I saw an article written about the MLB Homerun champion odds for 2020. The author is a college grad who has been writing in the sports media for 10+ years. He used StatCast metrics and concluded that Joey Gallo +800, Aaron Judge +1000, Yordan Alvarez +1400, Franmil Reyes +2000, and Miguel Sano +3300 are the choices to wager on. Gallo at +800 is the favorite. His beliefs were that barrels per batted ball event (Brls/BBE%, barrels per plate appearance (Brls/PA%), and hard-hit percentage or exit velocity were the metrics that will lead to the proper choice. I like the idea that he is using some kind of “science” to make an educated decision, but I think his choices of metrics do predict anything.
Some of the thinking that needs to be sorted out for wagers like this have to do with where the home games are played, health of the player, adjustments a player makes in his swing from one season to the next, the division he plays in and thus the quality of pitchers he will face, etc. For example, Joey Gallo plays for the Texas Rangers. This coming season Texas is playing in a brand-new stadium that has a retractable roof. Texas has always had an edge in the summer heat but now that edge is diminished. A new stadium especially one with a roof, will influence the number of longballs hit. A player like Judge has not been able to complete a season for the past two seasons due to health and he started the spring of 2020 with a broken rib! Alvarez will be in his 2nd season and 1st full season, but he was injured with bad knees in the spring. I would NOT be wagering my money on these players. In fact, Steamer projections make Gallo 6th in HRs, Judge 10th, and Alvarez 19th. Zips projections show Gallo 12th, Judge 23rd, and Alvarez 13th.
Projections are not the end all answer either, but they will forecast better than StatCast metrics. StatCast metrics are cool to look at but they are very similar to an ERA or batting average. They don’t mean much; they don’t predict future outcomes, nor do they even provide a quality of player leverage over another player. They are shiny, glittery buzz words. My choice is to stay with projected outcomes married to indicators that would allow a player to progress having a much greater success rate and one that is predictable. How does that look? I write a preview guide every season where I investigate whether players are going to progress or regress in the coming season. In general, if a player is off a career season, they should not be expected to produce another best of his career season this year. If a player had a below average season, he should progress to at minimum his average season. Young breakout starts should continue to grow progressing to new heights. Looking at the same list of odds under that scope, my top plays would be much different.
Steamer has Mike Trout, Giancarlo Stanton, and Peter Alonso all tied with 44 HRs as the leaders. I immediately want Trout at +1100. His team acquired a new hitter Anthony Rendon which allow him to get better pitches to hit protecting him in the lineup. I like Stanton as well at +1400. He has had 5 seasons over 34 HRS and one of 59. He plays in the AL East where BOS, TOR and BAL are either in down years or pitching is not their forte. I will stay away from both Alonso and Bellinger as they had career seasons and one was rookie of the year. I will take Ronald Acuna (+1800) of ATL. He projects at 38 HRs in the same neighborhood as the leaders (44). He is a young superstar who can explode to heights he has not yet attained. My 2 longer shots are Matt Olson OAK (+2000) and Kris Davis OAK (+4000). I expect OAK to win the AL West and have big seasons primarily from their pitchers, but Olson projects with 38HRs and Davis 37HRs. Olson has gained in HR count every season (last 3) and hit 36 last year. Davis is coming off one of his worst seasons ever. He is off 3 straight 40+ HR seasons, he only hit 23 last year. He is a great sleeper pick and tremendous value at +4000!
Granted the 2020 season may include many different situations due to the delay in the season and possible places they will play; however, using the right metrics and having the ability look at progressing players, we should have a better forecast than that of StatCast metrics. I am not trying to make the writer of the article feel poorly as he put some thought into it. I just want show how experts forecast results and the provide a small insight into it. Let’s keep this one handy and refer to it throughout the season. It will be interesting to see who has the better wagers!