2020 Forecast — Hitter BABIP Surgers, A Review

Let’s move along to reviewing my 2020 BABIP surgers list. I used my xBABIP equation and identified the fantasy relevant names who most underperformed that mark. While merely underperforming your xBABIP doesn’t automatically mean a BABIP spike is forthcoming, I’d say the odds are pretty high for the biggest underperformers. Also important is the hitter maintains the underlying skills driving that xBABIP. If his skills falter, then of course his BABIP isn’t going to rise to meet the previous year xBABIP. Since BABIP is heavily influenced by luck, a shortened season means even more randomness than usual. Remembering that, let’s see how they ended up performing.

BABIP Surgers
Name 2019 BABIP 2019 xBABIP Diff 2020 BABIP 2020 BABIP – 2019 BABIP
Marcell Ozuna 0.259 0.355 -0.096 0.391 0.132
Jurickson Profar 0.218 0.299 -0.081 0.293 0.075
Yadier Molina 0.289 0.357 -0.068 0.281 -0.008
Danny Jansen 0.230 0.296 -0.066 0.190 -0.040
Lorenzo Cain 0.301 0.359 -0.058 0.375 0.074
Brandon Crawford 0.274 0.331 -0.057 0.303 0.029
Justin Turner 0.304 0.360 -0.056 0.347 0.043
Derek Fisher 0.244 0.298 -0.054 0.300 0.056

Of the eight hitters, six of them did indeed enjoy a BABIP surge. And it was a huge surge at that, as the unweighted average surger went from a .267 BABIP to a .335 BABIP! That’s massive.

Marcell Ozuna was the list’s biggest underperformer and what a season it was to identify on any sort of surgers list. Ozuna went from posting a career low BABIP to a career high, which is something I see quite often and always chuckle at the craziness of it. He also posted career bests in FB% and HR/FB, along with walk rate, all en route to a spectacular .444 wOBA. It’s too bad the season was so short, as this looked to be a legit career year. How much of this is sustainable for 2021 and how much regression he’ll suffer from is anyone’s guess. I’m going to guess he’ll be overvalued as he’s 30 years old now and literally everything clicked for him. There’s only downside from here.

After finally enjoying his first full season and performing very solidly in 2018, Jurickson Profar followed up with a weaker 2019, driven by a .218 BABIP. He fully rebounded, and then some, this year, as he posted the highest BABIP of his career. He’s a free agent now, so his outlook will depend entirely on where he ends up.

In another post, I actually argued that Yadier Molina’s xBABIP shouldn’t be believed, so although he technically made this list based on the math, I would have removed him from my personal list as a BABIP surger. His strong 2019 xBABIP was driven by a 27% LD%, which was easily the highest of his career, and therefore highly unlikely to be repeated. Sure enough, his LD% fell to just below his career average this season, and his BABIP actually declined slightly. He’s a good reminder that even expected stats can’t be blindly relied upon, as the inputs themselves could be fluky.

Danny Jansen was the second, and interestingly, other catcher to make this list but see a decline in BABIP. That’s pretty amazing considering Jansen’s 2019 BABIP was just .230 to begin with. How much lower can it get?! The answer is…below .200 apparently. There are some encouraging offensive signs here, but the former top prospect no longer seems to be a lock as the team’s catcher of the future.

Sure, Lorenzo Cain’s BABIP skyrocketed just like xBABIP suggested, but…it came in just 18 at-bats as Cain opted out of the season after just five games. He’ll be entering his age 35 season this year, but don’t totally forget he exists.

No one is excited to roster Brandon Crawford, but his BABIP did rise off his career low set in 2019 (ignoring his small sample 2011 debut), and both his ISO and HR/FB rate notched new career highs as well. Actually, this is the highest wOBA he ever posted! Okay, you can return to being bored to tiers thinking about Crawford.

Even as a fly ball hitter, Justin Turner has consistently posted above average BABIP marks, but he vastly underperformed in 2019. This season, his BABIP jumped to its highest mark since his half season of 2014 and the second highest mark of his career. With dwindling power, though, he’s hard to roster in a shallow league at your corner, as you would need to make up those home runs elsewhere.

Derek Fisher’s BABIP jump came over just 31 at-bats, as he has once again failed to receive an extended look. I wish a team would just give him 500+ plate appearances, leave him alone, and see what they have. With power and speed, he’s an intriguing fantasy contributor, but he needs to be given a real chance first to showcase his skills.

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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Unfortunately, Fisher’s outfield defence has produced a couple of astonishing gaffes during his short time in Toronto. They’ve been bad enough to have seemingly diminished confidence in his ability to catch even routine fly balls. It’s a shame because the raw skills are there. But the refined baseball skills…perhaps less so.


If only they had a position where a player could bat and never have to take the field.