20 May 2013

Hitting Them Where They Ain’t: Flyball and Homerun Distances

I found some interesting data on the distance of flyballs and homeruns from 2007 to the present over at Baseball Heat Maps.  I’m not exactly sure what they can be used for either than describing what has happened as opposed to what underlying talent is present.  That current expectation is inform by this article over at Beyond the Box Score.  In that article, average flyball and homerun distance did a pretty good job correlating with overall power, but failed in predicting future power.  However, I am not entirely convinced yet that is the case.  There may be an issue with sample size and some other things that I plan to explore at some point.

Anyway, in this article I thought it might be thought provoking to show some tables with general information and then ones detailing the careers of Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, and Matt Wieters.  First, I want to show the general outlook on this season and show the 248 players currently with enough of a sample size (>15 hits; not sure why that number is used).  The orange bars indicate Oriole players (in order: Davis, Nolan Reimold, Jones, Flaherty, Machado, J.J. Hardy,Wieters, Nate McLouth, and Markakis).

And here is a table with the data summarized since 2007:

Average Distance Maximum
2007 281.85 320.60 Ryan Howard 248.14 Reggie Willits
2008 286.86 317.15 Chris Ianetta 249.38 David Eckstein
2009 288.09 316.98 Brad Hawpe 265.51 Craig Counsell
2010 288.67 323.02 Jim Thome 266.04 Orlando Cabrera
2011 279.94 321.57 Giancarlo Stanton 257.99 Brendan Ryan
2012 280.51 313.26 Matt Kemp 239.09 Jamey Carroll
2013 280.95 319.77 Hunter Pence 236.72 Juan Pierre

As we look above, the minimum average guys make sense with players who are well known for scraping the fence whenever a ball goes yard.  The maximum average also largely makes sense though I would not immediately think of Ianetta and Hawpe in that grouping.  However, I have seen several moonshots by Hawpe…that just didn’t seem to happen all that often and that might be why I don’t immediate associate him as a long distance hitter.

So what about Nick Markakis?

Distance Distance+ Percentile
2007 282.82 100 50th
2008 300.85 105 84th
2009 297.71 103 76th
2010 291.23 101 59th
2011 279.86 100 52nd
2012 284.07 101 58th
2013 267.25 95 22nd

To make it a little easier to understand, I included too statistics in here: (1) Distance+ and (2) Percentile.  Distance+ is simply the player’s distance divided by league average and then multiplied by 100.  So, 100 would be average with anything above being greater than average.  The Percentile should be interpreted as being anything higher means a higher placement among the hitters.  For instance, a player in the 84th percentile would be hitting them deeper on average than a player in the 33rd percentile.

Now, back to Nick.  You can see with his numbers that there is a decent amount of correlation between the distance of his batted fly balls and home runs with his best offensive seasons.  It also seems to correlate with his power coming back during last year’s injury plagued season.  Beyond that, I am not sure it informs us much more than what we currently already know: Nick is not hitting the ball deep this year.

Adam Jones

Distance Distance+ Percentile
2008 281.25 98 37th
2009 303.62 105 89th
2010 292.01 101 61st
2011 291.80 104 85th
2012 293.59 105 84th
2013 287.54 102 64th

What we see here is a similarity coming from his 2010 season and this year in terms of power.  In other words, more singles and fewer home runs.  It is a slight concern that is also expressed in his high BABIP (.374).  Those give pause and should make us wonder whether his numbers are outpacing his performance.

Chris Davis

Distance Distance+ Percentile
2008 306.29 107 93rd
2009 312.82 109 98th
2010  Small Sample  Size
2011 290.34 104 82nd
2012 297.01 106 89th
2013 315.23 112 99th

Again, not particularly notable other than…yeah…Davis crushes the ball.  I’m not sure what to say beyond that.  These numbers simply seem descriptive.  They are good for looking at what has happened, but metrics like isolated power or slugging percentage combined with other numbers like hit type percentage or batting average of balls in play probably do it better.

Matt Wieters

Distance Distance+ Percentile
2009 281.82 98 32nd
2010 290.21 101 55th
2011 278.21 99 45th
2012 281.09 100 51st
2013 278.21 99 47th

Wieters appears to be pretty consistent.  He gets about the same distance out of the ball every year.  This falls in line with his ISO from 2011-2013 (.188, .186, .185, respectively).  I know a lot of people like to get down on Wieters for not being what they wished he would be, but he is a fine defensive catcher who currently is hitting right on par with what you can expect from a catcher with his .306 wOBA.  If his BABIP rises from .248 to his career norm of .290, then you see an average catcher becoming an All Star level catcher.  In terms of competing this year…it has not gone well, but it certainly has kept down his long term value if the two sides can agree on a long term contract.

I don’t think there is much of a conclusion to have.  These numbers tend to fall in line with the general stories associated with other numbers.  Just a wobbly hammer to add to the tool box, perhaps.

No comments: