Before the start of the season, Nicole Cahill was looking for participants for the 2nd Annual Dinger Derby – Best-Ball League; it is a fundraiser league for the Neuro-Atypical Neighborhood, a nonprofit that she created to provide opportunities for children dealing with mental health challenges, by destigmatizing mental health.
This league was a really fun excuse to collaborate with a good cause. Participants drafted six major league hitters who they think will hit the most home runs from Opening Day until the All-Star Break; that’s it, just pick six bashers and root for them to knock the balls out of the park as frequently as possible for your team.
Besides the noble cause and the fun part of it, this league provided me with the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the power hitters this year and their possible impact, so I’d like to share my picks and the rationale behind them. By the way, through 4/16/21, my team is tied for first place, and considering that two of my six players have lost significant playing time, I am pretty excited about the possibilities of this squad.
So, shouldn’t we just pick Giancarlo Stanton, Pete Alonso, and Eugenio Suarez? Well, it’s not that easy. As with any draft, you need a strategy as everything will depend on your draft slot and, as there are 16 teams, the odds of landing exactly the players you want are almost nil, so we need to have a plan. I decided that I would aim for not-that-obvious picks and to try to unearth some later-round gems. Well, not-that-obvious except for Mike Trout, but we’ll get to that later.
The initial route to tackle this could be to get a list of those guys that need fewer PAs between home runs, that way we could maximize the output from the playing time. Let’s look at this list (active players, min. 200 PA):
|Fernando Tatis Jr.||16.25||40||650||148||2019||2021||20-22|
The league-wide average for PA/HR for all active players is 31.1.
As you were expecting, Aristides Aquino is at the top of the list. Wait, what? Yes, the reserve outfielder for the Reds tops this list very swiftly, but that’s mainly fueled by that crazy debut in August 2019, in which he hit 14 homers. This is more of a fluke than a feature.
The rest of the list is as legit as they come, with all the usual suspects: Alonso, Gallo, Judge, Stanton, and some of the blazing newer faces like Fernando Tatis Jr. and Ronald Acuña. I decided that I didn’t want to depend on any of them because I expected that they would surely be gone very quickly in the draft (and they were). I had to look another way.
I decided to focus on hard-hitting players regardless of the frequency of their home runs, so I took a look at the 2019-2020 Dynamic Hard Hit (DHH%) leaderboard:
League average for DHH% during the 2019-2020 period was 12%.
This looks like a good list and going beyond the top 10 there are other multiple great names, but I wanted to go further, so I added to the list a few other metrics to find even better options. I calculated Q, which is just DHH% divided by the standard deviation of the Launch Angle (for more details, you can read about it here), and Quality of Barrels (QB), which is the ratio between Barrel% and Blasts%.
The idea behind adding these metrics is to have multiple indicators on two important aspects:
- Q provides a measure of good power hitters (high DHH%) that are also good at repeating their batting path (small Sd(LA)).
- QB shows the proportion of Barrels that are also Blasts, from 0 to 1, a score of one meaning that all Barrels were Blasts, the best possible scenario. Here is a refresher on why Blasts% is a better descriptor than Barrel%.
One of the good things about Q is that it correlates very well with wOBAcon (wOBA on batted balls), in-season, and in the following one, so it provides a good measure of the power-on-contact capabilities. On the other hand, QB helps discriminate which batters tend to get the best kind of barrels, hence why I named it Quality of Barrels.
Combining these two stats in Q/QB lets us get some of the best from multiple worlds: power, consistent bat path, and quality of hits. Just for the sake of checking thoroughly, I ran some correlation tests between Q versus ISO and Q/QB versus ISO, from the 2019-2020 period. I’m doing this because it will help to gauge the influence of the batting qualities on the final result, batting for power, and ISO (measures the raw power of a hitter) by taking only extra-base hits, and the type of extra-base hit, into account.
After testing, I got the following results:
All in all, each of Q and Q/QB could account for a little more than 67% of the ISO for the same period, which is great. There was a little edge for Q by itself, but I stuck with Q/QB just for the added context. This is the leaderboard I got:
The league averages for Q and Q/QB for the 2019-2020 period (min. 90 BBE) were 0.406 and 0.191 respectively.
I decided I would try to get my players from the top 25 on this leaderboard while avoiding some strikeout machines like Joey Gallo, Miguel Sano, or Kyle Schwarber to maximize the chances vs. outcomes ratio. I had the second pick in the sixteen-team draft so, without further ado (in the order I drafted them), this is my Power Squad:
Mike Trout: 39 HR per 162 games, 18.18 PA/HR
With a DHH% of 28.9%, a 1.544 QB (the lower, the better), a 1.149 Q (the higher, the better), and a Q/QB of 0.744 (the higher, the better) for 2019-2020, Trout is not the best in any of those stats, but he is fantastic in all of them which should surprise no one. He has already hit four home runs and owns an fWAR of 1.0.
Matt Chapman: 32 HR per 162 games, 21.09 PA/HR
The fabulous fielding 3B, is also a hard-hitting batter and sports a DHH% of 30.5%, a 1.769 QB, a 0.969 Q, and a Q/QB of 0.548 in 2019-2020. He is off to a slow start, batting just .182 and 2 HR for the season, but his production should pick up.
Teoscar Hernández: 32 HR per 162 games, 18.57 PA/HR
Last season’s sensation, the Blue Jays’ player owns a DHH% of 22.5%, a 1.588 QB, a 0.775 Q, and a Q/QB of 0.488 last two seasons. He has lost a lot of playing time due to COVID-related issues which have limited him to only 29 PA in which he hit 1 HR. I can’t wait for his return to action.
Adam Duvall: 31 HR per 162 games, 18.83 PA/HR
The veteran outfielder and first baseman is already doing the two things he is good at, striking out and hitting homers, four of them. He is at a DHH% of 25.3%, a 1.524 QB, a 0.829 Q, and a Q/QB of 0.544 for 2019-2020.
I’m very confident that a 40+ HR season is doable for him.
Evan White: 21 HR per 162 games, 28.63 PA/HR
The biggest bet by far, the young first baseman has not been able to show too much yet, as he has been dealing with health issues that are limiting his playing time. So far he has not hit a home run but that should change the minute he is consistently in the lineup. He is at a DHH% of 25.5%, a 1.750 QB, a 0.919 Q, and a Q/QB of 0.525 for 2019-2020.
Byron Buxton: 21 HR per 162 games, 27.5 PA/HR
The icing on the cake, Buxton leads all baseball in fWAR with 1.2 due, in part, to his five home runs in just 36 plate appearances. A highly-touted prospect, injuries have kept him out of the MVP-caliber seasons that his pedigree promised. He is already dealing with day-to-day injuries and is currently out of games with hamstring discomfort. When he has been on the field, no one has been better, offensively. He entered 2021 with a DHH% of 24.5%, a 1.579 QB, a 0.780 Q, and a Q/QB of 0.494 for 2019-2020.
These six players have combined for a total of 16 HR so far this season and while we know that some trends are unsustainable in the long run (I’m looking at you, Byron Buxton), when Evan White and Teoscar Hernandez get back into business, things should balance out.
This is not, by all means, the perfect way to select players evaluating for power; lots of other combinations could yield different results, and let’s always keep in mind that we are somehow ignoring the high K% which has an important incidence in the overall performance of each batter. But in general terms, I think that this is a fair and objective way to select appropriate hitters.
I think this squad has plenty of chances to fight for the league’s title while bringing joy to all of us baseball fans who can’t resist a well-hit baseball.
Feature image design by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter and @caines_design on Instagram).