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Whose hard% could be on the decline in 2019?

Skill-based peripherals have become a great way to evaluate talent and potential breakouts, but they can also have some disparity from year to year.

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

I had the idea for this post after hearing many people in the industry misuse some of the new stats we have available. The point of this post isn’t to call any one person out, but to hopefully shed some light on these analytics that have become a staple among the fantasy industry. The only reason I am aware of this issue is because I have built projection systems based on both these batted ball profiles. When I did this, Fangraphs’ hard contact rates seemed to spit out skewed results. I then played around with Statcast’s hard contact rates and got better results. Both are essential tools for evaluating talent, but I’ll try to give a brief explanation of both Fangraphs’ and Statcast’s hard contact rates below before diving in.

Statcast: This hard contact rate is purely based off batted balls hit with an exit velocity of at least 95 mph, and pairs nicely with a player’s fly ball rate to get a good idea of that player’s possible power output.

Fangraphs: This hard contact rate not only takes into account how hard a batted ball is hit, but also takes into account things like air time, landing spot, and trajectory. This means that quoting a player’s fly ball rate when talking about his Fangraphs hard contact rate cannot only be redundant but also misleading. To read more about how this is calculated you can click here.

Now that we have that out of the way, here are some players whose Fangraphs hard contact rates could have some negative regression in 2019.

David Peralta, ARI, OF (48.6%)

Peralta had a breakout season that caught many people’s attention as he had an impressive .293/.352/.516 slash line and a 130 wRC+. His breakout season was backed by one of the top hard contact rates on Fangraphs at 48.6%, which wasn’t far off from the 45.7% he had according to Statcast. So why do I believe his hard contact rate will drop in 2019? Well, it has to do with how Fangraphs’ hard contact rate is calculated. Since the hard contact rates on Fangraphs are calculated not only by how hard the ball is hit but also by the ball’s air time, landing spot, and trajectory, his ground ball heavy profile will make it difficult for his hard contact rate to stay above 40.0%—much less close to 50.0%. His breakout was backed by some promising peripherals, but it looks like it could be difficult for Peralta to top 25 home runs again in 2019. With an ADP of 134.4 on NFBC, however, it seems like the regression is already baked in.

Rougned Odor, TEX, 2B (45.2%)

Odor is one of the few players who has the potential to be a 30/15 player next season, but I would beware of his career-high hard contact rate in 2018. He has always been known to have plus raw power, but a hard contact rate of 45.2% is elite. Last season his hard contact rate according to Statcast was 7.3% lower than what he had on Fangraphs. With his batted ball profile, you would assume that Odor would have a higher hard contact rate on Fangraphs when compared to his Statcast hard contact rate, but a 7.3% difference is severe.

Yadier Molina, STL, C (44.4%)

Molina has had a power resurgence late in his career, but his 44.4% hard contact on Fangraphs will almost certainly have some significant regression in 2019. With a difference of over 10.0% between his two hard contact rates, my case has been all but made. When you also take into account some age regression and the toll of all those innings behind the plate, Molina’s 44.4% hard contact rate in 2018 will most likely be a massive outlier in an otherwise Hall of Fame career.

Freddy Galvis, TOR, SS (40.3%)

In case you didn’t know, Galvis not only posted a career-high hard contact rate in 2018, but he actually had a higher hard contact rate than noted power hitters like Manny Machado, Cody Bellinger, and Mitch Haniger. He does have a healthy fly ball and line drive rate, so there is a chance Galvis has a higher hard contact rate on Fangraphs when compared to his Statcast hard contact rate. The problem is when you see that his 28.4% was not only far off from what he posted over at Fangraphs, but was well below the major league average last season. If you look at his Fangraphs page, you may think he is ready for a serious breakout in 2019. But beware of the regression that could come with that 40.3% hard contact rate.

Nick Ahmed, ARI, SS (39.2%)

Looking at Ahmed’s Statcast numbers over the past couple seasons, it seems like he may have made some strides in the power department and could be a legitimate threat to hit 20 home runs. The problem is that his 39.2% hard contact rate is more indicative of someone who has the potential to hit over 30 home runs. With a difference of nearly 10.0% between his two hard contact rates, it evident that some regression is likely this upcoming season. With that being said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him flirt with 20 homers if he can get enough at-bats.

Brian Dozier, WAS, 2B (37.3%)

Looking at Dozier’s career numbers, a 37.3% rate doesn’t seem that out of character for the 31-year-old veteran, but sometimes numbers can be misleading. Ever since hitting a career-high 42 home runs in 2016, his hard contact rate has been on a steady decline. Last season, however, he had the lowest hard contact rate according to Statcast since its birth back in 2015, which is ironic as his 37.3% hard contact rate on Fangraphs was a career-high. It is important to note that Dozier has a fly ball heavy approach, so this will cause his Fangraphs hard contact rate to be higher. I would stay away from the new Nationals second baseman in 2019.

Andrelton Simmons, LAA, SS (36.1%)

Simmons is an interesting case, as his Statcast and Fangraphs hard contact rates are nearly identical. So why, you may ask, do I believe we’ll see a possible decline in his hard contact this upcoming season? Well, this one comes down to how the Fangraphs hard contact algorithm is calculated. As I stated above, the equation takes into account the air time and final destination of the batted ball. With a relatively high ground ball rate, it is safe to assume that his hard contact rate on Fangraphs would be lower than that of its counterpart. With that being said, I think Simmons could flirt with 20 home runs again as he still has a promising hard contact rate while also possessing one of the best batted ball events per plate appearance. This is possibly the most underrated stat out there, and I never gave it a second thought until I started running projection systems based off batted ball events. When it comes to overall power numbers, this stat can help someone with below average raw power hit over 20 homers at the major league level. This is one of the reasons we saw guys like Ozzie Albies and Jose Altuve have a sudden breakout in the power department and it is the main reason Aaron Judge is unlikely to put up another 50-homer season.