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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.

Follow me @FreezeStats. Check out my work at FantasyPros and Pitcher List.


Photo Courtesy of the Sun Times

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September Moves for the Stretch Run

No, this isn’t a weekly rundown, but I feel that this type of article is more valuable to fantasy owners at this point in the season. Let’s jump right in to some hitters that I think can help you win your league.  I also cover some hitters who’s ownership’s are too high and can be let go. I will have an article out on Sunday highlighting starting pitchers to stream for the upcoming week. Don’t worry, pitchers won’t be left out.

Hitters Under 40% Owned to Add

Trey Mancini (BAL – 1B/OF), 39% owned
Mancini is literally the same player he was last year just without the BABIP luck. The difference in BABIP from 2017 to 2018 is a drop of 70 points. However, since the All-Star break, Mancini is hitting .292 with nine home runs with a more respectable .320 BABIP. He’s also bumped his hard contact up to nearly 40% without changing his approach. Unfortunately, Mancini does not provide speed and hits too many balls on the ground for significant upside. He’s a solid batting average/power replacement for someone like Yonder Alonso whom I’ll discuss later.

Colin Moran (PIT – 3B), 3% owned
OK, so the launch angle increase I predicted from Moran didn’t exactly happen, or did it? It’s actually somewhere in between, sorry to be so anticlimactic. Moran’s ground ball rate has dipped to 45% and his line drive rate is up. He’s also a guy who makes a lot of contact with an 88.5% zone-contact rate. Previously, Moran was on the strong-side of the 3B platoon with my brother from another mother David Freese, but Freese has been shipped to LA. Moran should get just about every start at the hot corner moving forward with a prime lineup spot. Unfortunately, Moran isn’t hitting for power, but has hit .329 since August 1st and should help in batting average, runs, and RBI the rest of the way. Moran is strictly a deep 15-team and deeper league add.

Adalberto Mondesi (KC – 2B/SS), 18% owned
Finally, someone who is actually exciting!  Mondesi is somehow owned in under 25% of leagues and is capable of power and elite level speed. Mondesi is a guy I’ll be all over in drafts next year because of the upside he possesses. For the final month of the season, taking a chance on a guy who could win you the stolen base category without hurting you in the power department is gold. I realize he hasn’t been overly productive recently, but with six home runs and 18 steals in less than 200 at-bats, what more do you need to see? I liken him to a Jonathan Villar-type player whose ownership finally got his well-deserved Mass Appeal, so here’s the next best thing! There’s going to be a ton of helium going into 2019, so keeper league owners should be all over him now because, in dynasty, he’s long gone.

Ryan O’Hearn (KC – 1B), 7% owned
Another Royal, come on now! I’m going with O’Hearn over Brian’s brother Hunter Dozier (they are not brothers) for these reasons: the walk rate and the plate discipline. Both O’Hearn and Dozier have very good power with strikeout issues but O’Hearn does not expand the zone as much as Dozier. I can actually envision a strikeout rate drop to below 25% for RO. Combine that with an 11% walk rate and an incredible 50% hard contact rate and you have…. Rhys Hoskins from 2017! Sure, Hoskins has come down to earth and I don’t expect O’Hearn to go full 2017-Hoskins, but we are talking about only three weeks of baseball. If he stays hot, he could help boost average, home runs, and RBI before the season is over.

Harrison Bader (STL – OF), 19% owned and Brandon Nimmo (NYM – OF), 25% owned
I will forever link these two players who have similar skill sets. Both and high energy athletes who are all-out maximum effort. Bader certainly has more speed and but I think Nimmo can provide more power and OBP. Nimmo has missed a little time in August, but since the beginning of the month (August), Nimmo has been on fire. He’s slashing .351/.432/.636 with 3 homers, a steal, and 14 extra-base hits in only 88 PA! Bader hasn’t been as hot but has the higher SB upside. He’s compiled 10 homers and 13 steals in only 349 plate appearances. Depending on your team needs, grab at least one of these guys.

