Nelson Cruz got a one year deal with the Orioles last year and had a career season. He had career highs in Home Runs, RBIs and Runs. Most people considered him an after thought on draft or auction day. He ended up as one of the great buys of the 2014 season and he paid his owners handsomely. Well, he is a free agent again and he is probably looking at worse (or a lot worse) home run numbers depending on where he signs.
His 40 league leading home runs where completely unexpected. Or were they? I am just going to look at his home run totals using Inside Edge batted ball data.
Begin calculation details
Inside Edge collects data on 99 different zones a batter can hit a ball. Each outfield zone is 45 ft deep and divided into 7 fair zones (left field, left center field, center field, etc). I found which Zones home runs where hit in and calculated a home run rate. I collected the average amount of fly balls and line drives which went for home runs in each zone in 2012 to 2014. I get an estimated home run rate per line drive or flyball in the zone.
For each batter, I multiply the number of flyballs and line drives they hit in a zone by its home run rate. Then I add each amount of estimated home runs together to get how he would do at a league average stadium or specific stadium given his batted ball mix. For the team estimated values, I used 50% of the stadium’s value and 50% of the league wide values. The estimated HR value can then be compared to a player’s actual value.
The data is not perfect. It is collected by stringers and the zones are fairly large. Right now though, it is probably the best hit data without Hitf/x being available.
End calculation details
Here are Cruz’s home run numbers from the past three season along with estimated values from Texas and Baltimore (½ home value, ½ league value).
Season: HR (actual), Texas (estimate), Baltimore (estimate)
2012 (in Texas): 24, 22.8, 29.6
2013 (in Texas): 27, 17.8, 23.0
2014 (in Baltimore): 40, 24.7, 31.0
His 2012 numbers look in line, but in both 2013 and 2014, he over performed his estimates. His Steamer projection agrees and has him only hitting 30 home runs for 2015. His home run total could drop even more depending on who signs him. I have calculated the values for each park from the last three seasons using Cruz’s batted ball mix. The table is ranked by overall total home runs from the past three season.
|Actual Home Runs||24||27||40||90|
Now some of these values may look off from the normal HR park factors, but Cruz is a spray hitter. He does not pull his flyballs to take advantage of short left field porches. When he hits a flyball, he pulls it only 23% of the time. He hits them to the deep center field 37% of the time and for the last 40% he goes the opposite way. In certain parks his power will play down because he hits to the deepest parts. He lives in the middle of the field where max depth is more important than porch depth.
The Orioles are still the best fit for him.
I have not created weighted averages to turn the HR estimates into actual predictions yet (tough to do with only three seasons of data), but here are just a couple of quick HR estimates pointing to a change in the next season like we see with Cruz:
2013 Actual: 14
2013 Estimate: 19
2014 Actual: 32
2014 Estimate: 30.4
2012 Actual: 29
2012 Estimate: 18.5
2013 Actual: 15
2013 Estimate: 12.1
Going into 2015, I would be conservative on my estimates for Cruz’s home run power. Even if he stays in a home run friendly park, he his number could top out at the Steamer estimates. If he signs with a team with a caverenous outfield, he could see his 2014 home total cut in half.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.