Betting on Bounce Backs Using BABIP (and Other Stuff)

Even though the smell of stale champagne and deep-dish pizza grease still lingers, it’s time to start thinking about next season. It’s what we do as dynasty owners. Combing through the stats to find under the radar or bounce back candidates is a great way to break the offseason monotony, and there’s no better time to start than immediately. Right now. Go.

This week, I wanted to hit on a handful of stats that can be predictive for positive regression in the future, while identifying a few players that could stand to benefit.

BABIP – Joe Panik

It’s easy to see a high (or low) batting average, quickly check a player’s BABIP and scream “REGRESSION”. Sometimes that is a perfectly reasonable reaction. Other times, it’s a little more complicated. Why do you have to go and make things so complicated (No Avril? Ok, cool, moving on.)?

Usually, hitters that tend to make a lot of contact have a better opportunity to sustain higher BABIP numbers. When scrolling through the contact percentage leaderboard, one name that stands out is Joe Panik. Panik made contact on 90 percent if his swings and carried a BABIP of .245. The league average is .300, so that’s pretty low. Additionally, only three hitters managed to draw more walks than strikeouts last season, Ben Zobrist, Carlos Santana (Smooth), and Joe Panik.

So we know Panik has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing at the plate (and I resisted a terrible Panik pun, so really we’re all winners). Also, he hasn’t shown a propensity to sell out his approach for the sole purpose of making contact. For these reasons, the .245 BABIP, leading to a .239 batting average, looks pretty suspect. Before the 2016 season, his previous low BABIP was .330. Now, Panik dealt with several injuries last season, which could have played a role in his low BABIP and subsequent batting average dip, but all signs point to him being right for Opening Day in 2017. In that case, he should be back to hanging around a .300 batting average, and being a very valuable dynasty asset at age 26.

Infield Fly Balls – Xander Bogaerts

A good rule of thumb: batted balls that you or I could easily catch are, um, less than ideal. Infield fly balls are basically free outs. Free outs wreak havoc on a batting average. Besides a strike out, popping a weak infield fly ball is the worst outcome for a hitter. In 2016, Todd Frazier led the league, with 18.5 percent of his fly balls never leaving the infield. That’s really bad (9.7 percent is league average), but it is understandable, in a sense. Over the last couple seasons Frazier has adopted more of an uppercut swing, resulting in more homers, but also lower batting averages, including last season’s .225 train wreck.

While Frazier’s league leading rates and effects can be explained, the runner-up, Xander Bogaerts, requires a deeper look. Last season, 17.8 percent of the fly balls hit by Bogaerts were considered infield flies (also bad #analysis). This number is a little more puzzling, as Bogaerts still hit .294 in his 719 trips to the plate. Also puzzling is the fact that in his previous two full seasons, Bogaerts never cracked an 11 percent infield fly ball rate.

Sure, Bogaerts may have tweaked his swing a little to unlock some power and launch a career high 21 dingers (chicks dig the long ball, after all), but that doesn’t really fully explain the spike in infield fly balls. According to Brooks Baseball, pitchers didn’t really change their approach to Bogaerts, focusing on working him low and away in the zone. In addition, he hit the ball harder in 2016 than any other year of his career, as evidenced by an above average 90-mph exit velocity (according to Statcast) on batted balls. If Bogaerts is seeing similar pitches, and hitting the ball harder, then it’s possible that his infield fly ball rate could be a one-year outlier. If he cuts some of these easy outs from his batted ball profile, Bogaerts should see a healthy bump in batting average, which could push him into the 2017 batting title chase, and more importantly buoy your rate stats.

 

DRA – Michael Pineda

Fielding and circumstance ruin everything. Luckily, in DRA, we have a statistic that relies on only a pitcher’s skill level and performance. In 2016, the starting pitcher that led the league was (drumroll, please) Clayton Kershaw, with a 2.03 DRA. Ok, maybe that was a bit anticlimactic. Maybe a little more surprisingly, however, was the fact that Michael Pineda finished sixth, with a DRA of 2.58, vastly out performing his lowly 4.82 ERA.

Fellow TDG scribe Nick Doran has already detailed why Pineda shouldn’t be slept on in the future (which is a great piece that you should read, I’ll hang out while you do). However the extent of Pineda’s low-key brilliance in 2016 can’t be ignored and I needed to touch on in again. Sure he gave up probably a few too many homers to be fully comfortable, as his 1.4 per nine innings is a little above league average. However that’s pretty much where his mediocrity ended.

Pineda fanned 10.6 per nine innings en route to 207 punch-outs in 176 innings. He ended the season with a 78 cFIP, good for sixth in baseball among qualified starters. The bottom line is that Michael Pineda is actually super good. And the better news is that it’s not immediately evident by his traditional statistics. For that reason, I agree with Nick 100 percent. It’s a good time to buy in on Pineda and be glad that you did.

Follow Mark on Twitter @hoodieandtie

Discount Hall of Famer: Xander Bogaerts

Xander Bogaerts is just 23 years old and yeah, I am saying he has a great shot to be in the hall of fame. 2016 will be his second straight season producing an fWAR of over 4.0 and has him on pace for a career of well over 40 fWAR should he play just until he is in his early 30’s.  At 23, we can also assume that there is a lot of room for him to get better.  This is a good thing because for the once highly touted prospect has yet to reach the high ceiling that his 65-70 grade power rating as a prospect once promised.