Francisco Mejia (SD – C), 15% owned
His ownership is sure to jump up after a two-homer performance last night. In Yahoo! Leagues, he does not have catcher eligibility yet, but in ESPN league, he does. Fear not! Only four more starts at catcher will earn him the big “C” next to his name in Yahoo leagues which should happen by early next week. If you’re rostering Tucker Barnhart or Robinson Chirinos, go ahead and make the switch. Mejia projects to be a high contact, high average hitter with moderate power. These days, moderate power means around 20 homers over the course of a full season. I do not see how he doesn’t perform as a top 12 catcher ROS.

Brandon Lowe (TB – 2B/OF), 5% owned
There are three Lowe’s in the Rays system and Brandon isn’t the one I’m most excited about, that would be Nate. However, he’s the only one up with the big club. B. Lowe has been hot hitting .414 with three homers and two steals in the last two weeks. Lowe graded out moderately across the board with slightly above-average power and speed. He’s patient which is great for OBP leagues but may elevate his strikeout rate a bit. I like him in deep leagues to help out with runs and provide some power and speed. OBP leagues, he’s a must add down the stretch.

Over 50% owned: hitters to drop

Eric Hosmer (1B – SD), 75% owned
Depending on what type of scoring your league has, Hosmer likely falls outside the top 300 overall. Most 10 to 12-team leagues roster less than 300 players. Do yourselves a favor and let him go. Hopefully, you’ve been able to find a viable replacement and are still in contention for the championship. I won’t bore you with all the poor numbers on Hosmer, but I will list off the areas where he’s under-performing compared to previous years: walk rate is down, strikeout rate is up, ground ball rate is up, soft contact is up, infield fly rate is up, chase and Swstr rates are up, and contact rate is down. Yup, that’s a lot. Stop owning him for name value, I’d even take teammates Mejia or Franmil Reyes over him right now.

Yonder Alonso (CLE – 1B), 50% owned
Coming into the season I thought Yonder Alonso had some solid value with an ADP well after pick 200. I projected Alonso to provide solid power numbers with a solid batting average as a floor while hitting 5th or 6th in one of the better lineups in the league. While the power has been relatively consistent, his batting average has fallen off the map which currently sits at .241 and is .214 since the All-Star break. It has nothing to do with a change in launch angle, his 22% line drive and 42% fly ball rates in that time frame mirrors his profile over the last 2 years. The issue for Alonso is his lack of hard contact, just 27.3% since August 1st and his chase rate, 35% in the month of August. Alonso will continue to be a batting average drain while providing poor power upside given his recent poor batted ball profile and plate discipline.

In redraft leagues, it’s safe to drop Vlad Guerrero Jr. and Eloy Jimenez as the team’s brass have decided to hold both down for the remainder of the season. No, they are not owned in over 50% of leagues, but in the playoffs, you need all the roster spots you can get. It’s unfortunate, but maybe they will both come at a bit of a discount next year. Clearly, both are ready to be up with the big club and no longer need refinement. Depending on service time, both could be held down for a couple weeks to a month to start the season similar to Acuna this year and Kris Bryant a few years ago. This would further decrease their ADP and I think they can both provide between 5th and 7th round value next year. It’ll be interesting to see their ADP’s coming into 2019 and I still see them as Star-Boys.

Odubel Herrera (PHI – OF), 70% owned
Over on the Sports Degens, I told you to sell Herrera back in early July before the All-Star break. At the time, he was on fire and ranked inside the top 75 overall. Since then, he’s hit .237 with seven home runs and 1 steal in 186 plate appearances. The power numbers are OK, but the lack of stolen bases and batting average has really hurt his value. Herrera’s hard contact is only 25% since July 5th and his plate discipline is a mess. The weak contact combined with an aggressive approach is the reason I was staying away from Herrera in the second half. There’s no reason for him to be owned in so many leagues. Drop him for one of the outfielders I highlighted above.

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