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.
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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