Poll 2021: Which Group of Hitters Performs Better? A Review

For the first time this year, I added an all-star break hitter poll to pair with my pitcher poll. The hitter poll pitted the 10 greatest xwOBA overperformers against the 10 most significant underperformers. I asked you which group would post a higher second half wOBA and which range each group’s wOBA would fall into.

Below were the aggregate averages of the two groups through the pre-all-star break period. Remember you were voting solely on wOBA. Group A was composed of the xwOBA overperformers and B, the underperformers.

Group Averages Comparison
Group BA     xBA     SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA Diff
A 0.296 0.264 0.468 0.403 0.354 0.320 0.034
B 0.250 0.285 0.405 0.489 0.318 0.362 -0.045

The poll results were completely opposite of the pitchers. This time, Group B, the xwOBA underperformers garnered the vast majority of the votes with 79%. Perhaps it conveys the opinion that pitchers have more control over the luck metrics (BABIP, HR/FB, LOB%) than SIERA gives them credit for and hitters have less control over the results of their batted balls.

Surprisingly, an overwhelming majority voted for the same .019 wOBA range that Group A will fall into over the second half. A whopping 61% of you thought the group would post a wOBA between .320 and .339 over the second half. Nearly all of the rest of the votes were in the .019 wOBA range above the majority and then below the majority. For Group B, there was a slightly lesser majority, but still 57% of you thought the group would post a .340 to .359 wOBA over the second half, the range just above the majority voted on for Group A. The next largest vote-getter was the step down from the majority, followed by the step up.

Now on to the second half results:

Group A – The xwOBA Overperformers
Player BA     xBA     SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA Diff
Cedric Mullins 0.291 0.269 0.518 0.440 0.372 0.343 0.029
Adam Frazier 0.305 0.286 0.411 0.372 0.341 0.322 0.019
David Fletcher 0.262 0.268 0.324 0.316 0.273 0.279 -0.006
Marcus Semien 0.265 0.241 0.538 0.444 0.368 0.329 0.039
Jared Walsh 0.277 0.253 0.509 0.426 0.357 0.324 0.033
Yuli Gurriel 0.319 0.269 0.462 0.380 0.363 0.324 0.039
Randy Arozarena 0.274 0.216 0.459 0.358 0.350 0.299 0.051
Xander Bogaerts 0.295 0.276 0.493 0.459 0.368 0.356 0.012
Raimel Tapia 0.273 0.246 0.372 0.314 0.305 0.279 0.026
Garrett Hampson 0.234 0.232 0.380 0.365 0.288 0.288 0.000
Group Average 0.281 0.258 0.445 0.387 0.338 0.315 0.024
League Average 0.244 0.240 0.411 0.400 0.314 0.315 -0.001

Group B – The xwOBA Underperformers
Player BA     xBA     SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA Diff
Kyle Tucker 0.294 0.300 0.557 0.564 0.383 0.394 -0.011
Aaron Judge 0.287 0.302 0.544 0.579 0.387 0.413 -0.026
Juan Soto 0.313 0.300 0.534 0.533 0.420 0.425 -0.005
Paul Goldschmidt 0.294 0.290 0.514 0.564 0.373 0.394 -0.021
Elvis Andrus 0.243 0.271 0.320 0.369 0.270 0.307 -0.037
Alec Bohm 0.247 0.260 0.342 0.389 0.285 0.313 -0.028
Freddie Freeman 0.300 0.315 0.503 0.571 0.379 0.413 -0.034
Eugenio Suárez 0.198 0.213 0.428 0.445 0.306 0.323 -0.017
Charlie Blackmon 0.270 0.288 0.411 0.448 0.333 0.358 -0.025
Kevin Newman 0.226 0.255 0.309 0.330 0.249 0.277 -0.028
Group Average 0.269 0.282 0.449 0.483 0.340 0.364 -0.023
League Average 0.244 0.240 0.411 0.400 0.314 0.315 -0.001

Group Averages Comparison
Group BA     xBA     SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA Diff
A 0.281 0.258 0.445 0.387 0.338 0.315 0.024
B 0.269 0.282 0.449 0.483 0.340 0.364 -0.023
League Average 0.244 0.240 0.411 0.400 0.314 0.315 -0.001

Let’s start with the answers to the poll questions. Man, could this be any closer?! Group B did indeed win like the majority voted, but it was by a thread of just .002 points of wOBA. Therefore, technically the correct answer to the poll question was “Neither, each group posts the same wOBA, or within .005 of each other”, of which just under 6% voted. The majority voted that Group A would post a second half wOBA between .320 and .339, and the group just barely fit into that range with a .338 mark. Chalk that up as a clear win for the 61% of you. Similarly, Group B juuuuuuuust fit into the range that the majority voted on, .340 to .359, with its .340 mark. Another win for 57% of you. These were the closest poll questions ever!

While Group B barely outperformed Group A in the second half, you may have noticed something far more interesting. While the gaps did narrow, Group A still managed to meaningfully overperform its xwOBA, while Group B dramatically underperformed its xwOBA. Again!

When looking at individual players, it’s pretty incredible what you find. In Group A, eight of the 10 batters continued to overperform their xwOBA marks, with just one underperforming (David Fletcher) and one exactly matching (Garrett Hampson). One of the most interesting guys to follow this year was Randy Arozarena given last year’s postseason insanity. He may have ended up disappointing some this season, but xwOBA suggests that disappointment should have been much, much greater. After overperforming his xwOBA in the first half, it was understandable if his owners were concerned about a second half fall. Instead, Arozarena overperformed his xwOBA by an even greater degree, while barely improving his xwOBA itself. Obviously, with just one season under his belt, it’s far too early to determine whether he owns xwOBA-beating skills. We know xwOBA isn’t perfect and it’s certainly possible he does things not captured by the metric. But we just don’t know that for sure yet.

Group B was even crazier than Group A, as every single hitter underperformed their xwOBAs again! Only one hitter underperformed by less than .010 points, but no one underperformed by anywhere near the degree that Arozarena overperformed by. Alec Bohm’s underperformance earned him a demotion to Triple-A after a strong 2020 debut. Meanwhile, I have no idea how Elvis Andrus remained an everyday player all season. I can’t imagine he ends up with a starting job again. While it’s silly to suggest Juan Soto make any changes after two straight .400+ wOBAs, he could be hitting for far more power if he brings his FB% back above 30%. In three of four seasons, it has finished below 30%, which isn’t what you expect from a guy who owns a career 24.7% HR/FB rate.





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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