In 2019 the baseball has some extra juice to it. Eventually Major League Baseball finally admitted to it, too. And then there’s the whole issue where now that the playoffs have started the ball isn’t doing at all what it did during the regular season, and Major League Baseball is denying that it’s different despite physical evidence that it probably is.

Late last week at Fangraphs, Mike Podhorzer took a look at his preseason prediction’s on which players would likely see increases in their home run per fly ball rate from 2018 to 2019. As he notes, with the way the baseball played this year, his results were probably going to look good since the league as a whole jumped up from 12.7% to 15.3%. And he was right – his results showed a majority of his predictions did show improvement, and the group as a whole beat the league jump.

That got me to wondering how the Cincinnati Reds hitters performed by comparison to 2018 here. I only looked at hitters who had at least 200 plate appearances for the Reds in 2019 – so not everyone was included.

2018

2019

Name GB% HR/FB GB% HR/FB Diff
Eugenio Suarez 38.4% 23.4% 36.0% 29.5% 6.1%
Aristides Aquino 37.2% 16.5% 34.7% 28.8% 12.3%
Jesse Winker 42.1% 8.9% 48.7% 23.2% 14.3%
Derek Dietrich 40.7% 12.3% 34.7% 22.4% 10.1%
Yasiel Puig 42.6% 20.0% 35.0% 17.1% -2.9%
Tucker Barnhart 44.9% 9.0% 45.5% 14.7% 5.7%
Nick Senzel 40.3% 13.0% 47.8% 13.3% 0.3%
Curt Casali 37.0% 10.5% 29.1% 12.5% 2.0%
Josh VanMeter 38.5% 8.6% 36.0% 11.3% 2.7%
Phillip Ervin 36.5% 12.3% 39.4% 10.8% -1.5%
Jose Iglesias 43.6% 3.9% 52.2% 10.5% 6.6%
Joey Votto 37.5% 9.5% 37.0% 9.8% 0.3%
Jose Peraza 36.5% 6.8% 36.0% 4.4% -2.4%
2018 Minor League Rates | Above League Average (2019 only)

There’s a lot to digest here. First, let’s be sure to note that the average increase at the Major League level was +2.6%. Five players did that or better among the guys who were in the Major Leagues both seasons. Only three players saw their home runs per fly ball rate go backwards. That Yasiel Puig, the guy the Reds hoped would be the addition to the offense they needed, had the worst difference among all players on the team tells you how the season went. That said, Puig’s 17.1% was still better than the league average – just not nearly what you’d expect given that he came to the National League Central, Great American Ballpark, and got to hit an even more juiced baseball in 2019.

What is interesting is that Jesse Winker had a HUGE uptick. It was negated a little bit by the fact that he didn’t hit the ball in the air nearly as much as he did in 2018, though. Derek Dietrich was also a big gain hitter. And he hit the ball in the air more than he had in 2018, too.

Aristides Aquino saw a big jump, too. But his numbers in 2018 were from Double-A. That said, his numbers this year in Triple-A were very similar to the ones in the Majors – he had a 36.7% ground ball rate and a 30.1% home run per fly ball rate with the Louisville Bats. Josh VanMeter had similar ground ball rates at both levels, but his home runs per fly ball rate was half of what it was in Triple-A when he was in the Majors – 22.6% to 11.3%.

Curt Casali, Nick Senzel, Joey Votto, Phillip Ervin, and Jose Peraza along with Yasiel Puig saw their home run per fly ball rate fail to match the uptick that the league as a whole saw (+2.6%).

23 Responses

  1. Bill J

    Doug, if MLB Dr-juices the ball next year what do you think the GO needs to look for a power bat or a contact hitter or 1 of each?

    • Sean D

      I think the reds need good hitters, doesn’t matter how they are good if they get on base that’s great if they are good cause they hit 40 homeruns than that’s good too. We just need good hitters

      • Mike

        My opinion is they need hitters that understand situational hitting. When to go the other way, when contact will advance or score a runner, and when to shorten up with 2 strikes just to make necessary contact. I personally don’t believe all “out” are equal. Saw too many strikeouts last year when contact would have scored a run. And…. if they are giving you the third base line with the shift, for goodness sake’s learn how to bunt!

      • VaRedsFan

        Mike…this is, without a doubt, the truth, and I wish this philosophy could be hammered into their hitting approach. But I fear it won’t.

    • Doug Gray

      I’ve got a second part on this coming later that kind of gets into the whole mess…. Probably coming later today.

  2. Eric

    Right…so MLB deadens the ball next year, and the narrative for 2020 becomes The Return of Small-Ball Takes Major League Baseball Back to Its Roots!

    *chuckle* Sean’s right: We just need more good hitters, pure and simple.

    Interesting though, Doug, to see the differences in GB%, etc. between 2018-19 – thanks for that!

  3. Fish

    I think what you’re getting at here (and why you almost have to isolate minor league stats) is that with the same quality of contact, a greater percentage will be home runs. I get how Vanmeter could have half the rate of homeruns in the majors because obviously in facing pitchers with better stuff, his quality of contact will be less. I wonder if there is a homeruns per barrel stat (I thought I saw somewhere someone had a contact quality stat) which would basically get you to the increase would have to be some combo of hitter strength and the ball.

  4. Mike

    My opinion is they need hitters that understand situational hitting. When to go the other way, when contact will advance or score a runner, and when to shorten up with 2 strikes just to make necessary contact. I personally don’t believe all “out” are equal. Saw too many strikeouts last year when contact would have scored a run. And…. if they are giving you the third base line with the shift, for goodness sake’s learn how to bunt!

    • Mike

      sorry, don’t know what I did to get posted twice..

      • VaRedsFan

        It’s OK…i needs to not only be said twice, but implemented.

  5. RedNat

    I don’t mind the juiced balls but that means mlb has to change the dimensions. I mean look a the Yankees. they have players that look like nfl linemen hitting a juiced ball in a park which in 310 feet down the line. this is like the nba playing on a elementary school basketball court with 19 foot three point lines. it is almost getting absurd.

    • TR

      The foul lines at Yankee Stadium ll are short but they do not compare to the old Polo Grounds across the East River where the Giants played for 70 plus years until they left NYC in 1958. Right field foul line: 258 ft. and left field: 279 ft.

      • Bill J

        But centerfield made up the difference. I love watching Willie Mays making the catch off Vic Wertz.

      • TR

        An all-time great catch by the incomparable Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series that the Indians were expected to win with their great starting pitching.

      • greenmtred

        I’m pretty sure–but could be wrong–that he made that catch in Cleveland’s Municipal Stadium, which was cavernous.

  6. Ron Larsen

    „Which Reds hitters were most beneficial from the juiced baseball?“
    How about: „Which Reds hitters benefited the most from the juiced baseball?“

    • Doug Gray

      “Don’t change headlines in the middle of the night, idiot” would also have been accepted as a correct answer. Ugh.

      • Ron Larsen

        I have to disagree. You are not an idiot, just human.

      • Doug Gray

        I can definitely act like an idiot and do idiotic things. We saw the proof this morning!

        Thanks for the heads up on it, Ron.

  7. AirborneJayJay

    The Reds have claimed LH deliver Josh Smith from the Marlins. Very good season at AAA, but not so great at major league level.
    Wandy’s replacement maybe?

  8. Mark Tokarski

    I am curious, Mr. Gray, how a “juiced” ball with compacted seams to reduce air resistance, thereby allowing longer flight, affects pitching. Would compacted seams also affect curves and sliders, making them less effective?