Hitter xBA Overperformers — May 26, 2022

Yesterday, I reviewed the hitters that have most underperformed their Statcast xBA marks. Let’s now flip over to the overperformers.

xBA Overperformers
Paul Goldschmidt 0.400 0.344 0.269 0.075
Manny Machado 0.416 0.368 0.307 0.061
Luis Arraez 0.379 0.354 0.293 0.061
Andrew Benintendi 0.372 0.327 0.273 0.054
Xander Bogaerts 0.393 0.323 0.276 0.047
Brandon Marsh 0.392 0.282 0.236 0.046

Paul Goldschmidt has been no stranger to a high BABIP. His career mark sits at an impressive .348, thanks partly to an excellent batted ball profile, heavier on line drives, and lighter on pop-ups, than the league average. But even for him, a .400 BABIP is ridiculous. This is especially true considering his LD% is at its lowest since 2017, FB% the highest of his career, and IFFB% the highest since 2018. The high FB% is good for his home run total, but his BABIP is likely to come crashing down. That said, a .269 xBA is still at positive value territory. One other thing to keep in mind is that he has overperformed his xBA every year of his career, but never anywhere close to this degree.

With a career high IFFB%, it’s shocking that Manny Machado has posted a BABIP over .400. Unlike Goldschmidt, Machado’s BABIP has fluctuated around the league average throughout his career and his career mark sits just marginally above it. That’s because of his batted ball profile that’s opposite of Goldschmidt’s, lighter on liners and heavier on pop-ups than the league average. So his start this season appears to be a complete fluke. His power hasn’t even increased, so this has all been driven by a bunch more singles falling in. That’s not going to last, so Machado is soon going to return to the version we paid for on draft day. The good news is he’s already swiped seven bases, though some of that is due to an unsustainable .441 OBP. I’m an owner and will likely just hold given that there are few upgrades at the position he occupies, so it’ll result in a downgrade there and an upgrade somewhere else, which doesn’t seem worth the effort to seek out.

Uh oh, what happens when a hitter whose entire value is driven by batting average is getting lucky in batting average? Luis Arraez’s value might plummet if and when his good fortune fades. The good news is that he’s become the very definition of what the old school used to call a “pure hitter”. Tony Gwynn is the poster child in my mind for such a hitter. Arraez’s walk rate has skyrocketed, all the while his strikeout rate has dropped, so he’s now walked more than double the number of times as he has struck out. That’s crazy! However, without any power, and his two steals matching what he recorded in 2019 and 2021, Arraez is going to need to maintain a strong average to deliver any sort of fantasy value in shallower leagues.

Every season I think this might be the year that Andrew Benintendi experiences a power breakout, but it doesn’t happen. This season, his power has disappeared, but he’s made up for it by hitting a ton of singles. He also hasn’t even attempted a steal, which is a shame as he was a 20/20 guy during his first full season back in 2017. The good news is he has posted a career best strikeout rate, but without power or speed, he’s been a batting average only contributor, and that’s unlikely to last.

Xander Bogaerts has remained one of the most consistent xBA overperformers and that almost assuredly is driven by his home park. At the friendly confines of Fenway Park, he has hit .311, versus .271 in away parks. Similarly, his home BABIP sits at .355, versus an away mark of .314. The xBA calculation is missing a park factor component and Fenway is one of the most BABIP inflationary parks. That said, it’s still a large gap, and bigger than what he normally posts. He’s sitting with a .393 BABIP, which is easily a career best. There are other red flags here as well, such as his worst strikeout rate since 2014 and the lowest FB% of his career. Once his BABIP normalizes, his batting average may drop below projections if he doesn’t improve that strikeout rate, and without the big batting average, the lack of fly balls is going to stick out more as it results in fewer home runs.

I was a fan of Brandon Marsh heading into the season, and so far, he hasn’t disappointed. But is his performance a house of cards? He does have a history of massive BABIP marks in the minors, and his batted ball profile is excellent. But a .392 mark is extremely difficult to maintain no matter the history or underlying skills. His metrics are giving me mixed signals, but the percentage play is to at least assume a significant decline in batting average 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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2 months ago

Thank you for these, they are very informative!