The xBABIP Sell List

Yesterday, I used Jeff Zimmerman‘s recently published xBABIP table to identify five trade targets, with the underlying assumption that they have suffered from poor BABIP fortune, which is likely to reverse over the final two months of the season. Today, I will check in on some hitters whose BABIPs are far above their xBABIP marks and could be in for quite the decline over the rest of the season. As such, they are perhaps strong sell candidates.

Name BABIP xBABIP Diff
Casey McGehee 0.357 0.274 0.083
Josh Hamilton 0.401 0.321 0.080
Mike Napoli 0.361 0.291 0.070
Matt Adams 0.363 0.318 0.045

Casey McGehee has been one of the season’s most surprising offensive performers, as he has posted a .338 wOBA, after failing to surpass the .300 mark in his previous two Major League seasons and getting shipped off to the Japanese league last year. But his performance has been driven entirely by a career high BABIP, which is odd considering that his batted ball distribution is relatively league average, but with a higher ground ball rate typically posted by speedy slap hitters, of which McGehee is not. He’s showing no power, with a pitiful .073 ISO and 259 foot average distance that ranks 256th out of 275. So without the BABIP cushion to keep his offense afloat, he’s completely useless. Yet, he’s likely found his way into many mixed league lineups, especially given his strong RBI total. Find an owner in your league who desperately needs a third baseman or corner man and offer McGehee for any pitcher expected to earn positive value.

Josh Hamilton is back! No, not exactly. Remember when his SwStk% and resulting strikeout rate skyrocketed in 2012? Maybe you don’t because Hamilton also launched 43 homers that year. Well, his strikeout rate has jumped another notch up and his SwStk% sits at a career worst. And the power outage he suffered last year? His batted ball distance hasn’t improved at all, and his HR/FB rate has dropped further. I’m not sure exactly what happened to Hamilton as it can’t just be the change in park. But whatever has been ailing him is continuing to limit his offensive output and there’s little hope for better at this point. A .401 BABIP makes it seem like the end isn’t yet near, but when that drops into normal territory, the end might become plainly obvious.

It’s easy to point out that Mike Napoli posted an almost identical BABIP last year and believe that this level is now sustainable. But there’s nothing in his batted ball distribution or his speed (lack thereof) that suggests his BABIP should remain this high. He’s still showing prodigious power and has cut down on his swings and misses and resulting strikeouts, but we all know the downside when the BABIP dragons aren’t on his side. He could easily bat .230 over the rest of the season with simply neutral BABIP luck.

What happened to the Matt Adams fantasy owners thought they were buying? You know, the power hitting lefty who might post a mediocre batting average due to a high strikeout rate and facing the shift. Instead, he’s gone all Billy Butler, hitting for a strong average, but with middling power from a first baseman. His batted ball distance is sitting around the league average, which is quite shocking, and is down 10 feet from last year. He’s hitting more line drives and avoiding the pop-up, which is nice, but this is no .360+ BABIP guy. Few are, of course, but he’s certainly not one of them. If the power doesn’t return, then he might not be much above replacement level in shallower mixed leagues over the rest of the way.




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Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He 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.


21 Responses to “The xBABIP Sell List”

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  1. MustBunique says:

    Regarding McGehee, it seems to me that he is a different player than he was before. I am suggesting that he has made an adjustment which makes it possible for him to carry a higher BABIP than he was capable of before. He is currently sporting a career low K%, which would make BABIP higher, and a career high BB%. Other career highs are his contact rate of 86% and his zone contact rate of 90%. Another positive career number is his career low 5.7% SwStr. Of course, you are 100% on in pointing out that all these adjustments that make him a better MLB player may have come at the expense of power, which makes him a tough fit for fantasy lineups.

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    • zaneman89 says:

      “He is currently sporting a career low K%, which would make BABIP higher”

      Strikeouts have no bearing on the batting average on balls in play, since by definition those balls are not put in play.

