10 Hitter BABIP Decliners For 2018 — A Review

Yesterday, I reviewed the list of 11 potential BABIP surgers for 2018 I published in mid-February. Today, let’s look at my BABIP decliner list. Given my past successes with decliners vs surgers list, I’m betting this list is going to look good. Let’s see if that turns out true.

2018 BABIP Decliners
Name 2017 xBABIP 2017 BABIP 2018 BABIP Diff
Jeimer Candelario 0.278 0.351 0.279 -0.072
Mike Zunino 0.289 0.355 0.268 -0.087
Rafael Devers 0.277 0.342 0.281 -0.061
Lonnie Chisenhall 0.261 0.326 0.366 0.040
Avisail Garcia 0.332 0.392 0.271 -0.121
Javier Baez 0.288 0.345 0.347 0.002
Jose Altuve 0.313 0.370 0.352 -0.018
Marwin Gonzalez 0.287 0.343 0.301 -0.042
Delino DeShields 0.302 0.358 0.280 -0.078
Miguel Sano 0.320 0.375 0.286 -0.089
Unweighted Avg 0.295 0.356 0.303 -0.053

Daaaaamn, this performed well, as eight of the 10 hitters suffered BABIP declines. Not only that, but those declines were significant. On average, the hitters that did decline did so by a whopping .071 points! That’s equivalent to a .371 BABIP plummeting to .300! That’s huuuuuuuuge. Furthermore, the group’s 2018 BABIP settled just above their 2017 xBABIP. I remind you that xBABIP is not meant to be a projection, but this is also a reminder that it’s a much better metric to guide you in projecting next season’s BABIP than BABIP itself.

Avisail Garcia went from easily leading the league in BABIP in 2017 to falling off a cliff, posting a sub-.300 BABIP since his partial season in 2014. Of course, injuries may have played a role here, as he was limited to just 385 plate appearances. Driving the decline was a drop in LD% and rise in FB%, which combined with an increase in IFFB%, means that a higher percentage of his plate appearances ended in harmless pop-ups.

It was an absolutely disastrous season for Miguel Sano, who experienced a drop in power and also saw his BABIP decline precipitously. For a guy who strikes out in the mid-30% range, we relied on him to post inflated BABIP marks to ensure his batting average doesn’t destroy our team. However, he never actually possessed such inflated BABIP skills, and that good luck finally caught up to him. Not helping things were a dramatic decline in LD% and increase in IFFB%. I’m still buying low here because of the power, but he reaaaaaallllly needs to cut that strikeout rate down. All he needs to do is get that strikeout rate down to around 30% and peak Chris Davis seasons will be in his future.

Well, duh, everyone knew Mike Zunino wasn’t going to repeat that .355 BABIP. It really came out of nowhere given his weak historical BABIP marks. Sure enough, his BABIP dropped right back toward his previous levels, and that one-year LD% spike proved to be just a blip. He still brought the power, but he’s a batting average killer.

Delino DeShields’ lucky 2017 BABIP really propped up his sleeper popularity heading into 2018 drafts. If only those owners realized that BABIP was not going to be repeated, they could have avoided the bust! I still like some aspects of his skill set, but will he get another chance at a full-time job? And if so, will he bat lead-off or get stuck at the bottom of the order?

Lonnie Chisenhall was one of just two whose BABIP didn’t fall, but rather surge even higher. Of course, it came in just 84 at-bats due to injury, so we could essentially throw his result out. However, he did raise his LD% and his IFFB% fell to a career low, so his batted ball profile did improve.

Man, it’s the third straight year Javier Baez has posted a BABIP of at least .336. However, unlike in 2017 when he posted a weak LD%, he raised it to above the league average, which makes his BABIP look far less fortunate this time. His plate approach makes him seemingly extremely high risk, though, as he swings at everything, posting the second highest Swing% and O-Swing% among qualified hitters. That’s the only reason he isn’t striking out more than 30% of the time, considering his SwStk% that also ranks second in baseball. After a breakout fantasy year that undoubtedly has raised his 2019 cost, I’m staying far away.

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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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Eddie Rosario (.316 BABIP vs .274 xBABIP) and Scooter Gennett (.358 BABIP vs .320 xBABIP) seem to be likely regression candidates for 2019 in the same vein as those above.