Potential HR/FB Rate Decliners – 4/30/19 — A Review

Yesterday, I reviewed the 11 hitters I identified back in late April who my xHR/FB rate suggested had deserved dramatically better actual xHR/FB rates. Today, we flip to the overperformers, those who my equation suggested deserved significantly lower HR/FB rates over that first month. While the equation isn’t meant to be used for predictive purposes, a forecast would likely account for that apparent overperformance and project a lower HR/FB rate the rest of the way. Let’s see what ended up transpiring.

Potential HR/FB Rate Decliners
Player xHR/FB Through Apr 27 HR/FB Through Apr 27 HR/FB RoS Diff
Jesse Winker 14.9% 31.8% 19.1% -12.7%
Yandy Diaz 19.2% 33.3% 11.9% -21.4%
Christian Yelich 28.6% 41.2% 30.0% -11.2%
Joc Pederson 23.0% 34.5% 23.6% -10.9%
Asdrubal Cabrera 12.9% 24.0% 11.2% -12.8%
Tim Beckham 17.0% 27.3% 17.6% -9.7%
Tim Anderson 13.8% 23.8% 14.9% -8.9%
Jason Heyward 12.6% 21.7% 13.9% -7.8%
Cody Bellinger 33.0% 41.9% 21.3% -20.7%
Jorge Soler 15.3% 24.0% 28.8% 4.8%
Jose Altuve 22.4% 30.0% 21.4% -8.6%
Unweighted Group Avg 19.3% 30.3% 19.4% -10.9%

Man, this was an even more successful outcome than the potential HR/FB rate surgers review! Not only did the group on average suffer a massive HR/FB rate decline the rest of the way, but the rest of season unweighted average almost exactly matched the first month xHR/FB rate. Just one of the 11 hitters managed to stave off a decline, while six of the 11 suffered double digits drops, two of which were over 20%.

I love Jesse Winker as a hitter and I want to believe in any power breakout. But his April was obviously a fluke. That said, his rest of season mark still represented a strong surge from his 2018, as it’s perfectly logical to believe he benefited more than others from the new ball. While his hitting prowess isn’t in question, the next step is staying healthy and actually recording his first 500 plate appearance season (then 600, baby steps folks).

Yandy Diaz’s gargantuan arms have become mythical, and with strong plate discipline skills and a history of high BABIP marks, there was serious intrigue in his future offensive potential. But he has never shown much power and has always hit far too many grounders. Then April happened and we were left wondering if this was a new Diaz and a major breakout was in the cards. While injury derailed his season, his home run power fell right back to where his minor league marks (at times) suggested it would. The good news is he posted a professional high in fly ball rate, so that’s a start.

Yeah yeah, Christian Yelich was obviously not going to post a HR/FB rate over 40% all season long, but gosh darn, he still managed to post a 30% mark the rest of the way anyway. I think the most stunning transformation by Yelich is that he finally pushed his fly ball rate over 30%. He added more than 10 points on fly ball rate from his previous career high set in 2017. This is precisely why FB% is so important when projecting homers.

I honestly had no idea that Joc Pederson hit 36 homers this season. Wow! And yet, he still doesn’t play every day, so it came over just 450 at-bats.

Nobody really expected Asdrubal Cabrera to post a HR/FB rate over 20% for the first time in his career, right? His high coming into the season was just 14% and he has only posted double digit marks three times throughout his entire career. Predictably, he fell right back toward his career average after that hot first month.

I’m ashamed to admit I failed to sell Tim Beckham high in my AL-Only keeper league after his sizzling first month. Keeper leagues screw with your mind though as I had him at a buck and thought that even when he fades, he could still remain a pretty good keeper. The crazy thing is that while the fade did come, a 17.6% rest of season HR/FB rate was plenty good. His inability to field really makes it difficult for him to find a full-time job.

Jason Heyward reminded me of a solid company’s stock that has been beaten down and beaten down and hit multi-year lows. At some point, you had to assume it couldn’t get any worse and the stock, and Heyward, were worth investing in, since there’s far more upside than downside at the price. Over the first month, the results made it look like this could finally be the big power breakout that never happened. But xHR/FB rate was skeptical and his HR/FB rate quickly plummeted right back down to where his xHR/FB rate sat. Still, it was a nice rebound after three straight single digit HR/FB rates.

Cody Bellinger enjoyed an otherworldly first month and given his age and pedigree, it was easy to believe in a monstrous breakout. That first month gave him the head start he needed to make good on that promise, but over the rest of the way, his HR/FB rate was essentially the average of his first two seasons. So that may have been disappointing for Bellinger owners expecting him to retain more of his gains or acquirers thinking they were buying a top 5 fantasy player. I still can’t believe he has swiped 39 bases in his career already!

Jorge Soler is the only hitter on this list who actually increased his HR/FB rate from that first month’s mark. I think everyone agreed Soler had this potential, but injuries and now a poor home park for power combined to conspire against an imminent breakout. He’ll be a risky buy in 2020, though I’m guessing his cost will vary greatly depending on league format and competitiveness.

Even the 22.4% xHR/FB rate was more than double Jose Altuve’s actual HR/FB rate in 2018 and for his career. Predictably, his HR/FB rate the rest of the season fell back to nearly match his xHR/FB rate over the first month, but he easily posted a career high mark. Who knew such power could come from such a small man? He has also officially transformed from speedster with power to power hitter with a bit of speed. The increased power has also hampered his BABIP, resulting in his first sub-.300 batting average since 2013.

We hoped you liked reading Potential HR/FB Rate Decliners – 4/30/19 — A Review 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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