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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

Weekly Rundown – 4/21 – 4/27

HOT Hitters

The Notorious DIDI is at is again blasting 5 homers and driving in 13 runs while hitting over .450 this week. The league leader in RBI has continued his onslaught on MLB pitching. I’ll admit when I’m wrong and I was way off on Didi Gregorius coming into the season. He’s walking at a career high and striking out at a career low. He’s hitting that ball very hard and his high drive percentage is a hair under 20% (league average is around 6.1%). His xStats are great but the one interesting note is that xHR sits under 5 (currently has 10 homers). He’s outperformed his Stats in the past so I’m riding this out with Didi especially if he continues to hit in the middle of the Yankee lineup.

Michael A Taylor has had himself a week after a slow start filling out the stat sheet with 2 homers and 3 steals hitting .313. Taylor has been a great source of steals with 9 on the season but I’m not buying the hot streak. He has contact issues, hits too many ground balls and a lot of poor contact. His walk rate is up which is good and I’d hold him if you need steals or are in a deep league. In shallow leagues, he’s a sell for me right now.

Brandon Belt, the Prince of xStats is murdering baseballs. He’s hitting .455 this past week with 3 homers and leads the league in OPS (last 7 days). Whoops, nope, that’s Didi, Belt is second. The 6 homers on the season is a third of his career high in a single season. He’s rolling with career highs in both hard (high) and soft contact (low) which which tells me he’s selling out for power evidenced by his elevated O-swing and SwStr rates. I like the power gains but I’d sell him while he’s hot. If he maintains the power, which will be difficult at AT&T Park, he’s likely to lose 50 points on his average.

Kyle Schwarber has blasted 4 home runs this past week and has followed up a terrible 2017 with a hot start to 2018. So far, things are looking great, the strikeouts are down, the walks are up and the lower SwStr and O-Swing back that up. The one negative, I noticed is his launch angle is down to only 7 degrees. He’s hitting less fly balls, the ones he’s hitting have been fantastic, just check his 40% HR/FB rate. As great as that is, it won’t last. He’s not a sell, because he’s still stinging the ball and this lower LA could keep his average above .260.

Matt Davidson has 4 dingers this past week and continues to prove doubters wrong. He’s got 9 homers on the season but there are some underlying numbers that make me concerned about his season long term. The strikeout rate sits over 34% and his launch angle is below 9 degrees which is not ideal for a power hitter. As a result, he’s only hit fly balls 33% of the time which is more in line with a mid-teens to 20 homer type FB rate. Here’s the outrageous number of the day, his HR/FB is 60%! Yes, that’s correct, it leads the league by nearly 20% and almost doubles Bryce Harper’s 33% which ranks 3rd in MLB! In OBP leagues, I’m holding him because he has improved his walk rate but I’d sell high on him in standard leagues.

Freezing Hitters

J.D. Martinez is hitting .238 this past week. His Ks are up and BB are down. Has the decline for JDM begun? No, not even close, he’s hitting 60% of his batted balls hard. When he makes contact, it’s Judge-like, his average exit velocity is over 95 mph and his high drive rate is nearly 30% which is almost triple the league average! Per xStats, he’s actually been unlucky and should have more HRs and a higher average. If this cold stretch continues, I’m buying!

Chris Taylor has gone 5 for his last 26 with 2 runs, no homers, no RBI, and no steals. Ugh, this follow up to his 2017 breakout is a nightmare. He hasn’t stolen a base and his BABIP sits nearly 100 points lower than in 2017. We knew the .361 from last year was a bit inflated but this is low. He does have 3 homers and 10 XBH, and his contract rate is right where it was last year. He’s not hitting the ball quite as hard but I expect the numbers to up a bit, he’s a hold or moderate buy.

Andrew McCutchen is 2 for his last 16, that’s a .125 average but at least he taking walks, right? He hasn’t homers or stolen a base in that stretch and is now hitting under .200 for the season. Slow start for Cutch, but other than a slight increase in K rate, he’s the same guy. He’s still walking a ton, the BABIP will come back up and his 3 homers + 3 steals is solid. I’m buying Cutch right now.

Anthony Rizzo is 5 for his last 23 without a homer with a total of 1 bomb this year. He’s walking less and striking out more, very uncharacteristic of his track record. I’m worried about big Riz. His value hits are half of the league average and his poor hit rate is nearly 25% which is 5% over league average. His xStats don’t paint a much prettier picture, so it’s possible he’s hurt. If he keeps struggling the next couple weeks and they don’t DL him, I’m selling.

