The xBABIP Sell List

Yesterday, I used Jeff Zimmerman’s recently published xBABIP table to identify five trade targets, with the underlying assumption that they have suffered from poor BABIP fortune, which is likely to reverse over the final two months of the season. Today, I will check in on some hitters whose BABIPs are far above their xBABIP marks and could be in for quite the decline over the rest of the season. As such, they are perhaps strong sell candidates.

Casey McGehee 0.357 0.274 0.083
Josh Hamilton 0.401 0.321 0.080
Mike Napoli 0.361 0.291 0.070
Matt Adams 0.363 0.318 0.045

Casey McGehee has been one of the season’s most surprising offensive performers, as he has posted a .338 wOBA, after failing to surpass the .300 mark in his previous two Major League seasons and getting shipped off to the Japanese league last year. But his performance has been driven entirely by a career high BABIP, which is odd considering that his batted ball distribution is relatively league average, but with a higher ground ball rate typically posted by speedy slap hitters, of which McGehee is not. He’s showing no power, with a pitiful .073 ISO and 259 foot average distance that ranks 256th out of 275. So without the BABIP cushion to keep his offense afloat, he’s completely useless. Yet, he’s likely found his way into many mixed league lineups, especially given his strong RBI total. Find an owner in your league who desperately needs a third baseman or corner man and offer McGehee for any pitcher expected to earn positive value.

Josh Hamilton is back! No, not exactly. Remember when his SwStk% and resulting strikeout rate skyrocketed in 2012? Maybe you don’t because Hamilton also launched 43 homers that year. Well, his strikeout rate has jumped another notch up and his SwStk% sits at a career worst. And the power outage he suffered last year? His batted ball distance hasn’t improved at all, and his HR/FB rate has dropped further. I’m not sure exactly what happened to Hamilton as it can’t just be the change in park. But whatever has been ailing him is continuing to limit his offensive output and there’s little hope for better at this point. A .401 BABIP makes it seem like the end isn’t yet near, but when that drops into normal territory, the end might become plainly obvious.

It’s easy to point out that Mike Napoli posted an almost identical BABIP last year and believe that this level is now sustainable. But there’s nothing in his batted ball distribution or his speed (lack thereof) that suggests his BABIP should remain this high. He’s still showing prodigious power and has cut down on his swings and misses and resulting strikeouts, but we all know the downside when the BABIP dragons aren’t on his side. He could easily bat .230 over the rest of the season with simply neutral BABIP luck.

What happened to the Matt Adams fantasy owners thought they were buying? You know, the power hitting lefty who might post a mediocre batting average due to a high strikeout rate and facing the shift. Instead, he’s gone all Billy Butler, hitting for a strong average, but with middling power from a first baseman. His batted ball distance is sitting around the league average, which is quite shocking, and is down 10 feet from last year. He’s hitting more line drives and avoiding the pop-up, which is nice, but this is no .360+ BABIP guy. Few are, of course, but he’s certainly not one of them. If the power doesn’t return, then he might not be much above replacement level in shallower mixed leagues over the rest of the way.

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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9 years ago

Regarding McGehee, it seems to me that he is a different player than he was before. I am suggesting that he has made an adjustment which makes it possible for him to carry a higher BABIP than he was capable of before. He is currently sporting a career low K%, which would make BABIP higher, and a career high BB%. Other career highs are his contact rate of 86% and his zone contact rate of 90%. Another positive career number is his career low 5.7% SwStr. Of course, you are 100% on in pointing out that all these adjustments that make him a better MLB player may have come at the expense of power, which makes him a tough fit for fantasy lineups.

9 years ago
Reply to  MustBunique

“He is currently sporting a career low K%, which would make BABIP higher”

Strikeouts have no bearing on the batting average on balls in play, since by definition those balls are not put in play.

9 years ago
Reply to  zaneman89

I haven’t done the research, but this position seems reasonable. If a batter’s K rate is going down, he is swinging at better pitches. If he’s swinging at better pitches, he will likely hit the ball harder. If he hits the ball harder, his BABIP will increase.

9 years ago
Reply to  zaneman89

K rate does not affect BABIP directly, but the opposite of striking out is putting the ball in play, so the effect on BABIP with lowering your K rate can be explained two ways:

1) Swinging and missing at fewer pitches out of the zone

2) Swinging and making contact with more pitches out of the zone

One leads to more favorable hitters counts, the other leads to making weaker contact. You can have both instances of a higher or lower BABIP by reducing your K rate.