Hitter FB% Surgers — 8/10/20

Besides earning more playing time, there are only three skills-based methods to hitting more home runs — striking out less frequently, which means more balls put into play, hitting more fly balls, which means more chances for a batted ball to jump over the wall, and hitting a higher rate of those fly balls over the wall, which is represented by HR/FB rate. Of the three, the middle skill of hitting more fly balls is possibly the ideal skill you want to see from your early season home run surge. That’s because batted ball type distribution is more of an approach or decision by the hitter rather than an actual improvement in talent. We need a much larger sample to determine if talent has changed, but a hitter could seemingly wake up one day and decide he wants to uppercut the ball more in an effort to hit for more power. You can’t decide to strike out less or hit more fly balls over the well, though I’m sure all hitters wish they could!

So today, let’s focus on the hitters that have raised their fly ball rates (FB%) the most from last year. All else being equal, a higher FB% will result in more home runs, so a current home run spike by any of these hitters is seemingly more sustainable or “believable”.

FB% Surgers
Name 2019 FB% 2020 FB% Diff
Niko Goodrum 31.5% 50.0% 18.5%
Wilson Ramos 19.2% 34.3% 15.1%
Pedro Severino 36.9% 51.7% 14.8%
Trevor Story 42.3% 56.5% 14.2%
Starlin Castro 33.0% 46.9% 13.9%
Max Muncy 38.7% 51.2% 12.5%
Matt Chapman 43.1% 55.0% 11.9%
Yoan Moncada 34.5% 46.3% 11.8%
Wil Myers 35.1% 46.7% 11.6%
George Springer 35.7% 47.1% 11.4%
Eddie Rosario 42.2% 53.5% 11.3%
Fernando Tatis Jr. 30.9% 42.1% 11.2%
David Dahl 32.5% 43.2% 10.7%
Trea Turner 32.8% 43.2% 10.4%
Nolan Arenado 44.7% 54.9% 10.2%
Marcus Semien 38.9% 48.9% 10.0%

I bet you would have never guessed that Niko Goodrum would top this leaderboard! That’s likely because Goodrum is probably never your first guess to top any sort of leaderboard. You haven’t noticed any particular uptick in home runs because along with the spike in FB% has come a surge in strikeout rate. This combination makes it seem pretty obvious that Goodrum has consciously changed his plate approach to sell out for power. While his ISO has shot up above .200 for the first time, his wOBA is now below his first two full seasons, barely above .300. Let’s see how long this lasts.

Well hallelujah! Wilson Ramos has rarely posted a FB% above 30% in his career and holds a career mark of just 25.8%. It makes little sense considering he’s a slow-footed catcher and possesses excellent power. It’s too bad that’s been the only positive of his season so far, as his strikeout rate has rocketed to a career worst, while his HR/FB rate has fallen to single digits. Still, I’d much prefer a 30%+ FB% Ramos, with the hopes his strikeout rate and HR/FB reverts toward career norms.

So I guess Pedro Severino is now an offensive force behind the plate. He’s proving that last season’s respectability was no fluke.

This spike is very noteworthy for Starlin Castro, whose current career high FB% in a single season is last year’s 33%. With little contribution in steals, fantasy owners are relying on his power for value. A FB% jump makes it more likely he continues the 20+ homer pace, despite not having hit a home run yet this season. Don’t give up yet if you’re an owner.

Yoan Moncada did the near impossible last year by posting a BABIP over .400 over nearly a full season. However, his .395 BABIP this year might be even more insane. It comes despite the spike in FB% (fly balls fall for hits less frequently than both grounders and liners), while he’s popping up like crazy, which are essentially automatic outs. Based solely on his batted ball distribution, he might very well be the biggest BABIP overperformer in baseball. That said, the FB% is good for his power, but you might just get a .250 hitter the rest of the way.

I headed into this season thinking Fernando Tatis Jr. was hilariously overvalued as he was clearly due for major regression off his elite debut season. If you thought Moncada’s 2019 BABIP of .406 was unrepeatable, Tatis posted an even higher mark of .410! Plus, throw in the 31.9% HR/FB rate, and you assume everything is going to decline. Perhaps the craziest thing is I somehow still ended up buying him in my local 12-team auction league, which totally shocked me as I was quite confident I was lowest on him among everyone. Guess not, and it’s a good thing! Tatis is at it again and the only caution I could give is that his 13.2% LD% is low and makes his .387 BABIP more difficult to sustain, especially combined with the 40%+ FB%. Given both power and speed though, I’m not looking to sell.

I liked David Dahl in a shortened season and figured his perceived value had bottomed out. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately given his slow start), I failed to roster him in my two mixed leagues. More fly balls when you call Coors Field home is a good thing, but he still sits at zero homers on the season. Everything else looks good though, especially his sub-20% strikeout rate. I would be buying here.

Trea Turner is exactly the type of hitter you don’t want to see raising their FB% mark. Why is he hitting more fly balls? While he does have power, he should be utilizing his speed more and hitting more line drives and ground balls. This is one of the rare times where a higher FB% is likely to result in a lower fantasy value.

I saw on Twitter yesterday a fantasy owner asking if they should drop Marcus Semien for [some hot starting MI] and I shook my head. Naturally, he homered and stole a base yesterday after the tweet was sent. Why are fantasy owners overreacting to two weeks of the season? It’s meaningless that the season is shortened, because the same small sample principles still apply!

Just because the season is only 60 games instead of 162 doesn’t make it smarter to jettison slow starters and pick up hot starters now, because the length of the season doesn’t change the fact that a slow and hot start have little predictive value and pre-season projections should still almost entirely rule decision making. If the season was only two games, would you drop your first rounder after game one if he went 0-4 and pick up the guy who wasn’t even drafted who homered in the first game? Of course not! So hold onto Semien, your slow starters, and stop thinking a shortened season removes small sample size caveats.

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.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
3 years ago

I have to disagree on Trea.

People werent sure about Lindor at the beginning of his transformation to a power hitter either, would anyone really want to go back to the old version of Lindor.

3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

I would love to play in a fantasy league based on wOBA. But the traditional stats most use sometimes bears only a passing relation to who is good at baseball — doubles and walks cease to exist in a standard 5×5 for example. A player who already steals bases can become more fantasy valuable (without making his wOBA spike) if he sacrifices singles for home runs unless he abandons all pretense of contact and turns into Rob Deer.
Also: “You might want to check the stats before making a comment. ” You might want to dial back the sarcastic tone.

3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

In theory, youre right, it just doesnt always work out like that, Lindor kept stealing at more or less the same rate.

Also are we just going to ignore the fact that TT is 27? The steals might start going away whether he hits more home runs or not.

3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

Right. Because wOBA is the only statistic that matters in assessing hitter effectiveness.