Updated Potential Hitter K% Improvers — Jul 12, 2021

Last week, I quickly introduced my updated hitter xK% equation thanks to commenter suggestions. Let’s now put the new equation into action and update my potential hitter K% improver list. The original list used the earlier version of this equation and can be found here. As you might have expected, many of the same names made this new list. The xK% equation is updated, but the result isn’t dramatically different than it had been. So I won’t be discussing the names I did last week, just the new ones.

Potential K% Improvers
Name L/Str/Pit% S/Str/Pit% F/Str/Pit% I/Str/Pit% 3-0c/PA% Pit/PA HBP/Pit% K% xK%
Tucker Barnhart 13.5% 12.7% 19.6% 14.3% 4.4% 4.18 0.4% 29.4% 26.4%
Eugenio Suarez 17.3% 13.4% 15.0% 14.8% 5.9% 4.06 0.3% 30.1% 27.5%
Brandon Belt 11.9% 14.3% 20.1% 12.0% 4.5% 4.40 0.2% 32.3% 29.8%
Yordan Alvarez 20.3% 9.5% 18.1% 15.3% 5.8% 4.14 0.5% 26.9% 24.4%
Kyle Schwarber 17.1% 12.3% 15.2% 14.5% 5.9% 4.08 0.4% 29.1% 26.9%
David Fletcher 23.9% 4.2% 14.5% 25.5% 2.6% 3.36 0.0% 10.6% 8.5%
Dansby Swanson 14.4% 15.1% 18.1% 16.0% 4.8% 4.05 0.2% 28.5% 26.4%
Miguel Sano 15.9% 17.3% 15.8% 12.3% 3.1% 4.31 0.1% 36.4% 34.3%
Bobby Dalbec 17.1% 19.5% 15.5% 14.2% 5.1% 4.04 0.3% 36.9% 35.0%
Clint Frazier 19.0% 11.4% 14.0% 12.4% 6.4% 4.35 0.3% 29.8% 28.0%
Kolten Wong 17.0% 8.3% 19.1% 21.0% 7.5% 3.66 0.6% 15.5% 13.7%
Randal Grichuk 13.0% 13.7% 19.8% 20.9% 3.8% 3.51 0.2% 22.4% 20.7%
Alec Bohm 14.0% 13.0% 19.8% 16.4% 4.3% 4.05 0.1% 26.1% 24.5%
Kevin Newman 21.0% 5.2% 13.1% 25.1% 4.8% 3.48 0.1% 7.0% 5.5%
Yan Gomes 18.0% 9.2% 19.5% 19.8% 3.9% 3.72 0.5% 20.2% 18.7%
League Average 16.7% 12.5% 17.7% 16.9% 4.4% 3.92 0.3%

*Note that all metrics, including K%, exclude plate appearances that result in an intentional walk, so K% marks in the table might be higher than on the player’s page.

Once again, Tucker Barnhart remains at the top, with Eugenio Suarez moving up a spot to rank second.

The first new name to join the list is Astros slugger Yordan Alvarez. After missing the majority of the 2020 campaign to injury, Alvarez has followed up strongly to his elite 2019 debut. The most impressive skill Alvarez has displayed this year is his ability to make contact — his S/Str/Pit% is much better than the league average, despite the fact he owns a .237 ISO and 23.2% HR/FB rate. You don’t find the combination of contact ability and power often, but when you do, it’s part of the skill set of a superstar hitter. The only reason he still strikes out more than 20% of the time is because he has taken a high rate of looking strikes, so a little more aggressiveness might do him some good.

It’s hard to believe that David Fletcher, owner of a 10.6% strikeout rate, might actually deserve an even better mark. He rarely swings and misses, posting a S/Str/Pit% that’s best in baseball. However, he has always posted a significantly higher L/Str/Pit%, and this year is no different. Fletcher doesn’t have much power, so more balls in play would primarily boost his batting average and OBP, perhaps resulting in an additional couple of steal opportunities.

A .400 wOBA over 92 plate appearances may have inflated expectations for Bobby Dalbec, as that performance was driven by an unsustainable .394 BABIP and 44.4% HR/FB rate. Naturally both have heavily regressed this season, and while his strikeout rate has improved, it’s still far too high. His xK% suggests things should be better, but really, a 35% mark versus a 36.9% isn’t going to make much of a difference. One of the issues this year is that his walk rate has collapsed. At least when he was striking out often last year, he was getting on base here and there via the base on balls, but that’s happening far less frequently this season. It’s caused his OBP to plummet to a sad .263. I’m honestly shocked he has remained in the Majors and hasn’t been demoted to the minors yet to get back on track.

It’s been a forgettable year for Clint Frazier as both his power and BABIP have collapsed. On the IL now, it’s unlikely he’ll see much playing time even if he returns some point soon healthy. I wouldn’t sell low on him if I were the Yankees though as there’s a really nice skills foundation here. He might make for a nice buy low in a keeper league, depending on his price.

Kolten Wong’s strikeout rate has been amazingly consistent throughout his career, but xK% suggests he should be posting a career best mark right now. He makes excellent contact and has seen an insanely high rate of 3-0 counts. That’s probably random given his low walk rate, but it does go into the xK% calculation and explains why that result is strong. He’s been a nice source of all-around production and could continue to be.

Yan Gomes had been having a nice season and providing solid catcher production until going down with an oblique injury. Those are always tricky and could keep a hitter on the IL for many weeks. Gomes has gotten his S/Str/Pit% into single digits, which is impressive for the 33-year-old. He has posted a career best HR/FB rate, but hasn’t been able to fully take advantage because his FB% has plummeted to a career low below 30% for the first time. In fact, his FB% had never dropped below 37%, so this is quite the decline. The change in batted ball mix has likely helped his BABIP, but has hurt his power output as well.

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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D.K. Willardson
1 year ago

This is great. Just wanted to point out a pertinent issue. There is a relationship between K rate and Attack Angle (Ks increase with Attack Angle – as do the changes in each). So players with significant AA changes may not regress as expected.

It just so happens that Kolten Wong has the largest increase in Attack Angle in MLB from 2020 to 2021. As a proxy for AA, you can use a ‘well-hit’ LA that filters out bad balls (like EV>85, LA>-10,<45)