Potential 2nd Half HR/FB Increasers

On Saturday, I analyzed the five hitters whose HR/FB ratios have increased the most since last season and using various tools and metrics, tried to determine whether we might see a decline in the second half. Today I will look at the opposite end of the spectrum, those hitters whose HR/FB ratios have declined the most. Will they experience a second half power surge?

Name 2012 HR/FB 2011 HR/FB Diff 2012 Avg Fly + HR Distance 2011 Avg Fly + HR Distance
Adrian Gonzalez 6.1% 16.4% -10.3% 276.2 292.9
Carlos Santana 7.5% 16.0% -8.5% 264.9 280.4
Nelson Cruz 11.3% 18.7% -7.4% 278.4 305.9
Howie Kendrick 9.3% 16.5% -7.2% 286.5 291.2
Alex Gordon 5.5% 12.6% -7.1% 285.0 290.3

Adrian Gonzalez‘s missing power stroke has been one of the bigger stories of the fantasy season and something that many fantasy owners are asking about in the comments. Aside from a recent back issue, there has been absolutely no news about any type of injury or any whispers that his shoulder has been bothering him during any part of the season. But with his HR/FB ratio down significantly and his fly balls traveling shorter distances, you have to wonder if he is indeed 100% healthy. The doubles are still there, but that is probably just a function of the Green Monster and possibly the fact that he just doesn’t have the power to muscle those balls over the wall. Also, curiously his walk rate is way down and well below the league average for the first time. I wish I had a clue what was wrong, but without the power and BABIP magic of last year, he’s obviously nowhere near the elite at first base.

Carlos Santana is the anti-position scarcity’s example this year of why you shouldn’t draft a catcher early. It’s a weak argument since it’s just cherry picking a bust at the position, which you can do at any position. That said, Santana has been quite the disappointment with just 5 homers, after hitting 27 last year. Since he still has BABIP issues, he is suddenly a near replacement level catcher after being universally ranked among the top two at the position in the pre-season. He has experienced a similar drop in average fly ball distance to Gonzalez, so his power is clearly off this year. Unlike Gonzalez though, Santana has dealt with his share of injuries. Between a minor concussion, back and side soreness and the daily grind of catching (he caught only 59% of his games played last year versus 76% so far this season), his health has likely affecting his hitting performance. The good news is his walk and strikeout rates are normal, but it would be nice to see more fly balls. His current batted ball distribution actually suggests a much better BABIP. Depending on how cheaply you can acquire him, I think he makes for a better rebound candidate toward pre-season value than Gonzalez.

With Nelson Cruz‘s power down, everyone automatically assumes he’s not fully healthy. The oft-injured outfielder actually hasn’t been injured all season (unless I am forgetting a time). Unlike the first two names, Cruz’s power is still above average, but simply down from where he typically sits. He’s striking out more than usual, but everything else looks normal. His average fly ball distance is easily down the most of the players on the above list, which is discouraging. Since he’s only a bit off his normal pace and striking out more frequently, I don’t think he’s really a great buy low target. And of course, the injury risk will always loom.

Howie Kendrick makes this list solely because of his magical 2011 season that saw him hit a surprising 18 homers. It should have been obvious that was a fluke as Kendrick sustaining a mid-teens HR/FB ratio was quite unlikely. So this is just Kendrick returning to his standard power level. What’s interesting is how his average distance hasn’t declined very much from last year. Just goes to show how flukely that HR/FB ratio was. So unfortunately for his owners, you’ll probably have to endure more of the same in the second half.

After many fantasy owners projected a breakout for years, Alex Gordon finally made good last season, swatting 23 homers and batting over .300 on the heels of an inflated BABIP. Though most expected his average to tumble, the power appeared real. But, now it’s gone again and he’s looking closer to the pre-2011 Gordon. The good news is that his average fly ball distance is only down a couple of ticks from last year. He is also the American League leader in doubles, so has power hasn’t completely vanished. A 5.5% HR/FB ratio is simply way too low to continue, as even before Gordon broke out, he still posted rates of at least 8.5%, and over 11% from 2009-2011. More fly balls would help his home run total as well, but I think he should rebound in the second half. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been running as much this year, so his value is really predicated on his power returning.

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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 “Potential 2nd Half HR/FB Increasers”

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  1. tenags says:

    I think you may have missed Chris Heisey, whose career HR/FB is 13% and 2011 HR/FB was 18.6%, and his 2012 number is 4.8%.

    His 2011 Avg Fly+HR Distance was 282 and his 2012 Avg Fly+HR Distance is 262

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  2. Paul says:

    Unless he’s healthy, I totally disagree on Santana. The name of his game is lifting the fastball, and that batted ball profile, plus negative values on all fastball types (complete reversal from his established profile), indicates that he is definitely hurt, doing nothing with FBs, and at least doing something with the offspeed, a testament to his immense talent. We’re not going to see anything out of Santana until they move him off catcher. If he was able to stay healthy for a season and play only 1B or DH, we could see something close to a Hamilton season out of him in his prime.

    Disagree on Gordon. His batted ball profile is not an accident. Similar to Santana, more line drives to go along with a fairly high GB rate for a power hitter. With Gordon it’s an odd deal. He has just been missing the FB all season, plus the league has adjusted to him and he just doesn’t see very many hittable ones. The AVG last season was not a fluke, and neither is it this season. In that park I think this is actually what he is. Without a legit power hitter behind him, he’ll have to make his own way and he’s doing a great job in that context. He’s fallen into the role of a professional hitter with gap power. The HRs could increase, but he doesn’t have the easy power it takes to hit a ton of HRs in that park. What is more likely is a 15% SO rate possibly by year end, and certainly in the future, 50+ doubles, and yes, you heard it here first, a luck-aided .330 AVG some year. I also thought the power would increase, but he’s a better hitter this way, and it turns out this is what he is.

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  3. Freddy T says:

    “It’s a weak argument since it’s just cherry picking a bust at the position, which you can do at any position.”

    Not really a weak argument if you’ve stood by the philosophy of not drafting catchers early and abstained from the likes of the 3rd round Santana or the 2nd round Mauer a couple seasons ago. For those that don’t draft catchers early, Santana is just yet another example of why you don’t do it.

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  4. James says:

    Is Ian Desmond’s power surge real? I looked up his average fly ball distance this year vs last year. It has increased from 270 to 297 ft. That’s gotta be enough to explain a HR/FB increase from 6% to 18% right?

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    • 6 of his 17 HRs have been “just enough”, which is a bit high, but not outlandish. I really don’t know what to make of Desmond as this power spike pretty much came out of nowhere.

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  5. James says:

    Is there a stat for variance of fly ball distance? For example, if someone hits the ball 310 ft every single time he hits a fly ball, his HR/FB is going to be 0% even though the average would be that of an elite HR hitter.

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    • This is a good question. Since this stat is something we just started looking at, we will surely figure out new ways to analyze the data. I’m sure Jeff Zimmerman could put together some cool studies.

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      • James says:

        I’m just salivating at the possibility of the next major breakthrough. It sucks to have missed out on picking up guys like Desmond and Edwin Encarnacion (279 ft LY to 294 ft TY) because the ZIPS ROS projections regressed those guys so heavily. Not to mention it is still high on Adrian Gonzalez.

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  6. James says:

    Can you do an article on players who have seen an increase in avg flyball distance but not much of an increase in HR/FB%? I’m thinking those could be candidates for 2nd half breakouts (if there are any that fall into this category).

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    • Unfortunately leaderboards are not available at the moment. Once the site gets fleshed out more, there will be loads of analyzational opportunities.Can you feel the excitement??

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