I often talk about a hitter’s batted ball type distribution, which simply refers to his rates of grounders, fly balls, line drives, and pop-ups. While these rates do fluctuate like any other metric, they generally remain stable and don’t vary significantly from year to year. A fly ball hitter is typically always one, as is a ground ball hitter. So when we do observe dramatic swings in batted ball type rates, we should take notice, as it’s more likely a conscious change in approach then randomness, assuming the sample size is reasonable. So let’s take a look at the hitters whose fly ball rates have spiked most over the last 30 days compared to the rest of the season. An increased fly ball rate will result in more homers, assuming all else remains equal.
|Name||Pre-Last 30 Day FB%||Last 30 Day FB%||Diff|
After his sensational debut, it was difficult to find a nit to pick in Juan Soto’s stat line. However, one could have pointed to his lowly 28.8% FB%, as a hitter with his power has no business hitting such a low rate of flies. Sure enough, he has corrected that one possible flaw, as his FB% has jumped into the mid-30% range for the season. But this is actually more an artifact of his last 30 days, as his mark had been stuck in the low-30% range before skyrocketing to nearly 50% recently. Sure, a 50% fly ball rate is rather dangerous from a BABIP perspective, but man is it welcome news for a guy who you could book a 20%+ HR/FB rate for. Do you realize how much of an impact a jump from a 30% to a 50% FB% would have on his homer total? Last year’s 22 homers becomes around 37 homers! He might be the least known and talked about superstar right now.
Not only has Eugenio Suarez risen above 40% for the year, thanks to his over 50% recent FB%, but his HR/FB rate has continued its amazing ascent, rising for a fifth straight season, representing an increase every season he’s been in the Majors. Unbelievable and it’s something I don’t think anyone saw coming when he was still with the Tigers.
Well hey, welcome to the fly ball revolution Wilson Ramos! Ramos, one of the game’s slowest baserunners, has amazingly posted an FB% above 30% just twice in his career, despite possessing ample power. It makes little sense to me, and maybe, just maybe, these past 30 day is the start of a transformation. Since he’s missing the speed to benefit from all those grounders, a FB% in the mid-30% range would vault him into the top catcher group.
Lorenzo Cain has rightfully been a ground ball hitter his entire career because he has posted a HR/FB rate between 9% and 10% for the past four seasons. There’s no need for him to swing for the fences, especially with his good speed. Pushing his FB% up to 35% is a big change for him, so it’ll be interesting if this represents a new level or if it ultimately proves random over a 30 day period.
Since Shohei Ohtani’s fly ball rate is well below his mark last year, I wonder if his recovery from TJ surgery had hampered his ability to lift the ball. If so, does the last 30 day rebound mean he’s now back to 100%? Either way, I don’t understand how a player could be this good at baseball.
In April, Carlos Santana wasn’t hitting any flies, posting a lowly 26% FB%. But since, he’s been back to his normal fly ball heavy ways. The pre-last 30 day rate is being pulled down by that down April, so there’s nothing to see here.
It’s crazy to find Garrett Cooper on this list and see his last 30 day jump was only to 27% because previously he was at a measly 16.1%! With a 28% HR/FB rate and little speed, he’s gotta be hitting his balls in the air.
Eduardo Escobar has been a fly ball hitter these past three years, so he’s merely taken that to an even more extreme level these past 30 days. You then realize that his home run outburst hasn’t just been the result of a spike in HR/FB rate, but lots of flies. It makes it appear much more sustainable.
Shocker, the Yankees struck gold again with Gio Urshela. Oddly, his defense has taken a step back while his offense has taken off.
Not only has Brian Anderson increased his fly ball rate to a minimum required level, but he has made the most of those flies, as his HR/FB rate has more than doubled. A lack of power was keeping him from shallower mixed league rosters heading into the season, but now he’s roster worthy.
J.T. Realmuto’s skills have remained stable, except for a jump in strikeout rate that has pushed down all his rates. At least his steals have rebounded and he has a shot to reach double digits for the second time in his career.
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.