- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

The Definitive Home Run Tracker Study: The Good Names

Yesterday, I published the results of an exhaustive study I conducted to determine the predictive value of the data available on ESPN Home Run Tracker. As we suspected all along, the various home run classification buckets do indeed provide some valuable information. Today, I will unveil the names of the hitters who get a positive boost from knowing this new information.

As I found, there are two classification buckets worth monitoring, the “No Doubt” (ND) home runs and “Just Enough” (JE) homers. First, we will take a look at the ND bucket. My research suggests that those hitters with the highest ND % are in a better position to maintain their HR/FB rates the following year. Here are the top 10 hitters from 2012 in ND % who hit at least 10 home runs:

Hitter HR/FB HR ND%
Raul Ibanez 15.2% 19 42.1%
Justin Upton 11.0% 17 41.2%
Mitch Moreland 15.3% 15 40.0%
Justin Maxwell 22.8% 18 38.9%
Mark Trumbo 20.6% 32 37.5%
Carlos Pena 14.3% 19 36.8%
Cody Ross 14.9% 22 36.4%
Logan Morrison 11.3% 11 36.4%
Josh Hamilton 25.6% 43 34.9%
Colby Rasmus 13.2% 23 34.8%
Population Avg 14.6% 20 19.0%

Obviously, the Mariners were keenly aware of this data when they decided to sign Raul Ibanez. Right? He may have been the 200th guess if I asked you readers who you thought led the league in ND%. With the team boasting about a thousand OF and DH candidates, he’s unlikely to garner a whole lot of playing time.

Justin Upton. Go Braves. This is extremely promising to see given his power decline last year. Playing through injury likely sapped some of it, but it appears that some bad luck did as well. I am still waiting for that 40 home run explosion. Could this be the year?

Mitch Moreland hasn’t played a whole lot versus southpaws and he hasn’t proven that he could hit them. I’m not sure how much upside he actually has over that 15.3% HR/FB rate, but at least his appearance here suggests that he could maintain that rate and offer some cheap power.

Justin Maxwell will be battling it out in Houston for a starting spot in the outfield. He would be quite the intriguing fantasy and real life player if only he could put the bat on the ball. He has serious power though, as his average HR + FB distance ranked among the top 30 last year. It is difficult to believe he has a good chance to maintain that 2012 HR/FB rate, but he should come close. A nice sleeper if you could stomach the batting average.

For those worried about Mark Trumbo‘s second half, maybe his appearance on this list will quell those concerns. Would you look at that, the Astros sport two of the top six hitters in ND%. But who knows how much playing time Carlos Pena is going to garner.

Logan Morrison would be a nice sleeper once again if he were ever healthy. Hmmm, maybe Josh Hamilton isn’t in for a major power decline in the Anaheim section of the region known as Los Angeles.

Colby Rasmus! Landing on a good list for a change. His HR/FB rate jumped last year after taking a dive from 2010, so it’s a nice sign that the increase doesn’t appear like a fluke, according to ND%. Now, if only he could hit lefties, make better contact, and not hit a ton of fly balls that kills his BABIP, he might be worth penciling onto your sleeper list once again.

And now let’s take a look at the JE% list. This time, we will check out the 10 hitters who had the lowest rate. In the top 5% bucket from the 10+ HR population, the group actually increased their HR/FB rate, so knowing these names could pay some dividends.

Hitter HR/FB HR JE%
Justin Upton 11.0% 17 5.9%
Andruw Jones 17.5% 14 7.1%
Mark Reynolds 18.1% 23 8.7%
Cody Ransom 19.6% 11 9.1%
Chase Utley 11.6% 11 9.1%
Vernon Wells 12.5% 11 9.1%
Shane Victorino 6.0% 11 9.1%
Alex Presley 16.4% 10 10.0%
Andrew McCutchen 19.4% 31 12.9%
Kyle Seager 9.8% 20 15.0%
Population Avg 14.6% 20 30.9%

JUSTIN UPTON. Second on the ND% list and first on the JE% list. If you draft him and he does hit 40 homers this year, and you also finish in the money in your league, you could send me a personal thank you note, or, a percentage of your winnings. Your choice. Deal? Cool.

Look at that, Andruw Jones is still playing baseball. I had no idea. Well, this is good to know, maybe Progressive Field won’t completely strip Mark Reynolds of a top-tier HR/FB rate. I still think he’s replacement level in a 12-team mixed league.

Good news for Chase Utley, who may be the healthiest he has in years. At age 34, the injury risk won’t go away, but he does offer some profit potential as a potential 5-category contributor at a shallow position.

Poor Vernon Wells. Maybe he should send a link to this post to Angels general manager Jerry DiPoto and then ask him to forward the article to every other team in the league to convince them to take on his contract.

I think Shane Victorino has been undervalued in drafts this year and his appearance here increases confidence that his HR/FB rate will perhaps rebound to 2010-2011 levels.

Wow, and I thought Andrew McCutchen had little chance to repeat that inflated HR/FB rate. That rate jumped by a bit more than 50% over 2011, so the knee-jerk reaction would be that it is due for regression, perhaps to a severe degree. But, aside from his appearance here, his average HR + FB distance climbed above 300 feet and ranked 8th among all hitters. In 2011, his distance ranked just 60th. So maybe his huge home run outburst was indeed for real.

Kyle Seager was another surprise performer that most, including me, likely did not believe in to come close to a repeat. But, he hits a lot of fly balls with a pretty good contact rate, so even a below average HR/FB rate was enough to fuel a 20 home run total. The fences coming in at Safeco is even more good news. He might not collapse this season after all.