Hitter xBABIP Overperformers

Last week, I took Alex Chamberlain’s xBABIP equation for the first drive of the 2016 season, identifying those hitters whose xBABIPs most exceeded their actual BABIP marks. That was your potential BABIP surger list. Today I’ll check in on the flip side, those hitters whose BABIP marks greatly exceed their xBABIP marks. These hitters are at serious risk for BABIP, and resulting batting average, regression.

xBABIP Overperformers
Name LD% True FB% True IFFB% Oppo% Hard% Spd GB% FB% IFFB% BABIP xBABIP Diff
Brett Lawrie 17.0% 37.1% 8.1% 22.2% 25.2% 3.0 37.8% 45.2% 18.0% 0.349 0.257 0.092
Xander Bogaerts 20.9% 24.1% 3.1% 25.5% 32.3% 4.7 51.8% 27.2% 11.5% 0.409 0.325 0.084
Mark Reynolds 27.1% 24.6% 3.4% 26.7% 26.7% 1.8 44.9% 28.0% 12.1% 0.400 0.318 0.082
Daniel Murphy 25.0% 41.3% 3.8% 21.7% 38.6% 3.9 29.9% 45.1% 8.4% 0.394 0.320 0.074
Michael Saunders 23.6% 34.7% 3.9% 23.6% 33.1% 3.2 37.8% 38.6% 10.2% 0.381 0.311 0.070
Jonathan Villar 22.7% 17.8% 2.1% 29.5% 31.5% 4.9 57.4% 19.9% 10.7% 0.413 0.344 0.069
David Freese 17.9% 17.1% 0.0% 22.2% 33.3% 1.9 65.0% 17.1% 0.0% 0.389 0.323 0.066
Starling Marte 22.6% 28.3% 1.3% 24.8% 34.8% 6.7 47.8% 29.6% 4.3% 0.410 0.346 0.064
Eduardo Nunez 17.7% 29.3% 6.1% 32.0% 27.3% 6.0 46.9% 35.4% 17.3% 0.368 0.304 0.064
Marcell Ozuna 18.9% 34.6% 3.8% 23.9% 35.9% 4.4 42.8% 38.4% 9.8% 0.372 0.311 0.061

I was bullish on Brett Lawrie this season thanks to a move to home run friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Unfortunately, his power has barely benefited so far, but he has avoided being a major disappointment thanks to a bloated BABIP. Somehow, a career high fly ball rate and IFFB% that ranks eighth highest in baseball has led to a career high BABIP. There’s literally nothing positive in his profile that is a positive for his BABIP, at least compared to previous seasons. Lawrie seems like a new man this year given the big fly ball rate, strikeout rate spike and a more than doubling of his walk rate. It has resulted in a career best wOBA so far, but that’s not going to last. He’s not exactly a sell high, as he’s far from high, but I’ve lost interest.

Hey look at that, my good friend Xander Bogaerts, who I was famously pessimistic on heading into the season. While he has kept his batted ball type distribution identical to last year, which was itself a departure from previous seasons, he’s not going the opposite way nearly as often. The good news is that power surge has finally manifested itself, as his batted ball distance is into respectable territory, up 20 feet from last year. Given that I thought he was massively overvalued preseason (and I’ve obviously been wrong so far), I would imagine his value is at its peak right now. Would be fun to see what you could get in trade.

Is it just me, or do the Mets have a history of allowing hitters to get away, just to see them turn into stars immediately after departing? Daniel Murphy is just the latest example. Things haven’t been all that different for him so far this year, except for a fly ball rate spike, which has caused his ISO to surge and make it appear like he’s carrying over his post-season heroics. His batted ball distance is identical to last year. But aside from the power increase, it’s really all about the BABIP. He’s hitting more liners, which is good, but it’s offset by all those additional fly balls, and his Oppo% is at a career low. I don’t know how he’s hitting ’em where they ain’t, but it won’t last.

Before I talk about Jonathan Villar’s BABIP, I just wanted to remind you all that I tabbed him as my National League bold stolen base leader in my preseason picks. That’s a big deal, because I’m not sure I ever got any of those right! Naturally, I don’t take my own advice and own him on zero our of the two teams I could have. Villar’s entire batted ball profile is a very close match with his career averages, with the only exception coming from more pop-ups, which is a negative. But his BABIP is above .400, versus a career mark of .345. That’s still well above average, but would represent quite the collapse from where he’s currently perched. Though he has been terrible defensively, his offense has been so strong that I don’t think he has to worry about prospect Orlando Arcia coming up and taking his job anytime soon.

Starling Marte has always posted inflated BABIP marks, but according to his xBABIP history, they have been mostly deserved. Not .359 career rate deserved, but .330-.345 deserved. He has legit high BABIP skill. But not .410 BABIP skill, of course! His batted ball profile isn’t all that different from what he’s always done, so he’s just getting the bounces right now. Unfortunately, his power has disappeared, as his batted ball distance is down a whopping 30 feet from last year. That’s a concern because that means there is both power and BABIP downside coming. The BABIP downside will also hurt his opportunity for stolen bases.

Remember back in early/mid-April when I advised fantasy owners to do nothing? In it, I highlighted a tweet that perfectly exemplified the overreaction to a slow start. It related to Marcell Ozuna, who after a whole four games, was hitting .111/.158/.111. Since then, he has hit .339/.388/.608. I hope none of you dropped him. Of course, he hasn’t been able to post such a line without the benefit of some good fortune. He’s hitting more fly balls and going the opposite way less frequently, but his BABIP has spiked to a career high. His batted ball distance has jumped 14 feet, which is a good sign for his power and HR/FB rate, but doesn’t affect his BABIP. I wouldn’t necessarily look to sell here, but if you’re an owner, know that average is going to dip below .300 soon.





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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OutOfTheBox

Coming into the year Bogaerts was a Daniel Murphy type player with more upside ( or so we thought) and more downside. He needed a repeat of 2015 to justify his draft day price. His HR/SB value seemed repeatable, maybe trading a few steals for home runs. The largest part of his value came from the .320 BA. Most projections had him hitting about 30 points lower. Even with the great lineup, I didn’t see how he would get more RBI/R than 2015.

I could see some people paying a premium to avoid getting stuck with a backend SS, but it was hard for me to justify paying for a player that I would need a like a 65 percentile season just break even.