The 2017 BABIP Surgers

Finally, after unmasking the newest version of xBABIP that accounts for shifts, it’s time to get to the names…you know, the kind of list you could actually use for your fantasy leagues this year! So let’s identify and discuss the fantasy relevant hitters whose xBABIP marks were significantly above their actual BABIP marks. These ten hitters should enjoy a BABIP rebound in 2017, assuming their BABIP-related skills remain stable.

2017 BABIP Surgers
Name LD% True FB% True IFFB% Hard% Spd Pull GB While Shifted% % BIP Shifted* BABIP xBABIP BABIP-xBABIP
Derek Norris 21.9% 37.6% 5.4% 34.4% 4.4 3.3% 16.3% 0.238 0.300 -0.062
Ryan Zimmerman 16.7% 31.6% 3.1% 34.7% 4.4 1.1% 5.5% 0.248 0.303 -0.055
Mike Moustakas 18.7% 35.2% 4.4% 37.4% 1.3 16.5% 76.2% 0.214 0.268 -0.054
Yan Gomes 16.3% 38.6% 6.5% 27.2% 2.2 5.7% 21.4% 0.189 0.240 -0.051
Joe Mauer 26.8% 21.3% 0.0% 31.3% 3.6 5.5% 26.5% 0.301 0.350 -0.049
Jedd Gyorko 19.0% 38.0% 2.3% 34.8% 1.7 3.7% 13.2% 0.244 0.288 -0.044
Howie Kendrick 19.4% 19.6% 0.0% 33.8% 4.8 0.7% 1.8% 0.301 0.344 -0.043
Shin-Soo Choo 22.3% 30.0% 0.8% 43.2% 4.0 19.1% 69.7% 0.288 0.329 -0.041
Joe Panik 17.5% 33.4% 3.6% 25.7% 5.9 1.7% 9.7% 0.245 0.285 -0.040
Jung Ho Kang 20.3% 34.8% 2.5% 39.4% 2.7 4.9% 19.4% 0.273 0.312 -0.039
*Percentage of Balls in Play Hit When Shifted Against — Not part of the xBABIP equation, for illustration purposes only

IT WASN’T HIS FAULT! Derek Norris sadly posted the second lowest BABIP mark among all batters with at least 400 plate appearances. This putrid BABIP performance also led to the worst wRC+ mark among that same group. But he hit line drives, hit the ball hard, and did nothing obvious that should typically result in a pathetic BABIP. Since he has power and even steals a base here and there, he’ll be an obvious bargain.

Ughhh, there Ryan Zimmerman is once again, atop a list that’s going to make me think an epic rebound is imminent. The good news — he still hits the ball hard and rarely gets shifted. The bad news — he just cannot stay on the field, as last season’s 467 plate appearances was his highest since 2013. He’ll come cheap enough to be worth another gamble.

Yes, Mike Moustakas has a pulled grounder right into the shift problem, but it’s still not enough of an issue to justify a .214 BABIP. Of course, this came in just 113 plate appearances. But even given the tiny sample, literally every metric is trending in the right direction. Like if you charted all his metrics, it would look just beautiful. Perhaps he missed enough time that most are focused on the counting stats, rather than the exciting underlying skills that finally portend that huge breakout.

Yan Gomes was included here just for humor purposes. A .189 BABIP, seriously?! That, my friends, was the lowest mark among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances. Obviously, no one is that bad, but even his xBABIP was quite terrible at .240. I’m tempted to give him a shot, especially in a deep mixed or AL-Only league just given his history, but his plate discipline is terrible and suggests that perhaps the league has simply caught up and he has failed to adjust.

Want to stare at a pristine batted ball profile and can’t find the keys to type in Joey Votto’s name? Then check Joe Mauer. How a go who literally hit zero pop-ups all season and held the fifth highest LD% among qualified hitters (right behind Votto of course) posted a BABIP right at the league average is baffling. While he does nothing else for a fantasy team, Mauer should at least get back to providing positive batting average value this season.

Man, if Jedd Gyorko coupled his power spike with a BABIP mark that matched his xBABIP, it would have been a serious breakout. But even his strong performance wasn’t enough to guarantee him full-time at- bats this season.

Howie Kendrick was once considered a future batting champion when coming up through the minors, but he never hit enough line drives or hit for enough power to offset the strikeouts to come close. Amazingly, he has only hit above .300 twice, and those came during his second and third years in the league, and not even in full seasons. He’s coming off easily his lowest batting average of his career, and he should be back to chipping in a couple of homers and steals, and a solid average, and coming cheap because he’s 33 and boring. Oh, and he’s another member of the zero pop-up club (he hasn’t hit a pop-up since 2013!)

Shin-Soo Choo is an interesting case as his pulled grounder rate into the shift is very high and easily leads the hitters on this list. And yet, xBABIP still think he vastly underperformed. That’s because he hits liners, hits the ball hard, and avoids the pop-up. Pair that with another injury marred year that should depress his price and he could be a bargain.

There’s no need to panic if you’re a Joe Panik owner as he’s clearly better than a .245 BABIP. The intrigue here is the fantastic strikeout rate which gives him lots of downside cushion. It allowed him to get into the double digits in homers despite a HR/FB rate basically half the league average, and it means that any sort of BABIP rebound could get him right back to returning positive batting average value.

Jung Ho Kang’s BABIP tumbled from .344 to just .273, but his BABIP skills didn’t decline all that much. If he could sustain the power spike (xHR/FB rate says he can’t) and his BABIP rebounds, that’s quite the corner infielder. I have my doubts about the power though, but the BABIP should jump back above .300.

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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baltic wolf
baltic wolf

Thanks for the tip about Norris Mike. I was thinking about maybe Rupp or Castillo for my 16 team 12 keeper league.
I’m tempted to give Gomes a chance again (I drafted him last year), but that K rate—and the lack of walks—can really hurt you in a points league. He’d have to hit a ton of HRs and I just don’t see that happening.