How Is Elvis Andrus Hitting for More Power?
Between 2009 and 2015, Andrus' production at the plate had been rather consistent. He was a top-of-the-order guy that could get on base at a decent clip with 20- or 30-steal upside. He posted a career high in homers during the 2015 campaign with 7 bombs, but it wasn't as if he went on a power binge, since he still finished with a slugging percentage of .357, a wOBA of .292, and an Isolated Power (ISO) of .099 through 661 plate appearances.
That single-season career high in dingers didn't last long, because he hit 8 more in 2016. This wasn't an earth-shattering difference, but he did see a noticeable spike in his slugging (.439), wOBA (.344) and ISO (.136), which were also new personal bests.
Now just 249 plate appearances into the 2017 season, he's once again on the verge of breaking his personal homer benchmark, having already hit 7 taters. He's also on pace to break the career highs he set in the other three areas we just mentioned.
So, what the heck is going on?
Not Part of the Fly-Ball Revolution
A lot has been made about how hitters are changing their approach at the plate, along with an obsession with launch angle. While a number have seen more success in the power department with these ideas in mind, Andrus hasn't exactly joined the party in this respect.
The below table highlights parts of Andrus' bated-ball profile -- mainly line-drive rate (LD%), ground-ball rate (GB%), fly-ball rate (FB%), and hard-hit rate (Hard%) -- along with how his ISO has fluctuated since 2013.
He's made a clear shift since 2015, but it's not as if he made a Yonder Alonso-esque transformation -- he's still hitting ground balls about half the time, while his overall hard-hit rate has yet to climb over 30.0%.
Andrus isn't going to find his way onto leaderboards when it comes to any measurements of power, but his overall production is quite a revelation for a soon-to-be 29-year-old in the midst of his ninth big league season.
Doing More With His Fly Balls
For a player that doesn't hit a ton of fly balls, it's imperative to make the most of them when they do. That's exactly what Andrus has done over the past two seasons.
Despite hitting those seven homers in 2015, the shortstop still wasn't doing much with the balls he was lofting up in the air -- that's evidenced by the -10 wRC+ and .164 wOBA he produced in this situation that year. What has been interesting to watch, though, is how his batted-ball profile specific to fly balls has transformed throughout his career.
The below table goes back to 2012 to display how his pull rate (Pull%), hard-hit rate (Hard%), wOBA, and wRC+ on fly balls have changed each year.
We went back one more year than the previous table, specifically to show how drastically different Andrus' pull rate and hard-hit rate were from the rest of the bunch. That 42.2% hard-hit rate is superior to anything else he's done since, but it was clearly tough for him generate any kind of power going the opposite way 54.1% of the time.
So, when seeing that he's pulling fly balls more than ever and hitting them harder than he has before -- two ingredients for power production -- Andrus' uptick in this department shouldn't be all that shocking.
We've come to know Andrus as a contact hitter that can be awfully useful in real life and fantasy baseball not only because of the lineup he's in, but also because of the speed he provides. However, the strides he's made since last year with the bat added have added a new wrinkle to his value.
For a hitter that's now in his physical prime, it seems as if Elvis Andrus has figured things out, and taken his game to a level that hasn't been seen before in the big leagues.