The Top 10 Batter HardHit% Leaders — 8/17/20

Statcast metrics have arrived! So let’s dive right in, starting with the HardHit% (HH%) leaders. As per Statcast, a batter’s hard hit rate is the percentage of batted balls that were hit at 95 MPH or more. While this data would be even more useful if broken up by batted ball type (we care far more about hard hit fly balls than hard hit pop-ups or grounders), the metric still gets us most of the way there. So let’s check out the top 10 leaders and see if we find any surprises.

HardHit% Leaders
Name HardHit%
Fernando Tatis Jr. 65.5%
Teoscar Hernandez 61.7%
Willson Contreras 58.8%
Marcell Ozuna 56.9%
Eloy Jimenez 56.6%
Evan White 56.4%
Corey Seager 56.1%
Tyler O’Neill 55.6%
Christian Walker 55.2%
Miguel Cabrera 55.1%

I laughed at how expensive Fernando Tatis Jr. was in drafts and auctions this season after his superb debut last year, given how much good fortune he seemingly required to post that mightily impressive .398 wOBA. Then I bought him in my local 12-team auction, and now I’m the one laughing after his insane start. I still boggles my mind how a 21-year-old who skipped Triple-A and only posted a HR/FB rate as high as 18.8% at Double-A is showing this kind of power. The fact he has raised his FB% from a below average 30.9% last year to an above average 41.4% this year means even greater home run potential, and will help to offset any decline in HR/FB rate off last year.

Teoscar Hernandez made it into my seven power bats to buy cheap and he’s making those who followed the advice very happy. Too bad I wasn’t one of them 🙁 Hernandez stopped walking and is swinging and missing more than ever, but he’s hitting a ton of fly balls and hitting his batted balls harder than ever before. Just be aware that if the power slumps, he becomes pretty useless as the rest of his skills stink.

It’s been a bizarre season for Willson Contreras, whose strikeout rate has skyrocketed into the high-30%, while his batted ball profile has completely shifted. He’s now hitting a ton of line drives, has yet to hit a pop-up, but is hitting flies at a career low rate. All that combined has resulted in his second lowest wOBA so far and just two home runs, even though his HH% is at a career high.

For as long as Evan White is holding a starting job and struggles, I will keep asking why on Earth the Mariners thought he was ready to succeed at the Major League level. He only recorded 18 plate appearances at Triple-A, back in 2018, and was solid, but unspectacular at Double-A last year. Tatis has spoiled us to think it’s normal for hitters to jump from Double-A to the Majors and succeed right away, but it usually does not happen. There’s no reason to have thought White was one of the exceptions. The odd thing is that for as weak as his skills have been, he’s actually hitting the ball super hard. It’s too bad that with a 43.8% strikeout rate, he’s rarely putting the ball into play to take advantage of those hard hit batted balls.

A surprise breakout in his first extended taste of big league action made Christian Walker an easy bust candidate, especially given the Diamondbacks options to replace him at first base. So far, he he successfully maintained his breakout performance, but the shape of it is totally different than expected. He has homered just once, despite a big HH%, driving his ISO below .200, but his BABIP has skyrocketed thanks to an elite LD% and few pop-ups. Owners bought Walker expecting nice power and a mediocre batting average, but are instead getting a nice batting average and little power. The important thing is that he’s kept his job, so give his HH%, I’d expect the home run power to return.

There might be no one more exciting to see on this list than Miguel Cabrera. At age 37, it’s no surprise that his offense has been in decline, with injuries likely partly to blame. But as of now, his HH% stands at its highest mark since we have the data for, going back to 2015. It’s a big rebound off its low last year. His HR/FB rate has surged to 28.6%, but unfortunately he’s not hitting a whole lot of fly balls, and his strikeout rate has jumped to its highest mark since his 2003 debut. What this suggests to me is that he’s healthier than he’s been, but age is taking a toll on his bat speed, resulting in the increased strikeout rate. The net result might still mean he’s replacement level in shallow mixed leagues.





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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Pirates Hurdlesmember
2 years ago

.184 babip for Miggy despite the hard contact, must be a ton of hard hit ground balls I guess.

Anon
2 years ago

Bingo. Excluding his 1st 2 seasons with Miami, 3 of Miggy’s 4 highest GB% have been the last 3 years. Conversely, his 3 lowest FB% have been the last 3 years.

His xwOBA on those grounders is .249 but he is underperforming that badly and has a .139 wOBA on grounders. However, one of the things about MIggy is he has massively underperformed his xwOBA every year of the Statcast era. Basically you can expect him to underperform his overall xwOBA by right around 40 points (.400 xwOBA vs. an actual .359 wOBA). Now, if you look at grounders, it’s a lot closer. For his career he’s been right around his xwOBA on grounders, so he has definitely been unlucky but given that he is one of the 5 slowest guys in the majors, it’s frankly not surprising to see him underperform on grounders.

His xwOBA overall is .365 . Given his historical performance relative to xwOBA, he has been unlucky with his wOBA at .281 but that still leaves him with an “expected” wOBA (factoring in his historical underperformance) in the low .300’s with a ceiling of something like a .340 wOBA if he were to run into a stretch where he gets lucky. Basically to be a decent hitter he has to post xwOBAs more like .380+ which he hasn’t done since 2016.

