Getting through an MLB game without a single reference to launch angle or the fly-ball revolution is very rare these days. The beauty of baseball, though, is that there is no singular path to accomplishing the same feat.
After all, there were 100 different players who hit 20-plus homers in 2018. The hitters we’re about to discuss each got to that number with one thing in common: they produced a ton of ground balls.
On average, big leaguers posted a 43.2% ground-ball rate and 35.3% fly-ball rate this past regular season. Each of the following eight hitters boasted a ground-ball rate above 50.0%, yet were still able to slug at least 20 homers.
Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies
Ground-Ball Rate: 62.0%
Fly-Ball Rate: 21.5%
Ian Desmond had himself a weird 2018. In the second season of a five-year, $80 million deal with Colorado, he posted yet another below-average wRC+ (69 in ’17, 81 in ’18) and negative fWAR (-0.8 in’17, -0.7 in ’18), but he at least found his power again.
After hitting just seven dingers and posting a meager .100 ISO during his first season with the Rockies, those numbers increased to 22 and .186 this past year, respectively. Desmond has always been a reliant on ground balls, but it’s gone up a notch recently — this is also the second straight year his ground-ball rate has settled in above 60.0%.
Among hitters that qualified for the batting title, he not only had the highest ground-ball rate, but also managed to post the fourth-lowest fly-ball rate. It’s impressive when a hitter can finish with a homer number that’s higher than his fly-ball rate.