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Home Run to Fly Ball Rate And The Astros

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We all know the Astros have a power problem. The only power hitter in the lineup right now is Carlos Lee and his best years are past him. It's possible a move to the American League and the designated hitter will help him, but it's likely that age is just taking its toll.

There's a pretty good way to determine where the problem is at without, you know, just looking at total home runs. If you look at the ratio of home runs and fly balls by individual batters, you can get a gauge on power without focusing just on home runs. 

Since 2002, the HR/FB rate for the National League has fallen for 11 percent to 9.5 percent. It's held pretty steady around 9.5 percent for the past three years, so let's call that the break even point. The Astros only had two players above that number in 2011, including J.D. Martinez (10.5 percent) and Brian Bogusevic (11.8 percent). 

Carlos Lee led the team in home runs with 18, but he only had a 7.7 HR/FB rate. The only other player in the league with at least 15 home runs and a HR/FB rate close to that is Jimmy Rollins, who had 16 HRs and a 7.7 HR/FB rate. Of the guys with 20 or more homers? Only Andrew McCutcheon had a rate under 10, though Gaby Sanchez had 19 homers with a 8.9 HR/FB rate.

20 homers is nice, but it's not going to change the lineup, so let's look a bit higher on the list. Of the players with at least 30 homers, Justin Upton (31 HRs) had the lowest HR/FB rate at 14.8 percent. Both NL leader Matt Kemp (39 HRs) and second-place Albert Pujols (38 HRs) had rates over 20 while young Mike Stanton led the league at 24.8 percent with 34 homers.

There is a chance that J.D. Martinez may experience a bounce in his averages after his rookie season, but I doubt it. He's going to hug around 10 percent, which means he'll be slightly better than Neil Walker, who had around 8 percent the past two years and hit 12 home runs each season. 

It also means Houston may need to put both guys in the lineup all season if it wants to increase the possible power production next season.