Justin Upton is in one of his slumps going 4 for his last 22 without a home run. Even though Upton was able to hold off an long slumps in his incredible 2017 campaign, he’s been known for prolonged slumps throughout the season. Nothing out of the ordinary for Upton. His batted ball profile and plate dicsiline is right in line with his previous seasons. It’s funny because the fantasy community believes Upton is inconsisten (especailly head to head players), but he’s as bankable as they come. He’l end up with a .260 BA, 26-30 HR, and 90-100 RBI.

Dee Gordon is hitting .192 in the last seven days without a steal. Where is Gordon’s value without steals? Now, he can’t steal bases every week but if you’re expecting 60 from him, you want that consistent production. The 9 steals on the season are nice and puts him on pace for over 50 steals. His speed hasn’t declined yet and so that’s good but he’s swinging and missing more so less opportunities to steal bases. If this keeps up, he’s probably more of a .285 guy with 50 steals than a .300-60 guy.

HOT Pitchers

Sean Manaea followed up his no hitter against the Red Sox with a gem against the World Series Champion Astros. No surprise, he’s the number one pitcher over the last seven days with 2 wins, 17 strikeouts, no earned runs and a WHIP of 0.44. He’s been amazing but he’s not an ace. His 98.2% LOB and a .148 BABIP just won’t stick. Don’t get me wrong , I love Manaea but he’s probably a 3.40-3.60 ERA pitchers with a K rate around 8.5/9. A solid #2 or 3.

Kyle Gibson has looked great in his last two starts with an ERA under 3.00 and a WHIP below 1.00 in that stretch along with 17 Ks in just over 12 innings. I’d be picking him up in 12 team leagues and deeper where available. His Swinging strike rate is up 3%, that is not insignificant. Yes, that’s a double negative. Otherwise, he’s the same guy, but more Ks equal less blow ups. I think he can be a solid number five or six, so hold or pick up for now.

Miles Mikolas has proved to be more than ready to dominate Major League hitters giving up only four earned runs in his last three starts. He needs to be owned in even the shallowest of leagues if available. He was bit by the long ball in his first few starts and could be an issue going forward, but he’s averaging over 95 mph on his fastball and allows a lot of weak contact. I’m buying now, but keep an eye on the velocity, if that dips, he may be starting to fatigue. If that happens, you need to sell.

Chris Tillman, yes everyone Chris Tillman pitched seven innings last night without giving up a homer or a run for that matter. He struck five and has a 2.77 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in his last two starts. Here’s my advice for you on Tillman, don’t pick him up and if you own him in a super deep league SELL! He’s allowing a .313 BA with a .571 SLG. xStats actually says he’s been lucky! His walk rate and strikeout rate are identical. Excuse me….Sorry, I just threw up, but I’m back. SELLLLLLLL

Freezing Pitchers

Marcus Stroman has an 8.88 ERA on the season with his worst starts coming this past week.  He’s given up 14 runs (12 ER) in his last 10.2 IP, he also walks four in his start against the Yankees. Ground ball rate is great vut his hard contact given up is high. His average exit velo against is over 92 mph. That’s not good fam. He has been unlucky but his control is off as well with a 12+% BB rate, so he’s paying for allowing the walks and the hard contact. I don’t like what he’s doing and his velocity is down. I’m selling, he’s a streamer, nothing more.

Luis Castillo has given up eight earned runs in his last six innings along with 13 hits and six walks! This one really hurts. His velocity wasn’t bad last night, he was regularly hitting 96 mph and touched 97 but his command and control was off. He’s stuff is good but he’s making way too many mistakes. He also doesn’t trust his slider, he threw a total of three sliders and they all went for balls. This is a problem, if he’s not hurt he’s droppable in 10 team leagues. In deeper leagues you have to hold him for now. If he hits the DL then at least there’s a reason for his poor performance.

Danny Duffy has given up 10 earned runs in his last two starts while striking out only five batters in 10.2 IP. I’ll make this quick, I’m out on Duffy, Velocity is down a bit, swings and misses are down, contact up, hard contact up, I could keep going. He’s a drop in shallow leagues and ell low in deep leagues.

Clayton Kershaw has not looked sharp as he walked six batters, yes SIX, in his last start against the Marlins of all teams. It’s not just the walks but his 14 hits allowed in his last 12 innings is also no Kershaw like. Check out this great deep dive into Kershaw’s struggles from Nick Pollack on RotoGraphs. Basically, his fastball command is off and his velocity is down. It’s completely devalued the pitch which has been so great for Kershaw in his career and throws off the sequencing of his awesome curve and slider. I had Kershaw as the #3 SP coming into the year and if he can’t correct this fastball issue, I may be dropping him outside the top 5 or 6 overall SPs. Don’t sell yet, but monitor the situation.