Hitter Average FB/LD Exit Velocity Decliners — 8/4/20, A Review

Yesterday, I reviewed the list of early fly ball + line drive exit velocity (we’ll just call it EV here) surgers compared with 2019 and looked at their performance over the rest of the season to determine how sustainable the gains were. Today, I’ll review the decliners to see if they rebounded toward their 2019 marks. Was their early season EV declines just a small sample slow start or a sign of a seriously disappointing season?

FB/LD EV Decliners
Player 2019 EV 2020 EV Through 8/2 Diff 2020 EV After 8/2 EV After 8/2 vs Through 8/2 EV After 8/2 vs 2019
Alex Verdugo 93.1 84.2 -8.9 91.5 7.3 -1.6
Jackie Bradley Jr. 95.1 86.6 -8.5 93.5 6.9 -1.6
Rougned Odor 96.2 88.5 -7.7 93.9 5.4 -2.3
Victor Caratini 92.5 85.2 -7.3 94.7 9.5 2.2
Josh Bell 96.1 89.2 -6.9 96.3 7.1 0.2
Adam Engel 90.4 83.9 -6.5 92.1 8.2 1.7
David Peralta 94.5 88.0 -6.5 92.1 4.1 -2.4
Joey Votto 91.4 85.0 -6.4 93.8 8.8 2.4
Edwin Encarnacion 94.6 88.4 -6.2 93.0 4.6 -1.6
Jarrod Dyson 88.4 82.4 -6.0 84.7 2.3 -3.7

Every single hitter on this list experienced some sort of rebound from their early season EV mark. In fact, the minimum rebound was 2.3 MPH from one hitter, and then that rebound jumps to 4.1 MPH by the next hitter. That’s a pretty significant bounce back. Surprisingly, three of the 10 hitters actually rebounded so much the rest of the season that they ended up posting a full season EV well above their 2019 marks!

Alex Verdugo was the biggest EV loser in the early going. Perhaps he was still trying to get going after his back injury that would have delayed the start of his season if the season had started on time. He rebounded in a big way the rest of the way, but that rebound still fell a bit short of his 2019 mark.

Jackie Bradley Jr. also enjoyed a big rebound off his early EV woes, but the rebound left him short of his 2019 EV by the same amount as Verdugo. His fly ball rate fell below 30% for the first time since his cup of coffee debut in 2013, but his home run total wasn’t impacted thanks to a career best strikeout rate. Though he’s not an exciting name, his skills continue to hold up well.

It’s no surprise anymore when Rougned Odor goes into an extended slump, as it is usually paired with a thrilling hot streak at some point later in the season. It’s just a question of whether his fantasy owners are still holding him to benefit from that hot streak after suffering through the slump. Odor got hot beginning in early-mid September and finishing the season with a two home run performance. Still, his season BABIP plummeted to a microscopic .157, resulting in a weak .259 wOBA. Since his career UZR/150 is actually just into negative territory, you would have to think that at some point, these offensive struggles might cost him his job for good. Since he only attempted one steal this year, he might not be the power/speed threat appealing to fantasy owners anymore, raising the risk here even higher.

After a breakout 2019, Josh Bell opened the season in disappointing fashion, but his EV full rebounded the rest of the way, actually exceeding his 2019 mark by 0.2 MPH. His HR/FB rate was essentially repeated, but a spike in strikeout rate and a free fall in fly ball rate led to just eight homers and a weak .138 ISO. I am guessing the vast majority of fantasy owners now believe 2019 was a complete fluke and his price will tumble down near replacement level in shallow mixed leagues. There’s only profit potential at that cost, so he’ll likely be a good target.

David Peralta was pretty much his normal self, except for a decline in power, especially home run power, as his HR/FB rate fell to its lowest mark since 2016. His 2018 HR/FB rate surge now moves further into the rearview mirror, making him look more and more like just one of many free agent injury replacement options in shallow mixed leagues.

When a 36-year-old Joey Votto opens the season with a big decline in EV, it was easy to claim that he’s finished. Instead, his EV rebounded by the second most MPH on the list and actually resulted in his rest of season EV being 2.4 MPH higher than his full season 2019 mark. After two straight high single digit HR/FB rates, the EV jump fueled a rebound to right around his 2015-2017 levels. A shocking .235 BABIP, despite his always sterling batted ball distribution, meant he batted just .226, so he wasn’t worth much in shallow mixed leagues anyway, despite the home run rebound. It’s anyone’s guess if this year’s power remains in the tank next year or he reverts back to his 2018-2019 levels.

The alarm bells are sounding on Edwin EncarnaciĆ³n, who did manage to post an EV rebound the rest of the way, as his strikeout rate skyrocketed to a career worst, driven by a spike in SwStk%. His batted ball distribution also further weakened, as he has become a fly ball and pop-up machine who rarely hits line drives. It’s no surprise then that his BABIP settled in at just .156, as he also doesn’t have the wheels to beat out infield grounders. The end may be here.

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 Wilkey
Joe Wilkey

Verdugo loves that Green Monster, wOBA of 0.903 compared to an xwOBA of 0.335 on 17 FB+LD to the opposite field at Fenway. Explains 2/3 of the difference between his overall wOBA-xwOBA.