Nothing is more frustrating than hearing the crack of the bat and knowing the ball is gone, only to see an outfielder leaping to snag the ball before it clears the outfield fence. Then you’ve got those hard-hit balls in places like San Diego’s Petco Park that just die on the warning track.
Thanks to the data we have from sources like Statcast, though, we can actually quantify how many of these events should’ve been homers. Specifically, xStats uses exit velocity, launch angle, and batted-ball location to calculate the probability of a deep fly ball going over the fence.
So which Cubs should’ve hit more dingers last year?
|Tommy La Stella||5||5||0|
If you needed more data to be excited about Russell, here you go. The 23-year-old was supposed to have 25 homers last year, four more than than his actual total of 21. If those four deep fly balls left the yard, his wOBA of .316 would’ve been .331 and his 95 wRC+ would’ve risen to 109. Gah.
Kris Bryant should’ve hit three more homers, which would’ve bumped his 39 to 42. While his .396 wOBA won him the MVP, a .402 wOBA sure looks pretty.
On the bottom of the list are Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo, each of whom should’ve hit three and two fewer homers, respectively. But the Cubs will take those homers as consolation prizes for Russell and Bryant’s bad luck.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t elaborate on Russell to end this post. In addition to his xHRs, many signs point toward a substantially more productive season for the fast-twitching young shortstop. For instance, he improved his contact rate by 5% in the second half of last year’s championship run, all while making dramatic mechanical changes throughout the season. Even PECOTA pegs Russell as the most likely candidate to overshoot his projection.
While his 3.9 WAR was impressive, imagine how many more wins he’d produce with a sustained contact rate and 25+ homers.