Potential Batting Average Surgers — May 19, 2021, A Review

Today, I move on to reviewing the list of biggest batting average underperformers through May 17, according to Statcast’s xBA. As usual, xBA isn’t perfect, as it ignores anything shift-related, but it’s good enough that if you stick with the players on the extremes (largest BA-xBA gaps), I would imagine the rest of season directional moves should be expected. Let’s find out if that was the case.

Potential BA Surgers
Player BABIP – Through May 17 BABIP – RoS BABIP Diff BA – Through May 17 xBA – Through May 17 BA – RoS BA Diff
Matt Carpenter 0.108 0.308 0.200 0.109 0.205 0.196 0.087
Victor Reyes 0.182 0.387 0.205 0.143 0.236 0.308 0.165
Rougned Odor 0.128 0.275 0.147 0.164 0.249 0.211 0.047
Hunter Dozier 0.151 0.312 0.161 0.139 0.222 0.239 0.100
Alex Dickerson 0.233 0.291 0.058 0.205 0.284 0.245 0.040
Elias Diaz 0.170 0.266 0.096 0.123 0.198 0.275 0.152
David Bote 0.225 0.241 0.016 0.182 0.255 0.210 0.028
Roberto Perez 0.167 0.188 0.021 0.131 0.201 0.163 0.032
Freddie Freeman 0.194 0.360 0.166 0.218 0.285 0.327 0.109
Kyle Tucker 0.213 0.339 0.126 0.225 0.291 0.321 0.096
Charlie Blackmon 0.269 0.317 0.048 0.240 0.306 0.280 0.040
Jake Bauers 0.265 0.278 0.013 0.197 0.263 0.213 0.016
Rowdy Tellez 0.222 0.296 0.074 0.188 0.253 0.264 0.076
Tommy Pham 0.229 0.296 0.067 0.189 0.253 0.241 0.052
Phillip Evans 0.256 0.244 -0.012 0.216 0.279 0.194 -0.022
Paul DeJong 0.176 0.238 0.062 0.177 0.239 0.207 0.030
Cesar Hernandez 0.254 0.271 0.017 0.224 0.284 0.234 0.010
Unweighted Avg 0.202 0.289 0.086 0.181 0.253 0.243 0.062

This turned out pretty well. Seventeen of the 18 hitters did increase both their BABIP marks and batting averages through the rest of the season. The average unweighted BABIP increased from .202 early on to just about league average at .289 over the rest of the season. In turn, the average unweighted batting average increased by 0.62 points to fall just a bit short of the group’s xBA. Remember that batting average is influenced by strikeout rate, which we would have wanted to keep constant here since we were just seeking those whose balls in play would fall in for hits at a higher rate. That’s why BABIP is included in the table. If a hitter’s BABIP did rebound, but his strikeout rate skyrocketed, his average might not have increased at all. So we’ll focus on BABIP for the rest of our commentary.

Unfortunately, the first eight names on this list weren’t exactly shallow mixed league material. These were guys likely in and out of the free agent pool all year and were hardly the difference between a title and an out-of-money finish. So while the batting average increases over the rest of the way were nice, it didn’t matter a whole lot.

We then move down to Freddie Freeman who was one of the most obvious rebound candidates I have ever seen. Some of the rebound was thanks to a spike in line drive rate from 20.2% to 25.8%, the former of which would have easily marked a career low, and the latter of which was far more in line with his history. Sure enough, he ended up with the third highest BABIP surge on the list, and he ended up hitting .327 the rest of the way, instead of the lowly and shocking .218 he came onto the list with. I’m curious if anyone was able to pull Freeman away from his owner early on because of the low BABIP.

Kyle Tucker made several underperformer lists early on and ended up making for a fantastic acquisition. He finished the season right where he was expected to, though perhaps his steals total was the slightest disappointing, as his pace slowed from 2020. Most encouraging here is the improved strikeout rate and the SwStk% that dipped into single digits. I think there’s more HR/FB rate upside here as well, but it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll be able to ratchet that up, while maintaining the sub-20% strikeout rate. If he could, he becomes a first rounder.

Charlie Blackmon’s batting average did indeed rebound, but sadly his power did not. So for the first time, he became replacement level in shallow mixed leagues. Since he continues to call Coors home, I wonder if he makes for a strong buy-at-the-bottom target in 2022, as I can’t imagine worse counting stats. I doubt anyone is excited anymore to roster him, so he should come cheap, offering far more upside than downside at his cost.

As you might guess, Rowdy Tellez hits a high rate of grounders into the shift, so Statcast’s xBA is going to overrate his expected batting average. Still, he significantly improved his BABIP over the rest of the season and I’m a fan in his hitter friendly new home park.

Tommy Pham struggled early on, but his BABIP rebounded partially over the rest of the season to allow his owners to benefit from his power/speed combination. That said, his rest of season BABIP was still well below the levels he typically posted over his previous full seasons. Furthermore, his HR/FB rate fell for the fifth straight year, while his steals total returned to the mid-teens after jumping into the mid-twenties in 2019. Now a free agent, I don’t think he’s a total lock for a full-time job, though he’s definitely deserving of it on some teams.

Sure, Paul DeJong improved over the rest of the season, but owners who remained patient certainly hoped for better than a .238 BABIP and .207 batting average. The power rebound was nice, but he forgot how to hit line drives, and it kept his wOBA below .300 once again. The 28-year-old might open next season as a reserve infielder, but still has the power to make an impact if he earns more playing time.

While Cesar Hernandez’s BABIP and batting average barely improved over the rest of the season, he at least transformed himself into a power hitter, so he did give his owners something — home runs. Those were unexpected, but considering he swiped just one base, at least he contributed somewhere. Since the speed might be gone and the power spike could prove to have been a fluke, he’s still not someone you want to target in drafts.

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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Joe Wilkeymember
2 years ago

“As you might guess, Rowdy Tellez hits a high rate of grounders into the shift…”

If by that, you mean he did it at a below league average rate for 2021, then yes, you’re correct. For players with at least 50 GB, he had the 316th lowest Pull% on GB out of 373. He was 103rd highest out of 373 for going the opposite way with GB. His xBA on pulled GB was lower than his actual BA.

For what I feel like is the one millionth time, can we please stop doing this with the shift? Don’t just throw out a statement that it takes two seconds to look up.

2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

Way to shrug off the salt with a well reasoned rebuttal. The world needs more of this.

Joe Wilkeymember
2 years ago
Reply to  Mike Podhorzer

That’s fair. Good point!

2 years ago
Reply to  Joe Wilkey

Thank you for admitting he was doing it right. The world needs more people like you in this regard.