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Using xBABIP to Find Outliers – Players to Buy/Sell for the 2nd Half

Last season I ran a similar analysis using the now defunct xStats.org site. Andrew Perpetua, the creator of xStats is now with the New York Mets, so he knew what the hell he was doing. Here are the two articles from last year covering the players overperforming based on their xBABIP and the players under-performing based on their xBABIP. Below is a table showing you each player’s current BABIP, their xBABIP, and their BABIP for the rest of the season.

2019 xBABIP - 2018 Recap.

Through Mid-June, 2018 ROS 
PlayersBABIPxBABIPBABIPRegression (Y/N)
Bryce Harper0.2160.2960.341Y
Johan Camargo0.2220.2930.352Y
Anthony Rizzo0.2270.2870.315Y
DJ LeMahieu0.3010.3460.294N
Trey Mancini0.2780.3220.289MEH
Ian Happ0.3850.2970.358Not enough
Matt Kemp0.40.320.29Y
Starling Marte0.3520.2910.3Y
Albert Almora0.3680.3120.31Y
Domingo Santana0.3680.308.500*N/A*
Scooter Gennett0.3890.3410.333Y
Nick Castellanos0.4110.3560.329Y
*Only received 35 plate appearances since June 11th

So, pretty decent results. I suppose if a player was carrying a .400 BABIP, there is really nowhere to go but down. However, in the case of Matt Kemp, Scooter Gennett, Albert Almora, and Nicholas Castellanos, they both fell well-below even their xBABIP. Likewise, we saw massive positive corrections for Bryce Harper, Anthony Rizzo, and Johan Camargo. All three were fantastic buy lows and owners who were able to buy them at a discount were rewarded in the second half of 2018.

This year, I don’t have the luxury of utilizing xStats.org. Luckily for me, Baseball Savant has a search tool where you can basically come up with anything you want based on the features and settings. It does take a little more leg work, but we are able to get it done. It’s important to note that expected statistics are not predictive. They are descriptive and merely show what a player’s expected numbers should be based on the quality of contact, launch angles, etc from his past performance. So knowing that we can find the player’s on the far end of each spectrum (the largest difference between BABIP and xBABIP). The probability of regression for these extreme cases is much higher than the rest of the group. That’s what I’ll be focusing on in this article.

Before we dive in, you’ll notice a bunch of Rockies on this list. The xBABIP equation does not account for Park Factors. Since Coors Field inflates BABIP as much as 20-25%, we can almost eliminate them from the regression list. If a Rockies hitter shows up on the positive regression list, that’s a completely different story. The other factor to consider is speed. xBABIP doesn’t include a speed component. So while guys like Elvis Andrus, Christian Yelich, and Tim Anderson show up the overperformers list, we need to consider that their speed could be playing a role that isn’t quantified. I won’t be expecting as much regression from those players with well-above-average speed. OK, enough rambling, here is the list of overperformers and I’ll discuss the negative regression candidates below.

Overperformers

2019 xBABIP Overperformers

player_nameBABIPxBABIPxB-BABIP
Rhys Hoskins0.3080.242-0.066
Omar Narvaez0.3240.249-0.075
Charlie Blackmon0.3490.285-0.064
Brandon Lowe0.3890.314-0.075
Nolan Arenado0.3170.261-0.056
Eduardo Escobar0.3070.250-0.057
David Peralta0.3500.297-0.053
David Dahl0.4100.367-0.043
Miguel Cabrera0.3610.312-0.049
Trevor Story0.3610.307-0.054
Christian Vazquez0.3210.272-0.049
Gleyber Torres0.3190.266-0.053
Eric Sogard0.3190.272-0.047
Corey Seager0.3220.273-0.049
Elvis Andrus0.3490.294-0.055
Christian Yelich0.3280.295-0.033
Brian Goodwin0.3550.313-0.042
Marcus Semien0.2920.266-0.026
Austin Meadows0.3680.332-0.036
Tim Anderson0.3720.329-0.043
Jorge Polanco0.3490.320-0.029
Jeff McNeil0.3800.340-0.040
Byron Buxton0.3130.282-0.031
Adalberto Mondesi0.3520.322-0.030
Xander Bogaerts0.3280.301-0.027
Juan Soto0.3650.323-0.042
Joey Votto0.3260.296-0.030

