The Unluckiest BABIPers Mid-Season Update

Yesterday, I took a look at the hitters whose BABIP marks most exceed their xBABIP marks. Aside from a looming batting average decline, a lower rate of hits on balls in play could take a bite out of a hitter’s RBI and run totals, which all combined could really take a toll on his rest of season fantasy value. Today I check in on the opposite side of the coin, those hitters whose BABIP marks are most below their xBABIP marks. These could potentially be your group of buy low candidates.

Player Batting Average Career BABIP 2013 BABIP xBABIP Diff
Adam Dunn 0.202 0.285 0.212 0.288 -0.076
David Murphy 0.222 0.306 0.222 0.295 -0.073
Maicer Izturis 0.243 0.293 0.252 0.325 -0.073
Juan Pierre 0.237 0.312 0.258 0.326 -0.068
B.J. Upton 0.175 0.317 0.235 0.299 -0.065
Darwin Barney 0.215 0.279 0.226 0.289 -0.063
Edwin Encarnacion 0.268 0.276 0.244 0.304 -0.059
Placido Polanco 0.242 0.307 0.261 0.319 -0.058
Ichiro Suzuki 0.276 0.346 0.298 0.356 -0.058
Jeff Keppinger 0.246 0.291 0.263 0.320 -0.057

Adam Dunn‘s BABIP has really jumped around throughout his career. It makes sense though as he doesn’t put a whole lot of balls in play, so the smaller the denominator, the more room for random variation. In fact, he hasn’t posted a BABIP above .246 since 2010. He’s hitting a couple fewer line drives this year, but making up for it by posting a career best IFFB%. Unfortunately, even if his BABIP does jump a bit, a .220 or .230 batting average is still going to kill your fantasy team, so he remains a two category contributor, while the runs scored category hovers around replacement level depending on the depth of your league.

David Murphy is the exact same hitter he has always been, with the exception of fewer balls finding the holes. While the one steal is discouraging, he does still offer a decent power/speed combination with a history of solid batting averages. He makes for an excellent buy low in AL-Only leagues.

Back in May, I shared why I wasn’t buying B.J. Upton. The reasoning primarily came down to the fact that even if he rebounded at the plate, he may very well be stuck toward the bottom of the Braves batting order. Well sure enough, he was basically himself again in June, wOBAing .350 with 4 homers and steals, but he recorded just 11 RBI and scored only 7 runs. His BABIP was also .281, which was pretty close to his current xBABIP. Since the major rebound still has not come, his cost is likely down significantly. Since he could still offer power and speed, I would buy low if it’s cheap enough, but he may only contribute in two categories.

Excluding this year, Edwin Encarnacion‘s BABIP has sat below .270 in half of his eight seasons in the Majors. It has only been above the league average twice. That’s not that surprising of course given that he sports an extreme fly ball rate coupled with lots of popups. This year, however, his line drive rate is at its highest mark since his 2005 debut, while his IFFB% is at the second lowest rate of his career. Surely, he deserves better than a .244 BABIP. If he could maintain his improved K% and has a bit better BABIP luck, he has an outside chance to hit .300 the rest of the way.

It’s pretty crazy that xBABIP still sees Ichiro Suzuki as a BABIP monster, coming in at .356. But he hasn’t posted a BABIP above .300 since 2010. It doesn’t appear to be a loss of speed because his IFH% and BUH% are still the same as they have always been. The difference though does appear to be a dramatic increase in popups and some extra fly balls. For a hitter with limited power, more fly balls is not a good thing. It’s hard to take that .356 xBABIP seriously, but it does suggest that Ichiro may not be done quite yet.

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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.

10 Responses to “The Unluckiest BABIPers Mid-Season Update”

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  1. Benzedrine says:

    Wondering if xBABIP takes aging into account, given Ichiro has lost a bit of speed in recent years.

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  2. abjohnson16 says:

    Have been going back and forth on trading for Pujols for a package of a CL+Aaron Hill and was curious what his xBABIP is. Assuming the last 2 years are a better indication of current ability (given batted ball profile) I would still think he should be BABIP-ing 30-40 pts higher…?

    on a related noted pujols owner is pushing for Mujica+Hill, I countered with Betancourt+Hill. Is the Mujica package too much you think? (OBP league)


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    • Mr.GJG says:

      If I may, I guess if you can afford the hit on saves and have a decent replacement for Hill. I’d stick to my guns on Betancourt though. Also, who’s place will Pujols be taking?

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  3. Scott Clarkson says:

    How unlucky is Yoenis Cespedes’ current .250 babip? Obviously the FB heavy batted ball profile is not helping….

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  4. MLB Rainmaker says:

    Good to remember BABIP can be both symptomatic and causal. Its equally likely that poor BABIP is a symptom of poor contact (i.e. degrading skills) as it is the cause of poor stat performance. I think you really need to include BB%, K%, and contact rate to round out the picture on contact quality.

    For example Upton is striking out at a career high pace for a guy that is already whiff prone and his contact rate is way down (8% off career) including his Z-contact. That just seems like a guy that is completely lost at the plate, not someone that is suffering bad luck. I’d wager to guess he’s going to lose PT when Gattis gets back. On the flip side, Murphy’s walks are up and his contact rates are in line with career levels. Doesn’t seem like he’s flailing up there, just bad luck.

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    • RustyKuntz says:

      Exactly. Bossman shouldn’t be showing up on any list of the ‘unlucky’.

      And why is Dunn’s expected BABIP so high when you said yourself he hasn’t come anywhere near that in 3 years? Adam Dunn is in Upton’s class right now when it comes to poor contact, so he can’t be said to have been unlucky either.

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      • David says:

        Can’t? they both were just said to have been unlucky… and based on math, not “because I said so”. Your first statement is an unsupported opinion, your second is objectively wrong.

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  5. Mister says:

    Ichiro is so perplexing these last 3 seasons. As you point out, he’s still getting infield hits and bunt hits at his usual rate, and he’s still stealing bases pretty efficiently, so he’s not losing speed.

    That said, his BABIP on ground balls is way down the last 3 years, and I think explains most of his BABIP drop. He’s hit .299 on ground balls in his career, but in 2011, 2012, and 2013 has hit .260, .247, and .244 respectively. His BABIP on fly balls has only been down a little the past 3 years, and he doesn’t hit a lot of those to begin with. His BABIP on line drives was down 100 points in 2011 and 2012, but in 2013 is actually slightly above his career rate. Given that 50% of his balls in play are on the ground, I think the decreased BABIP on ground balls is the main culprit.

    So the obvious question is why are fewer of his ground balls finding holes? Is it just dumb luck that he’s happening to hit more ground balls right at infielders? I suppose that’s possible, but I have a hard time buying that dumb luck explains a 50 point drop over a 3 season sample size. Might it be that defenses are shifting more intelligently in recent years and teams have figured out the optimal way to position their infielders when Ichiro is batting?

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  6. phillies0100 says:

    Even more glad I bought Encarnacion yesterday.

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