The Bottom 17 Batter HardHit% Laggards — 8/18/20

Yesterday, I shared and discussed the top 10 hitters in Statcast’s HardHit%, a metric now available right here on FanGraphs. Once again, a breakdown of HardHit% (HH%) by batted ball type would be ideal, so this is not a complete analysis. But an overall HH% tells us most of what we want to know, even if it could deceive here and there. So let’s check in on the bottom group in HH%. I want to highlight the surprises, the hitters you would expect to rank much better, and will ignore the guys we expect to be near the bottom.

HardHit% Laggards
Name HardHit%
Eric Sogard 8.7%
Jurickson Profar 20.0%
Luis Arraez 20.8%
David Fletcher 21.3%
David Dahl 22.6%
Jorge Polanco 23.3%
Whit Merrifield 24.7%
Starling Marte 25.0%
Victor Robles 25.0%
Daniel Murphy 25.5%
Adam Frazier 25.9%
Hanser Alberto 25.9%
Anthony Rizzo 26.0%
Alex Gordon 26.5%
Kevin Newman 27.3%
Kolten Wong 27.3%
Yandy Diaz 27.4%

Congrats to Eric Sogard for easily bringing up the rear. He somehow still has an every day job, despite a .270 wOBA and hilariously low .036 ISO.

We think that David Dahl has been healthy so far, but his performance hasn’t supported such an assertion yet! He had posted nearly identical HardHit% marks just below 39% the last two years, so this is a significant drop. He hasn’t even posted a strong BABIP, so he’s been a literal zero for fantasy owners so far, even though he’s recorded more plate appearances at Coors Field than in away parks.

Unsurprisingly, Whit Merrifield has never been a big HardHit% guy. But this mark represents a career low, which is odd given that his HR/FB rate has nearly doubled from last season and fully doubled from his career average, while his ISO has surged above .200 for the first time. A quick glance at his fly ball direction rates results in our answer — a surge in Pull%, so he’s pulling far more of his flies, which has boosted his HR/FB rate, even though he isn’t actually hitting those flies any harder. There’s no way to know if the Pull% spike continues, but if it does, he could continue posting a double digit HR/FB rate the rest of the way.

Starling Marte has been the type of hitter fantasy owners drool over with his electric power/speed mix. The power, though, hasn’t been there as much this year. The only other time he has been below 30% in HardHit% was 2017, but that mark was still above his current one. All his other metrics look good though and he hasn’t even popped up once yet. In addition, his strikeout rate has now declined for a fourth straight season, which is incredible given the consistent increase in the leaguewide strikeout rate.

At some point, Victor Robles is likely to enjoy a real power breakout. But at age 23, his current HardHit% suggests that this breakout hasn’t begun just yet. Unfortunately for his owners, he has also yet to steal a base, which means he has a combined one home run + steal, and that’s not what owners paid for.

This is a big decline for Anthony Rizzo, who battled back issues during Summer training. The weird thing is his ISO sits at the second highest mark of his career, while his HR/FB rate has skyrocketed above 20% for the first time. So the results have certainly been there, but the question is how. Like I did for Merrifield, I checked Rizzo’s fly ball direction distribution and sure enough, his Pull% has surged to a career high above 40%, versus a career average of around 28%. His Hard% is also right around his career mark. So it’s a pulled fly ball thing, which if maintained, could offset any loss of HardHit%.

It’s unfortunate after last season’s breakout, Yandy Diaz is back to pounding balls into the ground. While average LA by itself should rarely be used for analysis (two hitters could have the same average LA, but very different values that average out to that same number), it’s funny to see Diaz with far and away the lowest average LA in baseball at -7.7. Only one other hitter, DJ LeMahieu at -0.4, is below 0. I’ve started benching him in my 15-team mixed LABR league, as I don’t see any value here if he’s not hitting flies. In OBP leagues, he’ll still retain some value as he has become an on base machine, though that has only resulted in nine measly runs scored.

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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3 years ago

Man has Dahl been a stink-o so far.