BABIP is going to fuel batting average this year, which is to say good luck finding lucky hitters. Now one thousand words on how maybe we can pare down the luck. Since 2000, only three players have qualified for the batting title and hit .400+ BABIP. Last year was a particularly weird year. In 123 games and 518 plate appearances, Tim Anderson hit .335 with a .399 BABIP. Like a sushi chef who smells his fingers after handling hirame, “That’s fluky.” Yoan Moncada had 559 plate appearance and a .406 BABIP. (The other two .400+ BABIPs since 2000 were Manny Ramirez in 2000 and his .403 BABIP and Jose Hernandez in 2002 with a .404 BABIP.) Someone this year is going to have a .425+ BABIP and hit .350+. I hope it’s Ketel Marte, because I own him in every league. Pulling focus and moving into a close-up shows that in August of last year there were 15 guys who had a .400 BABIP. I’d el oh el if I weren’t such a serious man. In September, there were also 12 guys who had .400+ BABIPs. Wait, it gets better. In a full slate of games in September, Moncada had a .520 BABIP and hit .412. Yo, Yoan, you Tony Gywnn Jr. Jr. or no? Okay, cool. You might think BABIP is fueled by speed in the short-term, to which I say, Ryan McBroom, Wil Myers and Kyle Schwarber were in the .400+ BABIP group in September. BABIP is going to make batting averages a short-term coin flip, but we still need to figure out some battle plan. So, with a 60-game season, what is a fantasy baseball strategy for batting average?

1. Line Drive Rate: Maybe you’re thinking, “Okay, Grey, you’re handsome and all, but line drives are, uh, driving, those BABIPs.” Yes, a bit. There’s six guys who had below average line drive rates in the 27 guys with .400+ BABIP in August and September. That’s more than 20% of the players for those slow on the uptake. There’s eight guys in those two months who had worst than league average soft contact. Things are about to get weird. On the flip, if 20% had poor line drives, 80% slapped the ball hard and apologized the next morning. Line drive rate won’t be everything. I can cherrypick a few god-awful average hitters in the high line drive rates. Cavan Biggio had a 37.7% line drive rate in August of last year and hit .220. The top 30 line drive rates from August show only three hitters who hit less than the league average (.252):  Biggio, Goldschmidt (.250), Sano. Au Shizz is nearly a push on league average, uh, average, and the other two have major hurdles for a good average, so Line Drive Rate is about as close as we’re coming to predict batting average, even with the BABIP luck hole.

2. Strikeout Percentage: Only four players had a top 30 strikeout rate in August of last year and hit below league average:  Alex Gordon, Oscar Mercado, Matt Duffy, and Elvis Andrus. Few more in the top 30 in September for strikeout rate with eight: Manny Machado, Michael Brantley, Albert Pujols, Anthony Rendon, Andrelton Simmons, Hanser Alberto, Jean Segura, and Jason Heyward. But only two meet the line drive rate league average requirement. It’s common sense. If you’re hitting the ball, good things will happen. Avoid the strikeout and you might luck into a decent average. Side note: Anthony Rendon didn’t strike out in August or September or any month, for that matter, but had a weak line drive rate in only September and it was his worst batting average month all of last year. Maybe he tired out; Septembers are usually weird, due to fatigue. Side note II: The Return of the Side Note, I chose to look at August and September, because, like, those are the months games will be in, but there’s a case to be made that April and May are more indicative because legs are fresh, as they are now.

3. Swinging Strike Percentage: Walks don’t really mean anything. Plate discipline is good, said Mr. Exposition, but plenty of guys take walks, strike out and hit for a terrible average. Some guys just don’t swing at anything. I looked at Z and O-Swing% and couldn’t really pull anything of note from them. They are the percentage of times hitters swing at pitches in and out of the zone. It’s encapsulated by K%. Swinging and missing, however…Well, if you’re doing that, you’re not going to hit for a very good average. The top 30 for SwStr% shows only five players below .252: Lorenzo Cain (.250), Matt Duffy (.189), Rhys Hoskins (.161), Yasmani Grandal (.209) and J.P. Crawford (.198). Cain is a push, and the other three besides Yasmani had other problems. They made bad contact in August. Yasmani was unlucky, and hit a bit too many ground balls.