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      • Bill says:

        I haven’t done the research, but this position seems reasonable. If a batter’s K rate is going down, he is swinging at better pitches. If he’s swinging at better pitches, he will likely hit the ball harder. If he hits the ball harder, his BABIP will increase.

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      • supgreg says:

        K rate does not affect BABIP directly, but the opposite of striking out is putting the ball in play, so the effect on BABIP with lowering your K rate can be explained two ways:

        1) Swinging and missing at fewer pitches out of the zone

        2) Swinging and making contact with more pitches out of the zone

        One leads to more favorable hitters counts, the other leads to making weaker contact. You can have both instances of a higher or lower BABIP by reducing your K rate.

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  2. Jim S. says:

    Adams is going the other way against the shift. Thus, better average, less power.

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  3. lorecore says:

    does fantasy use expected RBI to determine who is being overrated in that stat?

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    • I’ve looked into coming up with a formula but it was far too time consuming. Not only do you have to project the player himself, but also the account for the hitters ahead of him.

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  4. Snarl Yogurt says:

    You didn’t really put much analysis into this piece. There is nothing to suggest that Napoli’s babip should be high? He could easily have a league neutral babip the rest of the way?

    Napoli hits the ball incredibly hard, he hits to all fields (seriously, look at his spray chart. You rarely see such a symmetric spread), he has a great batted profile (20% liners, 43% grounders, 37% flyballs)and he is very selective at the plate (meaning he makes contact on the right pitches). He has a high babip in three of the last 4 seasons and you’ve got him dropping down to the 290-300 range.

    Pay Attention

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    • Ty Wiggington says:

      Calm down, virgin.

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    • Josh says:

      xBABIP is not something just randomly produced or created by an expert. xBABIP is a predictable stat, and it can be expected that is where his BABIP will go.

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  5. failed mathematician says:

    I am mad that this formula says a player I like is getting lucky

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  6. mario mendoza says:

    The thing about Adams: low HR count, sky high BABIP which would usually indicate a lot of lucky singles… BUT his ISO is still .200. (It was .220 when he went off for 17 HRs in 319PAs last year.)

    So besides hitting against the shift for lucky singles, he’s getting his fair share of XBH.

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  7. Tom B says:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/fantasy/mike-napolis-alright-isnt-he/

    Can you writers get together and figure out if we are buying or selling the same player?

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    • Ruki Motomiya says:

      To be fair, writers can disagree on things.

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      • Tom B says:

        Of course they can disagree… they could also collaborate to give more useful advice.

        These 2 articles barely overlap in their analysis. Is xBABIP more important or trustworthy thanaverage flyball distance and the increase he should see in his HR/FB rate?

        They have literally pointed in 2 different directions and make no reference to the other analysis that was done. More questions are raised than answered IMO.

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    • Bill says:

      Read the articles and make your own determination. You aren’t a mindless automaton. If you are, disregard.

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      • Tom B says:

        If I personally knew how to quantify things like xBABIP vs HR/FB rate, I doubt I’d be coming here to read anything.

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  8. Milby says:

    Is this something that can be added to the suite of sortable metrics on the site, or does it need to be run manually each time? This is an incredibly valuable tool to those of us who have simply used BABIP to identify over/underperformers.

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  9. Mike Wimmer says:

    I know he isnt on this list, but what do you see coming for Alex Rios? He has been pretty mediocre for over a month now and I’m getting antsy about if I should look to sell on his still solid season numbers or if some sort of rebound is coming.

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    • Not sure why his last month of play means anything when he has an entire career to help project the remaining 2 months. His batted ball distance is identical to last year, so not sure where the home run power is. I don’t see his perceived value anywhere close to what he could earn the rest of the way, so I’d hold.

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      • Mike Wimmer says:

        Thanks, I was just getting concerned because the power has been down some this year. He has still been good at getting me some steals and his batting average has been nice. Hopefully he has a nice finish to the season since CarGo has been such a bust for me so far I need the offense help where I can get it.

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