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John Dewan's Stat of the Week

​Who is benefiting from pulling fly balls more often?

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BY MARK SIMON

We’re in the midst of a fly ball revolution, with more major league hitters taking the approach that it’s best to swing for the fences than play small ball. The past success of players like Daniel Murphy in changing their swing and approach has begotten many followers.

One way to look at these changes is to check out who has increased the frequency with which they pull their fly balls, as nine of the top 11 players who have increased their fly ball pull frequency have increased their slugging percentage on flies. Who are some of those players?

Miguel Rojas, Marlins SS

Miguel Rojas might be the most unlikely player to launch his way up the home run leaderboard. Rojas hit one home run in each of his previous four seasons and was averaging one home run every 189 at-bats for his career entering 2018. He has seven home runs in 2018 and has joked that he wants to enter the Home Run Derby.

This season, he’s upped the pull rate on his fly balls by 20 percentage points – the fifth-highest rate in the majors. In other words, he’s pulled 16 of 46 fly balls, when by 2017’s pull rate he would have been expected to pull seven. Rojas has had similar pull rates before, but he seems to be consciously trying to drive the ball. He has a 33 percent hard-contact rate on his fly balls. He’s never been above 25 percent on them previously.

The power has made Rojas more of a complete player. He already rates as a solid defender and is among the shortstop leaders in Defensive Runs Saved.

Jed Lowrie, Athletics 2B

Veteran second baseman Jed Lowrie is swinging like someone who wants to crack the 20-homer mark for the first time in his career. Lowrie, a switch-hitter, is doing major damage from the left side.

On that side, he’s hit eight of his nine home runs and has increased the rate at which he pulls fly balls by 16 percentage points (he’s pulled 17 of 42 from the left side). His slugging percentage on fly balls has gone up by 456 points from last season. Lowrie still has the challenge of playing 81 games in Oakland where even heavy pull tendencies may not help him. He’s hit seven of his nine home runs on the road.

Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox SS

Xander Bogaerts had a drop in power production from 2016 to 2017, going from 21 home runs to 10, but has regained some of what he lost early in 2018. He’s hit six home runs already. Early on, Bogaerts' pull percentage on fly balls is 11 points higher than it was in 2017.

And though that could be due to chance (his line drive pull rate is up too), it would behoove Bogaerts to continue to try to take aim at the Green Monster. He has as many home runs over it this season as he did in 2017 (4).

Spencer Harrison also contributed to this article

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