Power Down — Who Would Suffer From Fewer Pulled Fly Balls?

Yesterday, I began my discussion of another one of my xHR/FB rate equation’s components, FB Pull%, and shared the hitters who posted above average Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist marks, but below average FB Pull% rates, hinting at upside if a change in approach is made. Today, I’m going to check in on the hitters who posted below average Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist marks, but above average FB Pull% rates. These hitters are at greater risk of HR/FB rate regression given their heavy reliance on pulling their flies. If that skill erodes or approach is altered, there would be major downside.

As a reminder, FB Pull% is the percentage of fly balls that are pulled, rather than the percentage of batted balls that are pulled flies.

FB Pull% Downside
Player HR/FB xHR/FB HR/FB – xHR/FB Brls/True FB FB Pull% FB Oppo% Avg FB Dist PF*
Zack Cozart 15.6% 12.0% 3.5% 11.8% 40.3% 23.4% 317 103
Max Kepler 12.1% 10.1% 2.0% 11.5% 33.8% 37.6% 305 98
Andrelton Simmons 8.4% 9.4% -1.0% 8.8% 32.5% 28.3% 317 103
Jose Ramirez 14.1% 11.8% 2.3% 14.0% 32.5% 32.5% 314 103
Jason Heyward 9.2% 10.4% -1.3% 15.3% 32.5% 30.8% 312 93
Mookie Betts 10.1% 9.8% 0.3% 12.4% 31.2% 30.4% 311 101
Ben Zobrist 9.8% 11.4% -1.5% 15.2% 31.1% 25.4% 312 97
Didi Gregorius 12.1% 9.2% 2.9% 9.8% 31.1% 30.1% 304 121
Dustin Pedroia 6.7% 6.3% 0.5% 4.4% 30.8% 33.7% 304 101
Eduardo Nunez 10.0% 6.1% 3.9% 6.6% 30.0% 33.3% 300 88
Gregory Polanco 9.2% 9.6% -0.4% 11.1% 30.0% 37.5% 309 99
Mikie Mahtook 13.3% 13.1% 0.2% 18.3% 30.0% 31.1% 316 101
Yan Gomes 13.9% 12.1% 1.7% 15.7% 29.7% 37.6% 320 100
Anthony Rendon 12.3% 12.2% 0.1% 15.0% 29.4% 40.7% 313 106
*Park Factor

Even with that big pull rate and a home run friendly park, Zack Cozart still outperformed his xHR/FB rate, though he’s done that in each of the last three seasons. He’s a power risk in Anaheim.

With marginal speed, an allergy to the line drive keeping his BABIP down, and ugly Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist numbers, Max Kepler is not my idea of an exciting young player. He’s going to struggle to earn value in even deeper mixed leagues if his FB Pull% declines.

Andrelton Simmons and Jose Ramirez are exhibits A and B for the benefits of pulling fly balls. Both enjoyed big FB Pull% spikes, and sure enough, their HR/FB rates reached new heights. Can they do it again? I have no idea.

Who would have ever guessed that Jason Heyward would be posting sub-league average Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist rates during his prime years? Pulling the ball with no thump behind it has done him no good.

This was actually Mookie Betts‘ highest FB Pull% in the three seasons I have data for, but since his Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist marks declined, his HR/FB rate didn’t actually rise. From a power perspective, I don’t see a whole lot more additional upside here, but where he’s at is plenty good, of course.

Didi Gregorius is another member of the HR/FB rate breakout club thanks to a surge in FB Pull%. He certainly picked a good home park to suddenly become a heavy pull hitter.

Mikie Mahtook only has about a full season’s worth of plate appearances spread over three seasons, so we still can’t be sure what his true talent FB Pull% is. However, it was just below average in Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist, which was offset by the pulled fly balls. Given his lack of track record, he could either deliver a tidy profit or lose his job. Either scenario seems quite possible.

I’m pretty shocked to see the power metrics from Anthony Rendon. Those Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist marks are below the league average, which actually surprises me. I had always thought that when coming up as a top prospect, he was supposed to be a big power guy. Am I wrong? This was actually his best HR/FB rate season and his FB Pull% rose for a second straight year. Amazingly, his Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist numbers have been almost identical in each of the last three seasons, so his HR/FB rate improvements look to have been driven solely by the upticks in FB Pull%.

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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Sonny L
Sonny L

I’m reading Rendon as having maxed out his HR potential in 2017, is that correct? He’s increased his overall FB% each of the last 3 seasons and his EV is in the top 50 around some stellar power names (Bellinger, Trumbo, etc).

Should ’17 be considered close to his ceiling or does the trend offer another level?