After a bit of organization and internal shuffling, we’re back with the third installment of our new regular feature Category Impact. If you recall, twice a week (now every Sunday and Thursday), I’ll grace you with some words of wisdom with the intent to highlight players on the verge of contributing short or long term in a variety of categories. The main focus will be the standard ten roto stats but we’ll venture into the realm of holds and some other non-standard stats.

Initially, we’ll do a survey of all the categories, picking one or two out a time. It’s a little early to use current performance to predict what will happen down the line so while we let the sample grow, we’ll detail some of the analytic means used to evaluate each category along with some of the short-term means to identify players that could help you in the next couple of days. Note the new posting of the column coincides with when the majority of series start so we can best use venue in our analysis.

So far we have covered RBI and runs (focusing on current spot in the batting order) and saves (with the ancillary impact closers have on ratios). Today we’ll make the chicks happy as we cover what they dig – the long hall.

While most view hitting a home run as a singular act, it is really a combination of two factors:

  1. Hitting the ball in the air
  2. Clearing the fence

Numerically, the former is represented as FB% (fly ball percent) while the latter is termed HR/FB ratio (the percentage of fly balls that leave the yard).

While this may not be a textbook definition, I think of power as HR/FB ratio. Lofting more balls allows the player to take better advantage of his power.

To help frame the skill associated with home runs, other than the overriding ability to make contact (more in a minute), putting the ball in the air can be deemed a skill for power hitters as can an elevated HR/FB. FB% is mostly a function of swing mechanics tempered by the nature of pitchers faced (which usually evens out over the course of the season). Each hitter generates his own HR/FB baseline with 11 percent being league average.

One of the tricks with evaluating power is realizing there is a luck aspect of HR/FB. The same fly ball may be a home run in one venue, a double or triple in another while being caught in a third. Weather and park dimension play a role. Therefore, there is some luck involved with homers.

As alluded to earlier, another often overlooked factor is contact. Reducing strikeouts can lead to an increase in homers without any change to FB% or HR/FB.

With this as a backdrop, let’s shift our focus to the primary intent of this column, the identification or players on the verge of increasing their production with respect to the category in question. Here’s how the above can be incorporated into short-term and long-term analysis.

SHORT TERM

The first component of homers is hitting fly balls so it is advantageous if a hitter is slated to face a couple of fly ball pitchers in the impending series. The league average for pitchers is about 34 percent fly balls. Once the hurler gets into the forties, he can he considered to be of the fly ball variety.Anything below 30 percent should be avoided if you're chasing homers.

Below are a couple or lists based on 2013 data for pitchers with more than 120 innings. The left column are favorable for power hitters with the right column being enemies.

Name FB%   Name FB%
Bruce Chen 52%   Tom Koehler 30%
A.J. Griffin 50%   Jordan Lyles 30%
Jered Weaver 47%   Tyson Ross 30%
Jake Peavy 47%   Mike Leake 30%
Phil Hughes 47%   Edinson Volquez 30%
Erik Bedard 46%   Esmil Rogers 30%
Tommy Milone 45%   Andrew Cashner 29%
Max Scherzer 45%   Jhoulys Chacin 29%
Travis Wood 45%   Corey Kluber 29%
Marco Estrada 44%   Edwin Jackson 28%
Aaron Harang 44%   Joe Kelly 28%
Dan Straily 44%   Wily Peralta 28%
Hector Santiago 44%   Yovani Gallardo 28%
Mike Minor 43%   Jorge de la Rosa 28%
Matt Moore 42%   Adam Wainwright 28%
Dan Haren 42%   Lucas Harrell 27%
Zach McAllister 41%   Wade Miley 27%
Shelby Miller 41%   Felix Hernandez 27%
Wei-Yin Chen 41%   Joe Saunders 27%
Julio Teheran 41%   Brandon McCarthy 27%
R.A. Dickey 41%   Jon Niese 27%
Jeremy Hellickson 40%   Tim Hudson 27%
Miguel Gonzalez 40%   Ivan Nova 26%
Matt Cain 40%   Jeff Locke 26%
Chris Tillman 40%   Francisco Liriano 25%
Jarrod Parker 40%   Paul Maholm 25%
      Doug Fister 24%
      Roberto Hernandez 24%
      Justin Masterson 24%
      A.J. Burnett 24%
      Trevor Cahill 24%
      Rick Porcello 24%
      Dallas Keuchel 23%
      Garrett Richards 23%
      Alex Cobb 23%

 

The second part is HR/FB. Here’s couple of tables that can be used to judge upcoming match-ups:

Coors Field is friendly to all hitters

LHB        
         
Very       Very
Favorable Favorable Neutral Detrimental Detrimental
Yankees Indians Detroit Kansas City Red Sox
Rockies Blue Jays Atlanta St. Louis Royals
Padres* Dodgers Cubs Angels Twins
Orioles Diamondbacks Nationals Mariners* Athletics
Brewers Astros   Pittsburgh Giants
Reds Mets     Marlins
Rangers        
White Sox        
Phillies        
*one season only        
         
RHB        
         
Very       Very
Favorable Favorable Neutral Detrimental Detrimental
White Sox Astros Red Sox Dodgers Giants
Reds Diamondbacks Cubs Twins Indians
Brewers Phillies Tigers Royals Cardinals
Rockies   Nationals Athletics Padres*
Blue Jays     Angels Marlins
Orioles     Rays Pirates
Mets     Mariners*  
Rangers     Braves  
Yankees        

*one season only

The park factors are courtesy of the 2014 Bill James Handbook, using the three year (2011-2013) average. Some of them may surprise, especially for left-handed batter since the sample is small. This is especially true for lefty swingers in Petco Park since the fences were moved in last season and one year's worth of data isn't sufficient to reclassify the park as hitter-friendly for left-handers.

LONG TERM

Once the sample is sufficient, we'll take a look at some players with a home run total significantly more or less than what was conventionally expected. But instead of focusing on the raw number of homers, we'll look at the components. Is the hitter putting more of fewer balls in the air? How does their HR/FB to date compare to their historical baseline? 

Regardless of the analysis, no one metric tells the whole story so on a player-by-player basis we'll analyze the data in an effort to identify latent power sources for the rest of the season as well as calling out the pretenders.

THIS WEEK

We'll close this discussion with an attempt to pinpoint a couple of under-the-radar hitters that could be touching them all early this week.

Nate Schierholtz - gotta love a Monday date in Wrigley Field with Bronson Arroyo

Adam LaRoche and Danny Espinosa - a couple guys looking forward to taking hacks at home Wednesday against Jered Weaver

Michael Morse - a grown man drooling? Why not, he visits Coors Field and is slated to face a pair of southpaws

Will Venable, Yonder Alonso and Seth Smith - a troika of lefty swingers licking their chops as the travel to Miller Park and face a trio of right-handed tossers.

We'll flip back to pitching next time and discuss strikeouts on Thursday.




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About Todd Zola

Affectionately known as Lord Zola, Todd was the 2013 Fantasy Sports Writers Association recipient of the Fantasy Baseball Article of the Year, Web. He's been with Mastersball since its inception in 1997 and presently Todd writes for the ESPN Insider and Baseball HQ. Todd is a frequent guest on SiriusXM and is a regular on HQ Radio. He's a veteran of Tout Wars and LABR as well as a multi-time NFBC champion. Follow Todd on Twitter @ToddZola

Todd Zola on Twitter

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