so the loss of at-bats are going to cut into his counting stats.

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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7 years ago

This is very interesting, but between it contradicting previous posts and recommending moustakas I’m going to take a pass on this one. But it’s still good data and maybe we can look back and see what it was trying to tell us.