In summation: Line drives are good, but Hard Contact is poop. After going on about line drive rate above, I feel the need to point out the obvious conclusion about Hard Contact fueling something…anything? It doesn’t. Hard Contact comes in many forms, not just line drives. League average Hard Contact% is 38%. Seven of the 20 players with 50% Hard Contact in August hit below .250, and ten of them hit below .280. Take Ryan McMahon — I take Ryan McMahon everywhere and he always finds his way home! — he hits the ball hard and directly into the ground, and that’s not how you get on base, at least not without luck. Teoscar Hernandez hits the ball hard, but strikes out a lot and fails to hit many line drives. Not to say Teoscar can’t hit home runs, or McMahon can’t change his launch angle or BABIP, but Hard Contact takes us nowhere. Also, I looked at speed and for every Keston Hiura, who has speed and hits the ball hard, there’s a Mallex Smith, who has speed, doesn’t hit the ball hard, and could hit .180. Hit line drives, don’t strike out and, specifically, don’t swing and miss, and you will hit for a high average. Or just get lucky.

Some (extremely) under-the-radar bets to hit for a high average this year, based on above criteria and their August and/or Septembers last year:

Daniel Murphy
Tommy Edman
Mike Tauchman
Victor Reyes
Lorenzo Cain
Mauricio Dubon
David Fletcher
Kevin Newman
Joey Wendle
Yadier Molina
Jon Berti

 
  1. galica says:
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    Grey!

    Great report on BA. BA as in I’m a-gonna barf after reading this.

    a. Nice spelling of Wil Myers. There is a player named Will Myers but when you type ‘Will Myers’ in google you only get Wil Myers! Who knew? Only you, the Fantasy Master Lothario (please do not abbreviate!).

    b. MLB quote of the day for July 8, 2020

    ‘To hit .400 you need a great start and you can’t have a slump. The year I did it, I was around .410, .412 all season and I was really hitting the ball on the nose.’

    William ‘Bill’ Harold Terry, aka ‘Memphis Bill’. Terry was the last NL player to bat .400, a feat he accomplished by batting .401 in 1930.

    Cheers,
    Ante

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Ha, thanks

      A. Oops, typo

      B. Relevant quote! Watch, someone’s doing it this year

      • galica says:
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        Grey!!!

        a. Typo but type Will Myers or Wil Myers in google it comes out to the same…Wil Myers. So you win again, well done!

        b. Yeah, I could see it happening in the short season…Arraez or maybe Magical Madrigal. Madrigal at least has the pedigree to do it.

        c. Also, I have to try and stay relevant. Mel Ott took over for Bill Terry as manager of the Giants! How’s that for making the connection from yesterday to today’s quotes!

        Cheers,
        Ante

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          A. Ha

          B. Madrigal! Yeah, I like him

          C. Nice… BTW, female preacher from Perry Mason was based on a real-life person Aimee Semple Macpherson (sp)

  2. Curious George says:
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    Morning Grey,

    I think avg could be won this year strictly by playing hot hands off the waiver wire.

    On a separate note: would you rather keep acuna in the 6th round or tatis in the 24th round? Keepers move up 2 rounds each year (ie: next year acuna would cost me a 4th round pick and tatis a 22nd round pick). 8 cats: avg, ops, r, rbi, net steals, k’s, XBH, and HR.

    Thanks!

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Yeah, that could very well be true — hot schmotato or bust!

      Acuna

  3. Cliff says:
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    Hey Grey,

    Your post Monday listing every player with COVID read like a in Memoriam, just so depressing.

    So the rule technically is that once you test positive, you have two isolate from the team even if you’re asymptomatic, correct? If so, that means if a player gets it during the season their gonna miss about 25% of the season, even if their feeling fine. Do we actually pray everyone gets it early, or just shut the season down because COVID isn’t going away

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Ha, I know, wasn’t a ton of fun to write, and there’s more to come!

      Yes, asymptomatic players need to isolate and could miss anywhere from a couple weeks to longer

    • Cg says:
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      I dont think that is how it works. They aren’t making you isolate for 14 days before testing negative. You just need 2 negative tests in a row spread by 24 hours. Plenty of players tested positive 3 days ago, and have already tested negative twice, I.e Gallo. The average length is 2 weeks nationwide, but I’d imagine plenty of athletes are out of quarantine much quicker than average folk

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        True, hard to say when they first got Covid tho since camp had just started

  4. costaricanchata says:
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    Grey :

    your sushi chef comment

    reminded me of the old SNL skit
    of a precocious young miss and her armpits .

    wish my memory was stronger ,
    but thanks for helping me smile today .

    kust .

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Big O! Good to see you…Hope you’re well!

