2021 Review — Surprise! You Believed Their BABIPs, But Shouldn’t Have – The Decliners

Yesterday, I listed and discussed a handful of hitters whose actual 2021 BABIP marks were within 0.010 of league average, which normally wouldn’t make you think twice about its repeatability for the 2022 season. However, these hitters posted significantly higher xBABIP marks at least 0.020 higher than their actual marks. Let’s now flip over to the hitters who posted near-league average BABIP marks, but this time finished with xBABIP marks significantly below those BABIP marks.

Player BABIP xBABIP Diff Statcast xBABIP Sprint Speed PSIFAGB R%* PSIFAGB L%* Opposite GB%
Brett Phillips 0.302 0.248 0.054 0.250 28.5 0.0% 13.2% 2.3%
Eric Sogard 0.293 0.252 0.040 0.234 25.6 0.0% 1.4% 12.1%
Francisco Mejia 0.299 0.266 0.033 0.261 27.0 0.5% 9.6% 8.6%
Cavan Biggio 0.290 0.259 0.031 0.265 28.3 0.0% 18.3% 5.3%
Asdrubal Cabrera 0.283 0.253 0.030 0.262 24.9 1.3% 11.9% 3.5%
Thairo Estrada 0.286 0.257 0.028 0.241 28.5 0.0% 0.0% 5.5%
Miguel Sano 0.291 0.267 0.023 0.275 26.5 15.9% 0.0% 5.0%
George Springer 0.286 0.264 0.023 0.259 28.4 6.0% 0.0% 2.5%
Curt Casali 0.287 0.266 0.021 0.270 24.9 7.8% 0.0% 2.3%
Dataset Avg 0.293 0.295 -0.002 0.291 27.0 2.2% 4.4% 6.1%
*Pull Shift IF Alignment GB As R%/L%

Brett Phillips was far and away the largest xBABIP beater of the group, and even so, it still brought him to just a .206 batting average! With his combination of power and speed, he would be an exciting fantasy asset if he didn’t strike out so much. He’ll return to a reserve outfielder role in Tampa.

Another Rays hitter makes the top of the list, this time young catcher Francisco Mejia who enjoyed a respectable second-catcher-in-a-deep league fantasy season. But xBABIP wasn’t totally buying it. It’s only been about a full season’s worth of plate appearances, but so far, he hasn’t displayed the power he has shown at times in the minors, while a low walk rate has kept his career OBP just below .300. Speculating here is just blind faith that something will suddenly click and he’ll perform closer to what initial expectations were when he was a top prospect.

It was a forgettable season for Cavan Biggio, who battled injury and was limited to just 294 PAs. Even when he played, he was weak at the plate, posting a .298 wOBA with little power. Amazingly, xBABIP thought his results should have been even worse and that he was fortunate to have even posted a .290 BABIP. Check out that insane rate of pulled grounders into the shift! This was nothing new for him, as he actually posted a slightly higher mark in 2020. The good news is he does hit line drives and avoids pop-ups despite his high fly ball rate.

He significantly outperformed his xBABIP in 2020 as well, making it two straight seasons. But remember that given the small sample size, it really adds up to one full season, and anyone could overperform or underperform their xBABIP in one season. During his larger sample 2019, his BABIP almost perfectly matched his xBABIP, so I definitely wouldn’t claim he’ll be a consistent xBABIP beater in the future. He does bring some power and speed and he’s valuable in OBP leagues, but with a lower batting order slot and potentially poor batting average, he’s not an ideal shallower league bounceback target.

Miguel Sano has made a living out of overperforming his xBABIP. In seven seasons going back to 2015, he has outperformed in six of them! Over the last three seasons, he has suddenly been significantly prone to pulling grounders into the shift, and his BABIP has come down, but not enough to meet his xBABIP. The scary thing is that even with these respectable BABIP marks, he still hasn’t hit higher than .247 since 2017 and has posted a mark as low as .199 during a half season in 2018. If his BABIP declines to come closer to his xBABIP, all of his home run value might be lost.

Unlike Sano, George Springer has certainly not been a consistent xBABIP outperformer. In fact, during the same period as quoted for Sano, he has only outperformed in two of seven seasons, and one of those outperformances was only by .003 points. This was easily Springer’s lowest career xBABIP, excluding his 2014 debut that I don’t have the data for. It might be because of a career high fly ball rate and pop-up rate. If he remains an extreme fly ball hitter with a FB% over 40%, it’s likely going to be a struggle to get that BABIP back above .300 to near his career mark.

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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9 months ago

Looks like one player made this list by accident. Dataset Avg actually had a higher xBABIP than BABIP. He’s a free agent, though, so not fantasy relevant. (But also… does the average include players not listed on the table in the article?)

9 months ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

Thanks – colloquially, I thought it meant average of the dataset shown, which didn’t make sense, but it does now.