2018 Early HR/FB Negative Validations

Yesterday, I used my xHR/FB rate equation to identify and discuss ten hitters who have enjoyed a surprise HR/FB rate surge that is actually justified. Today, let’s dive into the disappointing HR/FB guys who xHR/FB rate confirms the power outage. An appearance here doesn’t guarantee doom and gloom the rest of the way, but that these hitters haven’t been unlucky so far, but actually powerless.

HR/FB Rate Negative Validations
Player Brls/True FB FB Pull% FB Oppo% Avg FB Distance HR/FB xHR/FB
Addison Russell 0.0% 10.3% 48.3% 301 0.0% 0.9%
Andrew Benintendi 6.3% 17.1% 57.1% 299 2.9% 4.4%
Jose Altuve 11.1% 10.5% 47.4% 306 5.3% 6.2%
Josh Bell 17.9% 9.4% 50.0% 314 6.3% 8.6%
Marwin Gonzalez 6.9% 20.0% 50.0% 307 6.7% 6.8%
Brian Dozier 13.5% 31.9% 31.9% 317 10.6% 10.4%
Justin Smoak 26.5% 11.4% 51.4% 298 11.4% 12.9%
Anthony Rizzo 12.5% 28.6% 25.7% 309 11.4% 9.1%
Population Avg 26.4% 23.4% 40.2% 321

What on Earth has happened to Addison Russell?! Coming off an injury marred 2017 and still just 24 years old, he was the perfect guy to buy cheaply, with blind optimism that a young former top prospect will suddenly break out. Instead, he’s been pathetic. He’s literally barreled the ball zero times. Even Clayton Richard has a barrel to his name! The thing is, Russell’s Avg FB Dist was well below average last year, so the weak mark this season is only barely below that. The difference is that he’s stopped pulling his flies, in favor of going the opposite way. Going the opposite way and not hitting it far is a recipe for an embarrassing Brls/True FB and xHR/FB rate. He is doing some things well though — namely cutting his whiff and strikeout rates and hitting tons of line drives. I don’t know what’s up with the rest of his profile, but I’m sure you owners are getting impatient.

At least Andrew Benintendi has stolen five bases, but he’s been pathetic in the home run department. His power metrics weren’t very impressive last year to begin with, but they have gotten even worse this year. I wouldn’t be too concerned if I were an owner, because even if he finishes with just 14 homers, it wouldn’t make him a bust. His early season power outage simply suggests that there’s no further upside in the near term in that HR/FB rate.

It figures that I shockingly won the bidding for Jose Altuve in AL Tout Wars and he’s off to a pretty weak fantasy start. I was lower on him than everyone, and yet I still ended up buying him at my own fair value. So I’m not too pleased that he’s actually making me look right for thinking he was overvalued. Altuve has turned on the power boosters over the last two seasons and his xHR/FB rate marks actually supported the surge. But now he’s fallen back toward his 2015 level, except his FB Pull% has almost been cut in half. I’d be nervous about trying to sell him now, but that he’s attempted just two steals so far is very concerning.

During spring training in an attempt to identify the newest participants in the fly ball revolution, Josh Bell was named as a candidate. It hasn’t happened. His FB% is almost identical to his mark from last year, and everything else is a mirror image. The only difference is his HR/FB rate about a third of what it was. Both his Brls/True FB and Avg FB Dist have declined, but the major drive of the disappointing power is that super low FB Pull%, which is less than half of last year. Given his minor league track record, last year’s HR/FB was a surprise, so I wouldn’t bet on a dramatic rebound here.

Welp, at least one of my 2018 bold predictions is looking quite good! Marwin Gonzalez’s offense has collapsed, as his Brls/True FB now sits at about a third of what it was last year. That’s some serious decline! I wouldn’t bother holding onto him in 15-team mixed leagues or shallower.

Brian Dozier has become a home run force thanks to his penchant for pulling his flies. But his FB Pull% now sits at its lowest mark since 2013, while both his Brls/True FB rate and Avg FB Dist have declined. Everything else looks relatively normal though and he’s attempted four steals, so the willingness to run remains. I’d stick it out.

Upon first glance, it appeared that Justin Smoak enjoyed a major power breakout last season with his 38 homers. But that’s not actually the case, as his HR/FB rate was only slightly higher than his 2016 mark and actually well below his 2015 mark. The difference really came down to the massively improved strikeout rate. This year, he has kept most of his strikeout rate gains, but his AVG FB Dist has sadly dipped below 300 and like many on this list, has suddenly stopped pulling his flies. Since he shouldn’t cost a whole lot, I’d probably buy here in deeper leagues if you need a corner guy.

I have no idea what’s up with Anthony Rizzo as his entire profile is out of whack. His Brls/True FB is half of what it typically is and his Avg FB Dist is 10 feet less than normal. At least he’s pulling his flies like usual, but it hasn’t mattered given the dearth of barreled up balls. He hasn’t even attempted a steal yet, though some of that has to do with the fact that he sports an ugly .259 OBP. He’s still only 28, so it would be silly to think there’s some sort of serious decline happening.



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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: 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. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Skin Blues
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Skin Blues

I know that FB/GB rates stabilize relatively quickly, meaning they are predictive of the future. But what about Pull FB%?? Do you have data on how sticky it is? Intuitively, it would seem to be a repeatable skill, but I don’t remember seeing data on it. And how hard would it be for a hitter to return to pulling fly balls more often if they made a conscious effort to do so?