Negative Regression 

Brandon Lowe (2B – TB)
Surprise, surprise. No, not really. Lowe has by all accounts been a pleasant surprise for fantasy owners this season. He’s hitting for average, power, and chipping in with some speed. Anyone can look at Lowe’s BABIP and expect regression but what is interesting is that xBABIP is still .314. That means his batted ball quality has been great. His barrel rate is fantastic and he hits a ton of line drives and high-quality fly balls. It’s going to be difficult to keep up that quality of contact but even if he does, the expected metrics drop his BABIP by .075. That means his average goes from .279 to around .230. He’s a clear sell candidate but try and get a top 100 player for him. He’s ranked 71st on the Razzball Player Rater so it should be possible.

David Peralta (OF – ARI)
Peralta had an unexpected breakout last season at age-30 in terms of power. As we peek at his player page, we can see that his barrel rate, average exit velocity, and hard hit% are all down this year compared to 2018. On the plus side, his batted ball profile is similar to last season and while his exit velocity on line drives and fly balls (LD/FB) is down, it’s still pretty strong at 94.3 MPH. I don’t think Peralta is a complete lost cause, but there’s just no way he can maintain his .350 BABIP given his quality of contact. I don’t think he falls to the .250 range, but something around .270 with moderate power is what I expect going forward.

Eduardo Escobar (SS/3B – ARI)
Wait, did the Diamondbacks remove the humidor this year? What is going on? Escobar also showed up as a potential negative regression candidate on my home run per barrel (HR/BRL%) article earlier this month. His over-performance was largely due to a significant portionof his home runs were not barreled, aka lucky homers. It also appears he’s due for some BABIP regression. It’s not that his actual BABIP is that high but his quality of contact is awful. His hard-hit rate is just 29.2% and has just a .316 xwOBA. I would not be surprised if he hits around .250 going forward. In addition and as previously mentioned, he’s still vastly outperforming in terms of home runs. Just regressing his barrels to league-average HR/BRL% (I know, that’s lazy but hear me out), he should have between 10 and 11 homers. Sell him immediately for anything inside the top 200. He might very well hit .250 with 10 HR from here on out. You can find that on the waivers.

Joey Votto (1B – CIN)
Votto’s decline continues. As bad as he’s been, his xBABIP thinks he should be worse. Everything is out of whack with the future Hall of Famer. His strikeout rate is up, his walk rate is down, and the power is once again diminishing. While his .319 BABIP is right in line with his previous two seasons, his quality of contact is down. Votto has never been an elite Statcast guy except for the xwOBA metric. Since Statcast’s inception in 2015, Votto has finished the season with an xwOBA in the top two percent in every season except 2019. He’s not even close. His xwOBA of ,.326 is right at league-average. That’s not what we are used to seeing with Votto. The good news for owners is that his hard contact has been up in the month of June while his strikeout and walk rates are much closer to a one-to-one ratio this month. At this point, I’m not selling, you can’t get anything for him. I’m riding it out and this given the properties of the ball, he could partially turn his season around. I think Votto can finish around .275 with 20 homers. That’s not what you drafted him for, but is useful ROS.

Rhys Hoskins (1B/OF – PHI)
Whoa, looks like we are in for some steep regression with Hoskins. When looking at his metrics, he’s essentially the same player he was a year ago. The only differences are he’s hitting the ball a little harder, walking more, AND hitting more infield fly balls. So while hitting the harder with help with his BABIP and home runs, the increased popups will hurt his BABIP. In other words, his BABIP should mirror last season’s .272 BABIP. That’s a steep drop and I’ll take the under on THE BAT’s .259 BA going forward. He’s still a great source of power and RBI and of course a hold in OBP leagues but I’d sell him in BA leagues to someone who thinks he’s a third-round value.