  5. Dave D says:
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    Im wondering if anybody else who was recently noticing how high the MLB COVID numbers are saw this:

    https://mobile.twitter.com/Evan_P_Grant/status/1280606358283395074

    Looks like Gallo didnt believe his diagnosis, sought a second and third test which apparently validated his suspicion. One has to wonder how many other MLB players are then false positives. I thought the nasal swab is much more accurate than the saliva test. Many reports I’ve seen indicate this, so why would they be using the saliva test? C’mon MLB.

    I give Gallo a lot of credit for doing his due diligence.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I saw, I thought Gallo’s case was opposite — the saliva test was accurate and his nasal swab wasn’t…The less than ideal thing is if someone tests negative, actually has it, then spreads it to teammates

      • Dave D says:
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        Yeah, either way, they should sort their sh*t out. Can you imagine being forced out for 14 days of season then learning test was inaccurate? Geez. Stranger than fiction.

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          That shouldn’t happen, bc I think they will keep testing someone like they did with Gallo, but if someone gets a negative when they should have a positive and turns the whole team into a positive, it’s a negative

          • Dave D says:
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            From how I interpteted it, MLB provided saliva test, he tested positive, got two nasal swab tests done on his own that came back negative. I wish MLB was that thorough but it seems not.

            I checked the local Red Cross recently about donating blood and found they are testing all blood for COVID antibodies interestingly. I didnt read through their protocols but am wondering about how they are let back. Im guessing just “symptom free” but dont have to show antibodies.

            • Grey

              Grey says:
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              Weird, I have no idea now abotu Gallo, but yeah it’s a cluster

              Interesting on Red Cross, I want some of those antibodies, they sound wonderful

              • Joey Jo Jo Jr Shabadoo says:
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                i should start selling the very likely ones i have. like that joker line, “don’t do something yr good at for free”. of course whoever is looking to buy them will have to pay for my antibody check, since i don’t KNOW i have them for sure.

                • Grey

                  Grey says:
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                  Haha

  6. Jinxed Players says:
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    Where is your list of players to avoid with pregnant wife’s?! Lol

  7. Powdered Toast Man says:
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    Grey- loved the podcast yesterday. Cracked me up and summed up what a crazy rollercoaster this season will be.
    It’s all a crapshoot.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Thanks! It totally will be

  8. Stat Man says:
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    I’m really liking Rich Hill for the short season. High ground ball rate; high K% and low walk %; low ratios and will be feasting on the central this year. He can last 60 innings, right?

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I’d put his over/under around 40, but could be a solid 40

  9. Another great article. Loved yesterday’s K/9-BB/9 too. Quick question on sabermetrics. Are these stats as dangerous as I regard them to be, as I feel one has to have the time and the skill to know exactly what they’re looking at.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I use most that are pretty straightforward — SPs who strike out a lot and walk few are good — that’s pretty obvious — hitters who hit line drives and don’t strikeout will hit for a good average — obvious again — just a matter of finding who those players are

  10. Schmohawks Bob says:
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    So before COVID, I made a trade in my AL and NL only keeper leagues with my main competitor. I don’t want to overwhelm you with rules, but the basics are the salary of each MLB player goes up $4 every year.

    We have a five man minors roster which starts at $5 for the top pick and goes down to $1 for the last. These salaries stay the same until they are activated at which point they start going up $4 a year, and if you activate someone from this list, you’re allowed to replace them the following year.

    With that in made, I made a four for one where I acquired Acuna, and filled out my team in our auction with the next three

    Acuna – $9
    G. Richards – $2
    Alex Wood – $1
    S. Lugo – $5

    (I got D.Varsho and Nico Hoerner to fill out my minors roster)

    He gets:

    Lux – $2
    Paddack – $5
    M. Gore -$5
    Archie Bradley – $13

    In the AL I acquired Mondesi for valued SAGNOF. How did I do there?

    Mondesi $9
    Rich Hill $1
    Andrew Vaughn $5

    He gets:

    Austin Meadows $11
    Urquidy $5
    Royce Lewis $5

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I’d want Acuña and Mondesi, so you did well

  11. Having read how sick Kingery was with Covid and the timeline of his illness, and having read that Markakis opted not to play partially due to how sick Freeman is, are we reaching the point where Freeman is undraftable. Needless to say the health of these young men is more important than FB, but the question still has to be asked.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I reranked Freeman around 50 overall

    • Joey Jo Jo Jr Shabadoo says:
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      freeman’s symptoms only lasted from like last thurs to monday or so, of course that doesn’t mean his tests will come back any quicker or slower to when they are negative, but it does show that even when symptoms show up in healthy/young people they often don’t last long at all.

