Regan's Rumblings: Some Metrics Advise Optimism

Regan's Rumblings: Some Metrics Advise Optimism

This article is part of our Regan's Rumblings series.

In a companion piece to my similarly themed piece from two weeks ago, Some Metrics Advise Caution, this week we'll focus again on BABIP for hitters and xFIP on the pitching side. Again, this sort of analysis is overly simplistic, but at a minimum, it gives us 20 guys to talk about and maybe even a few nuggets you can put to use. Plus, more than zero people asked for this piece, so here you go.

10 BABIP Laggards

Todd Frazier, 3B, CHW
(.185 BABIP, .206/.301/.466)

Safe to say, at least so far, that the Dodgers won this one -- acquiring Trayce Thompson, Frankie Montas, and another player while the Reds received Jose Peraza and others and the White Sox got their third baseman. Frazier is hitting plenty of home runs (19) and walking in a career-high 11.4 percent of his plate appearances, but he's just not finding many holes in the defense right now. With a .282 career BABIP, we have to think Frazier's BA will trend up, but at the same time, he's not hitting the ball nearly as hard this year (26 percent soft hit rate vs. 17.8 percent career), and it's not a stretch to say that softer hits don't find holes in defense as harder hits. Frazier is a .252 career hitter, so he's not going to threaten Joe DiMaggio's streak anytime soon, but somewhere between .230-.250 the rest of the way is probably reasonable. Of course, that could come with

In a companion piece to my similarly themed piece from two weeks ago, Some Metrics Advise Caution, this week we'll focus again on BABIP for hitters and xFIP on the pitching side. Again, this sort of analysis is overly simplistic, but at a minimum, it gives us 20 guys to talk about and maybe even a few nuggets you can put to use. Plus, more than zero people asked for this piece, so here you go.

10 BABIP Laggards

Todd Frazier, 3B, CHW
(.185 BABIP, .206/.301/.466)

Safe to say, at least so far, that the Dodgers won this one -- acquiring Trayce Thompson, Frankie Montas, and another player while the Reds received Jose Peraza and others and the White Sox got their third baseman. Frazier is hitting plenty of home runs (19) and walking in a career-high 11.4 percent of his plate appearances, but he's just not finding many holes in the defense right now. With a .282 career BABIP, we have to think Frazier's BA will trend up, but at the same time, he's not hitting the ball nearly as hard this year (26 percent soft hit rate vs. 17.8 percent career), and it's not a stretch to say that softer hits don't find holes in defense as harder hits. Frazier is a .252 career hitter, so he's not going to threaten Joe DiMaggio's streak anytime soon, but somewhere between .230-.250 the rest of the way is probably reasonable. Of course, that could come with 40-45 home runs at this rate.

Carlos Santana, 1B, CLE
(.217 BABIP, .230/.338/.451)

Considering Santana finished with a .231 BA in each of 2014 and 2015, the .230 BA here isn't a surprise. What the BABIP is saying here is that Santana could possibly be hitting much better than .230. His .221 ISO is a career-best and his 12.9 K% is a career low, so there's a lot to like about Santana this year. He's seen his line drive rate dip a bit, perhaps accounting for the low BABIP, and if he can push his BABIP closer to his .271 career mark the rest of the way, Santana could hit near that mark from a BA perspective as well. Santana did hit .268 a few years ago for the Indians, so that could be a reasonable target for the rest of the season.

Corey Dickerson, OF, TB
(.218 BABIP, .207/.251/.473)

A career .355/.410/.675 hitter in Coors Field, it's not exactly a shocker to see Dickerson struggling now that he's out of that highly favorable environment. At least the power is there, but Dickerson is 4-for-31 vs. LHP and at the Trop, he is batting just .174/.220/.349 versus .235/.278/.582 on the road. Dickerson is striking out in 27.2 percent of his PA's (the worst rate of his career), but at this point the power is encouraging and we have to think the BABIP will come around. One point to note about Dickerson's batted ball data is that while his 38.2 GB% is in line with prior seasons, this chart is interesting

YEARLD%FB%
201326.033.8
201426.736.5
201529.132.1
201613.048.9

Essentially, Dickerson has swapped line drives for fly balls, which can lead to more home runs but also more outs. I haven't studied him enough to know whether this is something we can expect to continue, but it may be best to not expect more than a .230-.240 BA the rest of the way, though that could come with plenty of power.