A lot has gone very well for Bogaerts during the 2016 campaign.  For one, he was named the starter for the American League at shortstop for the All-Star game in San Diego.  This came on the back of a first half where he slashed .329/.388/.475 while playing very good defense.  Things have begun to unravel in the second half where he has been struggling to a .249/.309/.402 mark and as Matt Collins notes, he has been struggling vs off-speed offerings.  I have also noticed that as this slide has occurred public opinion on him has started to slip.

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Trader’s Corner: Everybody Wants Xander Bogaerts

We had lots of trades submitted this week by our readers. The big mover was Xander Bogaerts but his price was steep. If you own a great young player like the Red Sox shortstop or perhaps Manny Machado this might be the best time of year to trade them. Right now there are likely lots of teams in your league who feel they have a chance to win the championship this year. After the season starts some of those teams will begin their descent down the standings as they fall out of contention. Those teams will no longer be buyers and will quickly become sellers. The time to sell is when the number of buyers is highest and the number of sellers is lowest. That time is now! If you already know you will not win your league this year it is wise to start selling right now to get the players you feel will help you climb to the top of the pack the quickest.

There are some ithough-provoking deals below. I also pose you a question about trade vetoes.

You can join in the action two ways: 1) Vote on these trades to make your opinion count. 2) Submit your own trades for us to vote on in the next Trader’s Corner. Use the form below to submit your trade.

Vote for the players you would rather have.

Taylor Funk submitted this trade from his 5×5 league with contracts:

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Building a Balanced Team: Third Base & Shortstop

Over the last several weeks, we have identified catchers, first basemen, and second basemen who have the potential to contribute to three or more hitting categories. Today we continue our quest to build a balanced team and turn to the third basemen and shortstops. As a reminder on the methodology behind this series, I began this exercise by gathering data for each position over the past decade (plus a bonus year because why not?) to determine the average production for each hitting category. In order to eliminate outliers resulting from limited sample sizes, I used a 400-plate appearance qualifier for all positions with the exception of catcher, for which I set the threshold at 300 plate appearances. I also wanted to control for lost playing time resulting from unforeseeable injuries, so rather than calculate the average counting stat totals for each category, I calculated the ratio of plate appearances to each counting stat (e.g. 30 plate appearances per home run as opposed to an average of 20 home runs).

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Is Xander Bogaerts Fantasy Fool’s Gold?

Everybody loves Xander Bogaerts. Early NFBC ADP data has him going with the 67th pick. In a standard 15-team re-draft league, that equates to a fifth round selection. He is even more highly coveted in dynasty formats, where his combination of youth, production, and projection is one of the best in the game. Tristan Cockroft ranked him as the 29th most valuable player in his annual keeper list, and why wouldn’t he? Bogaerts will enter the 2016 season at the ripe old age of 23, and he is coming off of a 2015 campaign in which he batted .320 while driving in 81 runs and scoring 84 more. As the season progressed, he regularly batted third in a stacked Red Sox lineup, a spot generally reserved for the team’s best hitter. So why is Xander Bogaerts potentially a big ol’ lump of fool’s gold?

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I Love Prospects, I Hate Prospects!

It goes without saying that a good knowledge of prospects is mandatory for long-term success in dynasty leagues. No matter how good your team is right now you still need to plan for the future. If you can build up a solid core of the top prospects in baseball chances are your team is going to be good for a long time, right? That is true — but maybe not to the degree we all expect.

Let’s face it: prospecting is like rolling dice. Sometimes you get boxcars sometimes you get snake eyes. No matter how good you are at evaluating prospects you are going to be wrong a lot. You can study all the major Top 100 Prospects lists each offseason, watch tons of video and go to minor league games and still make the wrong decisions regarding which prospects to invest in.

Let’s take a look at the 21 players who appeared on one or more consensus top five overall prospects in baseball lists in the last five years (2011-2015). We will organize them into three groups depending on how they have fared since being ranked as uber-elite prospects: Continue reading

The Dynasty Guru’s Top 50 Dynasty Shortstops, Nos. 1-20

Congratulations on surviving another off-season. Now that the new year is upon us, it’s time to spend the next month  traveling across the positional landscape, labeling players with numbers that correspond to their value. It’s the very definition of freedom. A ton of hard work was put into these rankings, and will continue to be put in as we bring you just an ungodly amount of information over the next month. We hope you enjoy the product we’ve created, and if you’d like to show appreciation for that work you can do so through this link, or via the donate button on in the upper right-hand corner of the homepage. All donations are truly appreciated.

The shortstop list might be the most prospect-heavy one thus far, and there’s good reason for that. There’s ample talent at the position in the minor leagues that has yet to move off for defensive purposes. The ranks will thin out as that happens, but for now, it’s a well stocked position. To that end, some of the weaker fantasy options at the major league level won’t appear on this list. This isn’t for lack of consideration, but rather the eminent availability of such types make them less valuable than someone with even a glimmer of hope.

1) Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies (Age: 30, Previous Rank: 1)

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