Reviewing The 2017 BABIP Surgers

Let’s stick with my xBABIP equation and discuss the group of 10 hitters I identified as potential 2017 BABIP surgers. These were the guys whose xBABIP marks were significantly above their actual BABIP marks.

2017 BABIP Surgers
Name 2016 BABIP 2016 xBABIP 2017 BABIP 2017 BABIP – 2016 BABIP
Derek Norris 0.238 0.300 0.214 -0.024
Ryan Zimmerman 0.248 0.303 0.335 0.087
Mike Moustakas 0.214 0.268 0.263 0.049
Yan Gomes 0.189 0.240 0.283 0.094
Joe Mauer 0.301 0.350 0.349 0.048
Jedd Gyorko 0.244 0.288 0.312 0.068
Howie Kendrick 0.301 0.344 0.378 0.077
Shin-Soo Choo 0.288 0.329 0.305 0.017
Joe Panik 0.245 0.285 0.301 0.056
Jung Ho Kang 0.273 0.312

The win streak continues for the predictive value of xBABIP, despite the fact it was developed as a backward looking metric! Eight of the nine surgers actually increased their BABIP marks, and significantly too — by an average of .062, which is like a .270 BABIP jumping to .332! In fact, the group’s 2016 unweighted average xBABIP was .301, while their 2017 actual BABIP was .304! Man that’s close.

Derek Norris was the only hitter on the list who actually suffered a decline in BABIP. That’s pretty crazy considering he upped his line drive rate to 25.2%. With a high wOBA of just .271 the last two seasons and a domestic violence suspension to his name now, he’s highly unlikely to find significant playing time.

I love how Ryan Zimmerman decided to go nuts the season I finally lost interest. I had hyped him as a rebound candidate in recent years and kept drafting him, but he kept getting injured and disappointing. Who saw this coming at age 32?! He hit a couple more line drives instead of grounders, but his batted ball profile is largely the same. I have yet to look into how fortunate he was on the HR/FB rate front (or even the BABIP front), but I likely won’t be a buyer at the price he’s probably going to fetch in 2018.

A left-handed fly ball hitter who hits pop-ups and grounders into the shift is the exact recipe for a low BABIP. But Mike Moustakas still deserved better fate in 2016, and although his 2017 BABIP was still well below the league average, it did represent a dramatic rebound. His fly ball rate also spiked and he maintained the majority of his HR/FB rate gains from 2016, both of which combined for his power breakout. Obviously, some regression should be expected, but this is for the most part real.

Well, duh, Yan Gomes wasn’t going to BABIP sub-.200 again. But he actually brought his mark right back to where it has been, rather than showing signs of legit BABIP skill deterioration.

Joe Mauer and Howie Kendrick were discussed in yesterday’s review of the surprise BABIP surgers and decliners.

Jedd Gyorko posted a near identical batted ball profile as 2016, but his BABIP jumped anyway. Of course, he couldn’t maintain the big power surge, so the batted average rebound didn’t actually result in greater fantasy value at the end of the day.

Shin-Soo Choo enjoyed the smallest BABIP gain, but he continues to post a pristine batted ball profile, heavy on line drives and light on pop-ups. He will always remain a buy in OBP leagues where OBP is typically not properly valued.

For no obvious reason, Joe Panik’s 2016 BABIP collapsed, and without a strong batting average, he carried little fantasy value. But he came all the way back this season, as his line drive rate climbed back above 20%.

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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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