I have an article at Beyond the Box Score that details the methods behind what I'm about to present to you. Call this a preview. Not a sneak preview, because I'm not being sneaky, nor am I sneaky in general.
What I attempted to do was to figure out the difference between a hard hit fly ball and a weakly hit fly ball using fly ball distance from the PITCHf/x database. Long story short, I came up with 311 feet as the cutoff. So, a soft fly ball is less than 311 feet. A hard fly ball is greater than or equal to 311 feet. If you're interested in the methodology, go read my article on BtBS.
So, naturally, I applied this methodology to the Royals hitters. I took some liberties defining what a "Royals" hitter was. My dataset was for 2012-2014, and I wanted only those players who had played for the team for all 3 of those seasons. So, I've got Alex Gordon, Salvador Perez, Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Billy Butler, and Jarrod Dyson.
What I'll present to you are the league average numbers such that you have a baseline for comparison. Then I'll present each player with some commentary. In each category, I'll show you the number of fly balls, the average distance, the batting average, slugging percentage, production (PRD, 1.7*BA+SLG), and frequency.
Gordon allocates a few more of his fly balls to the hard hit category compared to average, but he doesn't hit the balls as hard. The average distance and production are lower than league average. Gordon, though pretty close to league average distance in the soft category, has higher production than average.
Perez hits fewer hard fly balls than average. He does close to average damage on those fly balls, though. His weakly hit fly balls, while going for more distance, result in slightly lower production.
Hosmer rivals Giancarlo Stanton in his frequency allocation of soft and hard fly balls, but that's where the comparison stops. Hosmer's soft fly balls are about average in every way. However, his hard hit fly balls aren't hit quite as hard, as shown by his lower average distance and lower production compared to MLB average.
Moustakas is exactly average in his frequency allocation. His average distance is fairly close to MLB average. His production on the soft flies is average. However, his production on the hard hit fly balls is below average.
I'm not sure where those accusations of "he has pop" are coming from. Cain hits far fewer hard fly balls than average, and his production and distance on those hard hit fly balls are below average. However, he does squeeze some extra production out of the soft flies, likely due to his speed.
Ouch. Even worse than Cain. In every way.
Butler allocates more fly balls to the hard hit category compared to average. Despite a larger average distance within that category, he has about average production. He squeezes some extra production out of the soft fly balls.
Blech. Dyson and Escobar aren't good at fly balls. At least Dyson hits more hard fly balls than Escobar does.
So, after that examination, there are several players whose production on hard hit fly balls is below average. Those players' average distances are a bit below average, and so is their production. A few players have higher than average production on the soft fly balls. I'm calling this a point in favor of the theory that opposing outfielders play deeper at Kauffman to prevent the double but allow the single, but to be really confident about that, I would need to compare our guys' fly balls at Kauffman to those hit at other stadiums. At that point, sample sizes might get too small. Granted, I don't know exactly what a big or small sample size is in this analysis. I feel more confident about Butler's results than Dyson's, but nothing really seems out of whack with expectations. I'd expect Dyson, Cain, and Escobar to hit weak fly balls.
So, given that Butler signed a big contract with an opposing team, is there any information from this analysis that might reveal why the A's gave him a moderately sized bucket of money? Maybe.
He hit a similar, albeit less favorable (1.9 percentage point drop in hard hit fly ball %), frequency compared to the 2012-2013 numbers, but the hard hit fly ball distance was 11 feet less. His production numbers on the hard hit fly balls plummeted. I think there's evidence of decline--I would guess 11 foot drops in fly ball distance don't happen by accident--but I think Butler got pretty unlucky too. The A's are betting on Butler being unlucky and/or injured in 2014.
So, make of this what you will. Seems to me like Butler hits the ball the hardest out of the group, but he was dragged down by 2014 numbers. He could be due for a rebound, though Oakland's home park is pitcher-friendly. I'd still expect better than his 2014.
Can the 2015 season start already?