What’s up? BABIP, that’s what – June Update

BABIP across Major League baseball normalizes right around .300 league-wide. It’s a number we always look at when a player is running a very low or very high BABIP. We typically point to the outlier and expect it to regress back to the mean. Unfortunately, there are many factors that can sway a players BABIP one way or the other such as: sprint speed, hard/soft contact, fly ball%, line drive%, pull% on ground balls into the shift, etc. I could go on, but you get the point, not all BABIPs are created equal.

I’m focusing on players with elevated BABIPs and comparing them to xStats.org definition of xBABIP. I’ll also be referring to value hits, poor hits, and high drives so check the definitions here. xStats isn’t perfect, but what is? Even mlb.com Baseballsavant has issues with its expected stats. It’s still a great tool to use and is considerably more accurate than other expected stats. You’ll notice that many players with high sprint speed will often run a lower xBABIP than their actual BABIP. Knowing that, we can use that to our advantage. However, other players who are not graced with a high quantity of quick-twitch muscle fibers will have to rely of line drives and hard contact to boost their BABIP. Without further ado, here’s the

Ian Happ0.3850.297-0.0880.2370.188-0.049
Matt Kemp0.40.32-0.080.3440.295-0.049
Starling Marte0.3520.291-0.0610.2940.248-0.046
Albert Almora0.3650.312-0.0530.310.261-0.049
Domingo Santana0.3680.308-
Scooter Gennett0.3890.341-0.0480.3440.294-0.05
Nick Castellanos0.4110.356-0.0550.3360.304-0.032

Well, there’s Ian Happ. After a disastrous April which involves a near 50% K rate, he’s righted the ship a bit. But alas, his BABIP is an unsustainable .385! Not only should he regress, but xStats is calling for a drop of 0.091 and should have a batting average below the mendoza line.  Happ has above average speed, so I don’t expect full regression, but if he maintains his 40% strikeout rate, I don’t see him hitting over .220 this year. He’s getting by with a very good high drive percentage which has maximized many of his batted balls. But, how long can he keep this up with a 40% strikeout rate? I like Happ longterm, but he’s in a hole this year and is too risky to make it HAPPen.

No one is going to mistake Matt Kemp for having great speed now that he’s well into his 30s, so a BABIP of .400 is insane! What’s interesting, is how xStats still pegs him for a .320 BABIP which can still yield positive results, unlike Happ. What’s also interesting is his high percentage of value hits and a solid 15.5 degree launch angle. His expected home runs currently sits at a very impressive 12.2, he currently sits at 10 HR on the season. His plate discipline is poor (but it’s always been below average) however, he’s got a hard contact% of over 45% with a 12% soft contact rate. I’m not buying Kemp at face value, but while the average will come down, his power may jump a little. Maybe he’s got one more 30 HR 95 RBI season in him.

I won’t spend much time on Starling Marte. As I mentioned in the introduction, speed tends to trick xStats a little in terms of xBABIP. In fact, Marte has outperformed his xBABIP by nearly .030 on average the last three seasons. That being said, his current 0.061 difference is double last year’s difference. While his power looks just about right, there is some cause for concern with his low high drive (LOL sounds weird) rate and high poor hit percentages. I’m not completely selling Marte, but I’d expect him in the .280 range for batting average by season’s end. He’s still a valuable piece with mid-teens power and around 30 steals.

Albert Almora is basically getting by with smoke and mirrors. Sure an expected average of .261 isn’t the end of the world. The Cubs are deploying Almora in the lead off spot basically because they have no one else. That at least should give him a cushion, but he doesn’t walk much and has a xOBP of .317. It’s more than just outperforming in terms of average too though, he’s barreled a total of one ball out of 139 batted balls in 2018. His average exit velocity is 85.7 mph which puts him the bottom 10% for all qualified hitters. Get this, his xwOBA against off-speed and breaking pitches is under .210! No, that’s not his expecting batting average, it’s the expected weighted on-base average you guys! I don’t need to ramble because he’s hardly fantasy relevant, but a guy with no power and no speed should not be owned. If someone is loving this average boost move him immediately.

Domingo Santana has not followed his breakout with much success at all. He’s lost some playing time with the additions of Cain and Yelich and he’s really struggled to get on track. Would you believe me if I told you than Santana had a .363 BABIP and a 30.9% HR/FB rate in 2017? Yup, and that was in over 600 plate appearances. The difference is, he actually earned that elevated BABIP last year with an xBABIP of .373! Previously, he was a line drive machine, which other than speed will fuel a high BABIP. This year, he’s down about 5% from his previous two seasons. Here’s the deal, he strikes out 30% of the time, hits over 50% of his batted balls on the ground, and have average speed at best. He hits the ball hard but you probably got his career year last year. He could get hot, but should be left on the wire in shallow mixed leagues.

Nicky C, MY BOY! The hard contact King! The Exit Velo C-Lo-anoes. Annnnd we’re back. He somehow has a 48% hard contact rate with a sub-10% HR/FB rate. What!?!? The good news is xstats believes he should still be very good in terms of average and has been unlucky in terms of power. The bad news is, I don’t have any but it’s time to do the splits. Not that kind, the hitter splits. Castellanos is hitting .458 with a .543 BABIP against lefties! I’m not an psychic but I think that might not stick. There are no home/road splits and he’s hitting well to all fields. Here’s the issue with his power, nearly 78% of his fly balls are to center or the opposite field. He’s hit a total of 1 HR to center and 0 HR the other way. Detroit isn’t a great park for power and center is where homers go to die. He doesn’t hit the ball as hard the other way, so Nicky C needs to start yanking fly balls to the pull side if he wants to hit 30 ding dongs like I projected. Come on dude, pick it up to make me look good!

Last, but not least, may favorite non vespa, Mr. Scooter Gennett. His breakout last year involved a four homer game and a couple of multi-homer games. For some reason, fantasy owners held that against him as if to say, you’re not that good, you only a handful of great games! As good as he’s been this year, it’s nice to see his expected average above .290. The rest of his xStats metrics are relatively average in terms of exit velocity, launch angle, and value hits. That means he’s been extremely lucky in terms of home runs, xStats has him at about four homers less than his 12 to date. His 26% line drive rate is fueling the high BABIP and batting average, so I expect his average to creep back to or below .300 to match his expected batting average. I also would expect less home runs going forward but keep in mind, he out performed all of his metrics last year and is performing similar in terms of skills in 2018. I’d think of selling, but don’t take a discount on him. Try to get a top 50-75 player, if not, keep rolling with him.