Albert Pujols, 1B, LAA
(.219 BABIP, .229/.308/.400)

Pujols is headed right toward his fourth consecutive sub-.800 OPS season, and at this rate, it could very well be sub-.700. Pujols rebounded last year to hit 40 homers for the first time since 2010, so we could somewhat absorb the .244 BA, but this year he's looking at more in the 25-30 range with a worse average. Pujols also posted a .221 BABIP last year, so it's not a given that this year's number will suddenly trend towards the .300 league average. It all comes down to the fact that Pujols has simply slowed down – a lot. For a guy who used to absolutely demolish fastballs (40+ wFB), Pujols is now merely average (barely) against them now, and good breaking stuff is getting him out consistently. He's still striking out just 12.3 percent of the time and does have 12 home runs, but he could just end up hitting .250 with 15 homers the rest of the way.

Prince Fielder, 1B, TEX
(.227 BABIP, .203/.277/.320)

The strikeouts are down, walks are up, and the power is almost non-existent. Clearly this isn't the guy who hit 50 home runs in 2007, but it's also not the guy who hit .305 with 23 homers in 158 games last year. Fielder's hard-hit percentage is just 26.5 vs. last year's 32.3, and his swinging strike rate sits at double digits (10.4 percent) for the first time since 2010. I guess if you want to reach, he's hitting .250 with a pair of homers in June, so maybe that's progress, but I'm not all that optimistic despite the fact he has a pretty solid track record. There may be an underlying injury (shoulder? neck?) that has yet to surface.

Kendrys Morales, 1B, KC
(.233 BABIP, .205/.269/.336)

Morales looks to be pulling a reverse two-year contract run, signing a two-year $17 million deal last offseason and hitting .290/.362/.485 last year and laying an egg so far in 2016. Morales has seen his BB% drop from 9.1 to 7.0 and he's striking out more – 21.5 vs. 16.1 percent. His power is way down as well - .131 ISO vs. 2015's .195. His HR/FB rate has only dropped a little – a reasonable 11.5 percent vs. last year's 13.5, and there's really nothing notable about his batted ball data other than a 4-point dip in his line-drive rate to 16.5 percent. There really isn't anything in the data to suggest that Morales is in line to go anywhere near last year's numbers, and keep in mind just two years ago in 2014, Morales hit just .218/.274/.338.

Jose Bautista, OF, TOR
(.235 BABIP, .230/.365/.465)

Bautista sports solid numbers in many categories, including a .235 ISO and 17.3 BB%, but after hitting .250 last year and .286 in 2014, the BA is down closer to the .235 and .238 marks he put up in 2008-2009. Given we've seen this sort of average from him before, we shouldn't be too surprised here, as Bautista is just a .256 career hitter with a career BABIP well below average at .266. Given there's nothing remarkably different about this year's batted ball data, it seems likely Bautista will hover in the .250 range the rest of the way and finish with 30 or so home runs.

Randal Grichuk, OF, STL
(.243 BABIP, .210/.281/.400)

If Jeremy Hazelbaker hadn't predictably slowed down considerably, Grichuk might have found at-bats tough to come by recently, but he's still playing nearly every day despite the poor results. Grichuk is batting just .114 over the last two weeks and while he's hit eight home runs, he's been disappointing overall after hitting .276/.329/.548 last year. Grichuk never hit for much of a BA in the minors nor did he walk a lot, so this isn't a huge surprise to see him struggling. He has some pop, but don't expect him to ever sniff a .300 season.