Quick hit: Jeff McNeil has been so impressive in his brief career thus far. He’s carrying a .370 BABIP thus far in his career over 526 plate appearances. That’s not exactly a small sample. It’s hard to see how he’s able to maintain such elevated marks without the elite quality of contact and foot speed. Don’t get me wrong, his quality of contact is good and because of his very low strikeout rate, he’s also a threat to hit .300 but I can’t envision a .380 BABIP going forward.

Underperformers

2019 xBABIP Underperformers

player_nameBABIPxBABIPxB-BABIP
Yonder Alonso0.2000.2790.079
Justin Smoak0.2320.3040.072
Kyle Schwarber0.2680.3250.057
Robinson Cano0.2700.3230.053
Jason Kipnis0.2720.3220.050
Franmil Reyes0.2520.3000.048
Maikel Franco0.2010.2420.041
Nick Markakis0.2890.3290.040
Evan Longoria0.2660.3050.039
J.T. Realmuto0.3100.3460.036
Jose Ramirez0.2370.2730.036
Mike Trout0.3170.3510.034
Dansby Swanson0.2890.3230.034
J.D. Martinez0.3110.3430.032
Enrique Hernandez0.2350.2650.030
Lorenzo Cain0.2900.3200.030
Niko Goodrum0.3120.3420.030
Joc Pederson0.2040.2320.028
Albert Pujols0.2150.2430.028
Amed Rosario0.3110.3380.027
Marcell Ozuna0.2740.2990.025
Anthony Rendon0.3200.3450.025

Positive Regression 

Kyle Schwarber (OF – CHC)
Looking at the bottom of the list, you’ll notice a theme. It’s speed or lack thereof. So while I’m expecting quite a bit of positive regression for Schwarber, I don’t think he will manage a .325 BABIP going forward. That being said, he’s absolutely killing baseballs this year. His hard-hit rate is over 50% which ranks inside the top two percent of Major League Baseball. He doesn’t waste his balls in play as his soft contact rate is third lowest to only J.D. Martinez and Justin Turner, and right in front of Matt Carpenter. I mention Carpenter because I think Schwarber could have a stretch similar to what we saw from Carp last season. All the metrics are pointing to elite numbers but so far the surface stats are a little bit pedestrian. Schwarber’s limited by the shift but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit .260 with 16-18 homers the rest of the way.

Franmil Reyes (OF – SD)
Coming off a two-homer game, Franmil is not someone you will likely to be able to buy low on. Reyes reminds me of a right-handed Schwarber but without the elite walk rate. His power metrics are off the charts and the results have been there. In his 551 plate appearances to start his career, he has already racked up 38 home runs. That’s Aaron Judge/Cody Bellinger territory. OK, this isn’t about his power, it’s about BABIP. He’s hitting .247 but based on the xBABIP, he should be closer to .280. His strikeout rate near 28% will limit his batting average upside, but I’ll lean closer to .260-.265 the rest of the way with 40-homer power. That’s some good stuff right there.

Anthony Rendon (3B – WAS)
Wow, really? Rendon is already hitting .314 but based on his xBABIP, he should be closer to .340! I’ve discussed Rendon at nauseam because I think he’s an MVP candidate and doesn’t get enough love. He showed up on my HR/BRL underperformers from about a month ago and is still underperforming. This is a guy who could honestly his .350 with 20 home runs the rest of the way and I wouldn’t be surprised. There’s not more I can say, he’s great!

