Welcome back to our second meeting of AA…Analytics Anonymous.  I hope you all stuck with the program this past week.  Did you approach your 2023 fantasy baseball draft prep with an analytical mind?  If you answered “YES” to this question, you are on track to graduate the program.  If you answered “NO”, don’t sweat it, the support group here at @Razzball is standing by to get you back on track.  All we ask… come prepared to contribute to the discussion topic and help others address their afflictions.  Take a moment to grab some snacks and a chair.  This week’s program is about to begin.

Last week, we discussed SBO.  If you missed our initial session, you can quickly catch up here (Tell Me More About SBO).

In today’s edition of AA, we’ll be in search of…ISO.

For the baseball mind (is there really any other mind that matters in March?), ISO refers to “Isolated Power” and is used as a measure of the raw power of a hitter.  ISO has no place for ground balls and weak “Texas Leaguers” that fall in for hits.  No, we want extra base hits!  ISO even gives weight to the type of extra-base hits as well.  ISO is calculated one of two ways:

ISO = (2B + 2 x 3B + 3 x HR) /ABs

ISO = Slugging % (SLG) – Batting Average (BA)

The presenter hears murmuring in the room and looks up.  A pair in the back row engaged in an animated discussion.  The presenter asks, “Is there a question in the back?”

A gentleman stands up and asks, “Yes, sir!  All our leagues score home runs.  Why do we really care about doubles and triples as well?”

The presenter responds, “That’s a good question.  Remember, with ISO we are looking strictly at raw power here to better understand what type of hitter a player is.  Doubles, triples and home runs are usually hit harder and farther than singles, therefore more power.”

“Also, how many times have you seen a long fly ball or smash off the wall end up in a double?  Then, the color commentator says something like, “that ball would have been a HR in 26 of 32 parks.”  Although the ISO calculation includes no adjustments for ballpark factors, some believe it inherently normalizes many of these factors when it comes to power.”

The AA members seem pacified at this response – for the time being – and the meeting resumes.

So, what is a good ISO?  According to Fangraphs, a league-average ISO is 0.140 but for fantasy baseball, we really want power hitters above 0.200.

Because of the manner which it is calculated, ISO alone doesn’t tell the full story.  Consider these four third basemen, all with 2022 ISO values significantly greater than .200:

Based on ISO alone, the values for all 4 players suggest “Great-Excellent” power hitters.

Note that player A has the highest number of HRs, with players C & D a few back and player B considerably less.  Also, player A has a significantly higher AVE than players B & C but almost identical with player D.

Based on ISO, should player B be considered a “better” power hitter than player D?  Certainly, the number of HRs clearly suggests otherwise.

2023 Projections

Now that we better understand the nuances of the ISO, let’s look at a variety of players who are considered “power hitters” based on 2023 ISO projections.

At first glance, Teoscar Hernandez stands out on this list as a player most likely to surpass his projected HR total.  However, another player from this list piques my interest as well.  Let’s see if you can guess who I’m talking about.

Clue 1:  We already know this player has an ISO in the Great-Excellent range.  Look at this player’s 2022 Percentile Rankings provided by Baseball Savant.  The power analytics support the ISO: 96% Arm Strength and 86% in Max Exit Velocity.

Strong Dude – Check.

Clue 2:  The chart also suggests this player barrels the ball at a high percentage.  What if I told you our mystery player increased his launch angle in 2022 over 2o to 17.7o.  With this launch angle and an average exit velocity of 90.5 mph (max 112.5 mph), he’s right in the Barrel Zone.  Remember this graphic from one of my previous articles?

Barrels the ball – Check.

Clue 3:  Last season, this player comfortably bested his career average Contact % and BABIP.

Clue 4:  Add in the fact that this player had a high percentage Fly Ball rate (46.5%) as well.

After everything I’ve told you, just imagine if this player tilts up the launch angle even a bit further in 2023.

Figure it out yet?

Clue 5:  Take a look at his 2022 Spray Chart.  This player has pull power (there’s an extra clue) but also has the power to drive the ball over the center field wall.  Side note:  I know we’re talking ISO here but looking at the infield hits in this Spray Chart, doesn’t it seem like an unusually high density of infield singles, not to mention the infield doubles?  Anyhoo…

Clue 6:  This player finds himself on a new team this season.  Are we worried?  His expected HR by ballpark numbers suggest a resounding “NO” to this question.  In fact, over the past two seasons, his HR total would have increased by almost 15% in his new ballpark.

Last clue:  This player is currently the 3rd OF drafted from his new MLB team.  Crazy!

Give up?  Our mystery player is…Hunter Renfroe.

Do yourself a favor go back over this data with Hunter Renfroe on your mind.  Once you’re done, you may want to target him in some of your drafts.  Most signs point to him surpassing current power projections.

Summary

Just like what we saw last week with SBO and speed, the ISO doesn’t provide a full indicator of HR potential.   Regardless, it can be a useful measure in conjunction with other analytics to validate projections or identify anomalies that should be investigated further.  It really didn’t take much extra analysis to fall in love with Hunter Renfroe’s potential with the Halos this season.  What other gems are out there?

Before I end this, I suppose I owe you the names of the four third basemen contrasted earlier.  Here you go.  It’s really no surprise to find out Manny Machado was Player A but did you have Brandon Drury as Player C and Rafael Devers as Player D?

As always, I appreciate the continued support for my work.  I enjoy what Grey allows me to do here and welcome your comments or suggestions below.  Be sure to come back next week for another Analytics Anonymous support group meeting as we inch closer to Opening Day.

Also, don’t forget to visit the Razzball rankings page (HERE) for everything you need to prepare for upcoming fantasy baseball drafts.