Hitter BABIP Laggards

Even though we are over a month into the season, a hitter’s BABIP and resulting batting average are still rather meaningless. In fact, neither statistic stabilizes within 550 plate appearances. That means that it has little predictive value at this point and should have limited weight when evaluating a player now. Therefore, hitters with extremely high or low BABIPs should potentially be looked at as trade bait or acquisition targets, respectively. Let’s first look at the possible targets, or those with abnormally low BABIP marks.

Jose Bautista 0.161 15.0% 35.0% 50.0% 18.0%
Eric Hosmer 0.165 15.8% 49.5% 34.7% 5.7%
Brendan Ryan 0.190 14.1% 50.0% 35.9% 26.1%
Clint Barmes 0.194 19.4% 41.8% 38.8% 15.4%
Scott Rolen 0.197 17.8% 42.5% 39.7% 10.3%
Casey Kotchman 0.200 19.5% 55.2% 25.3% 4.5%
Adam Lind 0.207 17.6% 49.4% 32.9% 10.7%
Ike Davis 0.208 16.9% 51.9% 31.2% 12.5%
Rickie Weeks 0.211 11.4% 49.4% 39.2% 22.6%
Brian McCann 0.212 22.2% 36.7% 41.1% 0.0%

Jose Bautista sports just a .272 career BABIP and posted a low .233 mark during his breakout 2010 season, so he is no stranger to BABIP struggles. You can see from his batted ball distribution why he has had problems maintaining a league average rate. He hits a low percentage of liners, is an extreme fly ball hitter and pops it up more often than the league average. While his BABIP and average will obviously rise, it is going to be tough for him to post another .300+ BABIP the rest of the way like he did last year, even given an expected improvement in power. Of course, if you stumble upon an owner who suddenly feels he is no longer a first round value, then he’s worth targeting in trade.

Eric Hosmer has generally performed exactly as projected, except for his BABIP and batting average. Our own Jeff Zimmerman recently looked at how teams are employing a shift against him like they do against other left-handed pull hitters such as Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard. While that would certainly explain why Hosmer’s BABIP has declined, the magnitude of the drop cannot possibly be entirely due to the shift. One of the major drivers of value for Hosmer in fantasy was his ability to steal bases. He has only stolen one so far in two attempts, but given his .252 OBP, it isn’t surprising that he hasn’t stolen more yet. While it is less likely Hosmer posts another .300+ BABIP the rest of the way, better luck should rear its head sooner or later.

Adam Lind has suddenly become a ground ball hitter, which is not a good thing when you have little speed. All his other numbers are not too far out of line, though. However, with the signing of Vladimir Guerrero, if his slump continues, he’ll have to worry about losing playing time as the team has a number of alternatives to play first base, including current designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion. Lind’s fantasy upside isn’t very high, which means he could come quite cheap in AL-Only leagues.

Like Lind, Ike Davis has also taken to the ground ball, having posted a mark above 50% that is more closely associated with speedsters. The good news is that his HR/FB ratio has been just fine, so he is still hitting the ball hard. Throughout his minor and Major league career, Davis has always posted a high BABIP, as it has never dipped below .318 at any stop. That provides more optimism that the balls will start dropping in sooner rather than later. Of course, his strikeout rate is up and he is swinging at more pitches outside the zone. So his batting average may still very well disappoint through the rest of the season even assuming his BABIP rebounds.

When you strike out as much as Rickie Weeks and already post mediocre batting averages even with a league average BABIP, it looks disastrous when the BABIP luck fairies disappear. Weeks’ problems this year are fairly obvious from the surface – he has hit a very low percentage of liners, instead hitting pop ups like a mad man. That is the opposite of the recipe for a strong BABIP. Weeks has never been much of a line drive hitter and always had problems popping it up, so this is nothing new, but it has been more extreme than usual so far this year. His power is also down, but at least he is walking at a career high pace. The injury risk will always remain, but there’s no reason to think that Weeks won’t rebound and start turning his pop ups into line drives shortly.

Amazingly, Brian McCann currently sports a higher line drive rate than BABIP. You don’t see that very often. Actually, even more incredible is that he hasn’t even hit one pop up all season! His walk rate sits right at his career average, his strikeout rate is actually down and his power is normal. This all screams out that an improvement is coming, and fast. Of all the hitters on this list that I discussed, McCann is the clearest candidate to see his BABIP rise rapidly.

