Discussing Batted Ball Distance Leaders

Earlier this year, I finally derived an official equation that highlighted the value batted ball distance has and its strong correlation with home runs. While we still don’t have a lot of vital information, such as how quickly batted ball distance stabilizes, it is probably still worth taking a peek at the leader board. It might very well explain some of the early home run spikes. Whether or not the hitter will continue hitting balls that far on average is unknown, but it will at least validate what has already happened.

Name Distance HR/FB
Hunter Pence 318.36 20.0%
Carlos Gonzalez 318.13 17.9%
Chris Davis 316.21 26.2%
Nolan Arenado 314.69 20.0%
Troy Tulowitzki 312.7 21.1%
Mark Reynolds 312.17 28.2%
Carl Crawford 312.09 16.1%
Bryce Harper 311.37 28.6%
Russell Martin 311.24 25.0%
Adam LaRoche 311.06 9.7%

The unweighted average HR/FB rate of these hitters is 21.3%, so immediately you can say how strongly it correlates to batted ball distance.

Hunter Pence is giving everyone who was so focused on his poor second half last year the finger. It’s just another reminder that second half split stats are routinely given too much weight when projecting performance the following season. Am I cherry picking? Well, sure, but there are also studies that confirm this. Anyhow, Pence is obviously fine.

On both The Sleeper and the Bust podcast and The Fantasy Baseball Roundtable radio show, I’ve been saying that all of Chris Davis‘ advanced metrics point to this be a true monster career year. The batted ball distance is just another point in his favor. I’m not selling high.

Be patient Nolan Arenado owners, he may be even better in fantasy leagues than most expected. He’s hitting just .241 now but is making excellent contact and has been bitten by a .227 BABIP. We know he is going to contribute in batting average and the early batted ball distance data suggests he may also be at least a 20 homer guy in a full season of at bats.

Carl Crawford?! He’s the first guy on this list who is truly a surprise. Since 2007, he has never exceeded an average batted ball distance of 288 feet, which is actually higher than one might expect given his below league average career HR/FB rate. He’s also striking out less and walking more than previous years and his line drive rate easily stands at a career best. I have no idea if he could keep this up, obviously history suggests not. But at least it does validate his current power surge.

Out of nowhere, Russell Martin‘s HR/FB rate is on a three season climb. His batted ball distance was identical the last two seasons at 289 feet, which is pretty good, but doesn’t match with that nearly 20% HR/FB rate from last year. What’s amazing is that this power surge is coinciding with a significant increase in Contact% and decline in strikeout rate. That’s pretty impressive. Like Crawford, I have no idea if this will continue, but darn has Martin been legitimately good.

And finally, we reach our first strong buy low candidate in Adam LaRoche. In the “which HR/FB rate does not belong” game, LaRoche’s is by far the lowest of this group and corresponds more closely to a 275-280 foot average distance, which is where the league average usually sits. For the most part, this is the same LaRoche as always. And in fact his batted ball distribution actually suggests a much better BABIP given that he’s hitting a ton of line drives and avoiding the infield fly ball.

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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.

14 Responses to “Discussing Batted Ball Distance Leaders”

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  1. kid says:

    Three of the top five guys on this list are Rockies… Coincidence?

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    • Giovani says:

      You might be onto something. Maybe that park is good for offense or something? Somebody should look into that.

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      • Andrew Wolfe says:

        Actually, most of their home runs have come on the road this year. I hate when people use Coors Field as an excuse. Carlos and Troy are both amazing hitters wherever they go.

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    • Jay29 says:

      Yeah, a 314 foot fly ball average in Coors is not the same value as one at sea level. Probably should be some home/away and/or park factors included.

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  2. John says:

    Great stuff! LaRoche was just dropped in my league. How would you rank LaRoche, Carter, Willingham and Soriano for HR/RBI’s ROS?

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    • Strictly HRs I might go Carter. Does avg really not matter though? Willingham and LaRoche are close for HR and RBI combined, will beat Carter in RBI. Soriano is last

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  3. flashing the leather says:

    Say I’m stacked at 3B with Longo, Headley and Arenado. Any suggestions for guys to trade Arenado for at 1B, 2B, SS or OF? Are Kipnis, Freeman, Starlin or Segura reasonable guys to target?

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    • Tommy says:

      I’d trade him for any of those guys. Sure, he could be great all year, but his minor league track record doesn’t scream ’30 HR guy’ and he could wear down as the season progresses. Not to mention the fact that pitchers will have tape on him after a round through the league, which can lead to a spike in K-rate.

      Or even better, deal away Headley. He’s been playing over his head for more than a season now, so his name value is worth more than what I expect him to do from here out.

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    • No way you cold get any of those guys for Arenado, but of course I would if you could. That said, Arenado’s perceived value is certainly lowest, so prob better idea would be to keep him and trade away Longo or Headley. Both those guys are performing to expectations so no sell high opportunity, just trade for fair value.

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  4. shibboleth says:

    Great research, loving this. I looked at Chad’s batted ball distance gainers/losers from a few weeks back and provides a nice context. also great to see some of my batters improving :)

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  5. Morgan says:

    LaRoche, Willingham or Hart the ROS?

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  6. Ryan says:

    I currently have Ike Davis (just sitting on my bench) with Freeman at 1st, do you think it is worth it to drop Davis for LaRoche? I know everyone is constantly saying that Ike Davis will turn it around, but every single time I plug him into my line up there’s a fat goose egg with a couple of Ks…

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    • Last year, Davis finished May with a .170 average and 5 HRs. sound familiar? He then hit .253 the rest of the way with 27 homers. Obviously, .253 isn’t great, but certainly doesn’t kill you like a low .200 would. And of course, just because he performed well after a slow start last year doesn’t mean he will do so again this year. But it’s just a reminder not to overreact to a slow start. Depending on the size of your league, LaRoche should be on a team, and probably starting. But I wouldn’t drop Ike.

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