Curtis Granderson, OF, NYM
(.244 BABIP, .219/.315/.410)

At least the power is there (12 home runs), but this sort of slash line for Granderson shouldn't be a huge surprise. Prior to last year's excellent 5.1 WAR/.259/.364/.457 season, Granderson hit .229 and .227 the previous two years, so .219? Yeah that's not out of the question. At least Granderson is still drawing a fair share of walks (10.1 BB%).

Coco Crisp, OF, OAK
(.245 BABIP, .228/.280/.376)

We'll see what happens when Josh Reddick returns from injury, but for now, Crisp is an everyday player despite the mediocre batting line. He has helped owners with five homers and five steals, but gone is the guy who went 20/20 just three years ago. Due to injury and lack of production, Crisp has an amazing -0.2 WAR since 2013 and this year it's getting worse. Sure, perhaps the low BABIP is a contributing factor, but Crisp also had a .218 mark last year and he hasn't topped .266 since 2012. He's just not a guy we can be all that optimistic about.

10 Low xFIP/High ERA guys in line for an ERA correction

Michael Pineda SP, NYY
(5.88 ERA, 3.56 xFIP)

Pineda's ratios have again been elite (9.9 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9), but a .371 BABIP and 16.4 percent HR/FB rate (both well above league average) have him pushing for a move to the bullpen. Given that his 14.2 percent swinging strike rate is also elite and the batted ball data hasn't highlighted anything too concerning, I'm pretty optimistic here. Combined with a 2.89 ERA over his last three starts and we can dream of good health and a strong finish.

Dallas Keuchel SP, HOU
(5.54 ERA, 3.39 xFIP)

Keuchel has killed me (along with other bad picks) in multiple leagues, so I'll just ask this: is there hope? On the positive front, Keuchel's 8.3 K/9 is in line with last year's 8.4, and though his BB/9 rates were 2.0 and 2.2 the prior two years, this year's 3.0 mark still isn't bad. His 9.6 percent swinging strike rate is a bit above his 9.1 percent career mark, but the batted ball data is illuminating:

YEARLD%GB%FB%HARD%
201417.263.519.319.7
201518.761.719.621.3
201620.558.221.330.3

More line drives and a huge spike in his hard-hit percentage, combined with the large increase in his walk rate, and it's pretty clear Keuchel's location has been off a lot this year. On the plus side, in his last five starts over 31.1 innings, Keuchel compiled a strong 34:4, but he also allowed 20 runs, so when he's missing, hitters aren't fooled by his lack of electric stuff. Based on track record (and hope), I do think Keuchel will show improvement the rest of the way, just not the sort of consistency we saw the prior two seasons.

Wily Peralta SP, MIL
(6.68 ERA, 4.76 xFIP)

A bloated ERA and 1.6 BB/K resulted in Peralta being demoted to Triple-A on Sunday, so feel free to drop him in all formats, though I assume you already have. Peralta is still just 27 and a guy who, two years ago, had a 3.53 ERA for the Brewers while notching 17 wins and fanning 154. He's regressed ever since and probably will return as a reliever later this year.

Chad Bettis SP, COL
(5.85 ERA, 4.12 xFIP)

I'll keep this one short: he pitches in Coors Field and his stuff isn't dominant (6.6 K/9). Stay away.

Matt Shoemaker SP, LAA
(4.76 ERA, 3.43 xFIP)

I really have no idea what to make of this guy. Through seven starts, Shoemaker was carrying an 8.49 ERA, yet due to the Angels really having no one better, he remained in the rotation. In his last five starts, Shoemaker has a 1.88 ERA and eye-popping 48:1 K:BB in 38.1 innings. Clayton Kershaw is jealous. Just watching his last start, I didn't realize he threw so many splitters. Through May 11, Shoemaker threw the splitter 19.3 percent of the time. Since then, he's thrown it 43.8 percent of the time. Whether that's the sole reason for his success seems unlikely, but when a guy starts doing something different and the results improve so dramatically, we're forced to consider whether this is the new normal for a guy like Shoemaker. I, for one, need more data (i.e. starts), but I'll be watching closely.