Jose Ramirez (2B/3B – CLE)
Ugh, I just traded Jose Ramirez, Domingo Santana, and Chris Paddack for Nolan Arenado and Kyle Gibson in a 12-team league. I thought it was more important to get an elite player for a bunch of mid-tier options in a shallower 12-team league. Part of me wanted to hold on to Ramirez to see if he could turn it around. He’s been better of late but even if he improves to his actual talent this year, he’s still a .250 hitter. I am a believer in that his power will increase with the weather heating up. If he hits .250 with 10 homers and 12-15 SB, owners should take it. I would have as well but with Arenado dangling, I couldn’t resist. 

I won’t go into too much detail with the top two names: Yonder Alonso and Justin Smoak. Both have been very disappointing and typically underperform based on their xBABIP but not to this extent. Neither player is fleet of foot so I wouldn’t expect full positive regression from either. Still, both players have good power and if healthy could hit around 15 home runs in the second half. If their BABIPs come up 30 or 40 points, both are useful in 12-team leagues and a CI or utility spot. In 15-team leagues, I’d look to acquire them (Smoak over Alonso) as a throw-in to a bigger deal.

Mike Trout, LOL

Dansby Swanson (SS – ATL)
We are in the midst of Swanson’s breakout. If you missed out, that’s OK because I don’t think he’s being fully appreciated. Maybe it’s prospect fatigue and the fact that he didn’t bust out in his first couple seasons. I don’t know, either way, I think there’s more upside here. He’s still just 25 years old, already has a career-high in home runs and has more barrels through the first half of this season that he has in his last two seasons combined! In addition to huge gains in hard contact, he’s swinging at pitches outside the zone less often and smoking line drives and fly balls. There’s no reason his batting average should be in the .250s. I think he will comfortably sit around .275-.280 going forward with good power numbers and a prime spot in the Braves offense. Don’t sleep on his speed either, 10-12 SBs plays in today’s fantasy game.

Amed Rosario (SS – NYM)
This one snuck up on me a little bit. After a decent audition in the second half of 2017, he was pegged as a potential breakout in 2018. He didn’t quite live up to the hype but was serviceable, especially for a 22-year-old. He’s already matched his home run total from 2018 with nine but his batting average is right in line with last year. He’s improved his exit velocity by 2.5 MPH on average and is a few more line drives and fly balls while hitting fewer popups. That will boost ones BABIP for sure yet his current BABIP matches what he did last season. He makes enough contact and has great speed so I’d expect something closer to his xBABIP for the second half. He also has an outside shot a going 20-20 which is rare in today’s game.

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Photo Courtesy of the Sun Times

Shortstop – The Choice Is Yours

The first article I did for ADP value picks was for outfielders with speed. This one is going to be similar but for shortstops in that most of these options at short will have some speed. As a reminder, I’m using ZIPS projections for 2018 and NFBC ADP for all the players. So how this works is, I display ZIPS projections for four or five similar mystery players at the same position and we figure out whether you should (to quote Black Sheep – The Choice is Yours) “get with this or you can get with that.” Yes, old school rap is the inspiration for this segment. Ok, here’s are the mystery players.

SS     NFBC
PlayerAVGHRRRBISBADP
Player A0.2731380522577
Player B0.28811586024131
Player C0.2737574727206
Player D0.25119676111230
Player E0.2599615120236

Based on the projections, Player A looks to be the most productive in terms of run production, has good speed and a little bit of power. The average is fine, but I’ll be honest, I don’t understand why this player’s ADP is up at 77 based on the projections. The 80 runs and 52 RBI tells me this player hits near the top of the lineup. That’s true, this player is slotted to hit second in a solid AL lineup with a couple of notorious veteran run producers hitting behind him. Yup, this is Mean Jean Segura. I actually agree with the power and speed production but can’t understand the low runs and RBI numbers given a full season of at-bats, especially with Cano and Cruz behind him and Dee Gordon in front. The .273 average appears a alittle low as well, Jean has hit .309 the last two years combined and will be 28 this year. His BABIP is high but matches his good speed, high GB% profile. Despite the low projections by ZIPS, I’d expect a .290 AVG with 90+ runs and around 60 RBI along with the power and speed. He’s a clone of Elvis Andrus 20 spots later, GET WITH THIS.