The other Statcast stat I have started paying attention to is SweetSpot%. Basically it measures how often a guy hits the ball on a launch angle of 8-32 degrees since that is the optimal range to do damage. It tells you how consistent a guy is. If a guy hits one ball at -45* and another at 80* that averages out to a LA of 17.5* which is good. However, he has almost certainly made 2 outs. We obviously don’t have Miggy’s numbers for his whole career but from 2015-2017 he was at 36-40%. The last 3 years it has been 29.6%, 38.0% and 34.0% this year. Put another way, his SwSpt% is 129th of 267 this year but when Miggy was MIGGY, he was routinely near the top of that leaderboard.

And those are all before we get to other issues like his chase rate spiking last year (always a big warning sign for an aging player, though it’s back down this year), his contact rate plummeting, SwStr% up, K% up. Just a lot of red flags

League depth obviously plays a factor in whether a guy is rosterable but Miggy just looks for all the world like he is toast at this point.

Joe Wilkeymember
2 years ago
Reply to  Anon

Actually, a lot of it has to do with his home field too. If you look at his breakdown by park on FB+LD categorized as “straightaway” over the last three years (https://tinyurl.com/miggystatcast), his xwOBA away from Comerica is .600, his wOBA is .476, which is a sizeable difference, but I’ve found StatCast tends to overestimate xwOBA on straightaway FB+LD for everyone. His wOBA at Comerica is .402, while his xwOBA is .703! That’s a huge difference, and it’s on batted balls that generally have a high wOBA value. I really think Nick Castellanos was right about Comerica, it hugely deflates power numbers, especially to center field.

Anon
2 years ago
Reply to  Joe Wilkey

I’m not going to go run the search again but I was playing around with Statcast earlier this year running searches for 400 foot outs and Tigers hitters figured prominently (also Rockies, Red Sox and Dbacks since those parks also have deep CF as well as high fences). But it’s not just outs, that park turns a ton of what would be HR in other parks into 2b and 3b.

xwOBA clearly need 3 adjustments – home ballpark, ball angle (up the middle? RF? which way did the guy hit it?) and speed

Anon
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

That’s 16 fly balls so far. SIxteen.

Per Statcast, Miggy has yet to hit a fly ball over 400 feet this year (actually, he has none over 390 feet). He only had 4 over 400 feet last year and 7 in 2017 (2018 was cut short but he had zero in 2018 as well). That’s 11 total in his last 1,314 PA. When Miggy was last Miggy in 2016 he had 30 in 679 PA.

Superficially he’s doing some things that look good like continuing to bang out line drives and hitting the ball hard. But he’s an automatic out on the ground and whatever his FB numbers might say, he just isn’t hitting long fly balls that are likely to leave the park and his days as a high average hitter are gone.

Jackie T.
2 years ago
Reply to  Anon

Damn. Anon doing Mike’s job for him.

Anon
2 years ago
Reply to  Jackie T.

Miggy is a guy I’ve been keeping a close eye on for the last couple years because he’s perpetually available in my league and he’s not that far removed from being a good hitter. He still does so many things well – line drive machine, uses the whole field (at least until this year that is – he’s pulling the ball a lot more this year), hits it hard, still doesn’t pop up much.

He just can’t elevate the ball and hit it out of the park like he used to and because he’s so damned slow they can play him 20+ feet off the infield dirt and cut off most of his ground balls.

If he ever adjusted and sold out for HR he would become interesting whit his bat control. BUt there jsut isn’t a real long history of former great players (or even not great players) putting together a 3 year run of really poor numbers in their mid-30’s and then coming back to be decent.

cjsarponmember
2 years ago
Reply to  Anon

Can echo this anecdotally as I was riding Miggy off of some of his superficial Statcast data this year – I dropped him on 8/11 immediately after seeing a deep White Sox infield turn a 105.7 mph rocket (.520 xBA) into a casual groundout (wasn’t even due to a shift – they were simply playing so deep they could range over and make the play).

Combine that with the fact, as you point to, his max FB distance is 390ft this year, you have a player that is going to: 1) underperform on grounders (speed/infield depth), 2) underperform on FB (390 max FB distance can’t cut it in Comerica park), 3) is reliant on liners without the speed or contact skills (contract rate & swstr% are both their lowest since his rookie season and 4) is part of one of the weaker lineups in baseball.

Miggy is cooked. He’s probably less cooked than we thought he was based on last year’s injury-riddled season, but he’s cooked all the same.

Anon
2 years ago

Interesting thought but there is a non-zero chance that Nelson Cruz ends up with more career HR than Miggy. I mean, it would still be a very low chance given that Miggy is 2 years younger and has a 74 HR lead (not to mention a guaranteed contract for another 3 years). But the chance his to be much higher than it was 4-5 years ago.

Ericksonb32
2 years ago
Reply to  Anon

It helps that teams can cover about 80% of the field when Miggy bats and he’s so slow.