Welcome back to another fantastic Friday of fantasy baseball. How are your teams doing? Need any help? If you say “no, my team is perfect” well, congratulations. You are the exception, my friend. The rest of us are chasing stats somewhere…more likely, practically everywhere.
Today, we’re going to spend a little time on one of the offensive categories that tends to only get marginal in-season attention. The category most likely to get sacrificed when you need an injection of power. The category that is a core of fantasy baseball scoring but has outlived its useful life (in this author’s opinion). Of course, we’re talking about the Batting Average (BA).
In the language of fantasy baseball love…that is, advanced analytics…there are numerous letters floating in the acronym soup we can look at to evaluate batting average. Of course, we must start with BA and xBA. Then, there’s others like Contact Rate (Ct%) and Batting Eye (Eye). We’ll talk about both today as well.
We may even dabble a bit with Ground Ball (GB), Line Drive (LD) and Fly Ball (FB) percentages. Heck, Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) and Pitches per Plate Appearance (P/PA) are not completely off the table at this point. It should be a fun ride, no matter where we end up. Let’s load up the bus and start rolling…
First, let’s define our common terms:
BA – H/AB. Pretty simple.
xBA – Expected BA is not quite so simple. xBA is a Statcast metric that measures the likelihood that a batted ball will become a hit. Each batted ball is assigned an xBA based on how often comparable balls, in terms of exit velocity, launch angle and even sprint speed (for “topped” or “weakly hit” balls). Lucky for us, this stat is readily available to us for all players. We’ll make good use of that today.
Ct% – (AB – K)/AB. Ct% measures a batter’s ability to make contact and put the ball in play. We want players with Ct% over 80% and to avoid those under 70%.
Eye – BB/K. Measures a batter’s strike zone judgement. We want to target those > 1.01, with 1.51+ being elite.
GB/LD/FB – The percentage of balls in play that are grounders, line drives or fly balls. For today’s discussions, we need to understand that LD rates are closely tied to BA.
BABIP – (H – HR)/(AB – HR – K). If you follow me regularly, you know I’m not a big fan of BABIP but it has some usefulness in today’s discussion. BABIP is batter-specific and based on previous year’s performance, so it provides a stable measure we can judge current hit trends against.
That’s enough for now. If we pull any other rabbits out of the hat during the data review, we can circle back.
We’ll start with the players whose BA is currently outperforming their xBA.
Let’s take a look at a few names that stand out to me from this list.
Isaac Paredes – The Rays offense has been a big surprise this season and Isaac Paredes is one of the reasons why. His current Ct% is a very attractive 81.2% and is in line with the past 2 seasons. So why the low xBA? Look to his Eye (bad pun, notwithstanding) for the answer. His Eye has dropped to 0.38, similar to the level of his rookie year, after 2 seasons > 0.65. His current BABIP is significantly outperforming his average of the past 3 years as well. Sorry Rays fans, all signs point to a negative correction coming.
Luis Arraez – Luis Arraez is providing the Marlins everything they hoped for, and more, when they traded for him. It surprises nobody to know he has the highest Ct% (95%) and Eye (1.67) in the league. His LD% is the highest of his career (30%), surpassing the prior 4-year average of 27.5%. He’s clearly taking advantage of Loan Depot Park, whose park factor favors hitters like Arraez. The only downside I see is an inflated BABIP (.385) as compared to his career average of .341. I doubt anyone will go away from Arraez, for good reason, but if there was a time to sell extremely high, now is a pretty good time.
Anthony Santander – This one hurts me. I was very high on Santander’s draft value and generally have been satisfied with the results to date. The metrics indicate rough seas moving forward. Ct% is down, LD% is down, and BABIP is super inflated. The increased FB% is encouraging but a closer look finds his 2023 HR rate is also down a bit despite generally maintaining his Exit Velo, Launch Angle, and Hard Contact %. Sell if you can!
Now, let’s look at the players whose BA is underperforming their xBA.
Adley Rutschman – It’s a little surprising to see the wonder kid make this list. Obviously, we don’t have a wealth of MLB data to mine here but know that all important metrics we’re looking at today (Ct%, Eye and LD%) are up from his rookie season. His BABIP is down, indicating some bad luck. Expect a positive correction forthcoming.
Ke’Bryan Hayes – With a low BA and only 1 HR on the season, here’s a classic buy-low player to target in your trade talks. Despite the disappointing results, due in large part to the worst BABIP of his young career, his Ct% is significantly greater than our 80% threshold. He’s also putting up career numbers in Eye (0.54) compared to his career average (0.40). The LD% (down) vs FB% (up) really stands out as suppressing his BA so far. Here’s a classic case of a promising young hitter growing into a star. Be patient with him, especially in keeper/dynasty leagues, and I’m confident you’ll be rewarded kindly!
Jose Ramirez – It seems like Jose Ramirez owners go through this every year. You spend a very high draft pick on him, he doesn’t quite provide the superstar production you crave, but the numbers are there in the end. Fear not my friends, it’s looking like Groundhog’s Day with Jose. His current Ct% (90.8%) and Eye (1.50) are both elite and GB%/LD%/FB% ratios are in line with past seasons. His BABIP is clearly holding him back in the BA category, especially versus LHP. Otherwise, I see no reason for you to panic. On the contrary, there may be a buy opportunity here if his current owner is not reading this article. Check-in with his owner, there may be a deal in the making.
I’ll end my analysis here, but you clearly see how I assess both the Overachievers and Underperformers when it comes to BA. Use the readily available analytics to identify buy/sell opportunities and tweak your rosters for the summer. Remember, fantasy baseball is a grind and we’re not even halfway home yet!
Thanks again for traveling with me on this ride through the wonderful world of fantasy baseball analytics. As I always say, keep sifting through the number. That’s where you find the gems!
Follow me on Twitter: @Derek_Favret.
Until next time, my friends!