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

20 Responses to “Hitter BABIP Laggards”

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  1. sfjb says:

    What’s the story about Rolen? Can he turn it around, albeit if he stayes healthy?

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  2. Jmonde says:

    I don’t get the Adam Lind comment about his limited upside. Look at 2009 and his first half of last year. A 300 hitter with 30 HR’s in that lineup is great upside. If only he can stay healthy and hit lefties.

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    • He’s a career .263 hitter and now he’s hitting at the bottom of the order. Sure, maybe his 10th percentile is .300-30 HRs, but that’s highly unlikely.

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      • Jmonde says:

        I guess I view upside as the guys best. At his best he can go 300 and 30+ but that is unlikely. To me limited upside would be 270 with 15 HR

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      • Coop! says:

        If .300-30 is his 10th percentile, I’d love to have his 50th!

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  3. DSC says:

    Lind’s 2009 season stands out like a sore thumb. He is startingto look like a classic DH or late inning fielder, he can’t do both. I notice that the list includes only decent players, so sops like Mark Reynolds need not apply.

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  4. Bill says:

    Davis has valley fever. If you read up on it, this can linger for quite awhile, but it variable in it’s severity for everyone.

    In short though, I wouldn’t expect him to produce this year. The only thing that works with valley fever is rest, and a full offseason.

    A good example is johnny bench, who I believe had valley fever in the early 70’s. One of his years where he hit only 13? hr’s sticks out like a sore thumb – that was the year he had it.

    Next year, with rest, davis may resume his rise to top 12 1b status

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  5. Shawn says:

    I’ve noticed that teams have been shifting quite successfully against McCann this year. Could that result in a lower-than-expected BABIP on line drives?

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    • NBH says:

      I read somewhere (maybe on this site) that if you look at his batted balls this year, he lost 4 singles to the shift. Those 4 singles give him a .270 AVG.

      The shift is very interesting – it’s really going to alter the way we project AVG going forward. Guys with severe tendencies are going to see defenses adjust to counter those tendencies and that will result in fewer hits although the periphs will suggest nothing is wrong (ala McCann).

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  6. Scott says:

    How are we feeling about Alexei Ramirez who’s checking in at .234 babip right now?

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    • Batted ball distribution nearly identical to past seasons. However, he has always hit a ton of pop-ups, so he’ll never have a real strong BABIP. He should rebound though, but if his slump continues, he could lose some playing time since his power is down and he has been loathe to take a walk, so his OBP is pathetic.

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  7. Dave Burke says:

    Having Hosmer, Weeks and McCann in my team has being killing my average, thankfully someone inexplicably dropped Infante but I’m having to tough it out with Hosmer and McCann

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  8. Peter 2 says:

    I’m glad to see finally encounter an article that concedes that some of a player’s BABIP problems are not due to bad luck alone—a fact which was glaringly obvious to everyone until (seemingly) very recently.

    You don’t know how tired I’ve been getting with people apologizing for Mark Teixeira by referring to his low BABIP (which has now consistently declined for several years). Meanwhile, he’s become a one-dimensional, pull conscious hitter who this year has made a new hobby of pounding ground ball after ground ball right into the teeth of the shift.

    Let’s give a little credit where credit is due to the great pure hitters who spray the ball all over the field with authority and make their own luck (such as teammate Robinson Cano [career .321 BABIP], and Derek Jeter [career .355 BABIP]).

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  9. Mike F. says:

    Ike Davis struggles have nothing to do with Valley Fever. He’ll get going soon enough.

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  10. drew says:

    How about the spread between Freddie Freeman’s LD% and BABIP. It’s huge.

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  11. ajwalsh08 says:

    Seems like Geo Soto oughta be on this list

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  12. shmmrname says:

    I just made an emotional, over-reaction trade.

    Pujols for Hosmer/Lawrie

    I know I’ll probably regret it, but I couldn’t handle reading ‘grounder to third’ in the live boxscores anymore.

    This article convinced me, there’s at least some explanation that isn’t emotional. And, hey, at least if Hosmer keeps underperforming, it’ll be a grounder to first.

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