Hitter wOBA vs xwOBA — May 28, 2024

It’s been just over a month since I last reviewed the hitters that had most underperformed and overperformed their xwOBA marks. I’m not going to review how they have performed since, as the idea is for rest of season production, not just the next month.

Let’s then take another look at the current crop of underperformers and overperformers as we’re around a third of the way through the season. With this many games in the books, it should be even easier to trade for the underperfomers at a discount to their preseason prices, while the overperformers have had enough time to increase their perceived value and could bring a hefty return.

xwOBA Underperformers
Name BABIP wOBA xwOBA Diff
Christopher Morel 0.209 0.301 0.377 -0.076
Andrew Benintendi 0.204 0.215 0.287 -0.072
Brandon Nimmo 0.262 0.337 0.398 -0.061
Vinnie Pasquantino 0.232 0.308 0.368 -0.060
Francisco Lindor 0.222 0.287 0.346 -0.059
Corey Seager 0.268 0.344 0.402 -0.058

We have a new name atop the underperformer, the Cubs’ Christopher Morel! Despite dramatically cutting down on both his SwStk% and strikeout rate, along with increasing his walk rate, his wOBA has tumbled versus last year. While the power has still been good, his HR/FB rate is down a full nine percentage points, while his ISO has slipped below .200. His Barrel% has dropped, but does remain well above average in the low double digits.

The real issue here is his BABIP, which has plummeted from .303 last year to just .209 this year. That ranks as the fourth lowest among qualified hitters. Some of it is deserved though, as his LD% is well below average, while his IFFB% has more than doubled an sits ninth highest in baseball. Still, Statcast calculates he should be enjoying significantly better results. If you need power, he seems like a pretty solid target as a result.

Welp, maybe some things don’t change. Andrew Benintendi ranked second among underperformers on my original list and remains there now. Like Morel, it’s been his BABIP that has killed his results as well. He has become a fly ball hitter for some reason, which is odd given his complete semblance of power since 2021, so that definitely hasn’t helped. While he probably does deserve better results, even those expected results are weak. AL-Only leaguers probably have no choice but to hold and hope for the best.

Brandon Nimmo ranked seventh among underperformers previously, so he has moved up here, but is underperforming a bit less than before. As you might expect, his previous .416 xwOBA has come down, while his actual OBA has more or less remained stable. It’s once again a BABIP thing as he’s sporting a career low mark, despite an excellent batted ball profile. In addition, his Barrel% is sitting at a career high, but his HR/FB rate is barely above last year and his career average. A big rest of season could be in the cards if he could maintain those underlying skills.

I had a real wishy washy opinion of Vinnie Pasquantino heading into the season. On the one hand, I loved the skill set. On the other hand, he plays in a pitcher friendly home park and his 2023 season was cut short to a torn labrum in his shoulder, which required surgery. You never know how recovery from such injury and surgery is going to affect a hitter’s power.

We’re now just over 200 plate appearances in and everything looks good…except his results. Somehow, he’s managed to increase his Barrel% to double digits for the first time, and enjoy rebounds in HardHit% and maxEV over last year’s marks to settle in close to his 2022 debut levels, but his HR/FB rate has fallen into single digits. It makes no sense! Nothing here suggests his shoulder has sapped his power, but balls just aren’t leaving the yard. I just don’t know here.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, Francisco Lindor is also suffering from a career worst BABIP. His batted ball profile is right in line with past years, but the hits ain’t falling. He has also suffered a power outage, posting a career low HR/FB rate and just the second time it’s slipped into single digits, while his ISO has dropped to its lowest since 2020. While his maxEV is at a career low, his Barrel% and HardHit% are both at the second highest marks of his career. He’s still attempting steals too, so he’s an easy trade target.

It sure doesn’t seem like Corey Seager is significantly underperforming given his 11 homers, but a lot of that underperformance is what isn’t typically counted in fantasy — doubles. His ISO has slipped below .200, thanks to a shockingly low three doubles, after he hit 42 last year. That’s crazy! His BABIP is down too, as his LD% has fallen to a career worst, while he has also upped his FB% to a career high. It’s been a bizarre season so far for Seager, but I’m sure his owners are just happy he’s healthy.

xwOBA Overperformers
Name BABIP wOBA xwOBA Diff
Isaac Paredes 0.324 0.387 0.319 0.068
Ezequiel Tovar 0.387 0.344 0.283 0.061
Elias Díaz 0.347 0.340 0.282 0.058
Daulton Varsho 0.222 0.327 0.270 0.057
Connor Joe 0.323 0.355 0.303 0.052
Wilyer Abreu 0.366 0.373 0.324 0.049

Isaac Paredes jumps from ranking seventh among overperformers to the top of this list. He has actually increased both his actual wOBA and xwOBA since making that first list. We know that he has succeeded in the power department because of his pulled fly ball rate, and I’m not 100% on whether horizontal batted ball direction is accounted for in xwOBA. Obviously, he’s breaking the calculation if it isn’t.

