Final 2019 Statcast Hitting Trends

Last week, I reviewed and discussed various hitting and pitching metrics and how they have trended over the past five seasons, from 2015 through 2019. After also discussing the early Statcast trends back in mid/late April, let’s take a look again with the full season now in the books.

Statcast Exit Velocity/Distance Trends
Season Avg Exit Velocity (MPH) Avg Fly Ball Exit Velocity (MPH) Avg Fly Ball Distance (ft)
2015 87.3 90.3 315
2016 87.7 91.1 318
2017 86.7 91.2 320
2018 88.2 91.6 319
2019 88.5 92.0 323

Surprise, surprise, we’re setting Statcast records! You would expect given a record-breaking leaguewide HR/FB rate that the Statcast metrics would support the spike to new heights. It certainly does, as all three metrics here climbed to new highs.

Average exit velocity for all batted ball types is obviously not as relevant as the average on just fly balls when talking home run rate, but it has risen to a new high after oddly dipping in 2017. We see that if we just isolate fly balls, exit velocity has increased every single season. How high does it go before peaking?! Similarly, average fly ball distance surged to a new high after taking a breather in 2018. You would expect that the harder the ball is hit (exit velocity), the further it flies, but that isn’t always true, as we see an increase in fly ball exit velocity in 2018, but a minor drop in distance.

At some point, there’s gotta be a point where we stabilize and fail to move any higher. Obviously, it seems like MLB is playing around with the ball and influencing these numbers. If that’s truly the case, it’s impossible to predict where these numbers are headed in 2020.

Now let’s move on to the contact quality rates.

Statcast Quality of Contact Trends
Season Barrels/Fly Ball Solid Contact/Fly Ball Flare-Burner/Fly Ball Poorly-Under/Fly Ball
2015 13.5% 10.4% 3.1% 72.9%
2016 16.8% 10.0% 2.8% 70.3%
2017 19.5% 10.3% 3.6% 66.5%
2018 20.8% 11.0% 3.4% 64.7%
2019 22.8% 11.4% 3.7% 62.7%

Gosh, check out that barrel per fly ball rate! That kind of growth is just nuts. This is leaguewide, not even an individual player on a growth spurt, and yet the rate is skyrocketed, jumping from just 13.5% in 2015 to 22.8% in 2019. While the solid contact rate has inched upward, and surprisingly the flare-burner rate has too, it’s clear where the barrel rate growth is pulling from. Previously poorly-under hit fly balls have now become barrels. I don’t think we could say it enough that this is just crazy. Sure, it’s possible poorly-under hit flies have become flare-burners, while flare-burners have become solid contacts, while solid contacts have become barrels, as opposed to poorly-unders directly having become barrels, but however you want to interpret the trends, it’s just amazing.

Again I ask, when does the trend end and stabilize? How much higher can that barrel rate go and will that poorly-under rate ever fall below 60%?

The transformation of players has had such an effect on fantasy player values. With all this newfound power, your team is now hurt even more by a Mallex Smith/Dee Gordon/Billy Hamilton type that contributes so far below the average homers you need from each roster spot now. On the other hand, all this power means hitters are attempting stolen bases far less frequently. So now, the trio’s steals are worth more than ever before. That kind of offsets the greater reduction in value from the lack of homers. Of course, the exact effect on player values is going to be highly league dependent based on your rules and player pool. But don’t make the mistake of automatically thinking these steals-only guys are worth even less now because you’re forgetting the greater percentage of the steals pool they now represent as well.

We hoped you liked reading Final 2019 Statcast Hitting Trends 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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