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Fantasy Baseball: Home Runs and Hate Mail

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I'm a happy camper. 

Why, you ask? Because I received my first piece of hate mail. Really, it was a hate "tweet," but I'm treating it just the same--I'm not going to let that technicality spoil my mood.

The other day, I was pondering Nick Swisher, thinking about trading for him in one of my leagues. I need home runs, so I was concerned with making sure there wasn't any sign his power might drop off. I checked out his home runs on hittrackeronline.com, to see exactly how close they were to merely being flyballs. For those unfamiliar with the system, Hit Tracker designates home runs as "Just Enough" (JE), "Plenty" (PL) or "No Doubt" (ND). The league average for JE's is usually around 30 percent.

Only 5 of Swisher's 22 home runs were designated as JE. A below average mark showing that most of his home runs were well gone--he wasn't getting lucky in that respect.

So I tweeted my observation. (You can follow me @SethWalder, by the way).

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It seemed harmless enough. Until, of course, I received a tweet back from an unknown follower.

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Okay so it’s barely hate mail. Whatever. I’ll take it. Kudos to Joemck52 for knowing that right field at Yankee Stadium is 314 ft, I guess.

But I'm happy. It's the first semi-angry response someone has given me. I like it. It means they're reading (even if it's only 140 characters), which is nice. But also, that's just a part of using advanced stats--people disagree with you because it goes against the norm.

In terms of results, joemck52 isn't incorrect--the effect on the game in one particular instance of a home run is the same regardless of distance. But that's not why we track stats. We use stats as means to predict future performance as well. Not just sabermetrics--I think Joe Morgan would tell you if Alex Rodriguez hit 100 RBIs one year, in all likelihood he will again next year.

Fantasy is all about the future. The only thing that matters is "from this point forward." And that's where the difference lies. And that's where the distance lies. Because knowing whether a home run just cleared the first row or made it into the upper deck matters.

So let's take a look at some players who have had breakout seasons, and check out their JE%. Of course, we have to remember this is a small sample size, in most cases we will be talking about 15, 20, plays total, so there is room for a lot of variance. That being said, it's worth noting which of these players are just clearing the fence.

Jose Bautista: 11 of 33, 33%

Corey Hart: 10 of 23, 43%

Josh Hamilton: 6 of 23, 26%

Alex Rios: 7 of 17, 41%

Rickie Weeks: 9 of 22, 40%

Alex Gonzalez: 10 of 19, 52%

Colby Rasmus: 9 of 18, 50%

Carlos Gonzalez: 8 of 23, 34%

Adrian Beltre: 8 of 20, 40%

Robinson Cano: 6 of 21, 28%

It's just one more factor. Like we don't say HR/FB ratio or ISO are end-all-be-all stats, this is the same. It's one more concept to consider when attempting to project future power. With trade deadlines over in some leagues, this may be most useful for next year--when power-hungry owners are making Alex Gonzalez's price go up and up....