Nathan Eovaldi SP, NYY
(4.90 ERA, 3.65 xFIP)

One of the game's harder throwers, Eovaldi has excellent ratios (8.1 K/9, 2.3 BB/9), but in each of the last three years, he's been unable to rise above a sub-4.00 xFIP and post an ERA under 4.00. Why? This year's it's been the long ball, a lot of hard hit balls and a lack of ability to command his breaking stuff with any sort of consistency. Guys end up sitting on the fastball and if they suspect it's coming, a 97 mph fastball can go a long way if it's connected with properly. To me, he's a potential elite closer but not a consistent starter.

David Price SP, BOS
(4.52 ERA, 3.27 xFIP)

It's been a tale of two "halves" so far for Price:

First 7 starts: 6.75 ERA
Last 7 starts: 2.76 ERA

He's shown both better velocity and command in his recent starts, so it seems safe to chalk this one up to putting too much pressure on himself after signing a $217 million deal over the winter. Price's 10.0 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9 are both excellent and though he's been hit for a relatively high number of home runs (12), Price's 15.2 percent HR/FB rate should start to come down considering his career mark there is 9.3 percent. He'll be fine.

Collin McHugh SP, HOU
(5.22 ERA, 4.00 xFIP)

It's tough to explain McHugh's bloated ERA this year given his strikeout and walk rates, which are both in line with prior years:

YEARK/9BB/9ERA
20149.12.42.73
20157.62.33.89
20168.52.35.22

McHugh has seen his BABIP spike to .371 this year and lefties are destroying him to the tune of a .315 batting average. Never a hard thrower, McHugh nonetheless has seen his fastball velocity drop from 91.6 to 89.8 compared to 2014, so that may be a contributing factor to the BABIP. Given his walk and strikeout rates remain excellent, he's to me a strong candidate to turn his ERA around. McHugh is generating a 10.9 percent swinging strike rate, more than comparable to his 11 percent mark in his big 2014 season. I think the BABIP will trend down along with McHugh's ERA, and as we saw last year, the Astros offense has the ability to generate a lot of wins for their starting pitchers.

Ricky Nolasco SP, MIN
(5.12 ERA, 3.95 xFIP)

Nolasco always seems to wind up on these sorts of lists as evidenced by the following:

YEARERAxFIP
20095.063.23
20104.513.37
20114.673.55
20124.484.17
20133.703.58
20145.383.97
20156.754.01
20165.123.95

I sense a pattern. Now I could say that I expect improvement in Nolasco's ERA because his 7.90 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 are both excellent and his 59.3 GB% is similarly excellent, but his history won't allow me to make that statement. Nolasco has always done a good job staying around the strike zone with a career 2.1 BB/9, but when he does get too much of the plate, things can get ugly and Nolasco has also allowed more than one HR per nine IP. The strikeouts and ability to limit free passes gives him some value in AL-only leagues, but you'll need to use him judiciously.

Jake Peavy SP, SF
(5.83 ERA, 4.72 xFIP)

Peavy has had some excellent outings against weaker hitting teams like the Braves, Padres, and Dodgers, while teams like the Mets, Cubs, and Rockies (in Coors) have lit him up. Peavy does have fairly solid ratios (6.9 K/9, 2.9 BB/9), however, and though the 35-year-old is more of an upper-80s guy rather than a low-90s pitcher these days, there's enough experience and talent here for Peavy to be a solid streaming option. He has a good defense and offense to support him, but if you are tempted to use him in DFS or roto formats, do so at home (7.20 road ERA) and against righty-heavy lineups, as lefties are hitting .345 against him.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David Regan
David Regan is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, including the 2015 Baseball Article of the Year and the 2010 Baseball Writer of the Year.
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