2019 BABIP Surgers

While my xBABIP equation wasn’t developed to serve as a next season projection, you could certainly use it as a historical guide, just the way you would normally review actual BABIP marks. That’s precisely what I do to formulate my Pod Projections. One of the various ways to utilize xBABIP is to compare the hitter’s mark to his actual mark to determine how “real” the result was. Today, I’ll identify and discuss eight fantasy relevant hitters who posted xBABIP marks significantly higher than their actual marks, suggesting upside this season if they are able to maintain those underlying skills.

BABIP Surgers
Ryan Braun 0.274 0.362 -0.088
Yadier Molina 0.264 0.343 -0.079
Nick Ahmed 0.265 0.344 -0.079
Kole Calhoun 0.241 0.318 -0.077
Dexter Fowler 0.210 0.286 -0.076
Lewis Brinson 0.257 0.320 -0.063
Chris Owings 0.265 0.328 -0.063
JaCoby Jones 0.281 0.343 -0.062

Don’t forget about Ryan Braun as a valuable contributor…when he’s on the field. He still owns power, though more fly balls would be nice. And his xBABIP was easily his highest going back to 2012, as far as my spreadsheet goes. He’s a good bet to rebound back over the .300 BABIP plateau, bringing his average back up into positive value territory.

I will generally auto-avoid 36-year-old catchers coming off the second highest homer total of his career. But at least you could point to Yadier Molina’s xBABIP for some optimism. Like Braun above, this was Molina’s highest xBABIP, and lowest actual BABIP, going back to 2012.

Nick Ahmed has underperformed his xBABIP in all four years on my spreadsheet, but this was by far the largest discrepancy. It suggests that if Ahmed could maintain those skills (he probably won’t, as that LD% is due for a decline), he should at least get his BABIP up to a new career high. The good news is the power appears to be real.

Talk about a roller coaster ride, Kole Calhoun certainly took his owners on one. His BABIP bounced all over the place throughout the season, ultimately settling significantly below his xBABIP. This came after three straight seasons of marginally outperforming his xBABIP, so he’s no consistent underperformer like Ahmed. I do worry about his tendency to ground into the shift, as his rate has risen each season on my spreadsheet, and ranked third in baseball among full-time hitters last season.

You didn’t think Dexter Fowler was really that bad, did you? Yes, his skills clearly declined, as this was his first sub-.300 xBABIP going back to 2012. But a .286 expected mark is still wayyyyyy above his sad .210 actual mark. With Jose Martinez still around, Fowler won’t have much of a leash if he gets off to a slow start. However, he’ll likely cost nothing, so makes for a reasonable gamble late.

Lewis Brinson was our 13th best prospect heading into the 2018 season. That didn’t work out too well, as Brinson limped to a .248 wOBA. The good news is those BABIP skills were actually pretty good, thanks to power and speed, a low IFFB%, and rarely pulling grounders into the shift. This xBABIP was even with a low line drive rate. The Marlins offense stinks, but he’s an excellent post-hype prospect buy.

Royals manager Ned Yost has already stated that Chris Owings will play fairly regularly, and he brings a touch of power and a good speed to a team that likes to run. Owings has posted an xBABIP and BABIP over .300 every season in the league, and his BABIP skills were right in line with where they always were. I’m a buyer in deeper and AL-Only leagues.

In his first extended opportunity with the Tigers, JaCoby Jones went 11/13, but hit just .207 with a .274 wOBA. Because the team is terrible, he figures to have a starting job to open the season. That’s a good thing, because xBABIP thinks his results should have been a whole lot better. Imagine value earned by both power and speed that isn’t completely washed away by a putrid batting average. Excellent center field defense gives him a longer leash.

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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Uncle Spikemember
3 years ago

Great stuff, Mike! I’ve got my eyes on Braun, Calhoun, Fowler, and Brinson. In regards to Yadier, does xBABIP account for foot speed in any way? If not, it’s worth noting that he put up the third worst sprint speed in the league last year (only faster than Pujols and McCann), and should naturally have a lower xBABIP than BABIP.

3 years ago
Reply to  Uncle Spike

i like guys like braun/beltre etc – old and still contributing. fantasy leauges (atleast the leagues ive played in) tend to have a huge age bias.