Surprise! You Believed Their 2017 BABIPs, But Shouldn’t Have — A Review

In addition to sharing my standard lists of potential BABIP surgers and decliners heading into the 2018 season based on my xBABIP equation, I also discussed hitters who seemingly posted repeatable BABIP marks at first glance, but a deeper dive revealed the potential for dramatic upside or downside. These were the guys whose BABIP marks were around the league average (appearing rather normal), but with xBABIP marks at least 0.030 points above or below. Let’s see how they ended up performing.

Don’t Believe It — More 2018 BABIP Surgers & Decliners
Name 2017 xBABIP 2017 BABIP 2018 BABIP Diff
Adam Frazier 0.343 0.306 0.305 -0.001
Devon Travis 0.332 0.299 0.255 -0.044
Dexter Fowler 0.336 0.305 0.210 -0.095
Addison Russell 0.318 0.289 0.314 0.025
Dansby Swanson 0.321 0.292 0.290 -0.002
Didi Gregorius 0.253 0.287 0.259 -0.028
Yasmani Grandal 0.258 0.298 0.278 -0.020
Carlos Gonzalez 0.278 0.318 0.332 0.014
Robinson Chirinos 0.258 0.298 0.304 0.006
Yoenis Cespedes 0.273 0.316 0.333 0.017

You’ll notice that the first five hitters posted xBABIP marks well above their actuals in 2017, while the last five posted xBABIP marks well below their actuals. So the first group was the upside group you would expect to post a higher BABIP in 2018, while the second group is the downside group you would expect to post a lower 2018 BABIP.

It didn’t exactly happen that way. The BABIP of only three of the 10 actually moved in the direction expected based on their 2017 xBABIP (I highlighted the three). Once again, xBABIP isn’t meant to be predictive, but it does do a better job of predicting the future than BABIP itself. Apparently not with this sample sample group!

Devon Travis battled injury once again and was limited to just 378 plate appearances. His BABIP plummeted to a career low, as his IFFB% jumped into double digits for the first time.

A forgettable season for Dexter Fowler was driven by a BABIP decline that easily led this list. After posting a .300+ BABIP for literally his entire career, Fowler posted a mark below .305 for the first time. Injuries too may have contributed here, as his line drive rate fell below 20% for the first time, while his fly ball rate climbed again to a career high. Some things you just can’t predict!

Addison Russell was the only upside guy whose BABIP actually improved. He too missed time to injury, but it clearly didn’t derail his season the way it did the previous two. Russell’s line drive rate has no risen in each of his season, while his fly ball rate has declined. That’s a recipe for an improving BABIP. But he did offset some of those positives with an IFFB% that returned back into the mid-teens. Since his power disappeared and he rarely steals bases, a BABIP rebound wasn’t enough to make him fantasy relevant, and his 40-game suspension to be served next year means he’ll remain in the free agent pool.

Didi Gregorius was the biggest BABIP loser among the downside group, but his batted ball distribution was very similar to 2017. Now with legit power and an excellent strikeout rate, he looks pretty safe. But owners will have to wait for him to return from TJ surgery, and you never know how that recovery will affect his performance.

Yasmani Grandal has only posted a BABIP above .298 once in his career, and that came during his 2012 debut over a small sample. He was coming off a career best BABIP in 2017 that was clearly a fluke, as his xBABIP was right in line with previous BABIP marks. He doesn’t hit enough line drives to offset all the fly balls and pop-ups. His 2018 distribution, which was slightly heavier on liners with fewer pop-ups, actually looks a bit better than his 2017, which is a reminder of the good fortune he enjoyed in 2017.

Soooo Carlos Gonzalez posted a significantly lower line drive rate, and hit more fly balls and pop-ups, yet his BABIP went up. Go figure. It’s the Coors Field magic! As his power has evaporated, he’s not much of a fantasy option anymore in shallower mixed leagues.

Man, talk about good fortune! Look no further than Yoenis Cespedes who posted the highest BABIP of his career, despite career highs in both fly ball and pop-up rates! I would bet a lot that he appears in my BABIP downside list, and near the top, for 2019. Most concerning though is a sudden lack of contact ability, as his SwStk% and strikeout rate both surged to career worsts. Couple that with his mounting injury issues and a BABIP destined to collapse, and you get a guy who is likely to be a poor risk/reward on draft day.

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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Addison Russ has so many articles linked to him that aren’t about him at all. I wonder if it’s sweeter to have links that aren’t yours than to never have linked at all


I bet Jose Rey feels the same way