by Connor Henry
Slumps and streaks can define a player’s season, just as it can make and break your fantasy season. While you may have been relying on a player to carry your batting average last month, next month you could find them cemented on the waiver wire while you scroll past. Generally BABIP is the main culprit for these swings, so to determine which players might have regression coming to their BABIP there are a couple of batted ball factors we should look at more closely.
- Line Drive % (LD%) > League Average of 21%
- Infield Fly Ball % (IFFB%) < League Average of 10%
- Hard Contact % > League Average of 35%
- Ability to use all parts of the field relatively evenly (Pull, Center, Opposite)
Let’s look at some streaking players who may have led your team over the past month but could be due for regression:
Justin Smoak – Toronto Blue Jays
The 31-year old first baseman had somewhat of a career resurgence in 2017. Just a year removed from hitting 38 HR with a .270 batting average, Smoak finds himself at an underwhelming 18 HR while batting .257. While he is running a career high BABIP of .313 this year, much of it can be attributed to his .379 BABIP over the past 30 days. His batted ball data from that time period is:
- LD%: 29.4
- IFFB%: 9.1
- Hard Contact %: 29.4
- P/C/O %: 50/32/18
His 29% line drive rate is very impressive, however the rest of his batted ball data does not seem to support a .370+ BABIP. His IFFB rate is rather pedestrian and he is pulling the ball more than he has through most of his career. Even more concerning, Smoak is the only player from the Top 25 BABIP list over the past 30 days with a hard contact rate under 30%. With league average sitting around 35%, he is clearly making less than ideal contact at a much higher rate than the rest of the league.
Verdict: Smoak has seemingly turned his season around over the past month but I would caution against completely buying in. He has managed to hit plenty of line drives over this period but a sub-30% hard contact rate makes me question how many of his batted balls deserve to find gaps. As with all streaking players you hold Smoak, but don’t get too comfortable relying on his .300+ batting average to carry your team into the playoffs.
Matt Chapman – Oakland Athletics
The streaking Athletic is constantly praised for his defensive prowess, but after an ice cold couple of summer months he has become one of the hottest hitters in the league over the past 30 days. Over that span he is sporting a .413 BABIP (2nd highest in the league) while hitting 6 HR and scoring 24 runs. Will his BABIP continue to reside in the stratosphere or will he drop back down to his career BABIP mark of .318?
- LD%: 24.7
- IFFB%: 3.1
- Hard Contact %: 49.3
- P/C/O %: 33/36/31
Chapman’s batted ball data over the past 30 days looks elite. His line drive rate is above league average and he has avoided IFFBs like the plague. On top of these promising signs he is making hard contact almost half of the time he is putting the bat on the ball and he is spreading the ball to all parts of the field.
Verdict: The glove-first third baseman has made massive strides when it comes to his offensive game. Over the past 30 days he’s batting .380 thanks to a sky-high .433 BABIP while also hitting for respectable power with all the necessary counting stats. I would love to say he can sustain this type of production, but unfortunately I do expect his BABIP to normalize back toward the .330 or .340 mark. However I would not be surprised if his BABIP continues to sit well above league average for the remainder of the season. Chapman has made sizable improvements to the contact he is making and barring a huge setback has fully anchored himself in all of my starting lineups for the remainder of the season.
Carlos Gonzalez – Colorado Rockies
The former all-star outfielder has quietly managed to put up a bounce back campaign in many people’s eyes. While he may not deliver on the elite batting average and power combination he used to, Gonzalez has still managed to put up productive fantasy numbers this season by batting .290 with 14 HR and 4 SB. Gonzalez has called the friendly confines of Coors Field his home for the better part of a decade and while his .335 career BABIP may seem inflated, can we chalk up his .379 BABIP over the past 30 days to his home ballpark? His batted ball data over those 30 days may be able to tell the story.
- LD%: 20.0
- IFFB%: 16.7
- Hard Contact %: 44.3
- P/C/O %: 36/36/28
He has never been a player who shows exceptional batted ball data. His career line drive rate of 19% falls right in line with his current production, as does his slightly worse than league average IFFB rate. Actually, over the last 30 days he is hitting the ball very similarly to how he has throughout his career with the Rockies. More importantly his hard contact rate is elevated, he sprays the ball to all fields and he plays half of his games in the launching pad known as Coors Field.
Verdict: Gonzalez, a career .335 BABIP player, is currently sporting a .344 BABIP on the year. While I would like to say that he will experience major regression going forward, I don’t see his .379 BABIP over the past 30 days as more than a Coors Field hot streak. Yes, his BABIP will not continue to sit above .375, but when you’re making such hard contact with the ball it’s difficult for the ball to not fall in for a hit. Gonzalez may not be the 40 HR power hitter that he used to be, but he can certainly continue to provide a solid batting average for the rest of the season. A .340 BABIP is not out of the question for this productive outfielder.
Make sure to check out all of our Midseason Prospect Rankings: