About a week ago, I compared rankings with some actual ADP. One player which stood out was Rougned Odor. He ranked 47th overall (AVG vs OBP league) and it’s tough to rank a person so high who hit only .204 last season. Steamer projections currently have him back up to a .255 AVG. Acceptable but not great.
Additionally, Odor comes to the plate hacking and rarely walks (4.2% for his career) so almost all of his value comes from his BABIP. If his batted balls don’t fall for hits, he’s not getting on base. Since his value is so BABIP driven, I decided to see what the BABIP bounce-back chances were for low-walk hitters.
For my first test, I wanted to find these low-walk hitters expected BABIP ranges. I took all the hitters with 100 PA in back-to-back seasons (2002 to 2017) who had a walk rate under 5% in their first season. Then, I found season two’s possible range by using standard deviations (SD).
|Min Y1||Max Y1||Min Y2||-2 SD||-1 SD||AVG||+1 SD||+2 SD||Max Y2|
In the case Odor, he has a .297 BABIP in 2016, so owners should have been expecting a similar value for 2017. Instead, his .224 BABIP was almost exactly 2 SD below the average. It was within a reasonable outcome range but definitely on the extreme worse end.
For 2018, some bounce back is likely with low BABIPs bouncing up to around .277. Surprisingly, his Steamer projection has his BABIP exactly at .277. His BABIP and the projected .255 AVG are reasonable estimates.
Besides the range of possible outcomes, I wanted to see if any trait was more common for those who bounced back. To find these traits, I ranked the players by BABIP in year one, grouped them into five groups, and then compared traits for those who improved and those who dropped.
Two items stuck out, Speed Score and groundball rate (GB%). If a hitter was fast and could use this speed legging out some groundball hits, he was more likely to see his BABIP improve. Those hitters who are slow and hit flyballs aren’t likely to see improved results.
|BABIP (min)||BABIP (max)||Speed (improve BABIP)||Speed (BABIP drop)||Diff||GB% (BABIP improve)||GB% (BABIP drop)||Diff|
Going back to 2016 with Odor (.297 BABIP), his 5.5 Speed Score pointed to an improved BABIP while his 40% GB% pointed to a lower BABIP. Last year (.224 BABIP), his 5.6 Speed Score was similar while his 42% GB% is between the two GB% averages. Overall, Odor has the speed to beat out some ground balls for hits but just doesn’t put the ball on the ground enough to utilize his speed. Odor’s fantasy value is heavily tied to his BABIP and it should bounce back some. The only item holding back a large increase is the low rate of groundballs he posts.
Odor is not the only hitter living off his BABIP. Here are all the hitters (min 200 PA) who posted a BB% under 5% last season.
A couple players stick out as heavy BABIP regression candidates.
- Paul DeJong: He’s slow (2.5 Speed score) and hits a ton of balls in the air (only 34% GB%). I could see his .349 BABIP come crashing down hard.
- Jose Osuna: With decent speed and a good groundball rate, his BABIP should have been quite a bit higher. He’s always posted good minor league BABIPs so I would expect his .254 BABIP to jump.
In conclusion, having a low walk rate isn’t a death sentence for a hitter with a low BABIP like Rougned Odor. These hackers should expect some decent bounce back, especially if they are fast and keep the ball on the ground so the speedy legs can be put to work. For 2018, I’m not going to personally adjust Odor’s Steamer projection and if he’s next on my draft list, I don’t have a problem rostering him.