The last two seasons in MLB have seen a significant uptick in home runs from previous seasons. These home run numbers even compare favorably to the steroid era. The reason for this is that hitters are hitting fly balls much more than they used to. The 2017 season has the highest home-runs-per-game rate in the history of the game.
The “three true outcomes” are now a staple of what baseball has become in 2017. For those who do not know, the three true outcomes for a hitter are a home run, a walk, and a strikeout. These are the three results a hitter can make that do not rely on the defense to make a play.
It is a simple concept: swing as hard as humanly possible. If the bat hits the ball, there is a good chance of it being a home run. If not, oh well, try again next time. Hitting the ball in the air is an example of simply trying to maximize results.
Let us look at a hypothetical. Your favorite team has a runner on third in a tie game with less than two outs. Not accounting a possible error by a fielder, where would you want the hitter to hit the ball: in the air or on the ground?
Even if the ball stays in the yard, hitting the ball in the air is the best bet for getting a positive result.
Now for two players who exemplify how the fly ball revolution has taken over the game.
Votto is an elite hitter and has been for his entire career. Throughout his career, he has been more of a line drive hitter. What this means is that his swing is more level. This is a good thing, except for the part where this type of swing leads to a lot of ground balls.
A guy like Votto does not need to adjust his game. He is already one of the best hitters in the game, but he figured he could still get better. His flyball rate is up to a staggering 40 percent. This is well above his career mark of 33.2.
In turn, this also results in him hitting fewer ground balls. His ground ball rate in 2017 is 38.8 percent, compared to his 41.5 career average.
The results, as expected, have been positive for Votto. While his slash line of .278/.408/.567 (as of June 3) is about average for his career, he has a career-high home run rate of 5.7 percent.
With all of this considered, the batting average and on-base percentage may be par for the course. However, Votto may be looking at a career year as a slugger in 2017, which says a lot.
Sano is the king of the three true outcomes. As of June 3, he is fourth in the majors in strikeout percentage with a 37.1 mark. He also is 11th in walk rate at 15.8 percent and has a slugging percentage of .600.
He is not as interesting as Votto, as, unlike Votto, he has always hit the ball in the air. Since breaking into the majors in 2015, he has a fly ball percentage of 44.7. He hits the ball in the air, and the baseball gods reward him for it.
Building a prototypical flyball hitter would look a lot like Sano. He is the perfect example of how swinging hard, even if no contact is made, is a good thing simply because of the potential. He leads the league in hard contact, which is a recipe for success today.
Baseball has been lacking direction in recent years. With viewership down, the game needs a spark to bring people back. The fly ball revolution may be exactly what we have all been waiting for.