2019 BABIP Surgers — A Review

Today, I move onto reviewing my preseason BABIP calls, starting with the surgers. In late February, I used my xBABIP equation to identify eight hitters whose actual BABIP marks were significantly below their xBABIP marks, suggesting a potentially dramatic BABIP jump in 2019. Let’s find out if that did indeed occur for these hitters.

BABIP Surgers
Name 2018 BABIP 2019 BABIP Diff
Ryan Braun 0.274 0.325 0.051
Yadier Molina 0.264 0.289 0.025
Nick Ahmed 0.265 0.280 0.015
Kole Calhoun 0.241 0.265 0.024
Dexter Fowler 0.210 0.294 0.084
Lewis Brinson 0.257 0.255 -0.002
Chris Owings 0.265 0.222 -0.043
JaCoby Jones 0.281 0.304 0.023
Unweighted Group Average 0.257 0.279 0.022
League Average 0.296 0.298 0.002

Out of eight potential BABIP surgers, six actually did surge. The two non-surgers declined (though Lewis Brinson barely did) over a small sample. Brinson was in the minors most of the season after another weak start, while Chris Owings was terrible and lost his job. Overall, the group, even including Brinson and Owings and weighting them the same as every other hitter, increased their BABIP marks by an average of .022, well ahead of the league jump of just .002.

Ryan Braun was coming off a career worst BABIP and the second straight below .300, but xBABIP didn’t believe the end was near. Sure enough, his BABIP bounced right back to his career average. He’ll be 36 next season, so injuries will continue to limit his value, but right now the only red flags (which certainly shouldn’t be ignored), are a jump in strikeout rate and spike in SwStk% to a career worst. Given his frequent off-days and nagging injuries, he’s more valuable in leagues that allow daily transactions.

Yadier Molina couldn’t keep that late career home run surge up, but his BABIP did rebound off its lowest mark since 2006, on the back of a career best LD%. It’s actually pretty amazing that he still failed to post a league average BABIP despite such a hefty line drive rate.

While it wasn’t a very significant spike, Nick Ahmed did push his BABIP up to the second highest mark of his relatively short career. He even managed to do that despite a LD% that slipped below 20% for the first time since 2015. Now with power and some speed, his value is no longer limited to NL-Only leagues.

Kole Calhoun had posted BABIP marks above .300 for four straight seasons from 2013 to 2016, but hasn’t eclipsed the .284 mark since. That’s likely the result of the shift, as his BABIP on grounders, which stood above .208 from 2014-2016, hasn’t exceeded .187 since, and has sat between just .150 and .160 over the last two seasons. My equation does account for grounders into the shift, so I’ll be curious to see what his xBABIP this year was.

It was easy to call for the end of Dexter Fowler as a productive every day player, but it was mostly an unlucky BABIP that fueled his disappointing 2018. He ended up fully rebounding and his BABIP actually jumped just above his 2018 xBABIP. Unfortunately, the improvement still only resulted in a .238 batting average, so he’s still not much of an appealing target in shallow leagues.

Injury limited JaCoby Jones to about a half a season, but he did push his BABIP above .300 like xBABIP expected, despite little in his history suggesting such would happen. Strikeouts remain an issue, but he does offer a nice little blend of power and speed. The problem now is whether his defense can keep him in the lineup, as it took a serious nosedive this year (-21 UZR/150) after being strong in 2018 (14.8 UZR/150).

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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Kole Calhoun’s xBABIP should be interesting. His .337 xWOBA provides for encouraging optimism.