2021 Fantasy Baseball: What Is Average Hit Rate (AVH)?

SI Fantasy expert Shawn Childs created his own advanced metric as an improvement to slugging percentage and better understand a player's power
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What is average hit rate (AVH)?

After finishing the research for all 30 teams for the 2021 baseball season, I’ll swing back to the average hit rate stat I use for a reference to help determine the direction of a player in home runs.

Summary of Average Hit Rate

Slugging percentage has been the standard for many years in baseball to show the direction of a player delivering home runs. Last year the major-league average for slugging percentage was .418 (.435 in 2019 and .409 in 2018). This number is hard to translate as to where a player stands in his development of power. For the most part, a fantasy owner will think a .500+ slugging percentage is good and under a .400 is bad.

Average hit rate (AVH) = singles + doubles (each base X 2) + triples (each base X 3) + home runs (each base X 4) divided by hits or total bases divided by hits.

The goal here is to glance at a player's average hit rate and home run total to get a feel for a player's upside in power. It is also imperative to understand each player’s ground ball and fly-ball rate. A change in swing path could lead to a massive jump in home runs.

Slugging percentage doesn’t tell the same story for me when studying baseball players. If a player has a slugging percentage over .500, it doesn’t necessarily mean that player is a 30 home run hitter (more likely in 2019 based on the juiced ball).

Defining a player's direction in fantasy baseball is the key to a winning season. Ideally, a fantasy owner needs to identify a player with underlying metrics that point to a breakout season when added to a better opportunity in playing time or an improved slot in the batting order. AVH is an essential tool for me and one I hope you incorporate into your research plan in the future.

Player Examples

To help understand my thought process when using this tool in my player research, I’ll take a look at a few players to show how I use this data.

Coming into March, OF Victor Robles has an ADP of 150 in the 12-team high-stakes market. His fade in the 2021 player rankings comes from a disappointing showing in 2020 over 52 games (.220 with 20 runs, three home runs, 15 RBI, and four steals over 168 at-bats).

His minor league resume shines through with plenty of speed (129 stolen bases over 1,438 at-bats), which paints 40-plus upside in the majors with 550 at-bats.

Robles had a minor league slugging percentage of .457, which graded above the league average. Based on his home run output in the minors (28 over 1,438 at-bats), he projected to be a player with 10 to 15 home runs earlier in his career with Washington.

Over his five seasons in the minors, Robles had an average hit rate of 1.521. In essence, he averaged about 1.5 bases per hit, which suggests a player with the foundation to hit 15 home runs in the majors if his swing path didn’t deliver a high number of ground balls.

In his first full season in the majors, Robles smashed 17 home runs over 546 at-bats with just below the league average in his slugging percentage (.419 – .435 in 2019).

The following draft season, a fantasy owner would look at his output in power and expect his next step to be 20-plus home runs.

When looking at his average hit rate (1.647) in 2019, Robles looked to be getting stronger. Unfortunately, his underlying theme coming into 2020 (23.0) and 2021 (22.9) is his incredibly low hard-hit rate. He finished last year with an average hit rate of 1.432 and an empty slugging percentage (.315).

When intaking his minor league resume and Robles’ overall pedigree, his average hit rate supports 10 to 15 home runs while also owning the talent to improve. Most will shy away from his lousy season but chase him later in drafts due to his upside in steals.

To me, his average hit supports his jump in power while understanding Robles has to square up on more balls to have further growth in his game. So far in his major league career, his swing path has been relatively balanced (ground ball rate – 38.6 and fly-ball rate – 37.2).

I expect Robles to be much better in 2021, and he has the appearance of being a great value based on his price point.

The growth in C Will Smith's approach drew a lot of attention from fantasy owners over the winter, but he still has an undervalued feel based on his tremendous upside in home runs.

His slugging percentage in his first two seasons (.571 and .579) with the Dodgers jumps off the page while only showcasing a slight edge in his minor league career (.459).

In comparison, Smith has delivered strength in his average hit rate in 2017 (1.931), 2018 (1.951), 2019 (AAA – 2.225 and 2.256), and 2020 (2.000) in the minors and majors, setting an impressive floor in home runs if given a full-time job.

His success in 2021 will be limited by his perceived playing time. The Dodgers continue to preach that Smith will split at-bats with Austin Barnes, but a hot power bat will earn more at-bats by Smith. Over the past three seasons, Barnes hit .221 over 498 at-bats with 74 runs, 10 home runs, 48 RBI, and 10 steals.

When making the projections for Smith, I gave him only 4.5 games per week. I expect him to play four times a week, and he’ll see five games at least half the time in weeks when Los Angeles plays seven games.

The casual fantasy owner may not know that Smith has a massive fly-ball swing path (51.9) in the majors, which is why he rates so highly in his average hit rate.

I have Smith rated as my number one catcher in 2021 while being on a path for 74 runs, 30 home runs, and 97 RBI over 482 at-bats while hitting .271. My only concern is that his approach may slide back from his impressive growth in 2020.

This draft season, OF Leody Taveras continues to have an ADP (194) better than his expected output. His average hit rate was a meager 1.374 in his minor league career. He has explosive steals (187 over 1,868 at-bats) on his minor league resume, but Taveras only hit .260 with no AAA experience.

His average hit rate (1.741) with Texas in 2020 over 119 at-bats is more of a tease due to a small sample size.

I don’t expect Taveras to keep a starting job in the majors in 2021 if he makes the club out of spring training.

Average hit rate tells a pretty good story. In the ideal situation, we would like to see a player adding more length to his hits. Any player with an AVH of 1.75 or higher has 25-plus home run power with over 550 at-bats. A Judy-type player (all speed and no power) will have an average hit rate under 1.35.

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