Batted Ball Distance Surgers: April

Now that we’re more than a month into the season, we finally have enough data to start taking batted ball distance numbers seriously. When developing my latest xHR/FB rate equation, I limited the player population to include only those who recorded at least 20 home runs and fly balls. At this point, the majority of the leaderboard sits between 20 and 25, so let’s dig in and start by looking at which hitters have experienced the largest increase since last season.

Name 2014 Distance 2013 Distance Diff
Marcell Ozuna 295.01 255.51 39.50
Michael Morse 322.81 286.66 36.15
Jimmy Rollins 291.80 256.61 35.19
Allen Craig 312.51 279.17 33.34
Justin Upton 318.76 285.49 33.27
Joey Votto 323.89 293.50 30.39
Mark Reynolds 319.06 292.48 26.58
Brandon Crawford 294.46 271.14 23.32
Mike Moustakas 293.49 270.57 22.92
Lucas Duda 306.89 284.58 22.31
Matt Kemp 306.03 284.77 21.26
Andrelton Simmons 289.42 268.99 20.43
A.J. Pollock 302.10 281.87 20.23
Justin Morneau 290.51 270.35 20.16
Todd Frazier 306.16 286.73 19.43

Marcell Ozuna posted ISO marks above .200 in the minors in both 2011 and 2012, combining for 47 homers, and then proceeded to ISO just .124, while swatting just 3 homers in 275 at-bats during his Marlins debut season. With just 47 plate appearances above High-A, it was no surprise to see him struggle at the big league level. He now leads all hitters in distance gain and even improved his walk rate, displaying some real growth as a hitter. He’s not hitting enough fly balls, but he’s no sell high candidate.

I guess Michael Morse is healthy.

Maybe Jimmy Rollins isn’t done after all. He’s already halfway to his 2013 home run total and nearly a quarter of the way to his steals total as well. I expected a bounce back year from him, but am unsure as to how I managed to snag him in zero leagues.

Allen Craig owners relax — it’s just a BABIP thing. Actually, that’s not entirely true. He’s going all Billy Butler on us as his fly ball rate has continued to drop. It has now declined every single season he’s been in the league. Obviously it’s going to be impossible for him to return to the 20 home run plateau when he’s hitting fewer than 25% of his batted balls in the air.

Would you look at that, another reason for Mike Moustakas owners to be hopeful! His power is actually up this year and his IFFB% is at a career low, but…and there’s always a but with the Moose…he forgot how to hit line drives and now his BABIP sits at a pitiful .145. Obviously that’s going to rise, but not before he gets him stuck in a straight platoon with Danny Valencia. If I wasn’t worried about the loss in playing time, I’d suggest that this would be a good time to acquire him in an AL-Only league.

With just a .227 average and a day off here and there, it doesn’t appear obvious that Matt Kemp‘s performance suggests he’s fully healthy. But his ISO has completely rebounded, as has his HR/FB rate, which is all backed by a rebound in distance. He’s even stolen three bases in four tries, despite questions about how often he was going to run this year. On a per at-bat basis, he might end up performing better than I had projected, but he’s not going to deliver substantial profit for as long as the Dodgers continuing rotating four outfielders for three spots.

It doesn’t appear that Andrelton Simmons‘ power outburst last year was a fluke. A lot of it had to do with an increase in fly ball rate and he has held onto most of those gains. It’s too bad he’s not a base stealer and he’s stuck at the bottom of the order.

It hasn’t just been Coors Field that has reinvigorated Justin Morneau. His ISO is identical both home and away and his HR/FB rate is actually a smidgen higher in away parks. His HR/FB rate currently stands at a career high. I have no idea if he is simply feeling the healthiest he has in years or it’s just a hot start. Either way, I can’t imagine anyone would buy him high, so owners should just enjoy the profit.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: 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. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

13 Responses to “Batted Ball Distance Surgers: April”

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  1. Jeff says:

    Make sure Eno knows there’s another reason to like Duda.

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    • pags140 says:

      I read this as “Ike Duda” and thought they finally joined forces. Then I remembered they don’t play on the same team anymore…

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  2. Lenard says:

    Thanks for the article Mike. I feel like you wrote an article answering the following question before, but I can’t find it anywhere.

    What average flyball distance should we look for in order to expect a guy to reasonably keep hitting home runs?

    I know there is a lot more to it, but it’s safe to day if Denard Span and is 240 foot average distance hits one, it’s safe to say it’s a fluke, whereas if Jose Abreu and his 327 foot (!) average distance hits one it’s not.

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  3. Bastard Steve says:

    Very cool. Is it mere coincidence that all but one of these athletes plays in the National League?

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  4. rustydude says:

    All National Leaguers except Mike Moustakas. Weird.

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  5. Feeding the Abscess says:

    I was encouraged by Votto’s distance increase, then I noticed his FB rate is down yet again.

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  6. AJ says:

    I actually think you might be able to find a buyer on Morneau. Matt Pouliot at rotoworld has him ranked in the 80s overall in his May rankings.

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  7. ImDownWithOBP says:

    Mike, how reliable is this data? We know that power takes a long time to stabilize, and we are looking at only 20-25 data points per player, so intuitively it seems like this data may not be worth much. I think you have answered this question in a previous article, but I cannot find that anywhere.

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    • Unfortunately, there is a whole lot more analysis of this data that could be done, but that I don’t have the database/Excel/math chops to do myself. So you’re right that it’s certainly a rather small sample, but at this point, it should be used more of a validation of what has already happened rather than what will happen.

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