Midseason xBABIP Update: The Underperformers

It’s the All Star Break already! My, has time gone by quickly. So let’s check in on xBABIP, Alex Chamberlain’s version, and begin by identifying those hitters who might enjoy a batting average surge over the second half. I have included all the components of the equation in the table so we could discuss what’s driving the xBABIP.

Midseason xBABIP Underperformers
Name LD% True FB% True IFFB% Oppo% Hard% Spd BABIP xBABIP Diff
Adeiny Hechavarria 23.00% 29.0% 0.8% 35.60% 32.00% 3.9 0.261 0.345 -0.084
Derek Norris 21.40% 34.0% 6.1% 31.90% 37.40% 4.7 0.246 0.322 -0.076
Matt Duffy 23.60% 27.7% 0.5% 36.90% 28.40% 5.4 0.282 0.350 -0.068
Ryan Zimmerman 14.20% 33.0% 2.8% 29.40% 35.30% 3.7 0.243 0.307 -0.064
Matt Holliday 13.30% 30.8% 2.1% 27.50% 40.40% 1.8 0.249 0.309 -0.060
Joey Votto 26.90% 30.8% 0.0% 28.60% 43.30% 3.6 0.309 0.367 -0.058
Justin Turner 23.90% 39.4% 3.2% 30.30% 37.90% 2.6 0.269 0.326 -0.057
Buster Posey 23.70% 27.3% 1.2% 26.50% 37.20% 5.1 0.293 0.350 -0.057
Joe Mauer 28.60% 22.6% 0.0% 35.90% 32.30% 3.3 0.311 0.367 -0.056
Todd Frazier 16.20% 37.0% 10.2% 21.20% 31.80% 3.7 0.204 0.260 -0.056

You don’t really care about Adeiny Hechavarria unless you play in an NL-Only league, but at least his appearance at the top of the underperformer list will increase your confidence that he’s still better than an empty roster slot! There’s actually a ton to like in his batted ball profile, including career highs in LD%, Oppo%, and Hard%, along with a career low IFFB%. If anything, that combination would lead you to assume a career best BABIP. Nope! It’s a career worst. Things will never been very exciting at the plate for Hechavarria, but they will be better.

Derek Norris‘ batted ball profile is nearly a mirror image of his career marks, except for a career best Oppo% and Hard%, which normally should be good things. His power is up, so once his BABIP rebounds, he could become a surprisingly strong second half catcher option.

It would seem like Matt Duffy has predictably regressed after last year’s surprise performance, but it has been entirely fueled by a drop in BABIP. His batted ball profile is the same or better than last year, when he posted a .336 BABIP, and he has already attempted the same number of steals as he did all last season. When he returns from the disabled list, he may end up earning decent value even in shallow mixed leagues.

Ryan Zimmerman’s BABIP has been in freefall and is inability to hit line drives is probably partly to blame. But he’s still hitting the ball hard and for power, and he surely doesn’t deserve a BABIP this low. His poor offensive showing has gotten him dropped in the batting order, but a BABIP rebound could fuel a move back up in the order.

Matt Holliday has nearly quadrupled his homer total from all of last season and is on pace to finish well above his totals from both 2013 and 2014. And yet his rebound season is been marred by a suppressed BABIP that’s easily the lowest of his career. In fact, he has posted a sub-.300 BABIP just once, and that was barely, at .298! Oddly, he’s not hitting liners like Zimmerman mentioned above and his LD% is the worst in baseball. That mark should improve and he’ll return to hitting for average to go along with the power that has returned.

Yes, that’s a .367 xBABIP for Joey Votto. He’s striking out more than ever before, but his batted ball profile is as excellent as always. As usual, he has yet to hit a pop-up, and has sprayed line drives all over the field. He has suffered through a similarly suppressed BABIP in 2014, but low (for him) BABIP marks look to be the fluke, as he’s a true inflated BABIP guy.

Justin Turner has been so busy hitting home runs recently that I’m sure his owners haven’t even noticed that his BABIP remains at a career low. His FB% has spiked to a career high, but he hits lots of liners, goes the opposite way, and has posted a career best Hard%. Last year was no fluke.

It seems like Buster Posey is having a quieter season than normal. Blame the sub-.300 BABIP, the only time that mark has fallen below .312. All his batted ball metrics look great and in line with his history, so he should have his typical .300+ second half.

Joe Mauer is the American League version of Joey Votto and also has yet to hit a pop-up. A career high LD%, along with Oppo% and Hard% marks near his career averages, are all driving that crazy xBABIP, which is identical to Votto’s. Of course, Mauer posted a similar, albeit inferior, batted ball profile last year, and all it did was lead to a .309, so perhaps xBABIP is overrating his current BABIP ability.

Ahhhh, Todd Frazier and the three true outcomes — home runs, outfield fly balls, and pop-ups (infield fly balls). Lots of fly balls and the second highest IFFB% in baseball is bad for BABIP. But by far the lowest BABIP in baseball bad? xBABIP doesn’t think so, but confirms it should be well below league average with a .260 calculated mark. Frazier’s batting average is sure to improve, but even Steamer and ZiPS’ .240ish batting average projections are no great shakes.





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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johnforthegiants
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johnforthegiants

Duffy’s batted ball data look similar to or better than last year but his spray chart looks very different. Compared with last year he has extremely few line drives to the left side which fall in front of the left fielder. His pull% is so low this year (27.5%) that many teams are playing him to hit the opposite way, at least in the outfield. This is a weakness in Chamberlain’s xBABIP formula, it simply gives more credit for more opposite field hitting without considering that some hitters may hit so much to the opposite field that it becomes a liability. This is not to say that Duffy’s xBABIP should not be higher than his BABIP–he hits a good number of line drives and almost no infield flies, and he projects to get a lot of infield hits–but 68 points is too much.