2020 Forecast — Hitter BABIP Decliners, A Review

Today, I finish up reviewing my 2020 Forecast BABIP lists with the BABIP decliners. Once again, I used my xBABIP equation to identify the hitters who most outperformed their xBABIP marks in 2019. Now let’s see how they performed over the short 2020 season.

BABIP Decliners
Name 2019 BABIP 2019 xBABIP Diff 2020 BABIP 2020 BABIP – 2019 BABIP
Yoan Moncada 0.406 0.333 0.073 0.315 -0.091
Tim Anderson 0.399 0.336 0.063 0.383 -0.016
Tom Murphy 0.340 0.282 0.058 N/A N/A
Fernando Tatis Jr. 0.410 0.354 0.056 0.306 -0.104
Francisco Mejia 0.319 0.265 0.054 0.069 -0.250
Bo Bichette 0.368 0.315 0.053 0.352 -0.016
Kris Bryant 0.331 0.279 0.052 0.264 -0.067
Keston Hiura 0.402 0.351 0.051 0.273 -0.129
Michael Chavis 0.347 0.296 0.051 0.280 -0.067

Success! Success! Success! Amazingly, even over a small 60 game sample size at most, every single hitter who played (Tom Murphy missed the entire season to injury), suffered a decline in BABIP. And it wasn’t even a small decline either. Using an unweighted average, the non-Murphy group posted a sizzling .373 BABIP in 2019, but just a .280 mark in 2020. That’s a massive drop. If we exclude Francisco Mejia and his 0.069 BABIP over a tiny sample, the decline doesn’t look as bad, but still represents a significant fall, from .380 to .310.

Your eyebrows should be raised any time you see a BABIP over .400, which means there was a strong chance Yoan Moncada would be overvalued in 2020 if any of your leaguemates (or even you!) were willing to pay for a .300+ batting average, to go along with his power and speed. His xBABIP suggests his BABIP skills didn’t actually improve any, but rather he simply benefited from greater fortune with his balls in play falling for hits more frequently due to sheer randomness. Naturally, the good times didn’t last, and he reverted right back to where he was the previous two seasons. With the high strikeout rate, that meant serious batting average damage risk. That also resulted in a decline in OBP, providing him fewer opportunities to steal a base. Amazingly, he didn’t attempt a steal at all this season. Moncada did test positive for COVID-19 before the season began, so you have to give him some sort of mulligan here, except that everything looked normal in a regular “regression to the mean” type year. We’ll see if he comes closer to his 2019 power performance this year while in better health.

Tim Anderson is the second White Sox hitter in a row on this list! He tied for the smallest BABIP decline on here, which is amazing considering how high his 2019 mark was. My new yet-to-be-published xBABIP equation gives him much more credit than my old equation, but still, no hitter’s true talent BABIP is this high. With his power continuing to rise, he’s already done more than I ever expected him to. You still won’t see him on any of my teams, because I just can’t imagine there’s any more upside here, and the downside is seemingly much greater given the price he’s likely to command.

Fernando Tatis Jr. took baseball by storm during his 2019 rookie campaign, so you would be ever so slightly forgiven if you wanted to gloss over that insane .410 BABIP. His xBABIP still suggested that he owned mad BABIP skills, but just not .400+ skills. Hopefully, the high BABIP didn’t scare you away altogether, as he was still the second most valuable hitter and third most valuable player according to our auction calculator. It’s nearly impossible not to believe this is real right now and it’s CRAZY that he was only 21 this past season.

Francisco Mejia only recorded 39 at-bats, so his 2019 to 2020 BABIP comparison is meaningless. It’ll be interesting to see how big an opportunity he receives with the Rays now. You would think he would be given a long leash given that they gave up Blake Snell for him.

Bo Bichette tied with Anderson for the smallest BABIP decline, but because he came up late in 2019 and was injured this season, he has still only amassed 319 at-bats with the Blue Jays. He has shown legit BABIP skills though, but perhaps not quite this high. I would like to see more walks here, as he’s looking very much like Tim Anderson, and I feel like his overall offense figures to be stronger.

Kris Bryant has been one of the inspirations for me to continue digging deeper into the drivers of hitter BABIP. He has outperformed Statcast’s xBABIP, my old xBABIP (which this article is based on), and even my new version. Sadly, everything I looked it, I couldn’t explain. So every year, I project a decline in BABIP, and hey, I was finally right! Combined with a power outage, along with injuries limiting him to just 147 plate appearances, he was one of the season’s bigger busts. He’s still just 29 though, so while I assume his power will rebound, I can’t be sure about his BABIP given his extreme fly ball tendency and, as a result, lots of pop-ups.

Keston Hiura was another member of the .400+ BABIP club in 2019, but it came in only 314 at-bats as Hiura wasn’t promoted until several months into the 2019 season. Amazingly, his BABIP ended up tumbling all the way below .300, making him the biggest decliner not named Mejia. His xBABIP confirms that he lost a significant chunk of the skills driving that mark, but it was more likely just randomness over two small samples, rather than a massive change in skills. His power looks here to stay, but the strikeouts and BABIP are a concern, both of which also hurt his steals pace.

Despite tons of swings and misses leading to strikeouts, Michael Chavis made a splash during his 2019 debut, thanks to his power and high BABIP. Unfortunately, he couldn’t sustain either of those and his results came crashing down. Assuming Bobby Dalbec sticks at first base, the Red Sox will have to decide if Chavis’ awful defense at second base is worth hoping his offense rebounds.

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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3 years ago

Good stuff.