Hitter xwOBA Overperformers — Jun 22, 2022

Yesterday, I discussed the hitters who have most underperformed their xwOBA marks. Let’s now check in on the flip side, those hitters who have most overperformed their xwOBA marks. Does this group make for good sell high candidates? Let’s find out.

xwOBA Overperformers

Paul Goldschmidt 0.383 18.6% 0.339 0.276 0.614 0.548 0.440 0.382 0.058
Joseph Ramirez 0.277 14.3% 0.305 0.283 0.642 0.512 0.434 0.376 0.058
Xander Bogaerts 0.404 9.8% 0.332 0.269 0.486 0.437 0.384 0.337 0.047
Manny Machado 0.364 14.3% 0.328 0.288 0.545 0.482 0.403 0.361 0.042
Jeff McNeill 0.361 6.2% 0.327 0.281 0.465 0.416 0.373 0.332 0.041
Andrew Vaughn 0.363 12.7% 0.330 0.280 0.505 0.474 0.384 0.350 0.034
CJ Cron 0.357 23.0% 0.298 0.263 0.561 0.519 0.384 0.352 0.032
Jose Iglesias 0.331 0.0% 0.299 0.273 0.371 0.330 0.318 0.288 0.030

At age 34, Paul Goldschmidt sits with the highest wOBA of his career, driven by a career best BABIP and ISO. Who saw this coming?! But Statcast ain’t buying it. He has posted the second lowest LD% of his career and highest FB%, yet his BABIP of him stands at a career best? That doesn’t add up. As a result, his xBA is significantly below his actual mark. Once you adjust for the fewer hits and reduce his SLG from him, you get down to around his xSLG from him, so Statcast suggests the luck here is almost entirely driven by the BABIP. That’s good news for his power, as that shouldn’t see a big drop. A drop in batting average is going to reduce his RBI and runs scored opportunities as well, so figure his fantasy value will be dipping the rest of the way.

You likely had no idea, but Jose Ramirez has posted the lowest strikeout rate of his career, pushing it into single digits for the first time. It’s helped him bat over .300, despite a below league average BABIP and a drop in HR/FB rate. But Statcast has a hard time buying that power. While I would imagine his HR/FB rate of 14.3% is not boosted by good fortune, he has already hit a crazy 20 doubles and four triples. I’m guessing most of Statcast’s lower xSLG is because it believes those results are inflated. A drop in doubles and triples rate would reduce his RBI and runs scored opportunities, but that shouldn’t have a large enough effect to rush out and try selling him if you’re an owner.

Well, duh, you don’t need Statcast to tell us that Xander Bogaerts is unlikely to sustain a .404 BABIP all year. The gap between his SLG and xSLG suggests it’s all from his high BABIP on him, so let’s stick with the batting average. That’s a massive difference between his AVG and xBA. One caveat is that these metrics aren’t accounting for home parks, so Red Sox batters on average are likely to outperform their xBA marks. Bogaerts has done just that every single season of his career, but never to this degree. Aside from the expected dip in BABIP, his strikeout rate and SwStk% marks are at the highest of his career.

Manny Machado is in a similar position to Bogaerts in that his xwOBA overperformance looks entirely driven by a lucky BABIP. But unlike Bogaerts, Machado shouldn’t be benefiting from a BABIP-friendly home park and hasn’t consistently beaten his xBA from him. There’s little reason to adjust your pre-season projections for him the rest of the way simply because he has BABIP’d his way to earning greater value than expected so far.

Add Jeff McNeil to the inflated BABIP club, but at least he has rebounded off last season’s disappointing mark. With little power and just a touch of speed, McNeil has to hit for a strong average to deliver fantasy value. Except for last year, he has consistently outperformed his xBA from him, so maybe he’s doing something not being captured. He’s perfectly fine in a deeper league, but in a shallower league, I’d want to bank on power and/or speed, rather than rely on such an inflated BABIP continuing.

In his sophomore year, it looks like Andrew Vaughn is making good on his promise. But, it’s almost entirely a BABIP story. Sure, his strikeout rate has improved, which is a great sign, but his ISO has barely risen and his HR / FB rate is almost identical. Despite a stable batted ball profile, but with significantly more pop-ups, his BABIP has skyrocketed from .271 last year to .363 this year! I’m still waiting for more power, but if that doesn’t come, I don’t think he’s going to deliver much shallow mixed league value the rest of the way.

Part of the difficulty on incorporating park factors is that Coors Field affects exit velocity and distance, whereas the dimensions in other parks affect the results. So we can’t automatically point to CJ Cron and Jose Iglesias appearing here as the product of Coors Field, because that’s already accounted for in the numbers being used in Statcast’s xwOBA calculation. Cron’s story is mostly BABIP, as he has posted a .357 mark, easily the highest of his career. Clearly Coors has helped, as he has posted a .412 mark there! But with a league average batted ball profile, it’s hard to believe that’s sustainable. Just because he plays at Coors doesn’t mean he automatically deserves whatever inflated BABIP mark he has posted.

Amazingly, Jose Iglesias appears on this list despite having failed to hit a single homer! Shockingly, Statcast thinks his SLG from him should be even lower than his current .371 mark, which is really hard to believe can be true. With limited speed and no power, it’s hard to justify starting him in anything more than NL-Only leagues. Some power should come though as his maxEV from him remains healthy.

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