      • Grey

        Grey says:
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        It’s encouraging

        • Joey Jo Jo Jr Shabadoo says:
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          what’s even MORE encouraging is all these players that are now testing negative mere a few days after testing positive:
          j.guerra (3 days ago test came back positive, now able to 3 days later have 2 negatives)
          https://www.rotoworld.com/baseball/mlb/player/20464/junior-guerra

          and he’s 35, so not super young either. assuming MLB doesn’t f’up the tests by cheaping out on which types/places/people they are using to do them i’m guessing there just will be TONS of like 3-7 day DL stints this year. some longer obviously, but so far those seem far rarer than the guys moving along with j.guerra or gallo.

          • Grey

            Grey says:
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            Yeah, agreed

  12. bossmanjunior333 says:
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    14 team 6X6 (OBP, HR, RBI, R, SB, TB) & (ERA,WHIP, K, QS, SV+HLD, K/BB)

    C W Smith
    1B D Murphy
    2B B Lowe
    3B Donaldson
    SS Lindor
    OF JD Martinez
    OF Soler
    OF Schwarber
    OF Happ
    OF Grisham
    UTL N Cruz
    UTL Y Alvarez
    BN Solak

    SP Carrasco, Paxton, Lynn, Maeda, Richards, Puk

    RP Giles, Kela, Bummer, Buttrey, P Baez, Ginkel

    Wasn’t opposed to taking a starter early, but always liked the bat better for the first 7 rounds and ended up loading up on high OBP mashers. Drafted my rotation late but thought there was a good amount of upside, especially paired with a bunch of top shelf K/BB relievers. I usually wait on catcher, but with a shortened season, I didn’t want to wait for a breakout catcher to emerge. With TB as a 6th cat, I further devalued speed, but could still be middle of the pack. Really not excited about Murphy, but going to focus on improving that position.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      Looks solid, I like your hitting and pitching a lot…Looks like a 12-team or shallower league, if I’m being honest, which is great! Murphy is dog crap but that’s a small concern…I like him a bit more in a 60-game season

      • bossmanjunior333 says:
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        Was actually able to pull off a solid trade this morning, traded JD Davis for B Lowe. I really like Davis, but I ended up drafting Cano at 2B and knew I needed to immediately address that. Thanks for the feedback!

        • Grey

          Grey says:
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          Sounds okay

    • Eli Man Penguin Boy says:
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      seems at least semi weak in steals, but not awful for a 14 OBP. depending on if this is roto or h2h if it has high innings cap roto you’ll need to stream some of those RP for SP likely. if it’s h2h i’d do that too for K’s. you could probably just stream like dyson chicken legs (or delino the days he plays) with somebody if a hitter has an off day to fix the steals thing (esp if roto). outside of steals this is a good hitting team. to get both of jd mart and lindor you had to get lucky and probably drafted like 8th or near that. really looks like you stuck to the razzball (grey) strategy of like 45th or later on your first SP. might’ve even been like 60th or so since carrasco has been going quite late (i can’t speak to lately, but can speak to slow drafts in 14-20 teamers that went from late march-ending in may to early june)

  13. Let's Play Two says:
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    The Pirates lineup isn’t bad. Looking at MLB.com projected lineup they have Newman, Reynolds and Frazier hitting in front of Bell. Those are great AVG and on base hitters and should provide plenty of RBI opportunities for Bell. Bell was also hurt in the second half of last year when he tailed off. Rethinking him among the 1B options now.

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      If Bell’s hot for two months they could be okay, with Newman and Reynolds getting on

  14. Stat Man says:
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    I’m in a S+H league and thinking of dropping Workman for either Diego Castillo or Ryan Pressly. Both are the primary set up guys. After seeing the Red Sox rotation and bullpen, I don’t see how Workman will get the save counts compared to the save or holds Castillo and Pressly can get being on better squads with better pitching staffs. Thoughts Grey the wise?

    • Grey

      Grey says:
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      I’d hold

      • Stat Man says:
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        What about dropping Workman for Will Smith (once he’s clears of COVID) or still hold?

        • Mantis Tobaggan MD says:
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          he’s going to tell you to not drop a closer who’s not injured and a clear closer. if you say somebody like givens you might get a different answer though (i mean dropping givens, not adding him over workman)

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