This early on into the baseball season it’s important not to overreact to fast or slow starts. One of the most volatile early season statistics is batting average and diagnosing possible good or bad luck that players may be experiencing can make or break your season. Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) has become one of the most telling signs in determining if a player should be due for positive or negative regression with their batting average. Listed below are a couple of key factors which directly effect a player’s ability to sustain a higher BABIP than other players. Generally, in order to possess a high BABIP batters have:
- High Line Drive % (LD%) > League Average of 21%
- Infield Fly Ball % (IFFB%) < League Average of 9%
- Hard Contact % > League Average of 37%
- Ability to use all parts of the field relatively evenly (Pull, Center, Opposite)
With a league average BABIP of .292, these Batted Ball tendencies could be tell-tale signs as to whether a BABIP above or below that value is sustainable. Let’s jump into a couple of players who are currently experiencing BABIPs much below league average.
Franmil Reyes ꟾ OF ꟾ San Diego Padres
The towering outfielder became a popular breakout pick coming into the season due to his impressive exit velocities and well-rounded batting profile. Despite his lack of a path to consistent playing time, Reyes’ NFBC ADP rose throughout the draft season and finished at 212 meaning he was drafted in just about all standard leagues. However, almost a month into the season he is currently hitting a paltry .200 with 4 home runs and a staggering lack of counting stats. To determine whether he deserves to be rostered, let’s debunk the .190 BABIP that he’s currently sporting:
- LD%: 21.7
- IFFB%: 0
- Hard Contact %: 54.3
- P/C/O %: 35/37/28
Out of players who have had at least 50 plate appearances this season, Reyes ranks 3rd in hard hit rate and his average exit velocity on the season (94.6 mph) puts him in the top 3% of the league behind some names like Christian Yelich, Joey Gallo and Aaron Judge. Perhaps even more impressive, he’s currently hitting a league average amount of line drives and has yet to hit an infield flyball all while spreading it evenly around the field. If I can give you one more reason to believe in the skill set, BaseballSavant gives him an expected batting average of .322 making his discrepancy between actual and expected batting average the largest in the league by a sizable margin.
Verdict: Reyes may have one of the most impressive batted ball profiles in the Majors right now. He’s currently making contact at a similar rate to last season and managed to decrease his strikeout rate below 25% yet the results haven’t been there. The Padres are continuing to keep him in the lineup most days and it’s only a matter of time before we see the positive regression. I’m hoping for an eventual BABIP normalization of about .310 to .320 and therefore I’m taking every opportunity to scoop him up on waivers or buy from a worried owner. When the positive regression comes, it will be worth the wait.
Nomar Mazara ꟾ OF ꟾ Texas Rangers
Once known as a top prospect, Mazara has spent the better part of three seasons underwhelming fantasy managers and Rangers fans alike. Still only 23, he has begun the 2019 season with much of the same disappointment as he is currently slashing .188/.288/.631 with only 2 long balls. Despite increasing his walk rate and decreasing his strikeout rate his current career low BABIP of .208 has sapped his fantasy value and has left him on many waiver wires in the early going. Should he continue to be rostered?
- LD%: 26.0
- IFFB%: 0
- Hard Contact %: 48.0
- P/C/O %: 42/38/20
Impressively enough Mazara is currently sporting the highest line drive and hard contact rates of his career. Just like Reyes, Mazara has avoided hitting a single infield flyball which means his batted ball events have yet to be affected by an automatic out such as a popup. I am slightly concerned to see the lack of opposite field approach in his profile, but his career 26% opposite field rate has never hindered his BABIP from sitting right around .300. In addition to these other impressive metrics, BaseballSavant currently has him pegged with a .282 expected batting average which tops each of his previous three years expected batting average by over 13 points.
Verdict: Nomar Mazara could be in the midst of a long-awaited breakout. The 23, almost 24-year-old has always had trouble elevating the ball yet this year, his career low GB% has seemed to hurt his batting average more than help his power. However, I’m chalking this disappointing first month of the season up to unsustainable bad luck and trying to grab some shares of him where he’s available. His batted ball profile suggests he should have an above league average BABIP and therefore above league average batting average. If he continues the hit the ball hard with an impressive line drive rate, the batting average will come up and could lead to a career year for the former top prospect.
Jesse Winker ꟾ OF ꟾ Cincinnati Reds
As one of my personal favorite breakout candidates coming into the season, Winker has done everything in his power to hurt every one of my fantasy teams. After walking more than he struck out last season, Winker has begun 2019 with a decrease in plate discipline skills compounded with a putrid .172/.232/.685 triple slash. Yet even with his lack of production, the Reds have continued to bat Winker in the top of the lineup with regularity showing their confidence in his ability to rebound. His BABIP currently sits at league worst .109 so let’s figure out if his early season struggles are at all deserved.
- LD%: 23.1
- IFFB%: 0
- Hard Contact %: 46.2
- P/C/O %: 34/33/33
Carrying over from last season, Winker continues to have one of the most impressive batted ball profiles in the Majors. He’s hit line drives at an impressive rate, avoided IFFBs completely and even upped his hard contact rate to 46%. Perhaps most impressively, Winker has utilized each part of the baseball field at the exact same rate meaning he is unpredictable to fielders and not susceptible to BABIP woes from teams shifting against him.
Verdict: Winker has carried over all of his impressive batted ball traits from a year ago when his BABIP was .336, yet in 2019 his BABIP sits at a lowly .109. While I understand the frustrations with Winker early in the season, I’m buying him in all formats for the impressive upside. With some positive BABIP regression, a .290 batting average with a .400 OBP is a completely reasonable outcome, which certainly deserves a spot on your roster. As long as Cincinnati keeps showing faith in him, there’s no reason to lose yours.
Sources: Fangraphs, BaseballSavant