Potential Second Half Power Faders

Yesterday, I identified five hitters whose batted ball distance suggests a HR/FB rate surge could be in their futures. Today, I check in on those hitters who are at risk of experiencing a decline in HR/FB rate over the rest of the season. As a reminder, batted ball angle, standard deviation of all fly balls and fence distances all play a role, but are ignored during this exercise due to lack of data.

Name Distance HR/FB
Chris Carter 285.73 20.4%
Manny Machado 283.70 17.5%
Albert Pujols 278.95 16.0%
Jose Bautista 279.45 15.2%
Derek Norris 261.91 14.8%

Uh oh. Chris Carter owners might want to look away. Because where is Carter without home runs? Back in the minors. His batted ball distance has declined by 13 feet since last year, which is significant, yet his HR/FB rate is essentially the same. He is also walking less, swinging and missing as frequently as ever and hitting pop ups like never before. Given that he’s clearly not part of the Astros’ future plans, I’m amazed he’s received as many at-bats as he has so far. He’s a serious playing time and performance risk the rest of the way.

Hmm, judging by that HR/FB rate surge, it look like that hoped for Manny Machado power spike is happening right in front of our eyes. But is it? His batted ball distance is up just about five feet from last year, but his HR/FB rate has more than doubled. The first thing I should share is that Machado’s xHR/FB rate last season according to my formula was 13.4%. So, he was actually quite unlucky. It seems like now his fortune has turned the other way and he’s been a bit fortunate. As usual, the answer likely likes somewhere in between. He clearly has more power than last season’s HR/FB rate suggests, but I think his current mark is unsustainable at the moment.

Albert Pujols also appeared in my mid-May edition of the future HR/FB rate decliners, and since then, both his distance and HR/FB rate have collapsed. Right now he’s sporting a distance around the league average and about 10 feet less than what he posted last year. He has predictably slowed down since a torrid April, but I think he has more slowing down to do.

We know that Jose Bautista is a dead pull hitter, so he’s a good example of someone who you would be misled by if solely looking at his distance. But I still chose to discuss him here because I wanted to highlight that distance. Like Pujols’ mark, Bautista’s is right around the league average, which is unheard of for him. It’s his lowest mark since 2009, the year before he became the elite power hitter he transformed into. His distance is down about 10 feet from last year and 15 feet from 2012. Closing in on 34 years old, you wonder if injuries and age are taking their toll.

Derek Norris, breakout? Certainly by the outward results. He’s walking a ton, has cut down on the strikeouts and has shown excellent power. But that distance is shocking. It ranks a pitiful 240th out of 268 batters on the leaderboard. Now granted, he wasn’t exactly a distance monster last year either, posting a mark around 272 feet, which is well below the league average. He still managed a respectable HR/FB rate due to an enormous standard deviation, meaning that the distance of his fly balls swung wildly from barely reaching the outfield to flying over the wall as a no doubter. That’s probably happening again this year, but it simply cannot be enough when your average distance is that low. He’s an easy call to experience a HR/FB rate drop the rest of the way.




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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 “Potential Second Half Power Faders”

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  1. MustBunique says:

    Thanks for pulling this together, Pod. I was ready to sit back and ride Chris Carter for a little while after seeing that his BABIP of .240 is his lowest of any 100+ PA year by a wide margin, and he still hits about 19% LD. Those don’t add up. However, if he’s not hitting the ball as hard, as evidenced by your info above, I will be more wary.

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  2. TheWrightStache says:

    Regarding Bautista, is there any way to see his batted ball distance broken up to left, center, and right? It’s been fairly well covered that he’s been going the opposite way more to beat the shift. I’d be curious to see if the decline in average distance has to do with him punching it to right more often, and also to see if his pulled balls have maintained their distance. Either way, it would likely take a toll on his dinger count, but might be a decent rebuttal to the notion of age-related decline or hidden injury.

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    • ATrain says:

      There sure is.
      To left and left center his hr+fly ball distance is 303 ft (been declining all season though – 300 ft since June 1). (Also this is more pronounced when you look at just left field).
      2013 hr+fb distance was 306 ft and climbed all season.
      2012 it was 307 ft and held steady til later in the season when it dropped fast.
      2011 it was 311 ft and increased steadily in first half and stayed level in second.
      2010 it was 318 ft and decreased steadily all season.
      2009 it was 303 ft but started low and ended high.
      Also of note, when he is hitting to left, left-center, he is pulling the ball more than ever.

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      • TheWrightStache says:

        Great info. Thanks.

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      • ATrain says:

        Matt Adams is a guy where you can really see what you are pointing out. His hr+fb distance is down – started off season very down, had a big jump not long ago, but has been decreasing since. If you look at just his pull hitting though it’s where it always is and is constant all season. So when his distance to all fields is down I would guess that is him going the other way and sure enough, when you look at the angle graph you can see that when he started off season pulling the ball less his avg distance declined. Then around 8 weeks ago (I think, I can’t discern the dates well) he began pulling the ball much more and at the same time his distance surged. Unfortunately, it looks like he’s gone back to going the other way often and now, like at the beginning of the season, he’s going the other way more often that pulling and it shows up in reduced distance.

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    • That’s interesting and you could select the range of angle on the player pages on Baseball Heat Maps so we could check

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      • ATrain says:

        Yah, that’s where I pulled the info, but not sure how to read the angle information. I looked at just left to left center (50-0 angle) and this is what it was over the years to that area which is why I thought that he is pulling the ball more now when hitting to left.
        2014 -29
        2013 -26
        2012 -26
        2011 -27
        2010 -26
        2009 -24
        Can you interpret Mike?

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      • If you check my comment regarding angle in yesterday’s article, you’ll see my explanation. It’s the same thing and why using the angle on the site isn’t useful in predicting HR/FB rate. Perhaps choosing a narrower range that’s just basically left field and not closer to center would work.

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  3. ATrain says:

    Sorry, I meant -50 to 0 to isolate left and left center.

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  4. JASON KATES says:

    Chris Carter seems to be doing his level best to keep slugging.

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  5. samyoung says:

    Dear Mike,

    Can I ask where you’re getting the standard deviation of fly ball distance? I would really love to incorporate it into a model I’ve been working on, too. Thanks so much!

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  6. Yeah says:

    Well at this point the Chris Carter prediction isn’t looking too good.

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