But he’s also seemingly overperforming in the BABIP department, as he’s got a bizarre batted ball profile going on. He has rarely been hitting ground balls, instead becoming a big line drive guy, but also an extreme fly ball hitter and pop-up machine. So far, all those fly balls and pop-ups haven’t hurt his BABIP or offset the line drives, but I would imagine there’s serious risk they will eventually. If I were an owner, I’d probably be looking to swap for someone a bit safer.

Ezequiel Tovar also made the initial overperformer list and has benefited greatly from a .387 BABIP. Like Paredes, he has also been an extreme fly ball hitter, but his LD% is only marginally above the league average, while his pop-up rate has been normal. All in all, not even Coors Field could explain how that batted ball profile could justify that inflated BABIP. The good fortune has pushed him to the top of the lineup, where he has remained since early April. A slump will probably come at some point, but since the Rockies offense stinks, he may keep a strong lineup spot and continue earning fantasy value.

Another Rockies hitter joins the list in catcher Elias Díaz. He has cut his strikeout rate, despite a career worst SwStk%, since he’s been swinging at everything and avoiding the base on balls. Most of the overperformance here is BABIP related, as there’s no reason that a slow catcher with the eighth highest IFFB% in baseball should be posting a mark as high as .347. So a batting average slump is coming, but he should remain a decent enough fantasy catcher.

Daulton Varsho is showing the best power of his career with a .250 ISO, but Statcast doesn’t believe that’s deserved at all. Even with a career low .222 BAIP, Varsho appears here, as that low BABIP actually seems legit — his LD% is eighth worst in baseball, and he has combined that with the third highest fly ball rate and fourth highest IFFB%! That’s a lot of batted ball types that are negative for BABIP. He probably wouldn’t garner a whole lot in trade, and I feel like the underlying skills have a better chance of improving than his performance declining to meet his xwOBA, so I wouldn’t rush to offer him around if I were an owner.

On the surface, Connor Joe’s underlying skills and ratios look perfectly normal. But Statcast calculates he has overperformed both on BABIP and on the ISO side, with more of he overperformance coming on the BABIP side. Similar to Varsho, Joe has posted a weak LD%, combined with a high IFFB%. That’s usually a bad combination for BABIP as line drives result in the highest BABIP, while pop-ups lead to the lowest. So he probably won’t be hitting .280 for much longer unless he improves his batted ball profile. Without much power or speed, he’s really just relegated to NL-Only leagues.

After a strong cup of coffee last year, Wilyer Abreu eventually found himself with a strong side platoon job in the Red Sox outfield this season. He has performed admirably again, but it’s hard to believe that .366 BABIP is sustainable. Like the other names, the LD% is ranked 10th worst in baseball, while his FB% is 13th highest. That’s perfectly fine for home runs and power, but not so for BABIP. Interestingly, he owns a strong 12.3% Barrel%, but just a 9.6% HR/FB rate, so I would bet his HR/FB rate improves, while his BABIP declines over the rest of the season.





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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Mario Mendozamember
17 days ago

batted ball horizontal direction is not part of Statcast’s xwOBA

Anon
17 days ago
Reply to  Mario Mendoza

This.

One of the problems with xWOBA along with not accounting for speed and not taking into account park factors.

Anon
16 days ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

They consider speed on topped grounders to account for “swinging bunts”. But they only consider it for those specific batted balls, not all batted balls.

From MLB’s glossary on how xwOBA is calculated:

“As of 2019, “topped” or “weakly hit” balls also incorporate a batter’s seasonal Sprint Speed.”

But it doesn’t take a genius to realize that the infield has to play a lot closer in for ELDC or Bobby Witt than they do for Grandal or Maldonado. It also doesn’t come far behind to assume that the same 95 mph (or whatever speed) grounder has a much better chance of being a hit for the fast guys than the slow guys since the defense has less time to react to it.

***EDIT: I do acknowledge that the new infield rules offset the speed difference a bit since infielders can no longer play well beyond the IF, but there is still some edge for the fast guys. Before the rule changes, it was probably a significant edge for the fast guys with how far into the OF some defenders were positioning themselves for the league’s real turtles.

Last edited 16 days ago by Anon