In the ongoing effort to understand the fly ball revolution sweeping across baseball, sometimes the easiest method is simply looking at the detriment of ground balls. Even players who, overall, are successful at hitting the ball in the air have periods throughout a season where they hit the ball on the ground. And looking at what those periods do their production can drive home the point.
So what I’ve done here is selected a few Braves players to show how their 2017 wOBA’s were affected relative to their concurrent ground ball rates, visualized in line graphs. This will be pretty self-explanatory.
We’ll start with Matt Kemp. Here’s his 2017 breakdown:
These are all 15-game rolling averages. All graphs courtesy of Fangraphs.
I started with Kemp because of how clear the inverse relationship between ground balls and production is on his chart. Obviously what you’re looking for in an inverse correlation is as one line peaks, the other valleys. You can clearly see where things started going south for Kemp in 2017, right around the end of June, as his ground ball rate shot up over 70%. Major league average wOBA on grounders is .224, which is about what his wOBA plummeted to.
Here’s Tyler Flowers:
Tyler’s is another with a strong visual correlation. You can see, Tyler was running an wOBA around .450 in May/June while his GB rate sat around 30%. As that rate rose to around 50% in July/August however, you can see what it did to his production.
What I want you to notice is, at some point, all these guys had stretches where they were running GB rates around 30%, which is really good. When you see that, take notice of what the wOBA’s look like at that same time.
Couple more. Here’s Nick Markakis:
We’ll end on Kurt Suzuki, who fully embraced the fly ball approach in 2017 and had, far and away, the best year of his career.
Just know, I could’ve put the whole team in this post. This correlation is a proven concept.
The Braves have more than a couple guys who could see similar breakouts to what Suzuki saw in 2017. Three that immediately come to mind are Dansby, Ruiz, and Camargo. They just have to keep that red line down which conversely will keep the blue line up. There’s a reason it’s sweeping across baseball. The data is real and the results speak for themselves.