The difficulty of assessing Hunter Renfroe’s all-or-nothing approach

When looking at the leaderboard among home runs in the National League, one name really stands out…and his body of work in 2019 is fascinating.

Clearly, the top three are reigning MVP Christian Yelich, 2019 candidate Cody Bellinger, and 2019 Home Run Derby champion Pete Alonso. The fourth place man might be a bit of a surprise: Hunter Renfroe.

In fact, over the past 162 games through Monday night, Renfroe has hit an even 50 home runs, according to a stat from Ryan Spaeder on Twitter.

Already to his career high of 29 home runs through the end of July, Renfroe is on pace for a breakout power campaign. However, the biggest issue is that Renfroe is an all-or-nothing threat. Boasting an over 29 percent career strikeout rate, Renfroe is becoming the normal rather than the outlier in today’s game. One fascinating stat is that the same 29 percent rate is also the amount of Renfroe’s hits that are home runs. In fact, is it nearly the exact same, as 29.109 percent of his hits are home runs, and his strikeout rate is 29.260. What’s even more fascinating is that Renfroe’s strikeout rate doesn’t even put him that close to the top 10 in the stat. His 98 strikeouts have Renfroe ranked 38th in the league.

One thing that is working in Renfroe’s favor is that he is doing major damage in a heavily favored pitchers locale. At his home stadium of Petco Park, Renfroe is homering every 12.9 at bats and every 11 overall at all parks in 2019. The rest of the Padres team has just 133 home runs this season in 3,232 at bats. That is good for a home run every 24.3 at bats. This also includes the home run every 9.8 at bats from Franmil Reyes and the every 16.4 at bats for Manny Machado. If you take out those three players, the team has next to no power. Overall, Petco Park has a 94 in Park Rating for hitters in 2019, making it a clear pitchers park.

According to his WAR, Renfroe’s 3.0 is the second most valuable player on the Padres, ranking just behind Fernando Tatis, Jr. and ahead of Machado. This also has Renfroe ranked as the 36th best in the game among hitters this season.

Renfroe just doesn’t put the ball on the ground with any success, with just 80 of his at bats resulting in a ground ball. Not surprising, in those, he is hitting .213. However, when he hits the ball in the air or on a line, he is hitting just extra base hits. Of his 34 hits on fly balls, 30 of those are home runs or doubles and he is hitting .351 with a 1.574 OPS. On a line drive, 14 of his 25 hits going for extra bases. It’s easy to say that when a guy keeps the ball off the ground and doesn’t strike out, he will have success, but Renfroe takes this to a new level.

The stats do not lie, Renfroe has made himself into one of the most feared power hitters in the game over the last calendar year. The only question is, how should this be valued? As expected, with the low batting average of .238 and the high home run to hit percentage, Renfroe has only driven in 58 runs on his 29 home runs. Basically, the slugger is all or nothing, with his all being an awful lot and his nothing being absolutely nothing.

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