- FanGraphs Fantasy Baseball - http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy -

Hitter BABIP Surgers

Research has shown that hitters have much more control of their BABIP marks than pitchers. As a result, true talent BABIP remains pretty stable, but does decline as a hitter ages. Looking at the leaders and laggards each year in the metric is a quick shortcut to figure out whose batting averages may decline or increase the following year. However, since these hitters may actually have a true talent level close to these levels, it might not give us the correct answer. We can instead compare a hitter’s BABIP to his previous year since hitters generally establish a baseline BABIP that they vary around each season. This is another method to help identify those who are in for a drop or jump in average. Today I’ll check in on the BABIP surgers compared to 2011. I used a minimum of 400 plate appearances last year and the “qualified” filter for this year. I have also included each hitter’s xBABIP in their respective write-ups.

Name 2011 AVG 2011 BABIP 2012 AVG 2012 BABIP BABIP Diff
Andrew McCutchen 0.259 0.291 0.336 0.380 0.089
Alex Rios 0.227 0.237 0.301 0.318 0.081
Torii Hunter 0.262 0.297 0.305 0.377 0.080
Jason Heyward 0.227 0.260 0.273 0.324 0.064
Alcides Escobar 0.254 0.285 0.295 0.347 0.062

Andrew McCutchen
xBABIP: .345

As expected, McCutchen’s BABIP has fallen from the .400+ mark as he BABIPed just .321 in August and then .278 in September. While many of the surprise batting average/BABIP guys are obvious, McCutchen is someone who may very well be a top 5 pick in next season’s drafts. So it is important to be aware of his inflated mark. I won’t touch on his power, which I think simply has to fall, but he cannot be expected to BABIP .380 again. He’s hit a couple of additional line drives this year, and has swapped fly balls for grounders, both of which should have helped his BABIP. But, his previous career high BABIP was just .327, and while his BABIP marks in the minors were pretty good, they weren’t super inflated to think he would be among the league leaders each and every season. He’s more likely than not to be overvalued next year.

Alex Rios
xBABIP: .323

Rios is one of those who appears on the list simply because last year was such a flukey down season. Last year was a disaster all around, as a lack of power and extremely low BABIP derailed his performance. Rios’ BABIP this season is just a rebound back to what he’s done before and is fully supported by increased power and line drive rate.

Torii Hunter
xBABIP: .336

Hunter was a real surprise to find here, I seriously had no idea his BABIP was .377. Clearly, you don’t need to see his name on this list to know his BABIP and average are going to fall next year. What’s interesting about his season is that it would appear that his power is down, but in reality, he is just suddenly hitting a ton of ground balls and his fly ball rate is in the mid-20% range for the first time in his career. His HR/FB ratio is actually normal. Since his other stats besides his average are either typical or slightly disappointing, he’s unlikely to be overvalued. He’s also 37, so a skills decline should be expected soon as well.

Jason Heyward
xBABIP: .327

Heyward falls into the Rios bucket of appearing here simply because of a down 2011. His 2010 rookie season BABIP was actually higher than this year at .335. He also figured out how to hit more fly balls, which was likely hampered by his shoulder injury in previous seasons. While his BABIP looks normal, I think he has some batting average upside because his strikeout rate should improve. He’s very close to becoming a true five category fantasy stud.

Alcides Escobar
xBABIP: .355

With great speed and a ground ball tendency, you would expect Escobar to BABIP at a higher than league average mark. He had an excellent history of inflated BABIPs in the minors, but it hadn’t translated into the Majors over the last two seasons. This year he is hitting a bunch more line drives, all of which were taken from his fly ball rate. With little power, a fly ball from Escobar has limited value. While I think a .347 BABIP is a bit above his head (even though his xBABIP says it’s legit), a slight regression combined with an improved contact rate should still result in a batting average that contributes positively to your fantasy team.