It seems trivial to suggest that not all hits that produce the same result are created equal. A blooper that falls into no man’s land may allow a batter to reach first in the same manner as a line drive up the middle, but the latter is called a solid knock, while the blooper is regarded as a stroke of good fortune.
It may be a bit more difficult to apply this reasoning to home runs, as each dinger, whether it leaves the park by one foot or one mile, produces the best possible offensive outcome for a team. Realizing that homers are subject to the same evaluations as other batted balls, however, can help us in determining who may be in line for an uptick in long balls, and which hitters may fall short of the fence going forward.
According to ESPN Home Run Tracker
, there are three distinct home run types in relation to distance.
“No Doubt” homers (ND)
clear the fence by at least 20 vertical feet and land at least 50 feet past the wall.
“Just Enough” homers (JE)
clear the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, or less than one fence height.
“Lucky” homers (L)
would not have cleared the fence on a calm, 70-degree day.
By looking at what percentage of a player’s home run total fall into these categories, we should be able to get a better idea of who has the best shot of hitting the ball out of the park down the stretch.
One potential gainer in this regard may be Chase Headley
of the Yankees. Headley has yet to come close to repeating his breakout performance of 2012, when he hit 31 home runs in 699 plate appearances as a member of the Padres, but he has shown the ability to hit the ball a long way, as six of his nine homers in 2014 have been classified as “No Doubters”. The interesting thing to note here is that Headley has hit only one homer that has qualified as “Just Enough.” As a frame of reference, the league average for “Just Enough” home runs in 2006 (the last year of available data) was 27 percent.
These facts may be enough to predict that Headley’s home run output will increase during the final two months of the season, as one would expect a player who can clear the fence with room to spare at such a rate would be the beneficiary of at least a few more cheap homers.
At the other side of the spectrum is Indians catcher Yan Gomes
. Gomes is having a breakout season, but he may be in line for a bit of regression in the power department, as nine of his 16 homers have been branded “Just Enough”, while he has clubbed just two shots that were considered “No Doubters.” It is worth noting that he has also tallied one home run that was defined as “Lucky” this year. Simply put, Gomes doesn’t seem to be hitting the ball very far, which could lead to a drop-off in homers if some of those shots that are “Just Enough” begin to fall short of the fence.
While this data isn’t quite as predictive as the metrics we looked at last week, it seems we are on safe ground to do some forecasting here, as we are simply looking at players who are outliers based on what is expected in certain areas, and waiting for a bit of normalization.