2019 BABIP Decliners — A Review

Today, I move along to reviewing the six hitters whose 2018 xBABIP marks fell significantly short of their actual BABIP marks, suggesting serious downside in 2019. Let’s see how they ended up performing.

BABIP Decliners
Name 2018 BABIP 2019 BABIP Diff
Willy Adames 0.378 0.320 -0.058
Renato Nunez 0.315 0.272 -0.043
Jorge Alfaro 0.406 0.364 -0.042
Jeff McNeil 0.359 0.337 -0.022
Justin Smoak 0.297 0.223 -0.074
Adam Engel 0.322 0.343 0.021
Unweighted Group Average 0.346 0.310 -0.036
League Average 0.296 0.298 0.002

Success! Of the six hitters listed, five of them suffered BABIP declines, and all of them dramatic drops. Only Adam Engel failed to regress, and actually improved by a meaningful margin.

Willy Adames seemed like an easy call coming off a .378 BABIP, but he was a top prospect with a history of high BABIP marks in the minors. So you never know what fantasy owners decide to buy into. His BABIP fell precipitously, but did remain above the league average. He even improved his BABIP skills by raising his LD% to nearly 23%, from sub-20%, and cutting his already better than league average IFFB% nearly in half. Now this looks like a pretty solid batted ball profile. Throw in surprising home run power that was sustained from 2018’s breakout and you actually find an exciting young player.

As a slow-footed, fly ball hitter who hit a ton of pop-ups, it was a miracle that Renato Nunez managed to post a league average BABIP in 2018, much less a mark above .300. Sure enough, the regression fairy paid a visit and his BABIP came crashing through the .300 barrier. It’s a good thing he bopped 31 homers, or he would have been pretty worthless in both fantasy and real life baseball.

It’s rare to find a catcher with serious BABIP skills, but that’s exactly what Jorge Alfaro is showing us. Obviously, no one expects a hitter to maintain a BABIP over .400, so his appearance on the BABIP decliner list was no surprise. Yet, he still managed to post an elite .364 mark this year. How? in 431 at-bats, he hit nary a pop-up! He only hit a league average rate of line drives and his high grounder rate shouldn’t actually help since his speed is below average. His xBABIP last year was a robust .349, so he does appear to own legit high BABIP skills. It’s too bad his plate discipline is atrocious, but he possesses enough power to be above average offensively anyway.

Jeff McNeil cut his fly ball and pop-up rates, and yet his BABIP still fell by .022 points. They key here was unlocking the power he had teased in the minors in 2018, leading to a strong fantasy season.

It’s sad when even a .297 BABIP is at risk of tumbling, but that’s exactly the situation Justin Smoak found himself in heading into the season. Sure enough, it happened, as Smoak’s BABIP plummeted to a career low. The slow-footed fly ball hitter has struggled against all those shifts, and his ground ball BABIP fell to the second lowest mark of his career.

Adam Engel only got in about half a season, so sample size caveats apply, which is probably why he was the only one who exceeded his 2018 BABIP. I don’t know how he does it, as he posted a pitiful 21.3% IFFB%!

We hoped you liked reading 2019 BABIP Decliners — A Review by Mike Podhorzer!

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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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DBall
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DBall

Alfaro is actually fast according to statcast sprint speed at 28.8 f/s, a tick faster than Tim Anderson (28.7).

Lunch Angle
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Lunch Angle

how long does it take him to get up to that top speed though, acceleration is probably the factor leading to his lumbering speed score

Anon
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Anon

Baseball Savant has category for HP to 1B. Alfaro ranks 186th out of 510 guys at 4.32 seconds to 1B. That’s the same as McCutchen, Peraza and JBJ among others. It’s better than Heyward and Blackmon, to pick two surprising names. Among catchers it places him 4th behind only Realmuto, Francisco Mejia and Kiner-Falefa and it drops off pretty quickly after the top 10.

Savant also has a category called “Bolts” which is runs to 1B where the runner exceeded 30 ft/sec at any point. Trea Turner had by far the most with 116. The only 2 catchers with a bolt this year were Realmuto with 3 and Alfaro with 1.

Mike’s observation was based on Speed Score which includes Stolen Base Percentage, Frequency of Stolen Base Attempts, Percentage of Triples, and Runs Scored Percentage, per the Glossary. The 1st two are not totally indicative of speed and while Marlins Park is an OK triples ballpark, Philly was a terrible triples park. The final component depends on teammates and ALfaro obviously had bad teammates this year.

carter
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carter

Alfaro is pretty freakish tbh. I always knew he was pretty fast. I wish statcast would publish max speed, since I think that is what most people actually care about anyhow. I think Alfaro def hit 30 ft/sec, but I do question some of the other names on the bolts list as there are a lot of people with 1 bolt who are some of the slowest runners in the MLB.