Analyzing 2012 HR Totals for 2013’s Sleepers and Busts

Last year, I tapped into the publicly available HitTracker data in order to determine who may be due for an increase or decrease in HR totals for fantasy baseball. My initial foray into this methodology was successful in predicting who experienced a regression in HR numbers last year but I did not succeed in predicting those who experienced a HR breakout. Not content with being half-successful, I went back to the drawing table to figure out how to improve for 2013.

There is a lot of data available at HitTracker to help us do this type of analysis on home run totals. The site tracks each home run from a player and puts it into a category of either a No Doubt HR, Just Enough HR or Plenty HR. In addition, they track the distance and speed of each HR. Coming from their site, here are some of the variables and their definitions:

  • “No Doubt” home run – Means the ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet AND landed at least 50 feet past the fence. These are the really deep blasts.
  • “Just Enough” home run – Means the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, OR that it landed less than one fence height past the fence. These are the ones that barely made it over the fence.
  • “Plenty” home run – Everything else, except for the 2 above Homerun types
  • Lucky home run – A home run that would not have cleared the fence if it has been struck on a 70-degree, calm day.
  • Speed Off Bat – The calculated speed of the baseball as it left the bat, in miles per hour (mph).
  • True Dist. (True Distance, a.k.a. Actual Distance) – If the home run flew uninterrupted all the way back to field level, the actual distance the ball traveled from home plate, in feet. If the ball’s flight was interrupted before returning all the way down to field level (as is usually the case), the estimated distance the ball would have traveled if its flight had continued uninterrupted all the way down to field level.

Using those variables in addition to HR’s per PA for players in a year, I was able to reach some conclusions about what predicts fluctuations in HR totals. As I suspected last year, the percentage of Just Enough HR’s plays a role (if a player had way too many Just Enough HR’s then they are likely due to have less HR’s the next year). However, according to my research, Average Speed Off Bat (SOB) in one year was also significant in predicting the amount of HR’s that player would hit the following year. It was also found that Avg SOB was more consistent year-to-year than any other variable (including HR’s per PA from one year to the next). That consistency makes it a good piece of data to rely on to gauge a player’s true power ability. In addition to those two factors, the percentage of No Doubt HR’s had a positive correlation to the amount of HR’s hit in the next year as that would also be an example of a player’s power potential.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us looking at two types of players:

  • Potential to decrease HR total – low percentage of ND homers, high percentage of JE homers and low Avg SOB
  • Potential to increase HR total – high percentage of ND homers, low percentage of JE homers and high Avg SOB

To get a gauge on what is high or low for those variables, you should know that the average speed off bat for homers in the MLB last year was 103.4 MPH, the average percentage of ND homers was 18% of homers hit and the average percentage of JE homers was 32%.

Due for HR Decrease

When looking at players who had possibly hit more HR’s than they should have last year, we’re looking at players who mainly relied on a high number of Just Enough HR’s and had below average Speed Off Bat for their HR’s. If they don’t hit many No Doubt HR’s combined with those factors, it shows that they don’t really have “true” power.

Jed Lowrie
Derek Jeter
Brian McCann
Ian Kinsler
Eric Hosmer
David Wright
Anthony Rizzo

All of these players had about 20 HR’s or were on pace for 20+ HR’s last year. Based on having slow speed of HR’s, few ND HR’s and lots of JE HR’s, we can conclude that their HR totals were somewhat lucky. Four of the players listed here are slated to be drafted within the top 100 players next year but I’m putting a big red flag on them because I see a drop in HR’s coming for them.

David Wright and Ian Kinsler are among those being drafted quite early and I am steering clear of both of them as a drop in HR’s seems to be coming.

Eric Hosmer already has one red flag in my book due to a possibly inflated AVG which I talked about in a previous post. The fact that his HR totals may have also been inflated is another bad sign.

Anthony Rizzo is among those being considered a young, hot sleeper but it is concerning that he shows up on this list. The good news for him is that his Avg Speed Off Bat is at least at the MLB average so he may be less of a concern than the other players here. However, I still recommend caution if you’re thinking of drafting him at his current ADP of 70.

Due for HR Increase

As noted previously, I didn’t do as well at predicting those due for an uptick in HR’s last year. If I focused more on factors like No Doubt HR’s and Avg SOB last year (instead of primarily Just Enough HR’s) then I would have successfully identified Edwin Encarnacion, Adam Dunn, Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus as potential HR surgers.

Justin Upton 17 628 7 1 107.2
Colby Rasmus 23 625 8 5 106.4
Adam Dunn 41 649 14 7 105.9
Adam Jones 32 697 10 6 104.7
Logan Morrison 11 334 4 2 104.3
Justin Morneau 19 570 6 4 104.2
Mark Reynolds 23 538 8 2 104.1
Alfonso Soriano 32 615 10 6 104.0

Using our new information, the first name that jumps out is Justin Upton as he shows the potential for huge power numbers based on his HitTracker data. The 107.2 MPH speed off bat is ridiculous and 41% of his HR’s were No Doubt HR’s which is well above MLB average. The move to Turner Field complicates things a little bit but he still shows the type of potential which could result in giant HR totals if can avoid bad luck this time around (only 1 Just Enough HR last year).

It’s odd that Adam Dunn could increase his numbers even further but only 17% of his HR’s were of the Just Enough variety and if he was at league average then he would have possibly hit 50 HR’s last year. If you didn’t know, Adam Dunn is powerful.Logan Morrison shows some sneaky power potential as well and could potentially be a great steal in the later rounds for your squad.

Other Notes

There were two other names that I wanted to make quick note of even though they didn’t fit either criteria above:

  • Justin Ruggiano – 13 HR in 320 PA, 2 ND and 2 JE, 105.3 Spd
  • Carlos Gonzalez – 22 HR in 579 PA, 2 ND and 9 JE, 106 Spd

Justin Ruggiano wasn’t necessarily completely unlucky nor lucky last year. However, his Avg Speed Off Bat was very high and up with the best of the power hitters which is a great sign. In a full year, he has the potential for 25-30 HR’s.

Meanwhile, Carlos Gonzalez looks like he was fairly lucky last year at first glance due to very few No Doubt HR’s and a high number of Just Enough HR’s but he had tremendous Avg Speed Off Bat so I’m not quite as concerned about him. He represents an odd case of having potential to go either direction (more or less HR’s) and that makes him somebody worth watching this year purely for scientific reasons.

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