Seven HR/FB Rate Decliners by Mike Podhorzer May 13, 2014 Yesterday, I discussed eight hitters whose batted ball distances suggested an imminent power surge. Today I’ll take a look at the opposite side of the coin — those whose distances suggest their current HR/FB rates are unsustainable. As a reminder, this analysis assumes the distances are maintained. Obviously we’re still dealing with a relatively small sample size and these hitters are capable of boosting their batted ball distances to match their HR/FB rates. Player Distance HR/FB Albert Pujols 284.69 20.4% Colby Rasmus 288.60 20.0% Michael Brantley 287.15 20.0% Cody Asche 276.53 18.8% Mike Zunino 272.24 18.5% Brian Dozier 269.94 18.4% Charlie Blackmon 269.04 18.4% Heading into the season, the big question was whether Albert Pujols‘ decline would continue, he would experience a small rebound or would full health allow him to enjoy a return to vintage Pujolsian production. So far, the early returns suggest vintage Pujols is back. But his distance simply does not support the power rebound and actually sits below his mark last year. During his glory days, he was routinely posting marks in the 300-310 range. That his strikeout rate is improved is a good sign, but he’s swinging and missing more than ever before, so who knows if that’s even sustainable. All these red flags tell me that he’s a strong sell high candidate. Colby Rasmus is certainly making the most of the few times he actually makes contact. His batted ball distance is just a smidgen above his mark from last season, but he’s always hung around the 280-290 foot range. That’s pretty good, but matches up better with his career HR/FB mark of nearly 13% than it does with a 20% mark. Pray that he starts making better contact because he’s going to be worthless once one out of every five fly balls stop flying over the fence. It’s been a breakout season so far for Michael Brantley as he has already eclipsed his 2012 homer mark and is just three away from his total from last year. And while his batted ball distance is up about 10 feet from last year, it still comes nowhere near supporting a HR/FB rate of 20%. He might be able to sustain a doubling of his 2013 mark, which would still lead to a breakout season, but would result in a home run total a far cry away from his current 31 homer pace. Somehow Cody Asche has posted a nearly 19% HR/FB rate, yet has just three dingers. That’s because he’s sporting a fly ball rate of just about 24%. It’s great for his BABIP potential since he’s hitting a ton of line drives while completely avoiding the popup, but it doesn’t lead to a very impressive home run total. He’ll likely enjoy an increase in fly ball rate as his HR/FB rate comes down and all will be right with the world again. It’s easy to look at Mike Zunino’s season so far and believe that he’s delivering on his power prospect potential. But with a below league average batted ball distance matched with an 18.5% HR/FB rate, that power output looks primed for collapse. Since he strikes out a ton and has been allergic to the base on balls, he becomes a zero-category contributor when not hitting the long-ball. In other words, he’s a less powerful J.P. Arencibia. We finish with two of this season’s biggest surprises. Both Brian Dozier and Charlie Blackmon have managed to significantly exceed everyone’s power expectations, yet sit nearly back-to-back on the batted ball distance leaderboard, hanging out around the 170th (out of 236) ranked group of hitters. I am frankly befuddled how the pair have posted 18.4% HR/FB rates while failing to average even 270 feet on their flies and homers. Remember too that Blackmon’s distance is already boosted by playing in the thin air of Coors Field. So he gets no additional credit for his home park. It’s doubtful that in any competitive league, anyone is actually willing to buy high on these two players. But be warned that as soon as the bubble bursts for Blackmon, a whole slew of outfield replacement are waiting in the wings in Colorado. That’s the risk of holding onto him — that he slumps enough and completely loses his starting job. It’s a real possibility since the Rockies have some very reasonable alternatives.