A Baseball Weblog

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

If only he'd hit it in the air

Something that's great about Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus is they allow you to directly download tabular data from the site. So, it makes it relatively easy for us to get answers to questions we may have. For example, I was thinking the other day about batters and homers per fly ball. HR/FB is a good thing to look at for hitters because it gives an extremely good look at raw power by isolating a lot of variables. Technically, HR/FB+LD could be better since line drives can turn into home runs, but HR/FB is a good baseline (and is what Fangraphs has). Anyway, I got to thinking about certain players who might not be maximizing their power by simply not hitting the ball in the air enough. So this morning, I took some Fangraphs data, put it in Excel, and plotted HR/FB along with flyball percentage.

As I had anticipated, there is some sort of correlation between FB% and HR/FB%. What I like to do with these graphs is gauge the overall strength of the correlation and then identify the outliers. The point furthest over to the right with a HR/FB of just under 20% represents Mark Reynolds' season. He obviously has great power, and maximizes it by hitting a lot of fly balls. Then there's the one up at the top, with a HR/FB of 26.7%. That's Joey Votto, who leads the league in HR/FB but only has a fly ball rate of .344. But the one that originally caught my eye was the point in the middle of the y axis but way off to the left. Say hello to Derek Jeter, who is having a rough season by his standards. At .728, his OPS is lower than it's been since 1995. At .111, his isolated slugging average is on par with where it was in 2008, in which he produced the lowest mark of his career. Yet, his HR/FB is above league average at 14.5%, and is also above his career average (going back to 2002*) of 13.1%. What gives? He's hitting the ball on the ground 66.8% of the time, which is a career high. And even with the increase in groundballs, his batting average on balls in play (.311) is significantly lower than his career average (.357); the extra groundballs don't seem to be helping him at all.

By the way, the discussion of Jeter or any other player in a post like this serves simply to point out an anomaly; the point of this is not to suggest that Derek Jeter hit more flyballs, even if such an adjustment wound up being beneficial to his performance.

Data are from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. *2002 is when Baseball Info Solutions started tracking batted ball data.

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