The xBABIP Underperformers

Last week, our own math samurai Jeff Zimmerman published the results of his latest xBABIP equation for pitchers. While this is useful and ripe for analyzing, keep in mind that Jeff noted he had “not tested it with pitchers to see if the data correlates better season-to-season than regular BABIP”. So we’re still not sure how well the formula works, but it’s still interesting enough to investigate. We’ll start with those pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings as a starter and have underperformed their xBABIP marks. This won’t be a straight biggest underperformer list, but a cherry picked one of the more interesting names.

Justin Masterson 0.357 0.292 0.065
Jacob Turner 0.358 0.299 0.059
Colby Lewis 0.373 0.317 0.056
Phil Hughes 0.344 0.302 0.042
Brandon McCarthy 0.343 0.308 0.035

Knee injury or not, there’s simply no way that Justin Masterson’s hits on balls in play prevention skills have taken taken such a dive this year. xBABIP suggests that the real problem was simply the Indians defense, which hasn’t been very friendly to a lot of their pitchers. Getting out of Cleveland and into the National League should have given Masterson a huge boost, but he has allowed 10 runs over his first two starts with the Cardinals and has posted an even higher .429 BABIP! Control has been an issue all season long and he may not be right again until next year. Then, he could be an undervalued draft day buy.

You better believe Theo Epstein knows exactly what he is doing. The Cubs acquired former prospect Jacob Turner after claiming him on waivers from the Marlins and he’s pitched quite a bit better than his 5.97 ERA would suggest. He’s been quite the ground baller this year, as his two-seamer has generated grounders over 60% of the time. He doesn’t appear to have a whole lot of fantasy upside given his unexciting strikeout potential, but if he returns to the rotation, he could be a nice cheap gamble in NL-Only leagues.

Colby Lewis leads all starters with at least 40 innings pitched in BABIP. And sure, his line drive rate is somewhat elevated and he has induced a surprisingly low IFFB% given his fly ball ways, but no one is deserving of a .373 BABIP. His strikeout and walk rates remain solid and he could very well carve out some AL-Only league value the rest of the way. In fact, I recently added him in AL Tout Wars and am hoping that that’s the case.

As a fly ball pitcher who induces pop-ups at an above league average clip, you don’t expect to have BABIP issues. But that’s exactly what Phil Hughes has dealt with this year in Minnesota. The problem is that some of that BABIP neutralization is going to be offset by an impossible to sustain sub-1.00 walk rate. And since he’s a fly ball pitcher, once his HR/FB rate jumps toward the league average, he’s going to battle gopheritis again.

It’s only been six starts so far in New York, but Brandon McCarthy’s BABIP issues haven’t improved at all. The real difference so far is that his fly ball aren’t flying out of the park. It’s pretty incredible that he sports a 2.98 SIERA on the season after having just once posted a mark below 4.00 previously. With better luck, he will be a mixed league asset the rest of the way, which is something I have been betting on myself for the last couple of weeks.

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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8 years ago

nice work. But that’s partly because I agree. have scooped up turner and McCarthy in ottoneu and elsewhere where I can–really cheap too!