Hitter BABIP Leaders

With a little over a month left of the season, BABIP marks shouldn’t change too significantly through the remainder. The five hitters with the highest BABIPs could potentially be overvalued in fantasy leagues next year as a decline could trigger a drop in batting average. Let’s see if that may be the case.

Andrew McCutchen 0.401 0.356
Mike Trout 0.391 0.343
Austin Jackson 0.387 0.308
Melky Cabrera 0.379 0.346
Dexter Fowler 0.377 0.299

A power surge and an insane BABIP has led to Andrew McCutchen‘s breakout year. His batting average is up nearly .100 points from last season, which is crazy. We don’t need to perform any kind of deep analysis to know that McCutchen will not be posting another .400+ BABIP next season, and likely no where close to it. Previously, his career best was just .327, and while he has hit a bunch more line drives this year and fly balls became grounders, I would say a mid-.300 BABIP (say .340 or so) would be a more realistic expectation. In fact, a .342 mark is exactly what ZiPS is projecting for the rest of the season. With some of his increased power being sustainable, that still leaves him with a batting average around .300. McCutchen has really surprised me this year as I expected his power to take a step back and certainly not to jump ahead further. With his combination of skills, it doesn’t feel right to bet against him, but he will very likely be overvalued next season.

What else is there to say about Mike Trout? It’s just not normal that a 21 year old has a legitimate case for being considered the best player in baseball already. As a non-owner watching him fill up the box score for the team in first place in my home fantasy league, it’s been bittersweet to follow to say the least! He simply refuses to slow down. In the minors, he had always posted enormous BABIP marks and his current batted ball distribution and low IFFB%, combined with his power and speed, suggest his true talent BABIP is indeed well above the league average. Maybe even league leading. He’s almost a certainty not to end up on any of my fantasy teams next year, but his speed makes him safer than you might think.

Austin Jackson is up to his old ways, posting another inflated BABIP. Back during his 2010 rookie year, he posted an even higher .396 mark, so this is nothing new. It seems that the biggest factor in his strong BABIP skills is that he rarely hits pop-ups. In fact, he has hit just 1 all year and is tied for 3rd in baseball in IFFB%. Combine that with good speed, a power surge and a better than league average line drive rate, and you have the recipe for BABIP inflation. Aside from continuing to post a strong BABIP, he has reduced his strikeout rate, which has led to his first .300+ batting average. The power surge appears to be mostly sustainable, but a declining stolen base success rate offsets some of the added value provided by those additional home runs. I have a difficult time paying for a .380 BABIP, so although his history shows he could do it again, he could be quite a risk.

While I don’t think PEDs could actually impact a hitter’s BABIP, it is quite the coincidence that Melky Cabrera has enjoyed a career best mark the season he was caught.

Dexter Fowler has a career .349 BABIP, no doubt helped by the thin air at Coors Field. In his career at home, his BABIP has been .360, while it was still a strong, albeit less spectacular .336 in away games. While he has always hit an above average percentage of line drives, that skill has really improved this year, as he ranks fourth in baseball in LD%. After never hitting above .266 for a season, Fowler is now flirting with .300, finally providing positive value in the category for his fantasy owners. Unfortunately, that kind of line drive rate is unlikely to repeated, which will hurt his BABIP, plus a decline in HR/FB ratio will result in some additional fly ball outs. He still hasn’t become the type of stolen base threat many had hoped, so he isn’t as susceptible to being overvalued like some of the other names on this list as fantasy owners simply won’t keep paying for an expected breakout in the category any longer.

**And yes, it was pure coincidence that all these hitters happen to be outfielders!

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Mike Podhorzer produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X: 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.

9 Responses to “Hitter BABIP Leaders”

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  1. Drew says:

    Good post, but I don’t understand the Melky paragraph – should we expect him to be overrated or undervalued, since the implication is thar his BABIP, avg, and true value will suffer next year because he’s “off the juice”?

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    • His BABIP will drop, PEDs or not, no idea how his power will be affected. His new home ball park and team will obviously affect his value as well. We still don’t know exactly how much impact PEDs have on performance, so I steer clear of the “his power will decline now that he’s off the juice” speculation.

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  2. junker23 says:

    How “overvalued” can McCutchen really be? A guy that can hit 25-30 homers w/ 20-30 steals and a .300ish average is still gonna be a first round pick, right? (I suppose you wouldn’t want to spend an additional $10 on him in an auction league, but people shouldn’t be paying for .350+ averages from anybody.)

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    • Yeah, he has more of an opportunity to be overvalued in auctions. If we knew he’d steal 30 again, that would be a huge boost to his value, but 2010 appears to be the outlier and he’s only a 20 steal guy. If we conservatively said .290-25-20, that’s about a $30 player, but he may very well go for more than that in 12 team mixers.

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  3. Paul says:

    Is this a parody? I thought we were well past the point of applying general regression analysis to clearly defined outliers.

    No, Austin Jackson’s BABIP from last season was his floor. He had an elevated BABIP all through the minor leagues as well. Just filter the leaderboards for multiple years, say 5 seasons, and you’ll see a list of many hitters whose elevated BABIP is quite stable over multiple seasons. If BABIP is not a random, short-term anomaly (because it correlates well to wOBA, etc), it CANNOT be assumed to be lucky and necessarily regress to a generic mean. This analysis continues to be, frankly, asinine.

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    • Bob says:

      The author offers several plausible explanations for why Jackson’s BABIP is high, essentially in support of the point you make, and says history shows that he could do it again. The fact that the author has a difficult time paying for a .380 BABIP or suggests that Jackson could be a risk (a fair point given that speed tends to diminish) hardly seems to constitute an “asinine” analysis.

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      • This. Not sure Paul if you actually read the explanation, but it basically was saying Jackson’s BABIP is not flukey. I just wouldn’t pay full value in a fantasy auction since there’s simply no upside there and the risk is greater than buying a .300 BABIP guy.

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  4. JimNYC says:

    My biggest surprise here was that Derek Jeter’s BABIP this year is actually BELOW his career average. Never would have guessed that.

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