Verifying xBABIP potential

On 9/3, I posted Adjusting Fantasy Value with expected (x)BABIP and xHR. These were used to adjust batting average, OBP, SLG and OPS for your different leagues’ formats.

Based on xBABIP, Michael Brantley and Anthony Rendon jumped in value sandwiching in Mike Trout as the top 3 adjusted Fantasy Values for standard 5×5 formats (HR, SB, R, RBI and AVG).

Here, I’ll attempt to verify the BABIP potential for standard 5×5 leagues. I am therefore using column 2 (sum of the 5×5 descriptive/actual z-scores: HR, SB, R, RBI and AVG) and comparing it to column 3 (sum of the 5×5 expected z-scores: xHR, SB, R, RBI and xAVG). SB, R and RBI are not adjusted even though they should be so consider this a way to play down the overall effect.

Column 4 is the expected vs. actual fantasy value (z-sum) differential. If we sort by descending (as depicted), Anthony Rendon, Edwin Encarnacion, Curtis Granderson, Mike Moustakas, Lucas Duda, David Ortiz, Brian Dozier, Chris Davis, Travis d’Arnaud and Josh Donaldson in this order are 10 of the top 16 guys who would increase in value based on xBABIP and xHR. Let’s look at their Hit and HR differentials:

Granderson is the only player with a “significant” positive HR differential. Baseball Heat Maps expects him to have 2.5 more homers. Davis, Donaldson, Rendon, Ortiz and EE have all hit 1.5 or more homers than expected.

It is in their xBABIPs where the additional value really comes into play. Check out the “Hdiff” column. Mike Moustakas and Chris Davis are the only two players hovering around 20 extra hits according to this approach. These two examples clearly bring up the biggest contingency with this approach: the omission of shift effect.

EE, Duda, even Dozier are pull-heavy as well. And while this post by Jeff Zimmerman (naturally I include a Jeff Zimmerman reference) dates back to February of this year, it’s still utterly relevant. Look at these guys and their shift effects from 2013:

Player Shifts BABIP-Shift On BABIP-Shift Off Diff BABIP
David Ortiz 338 0.284 0.341 0.057 0.306
Chris Davis 235 0.294 0.41 0.116 0.341
Edwin Encarnacion 86 0.163 0.26 0.097 0.239
Lucas Duda 68 0.177 0.323 0.146 0.262
Curtis Granderson 43 0.256 0.337 0.081 0.303
Mike Moustakas 26 0.192 0.246 0.054 0.244
Josh Donaldson 17 0.118 0.313 0.195 0.326

Ignore the decent .294 BABIP for Chris Davis with the shift on. His BABIP was .338 last year on balls he pulled. This year, he’s at .187.  Instead, focus on the fact that the .294 is still 116 points lower than his BABIP without the shift on. Josh Donaldson had the worst effect: a 195 point differential. Luckily he has only pulled the ball 41% of the time this year relative to Chris Davis’ 52%. We still see the effect though based on the 50+-point BABIP drop.

I live in Minnesota now and watch Brian Dozier live up-close often. He really gets his bat around with a sense of urgency. Look at his grounder cluster and especially the homers (Filter out everything but Home Runs and Grounders):

Source: FanGraphs

If teams picked up on this, his BABIP will suffer even more. Luckily he’s on the Twins and we won’t have to worry about that happening too often. He’s also Brian Dozier and doesn’t incur the same level of respect at this point in time relative to the rest of this group. Worse than Chris Davis, he has pulled the ball 55.7% of the time this year.

On the other hand…

…There is Anthony Rendon. Only 38% of Rendon’s balls in play are pulled; he’s also batting .364 off them. At only 25 next year, with a great approach, there is a good chance we see two BABIP related enhancements: 1) the grounders should drop and liners should jump and 2) this year, he’s got a .232 BABIP on grounders and a .688 BABIP on liners.  We can probably assume the BABIP increases (to around 70%) on the liners. I’m buying into his BABIP potential.

Travis d’Arnaud also has a 38% pull-rate and is batting .311 off them. There is nothing that surprising from his balls in play: CITI field regressing the BABIP on fly balls (and hits and runs in general). According to Brooks Baseball player page on him, he seems like he’s doing just fine with breaking stuff (BABIP actually higher than hard stuff; ISO within 20 points). Another reason I think he steps forward are his vs. RHP splits. He didn’t have nearly as much trouble against right-handed pitchers in the minors and his power against them was actually as or more impressive. Give him time. From what I hear and see the Mets are committed to him and catching prospect Kevin Plawecki if anyone will be the trade chip.

Related brush with fame/Mets trade rumor (not really): I went to the All Star Game and Future Game this year. While eating something on a stick and drinking a Killebrew’s Rootbeer, I saw some fellow in the Townball Tavern in Mets gear. Naturally (not too many Mets fans in Minnesota), I had to give him the thumbs up in my Mets attire. He came over and happened to be Kevin Plawecki’s future father-in-law. As a family, they’re already talking of him potentially being traded.

Kolten Wong is already picking it up and even starting to hit homers. Just based on his minor league numbers we know he has a lot more BABIP potential (career .333+). Between that and increased contact next year, we should see a big average jump: around .280. He becomes a relatively elite option at 85-15-55-25-280+. I’d certainly consider him a top 10 option next year at second base.

One last quicky: David Ortiz is certainly affected by the shift as well (57 point BABIP differential from Jeff’s February post), but he’s still batting .365 on his pulls this year relative to .356 last year and .368 for his career. It’s the combined effect between the quantity and quality of his liners (or the shift coming into play on this specific balls in play type) that killed his BABIP this year: 5% less liners than last year and his BABIP on his liners is only .612 – that’s 61 points lower than last year (.673) and 97 points lower than his career rate (.709).

We hoped you liked reading Verifying xBABIP potential by Daniel Schwartz!

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Daniel Schwartz contributes for RotoGraphs when he's not selling industry leading thermal packaging. You can follow him on twitter @RotoBanter

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