Player B looks a lot like Segura but with very low run production. Interesting, a player like this should hit near the top of the lineup and not at the bottom. The issue appears to be his almost non-existent walk rate (3.7% in 2017) and utility-type role. I may have given him away but if I didn’t he’s also only eligible at shortstop if your league requires 15 or fewer games played at a position. Yup, this veteran is Eduardo Nunez. I would love Nunez more if he wasn’t on Boston. I know that sounds odd because Boston has a stout AF lineup. Normally that’s great for production but Nunez will hit 8th or 9th when he plays. He’ll start at 2nd while Dustin Pedroia is out then fill in as a utility role player. So, 500 PA is going to be tough to get. The other issue is the fact that Boston doesn’t run much. If he was in San Diego for instance, I’d love him because he would start every day and hit first or second in the lineup while running wild. While I’d take a shot on him because Pedroia is going to have trouble staying healthy, he needs another position player to get injured for him to see nearly a full season of ABs. DON’T GET WITH THIS. Unless he slips into the 160-170 range.

Player C
Wow, more steals and even LESS run production than Nunez! He still provides a solid batting average but isn’t taken until after pick 200. This player’s SHIT-uation doesn’t look great. He looks to be slotted near the bottom of the lineup and could possibly be on the strong side of a platoon. However, this 23-year-old NL player clearly has some speed considering the playing time issue. Player C is Jose Peraza, everyone’s favorite speedster sleeper from 2017. Now, everyone is hating even though he’s been handed a starting gig. I understand the risk especially with the news that Nick Senzel is taking reps over at short. While I love Senzel, he isn’t a shortstop and I believe it will take him the first half of the season in the minors to get comfortable with the new position. At that point, Peraza would be a utility player at 2B, SS, and OF. He’s still a good bet to get 500 PA. The high contact rate and speed should give him a .270-ish batting average but you won’t get much power. So if you need speed around pick 200 GET WITH THIS. I don’t love him before pick 200 though.

Player D
Player D is my beau. If you haven’t read a lot of my stuff or follow me on Twitter (plug) you may not know who this guy is. Clearly he the most power out of this group but the least amount of speed. His run production is second to Segura but I actually think it’s a joke. My projections for this AL LEAD-OFF hitter are 22 HR, 14 SB with 80+ runs and 60 RBI. Player D is Marcus Semien. How ZIPS projects 67 runs from a lead-off hitter, I have no idea. Also, Semien stole 12 bases (yes it was a career high) last year but in less than 90 games and is now projected for only 11? The power is legit as well, his full-season projection for home runs last year was 19 BUT he missed significant time with a wrist injury which sapped his power upon his return in July and August. It’s all good though because he clubbed five HR in September to prove the wrist is no longer an issue. Did I mention that he’ll be 27 this year and already has a season where he hit 27 home runs? I didn’t? Oh, well he does and he’s being drafted as the 20th ranked shortstop. GET WITH THIS ALL DAY!

Player E
Being draft six picks behind my boy is Player E. The numbers here aren’t too bad as projected by ZIPS. He’s one HR shy of a 10-20 season with a near .260 BA. This is an NL SS with elite talent defensively and well above average speed. He basically going to be given the job because of his defense but needs some work offensively and there are veterans there to take his spot if he falters. Player E is Amed Rosario, previously the Mets’ number one prospect in 2017. Rosario had an awful debut hitting .248 with an atrocious .271 OBP and K-BB rate of 27%! Yes, you read that right. After last season, I did not like Rosario coming into 2018; I worry about the plate discipline and I’m not sure the power shows up this year. He also needs to get on base to steal and he will be batting at the bottom of the lineup, so he won’t have a ton of opportunities. I do think he will be a solid hitter in a few years something like .275-15-25, but not now. DON’T GET WITH THIS!