Obviously, players mature. grow and get better. In other words, just because we see significant increase in a metric (like HR/FB), that we should simply use it as a negative against the player. How often do we say that the increase is unsustainable? Well, sometimes it actually is, though sometimes things just appear too good to be true.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the players with the biggest HR/FB increase from 2010 to 2011 (minimum 300 plate appearances each year) and determine whose power surge was for real and whose was just a mirage:
Asdrubal Cabrera – Cleveland Indians
2010 – 3.0% 2011 – 13.3% Increase – 10.3%
I don’t think that anyone would be surprised to hear that Cabrera enjoyed the biggest power surge in 2011. He had entered the season with 18 HR over 1,415 AB in the Majors, as well as 27 HR over 1,655 minor league AB. He had shown doubles power (most specifically in 2009, when he had 42 doubles over 523 AB in the Major Leagues), but I think we all would agree that this increase seems a little bit excessive.
On top of the HR/FB increase, he also increased his fly ball production in general:
- 2009 – 30.0%
- 2010 – 31.4%
- 2011 – 38.7%
It is not an unreasonable number, but you will want to keep a close eye on him in the early going and make sure that he doesn’t take it to yet a higher level. Will he start to swing for the fences? We’ll have to wait and see.
I wouldn’t expect him to regress back to the 3-7 HR range that he had previously shown, but it’s also hard to imagine him maintaining the sudden power jump. I’d be thinking somewhere in the 15-18 HR range would be realistic, unless he turns to trying to hit home runs. If he does that, there will be other consequences.
J.J. Hardy – Baltimore Orioles
2010 – 6.1% 2011 – 15.7% Increase – 9.6%
It’s impossible for me to say Hardy’s number is unrepeatable, because he’s been at this type of level before. In 2007 and 2008 he posted HR/FB of 12.0% and 14.1%.
Yes, last season was a career high and he also appeared to be trying to hit home runs a bit more (43.4% fly ball rate). That said, it’s extremely possible that he hits around 25 HR given his career history. It’s a regression (he hit 30 last season), but not a major one. In other words, don’t use these numbers as a reason to avoid him. There’s some risk, considering his struggles in 2009 and 2010, but as a lower-end option he is more than worth it.
Howie Kendrick – Los Angeles Angels
2010 – 6.9% 2011 – 16.5% Increase – 9.6%
As I’ve said before, Kendrick simply doesn’t put enough balls in the air for me to believe in his 18 HR from 2011 (or to believe in any type of continued increase). He’s got a 28.1% career fly ball rate (53.2% career groundball rate) including recent rates of:
- 2009 – 27.4%
- 2010 – 28.1%
- 2011 – 26.5%
If you don’t consistently put the ball in the air, you aren’t going to hit for much power. Look for there to be a regression in the power department. I wouldn’t go in expecting much more than 10-14 HR in 2012.
Russell Martin – New York Yankees
2010 – 6.5% 2011 – 15.9% Increase – 9.4%
The Yankee Stadium factor really isn’t accurate, as 10 of his 18 HR actually came on the road. Martin has shown this type of power before, with 19 HR back in 2007, so it’s hard to say that his power surge is completely unrealistic.
At the same time, between 2009 and 2010 he hit a total of 12 HR. Like Kendrick, he doesn’t put too many balls in the air, either:
- 2009 – 30.7%
- 2010 – 28.3%
- 2011 – 33.4%
Martin also isn’t a doubles hitter, topping out at 19 the past three years (he only had 17 last season). Throw in the consistent poor average (.250 or worse the past three years) and Martin is not a player I would buy into to.
Pablo Sandoval – San Francisco Giants
2010 – 7.0% 2011 – 16.0% Increase – 9.0%
Sandoval had a terrible 2010, but don’t let it influence your decision on him. In 2009, his first full year in the Majors, he posted a 14.0% HR/FB. In other words, of all the players on this list, his increase is the easiest to defend. Do not shy away from him or think that his 2011 resurgence is unsustainable. He should be a 23-27 HR hitter if healthy.
What are your thoughts on these players? Whose power surge do you believe? Whose do you think is unrealistic?
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