Dude, Where’s My Power?

With just over a month to go, time is running out for offensive disappointments to get back on track and start showing the type of power projected of them before the season began. When a hitter goes through a power drought, there could be a number of explanations, such as an injury, aging effects or good ole’ random variation (read: bad luck/fluke). These five hitters have seen their ISO rates plummet the most compared to last season. Let’s try to figure out what went wrong.

Name 2013 ISO 2012 ISO 2013 HR/FB 2012 HR/FB ISO Diff
Josh Hamilton 0.188 0.292 13.2% 25.6% -0.104
Nick Markakis 0.084 0.174 5.8% 11.1% -0.090
Jimmy Rollins 0.092 0.177 3.3% 10.4% -0.085
Chase Headley 0.131 0.212 8.6% 21.4% -0.081
Paul Konerko 0.111 0.188 7.2% 15.8% -0.077

Josh Hamilton‘s struggles have been well documented in his first year with the Angels. While I expected that aging and park effects would hurt his power and overall performance this year, I certainly did not expect it to look this bad. His HR/FB rate is at its lowest mark since his injury shortened 2009, and his ISO has dipped below .200 for only the second time as well. It hasn’t just been a home park thing either. His away ISO is down about 100 points from where it sat last year. Hamilton hasn’t exactly been a picture of good health throughout his career, and he has battled through various maladies this season. The park is probably one explanation, but I would bet that health is the primary factor. There are enough warts here though that he may not necessarily be a bargain in fantasy leagues next season.

Though Nick Markakis is suffering from what appears to be a terrible power outage, his appearance above is really mostly due to the spike he enjoyed last year. Obviously, a .084 ISO is miserable, but it’s not completely out of line with previous marks of .122 and .138. At one point, Markakis was a doubles machine, but even that skill has evaporated. There hasn’t been a peep about anything injury related since spring training when he was diagnosed with a herniated disc in his neck. Could that be our explanation? It sounds like that would hurt, but it’s hard to understand how a neck injury would affect a hitter’s swing and power.

Jimmy Rollins‘s appearance on this list is similar to Markakis’ in that he also experienced a power rebound last year that is magnifying his decline this season (you could argue that Hamilton is also in this boat, but change “rebound” to “surge”). Rollins, though, is 34 and it would be easy to blame his drop-off on aging effects. He’s swinging and missing more often than ever before, with a SwStk% at its highest since way back in 2004. His speed has also seemingly dropped off the table, as he has posted a career low Spd score. The only injury news during the season has been a sore hip, which apparently affected him in early-to-mid June. His days of all-around contributions from a shallow shortstop position could very well be over.

We could blame Chase Headley‘s missing power on his spring training thumb injury or a return to reality after last year’s surprising power explosion. Initially, I thought that perhaps he was pulling the ball less often, which was cited as the reason behind last year’s surge. However, he has actually pulled the ball more often this year as a left-handed batter. His pull percentage sits at 52%, versus 48% last season. With the shorter fences at PETCO, you would think the additional pulled balls would help him get close to last year’s power production. Of course, his batted ball distance is down, so that’s most important, whether he’s pulling the ball or not. Maybe it’s as simple as last year was just a career year and oddities like that happen.

Paul Konerko‘s case is probably the easiest one to investigate. He’s 37 years old and has battled back issues throughout the year that did eventually land him on the disabled list. While it’s unlikely that his age alone is the culprit for such a drastic drop in power, the age combined with the back likely is. If he does return next year, it would be difficult to imagine a return to form.

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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.

11 Responses to “Dude, Where’s My Power?”

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  1. FeslenR says:

    wonder if Josh Hamilton is a buy low and draft in the later rounds candidate next season?

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    • Giovani says:

      “There are enough warts here though that he may not necessarily be a bargain in fantasy leagues next season.” – The article you pretended to read

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      • FeslenR says:

        I was wondering aloud, what part of that didn’t you get?

        what part of FANTASY “late round draft” did you not get? for fantasy terms, Hamilton may be worth drafting in the late late rounds. sheesh.

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      • Well sure he will be, but I can’t imagine a league where he’d fall that far. Lots of fantasy owners are still going to nab him a sleeper and rebound candidate and given his history and name value, he’ll easily go in the top 10 rounds.

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    • Wobatus says:

      Konerko’s K rate has come down as the season has progressed, and his wRC+ in July and August has been 116 in each month. He had a dreadful April but has improved somewhat of late, even if not to his career norms. His numbers for July and August are .256/.311/.477, so a 221 iso. The average and walks are still a little low, but if he gets a little babip luck I could see him doing .275/.330/.485 or so next year, even without much of a rebound from his current level.

      His real problem this year is he has been horrific against lefties. 42 wRC+. He hasn’t been below 100 against them since his rookie season.

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  2. Brian says:

    Didn’t Markakis break his hamate about a year ago? That could account for some of the power loss, though you would think he would be getting his power back by now.

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  3. Kevin says:

    Neck pain blows. I can imagine it being difficult to swing a bat with authority if herniated disc pain is anything like having neck spasms.

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  4. Allen says:

    With guys like Franklin, Lake, Miller should I even keep Rollins? 12 Team daily h2h dynasty league.

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