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Friday, May 12, 2017

New crop of sluggers head HR leaderboard |

Yes, Yonder Alonso.

Jim Furtado Posted: May 12, 2017 at 11:57 AM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: dingers, statcast

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   1. Dingbat_Charlie Posted: May 12, 2017 at 03:56 PM (#5454444)
Each of Alonso's last 5 hits have been home runs.
   2. TDF didn't lie, he just didn't remember Posted: May 12, 2017 at 04:06 PM (#5454450)
Instead, a fresh group of sluggers is making its presence felt early in 2017...the Rockies' Mark Reynolds
Mark Reynolds has 263 career HRs, #14 among active players. EDIT: And this is the 4th season he's been in the top-10.
the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman
Ryan Zimmerman is #16 on the active career list, and this is his 3rd top-10 season.
   3. Dillon Gee Escape Plan Posted: May 12, 2017 at 04:36 PM (#5454469)
Alonso's 11 home runs are an MLB career high.
   4. Bote Man Posted: May 12, 2017 at 04:54 PM (#5454479)
Yeah. Remember when Stanton and Harper were shiny and new, hitting at least 2 home runs for each plate appearance?? Damn, I feel old.
   5. ReggieThomasLives Posted: May 12, 2017 at 05:17 PM (#5454496)
Was surprised Gallo wasn't given first chance at first base this year, just as I was last year, Moreland sucked. Gallo really needs to cut his K rate to be a good player, but he's been useful despite hitting .200 and still only 23. If he could K 30% of the time and hit .240 he'd be very good.
   6. Walt Davis Posted: May 12, 2017 at 06:00 PM (#5454526)
I agree with the implied point of #2 that these are likely early season flukes from guys who have power anyway but ... Reynolds career HR/PA was 4.9% and HR/FB was 16.4% ... this year those numbers are 8.5 and 25. For the last two years, his HR/FB has been at 10%. Zimmermann has been more extreme plus his bat seemed dead. Now he's slugging 820, hitting HRs in nearly 10% of his PAs (career 3.7), on 24% of his FBs (career 10.5).

I'll wait to see how things settle down but assuming the ball's not juiced and we're not celebrating the 30th anniversary of 1987, I'll wildly speculate that measuring EV and launch angle has given batters (and their coaches) a tool to combat spiraling K rates. Especially for corner hitters who "normally" produce only around a 100 OPS+ anyway, why not go for a style that is feast or famine -- you might still end up with a borderline OPS+ but at least the hits you have will have max impact.

There was an article linked here the other day that we pretty much ignored. It showed a fairly sizable league-wide jump in HR/PA and HR/contact in the last couple of years after several years of pretty steady HR/contact and slightly declining HR/PA. It's still not a lot of data and could be a fluke.
   7. Meatwad Posted: May 13, 2017 at 02:24 AM (#5454686)
Walt I think you are onto something, this stacast data should change the game.
   8. Bote Man Posted: May 13, 2017 at 02:19 PM (#5454772)
I don't see how? Isn't it an old chestnut that a hitter "can't steer the ball"? I would assume that most/all hitters go up to the plate hoping to hit the ball squarely, which means on the sweet spot of the bat in such a manner to hit a hard line drive over the heads of the infielders. But as we know, they don't always do that despite their intentions. Having StatCast data tell us what we intuitively already knew shouldn't change the approach of hitters, unless those hitters have been holding back on us all these years.

I suspect bigger effects will result from changing the called strike zone and similar attributes.
   9. Khrushin it bro Posted: May 13, 2017 at 02:29 PM (#5454775)
You can swing with more of an uppercut.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: May 14, 2017 at 02:06 AM (#5455030)
And you can swing harder, trading Ks for power.

It's not so much that "hey, hit it hard" is new. It's that, with Statcast, they are now able to precisely know the relationship between EV/angle and productivity. Hit it hard only works within a fairly narrow range of launch angles (and directional angles). If you can train a swing to generate those angles more often ...

Ryan Zimmerman was 14th (or 12th or 10th depending on your batted ball cut-offs) in EV last year. He was terrible. He was much farther down on EV for FB/LD, just behind Jacob DeGrom (!) but just ahead of Freedie Freeman and EE. However he was 10th (or 5th) in avg GB EV. Making the problem worse, he had a relatively high G/F ratio. I'm not convinced yet that EV or even the combo of EV and LA tells you enough about how a guy hits but you'd eyeball that and think the problem isn't how hard the guy hits the ball, the problem is the launch angle.

This year he's 10th in avg EV (just behind Michael Taylor!), up 1.3 MPH. He's up to 6th on FB/LD EV, up 4 MPH, and way down the list on GB EV, down 4 MPH. Meanwhile, his G/F is the 2nd lowest of his career and well below league average. Obviously he's unlikely to maintain his 10% HR/PA and 24% HR/FB rates ... and this year he's squaring the ball up 20% of the time he hits compared to 7% last year and that's probably not going to continue either.

By the way, in 2015 he was top 20 in avg EV (give or take depending on cutoff) but well down the list on FB EV (although not far off his 2016 FB EV).

Hook up the hard data from statcast with video coaching and it should become much more possible to fine tune beyond "add uppercut." Along with pitch f/x, it should be able to do a better job of pinpoining "this is your zone." I don't expect such miracles often and no doubt there are players for whom such info is pretty useless because they can't possibly generate the power necessary (Billy Hamilton say). It also means that, other than Hamilton types, it's basically impossible now for a hitting coach not to recognize the benefit of the flyball approach.

This article from 538 has a nice first graph showing above/below-average outcomes by EV and LA. Above-average outcomes are pretty uncommon below 10 degrees (their GB line). They're pretty uncommon above 25 degrees too (the FB line) but a lot of them are HRs. Here's a puff piece on batters and teams trying to use this info. Of course maybe it won't successfully alter coaching but maybe it will lead to a strong selection bias towards players who generate that EV/LA in their swings already. He's a fast guy so it's probably his only option but the Jankowski quote in that article is unintentionally hilarious -- he's got a career 69 OPS+, a 229 BA despite a 322 BABIP cuz of his 27% K-rate and 1.5 G/F ratio. He may not have a realistic alternative but he can't possibly think his current approach is successful.

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