I understand that BABIP data is not necessarily complete data. However, I do think there is some value in looking at what players’ BABIP looks like relative to their careers. For this article, I just explored qualified 1B according to Fangraphs data and took out rookies (think: Byung Ho Park) since we don’t have past data to compare it to. Again, this data should not significantly alter your fantasy plans, but is worth considering when looking to buy or sell the MLB qualified first basemen.
For this table, I simply subtracted Career BABIP from the players’ 2016 BABIP. I could’ve included more players, but I wanted to start small instead of filtering out every single player with 1B eligibility regardless of sample size. A positive difference means that a player is outperforming their BABIP, whereas a negative difference means the opposite where a player is underperforming their career BABIP. Here is what the table looks like:
|Name||Team||2016 BABIP||Career BABIP||Difference|
|Travis Shaw||Red Sox||0.353||0.328||0.025|
|Hanley Ramirez||Red Sox||0.331||0.327||0.004|
|Jose Abreu||White Sox||0.301||0.337||-0.036|
Out of 27 players, only 11 have showed a positive gain in BABIP this season versus their career, which is not surprising. With the popularity of shifts and the general decrease in batting average, I would expect to see less players outperforming their career BABIP as opposed to underperforming it. Let’s look a little closer at these over performers.
It is not surprising that Eric Hosmer has a high BABIP, but an almost 50 point difference is rather significant. Hosmer is having an excellent year and I felt confident in his performance to boost him into the second tier of first basemen in my rankings last week. This difference is one reason to think he could potentially regress. If Hosmer has legitimately turned another corner, he is capable of hitting for high averages as he does frequently put the ball in play. His Hard Hit % is at 36%, which is 3 percentage points higher than his career rate (33.1%), so there is one sign that a high BABIP is sustainable. Another factor to consider is high opposite field hit % which is almost even with his pull percentage, though he has dropped in hits in the center portion of the field. In other words, his change in approach could be a reason for this spike in BABIP. The one figure that does not think this is sustainable is a 6.6 percentage point drop in his line drive rate from last season and his increase in groundballs. Maybe he is adjusting to various shifts and finding holes, which bodes well for his BA. If that’s the case, teams will start adjusting and he will have to increase his LD% in order to make teams pay for playing him straight up. I am curious to see if this increase is sustainable.
The other guys towards the top are more question marks. Mark Reynolds is playing in a much better ballpark, so his BABIP jump makes sense. I have no real answer for Jaso’s spike and Travis Shaw is still finding his BABIP sweet spot as we don’t have as significant of a sample size to come to startling conclusions. The rest of the overachievers are right around where they should be. Logan Morrison confuses me because he had been performing so poorly, that he was certainly somebody I would expect to have an underachieving BABIP. Just shows how you can’t rely on just one statistic.
Definitely some serious underachieving going on from the first base slot this season. The most significant drop-off has been Joey Votto whose 2016 BABIP is over 80 points lower than his career. Votto has an intriguing profile this season. His Hard% and Soft% are above his career norms, whereas his Med% has dropped significantly. Additionally, his LD% is up, which makes you think his BABIP should be higher. The numbers that stand out for me with Votto are the decrease in his BB% and the increase in his K%, by rather significant margins. I want to say Votto should bounce back, especially with his extremely low BABIP, but his approach at the plate seems to be taking a hit as well, which I am concerned about. The best usually find ways to come on strong after a slow start, but this is one case where I am hesitant to make a move for him unless the price is really discounted. Then again, as mentioned earlier, it’s not like there are a boatload of first basemen destroying things.
Pujols’ drop in BABIP is misleading in terms of thinking he will get it back up to his career norm. Last year, his BABIP was even lower at .217, so I wouldn’t expect a bounce back in BA necessarily. Pujols is now a low batting average, high power guy, and it’s important for you to accept that if he is on your team or you are looking to acquire. He is one of the few cases where his past sample size actually skews the way we look at his data because it is so much larger than everybody else and reflects a time when he was a different player.
Santana is not a high BABIP guy, but he is somebody I like to bounce back from a slow start. He has never had a BABIP this low, and that seems to be because his Hard% and LD% are down. He is making more contact as his walks and strikeouts are both down, so if he can start making better contact, he is a nice buy low candidate. I am less bullish on the other underachievers, but I don’t think it’s bad move to try to buy low on these guys if possible, though I wouldn’t count on it for Goldschmidt and Rizzo. Jose Abreu has struggled a great deal, but he has posted a .356 and .333 BABIP in each of his first two seasons, so if those hits start falling, watch out. Currently, his Hard% is down as his Soft% is up, but an improvement is not out of the question. Especially for a career .295 hitter batting .256 along with two seasons of 30 HR’s…I just can’t believe he has totally lost it.
Again, do not use these numbers as gospel to make potential moves. Maybe look at these as a tertiary or later factor when making roster decisions in terms of buying low or selling high.