The Second Tier of xBABIP

On Wednesday, we took a gander at the middle of our lineup, using Christ Dutton's xBABIP Quick Calculator. As mentioned before, BABIP (or batting average of balls in play) is the best metric for measuring a player's luck. Here's a quick summary from Steve Slowinski's Sabermetrics Library:

The average BABIP for pitchers and hitters is around .290 to .300. If you see any player that deviates from this average to an extreme, start thinking that there might be some luck going on. However, hitters can influence their BABIPs to an extent. Certain hitters can out-perform league average through speed (like Ichiro and his .357 career BABIP), but pitchers have much less control over their BABIP against.
As noted before, xBABIP can help us predict where their BABIP should be, according to various factors that all pretty much ask, "Did he hit the ball hard?"

So let's take a look at the second tier of the Cubs lineup, the guys from whom we want solid production, but don't expect the world:

Theriot  .317  .297  .323   .332     -.009
Kosuke   .355  .517  .375   .338      .037
Fontenot .381  .400  .368   .327      .041
Soto     .423  .368  .231   .321     -.090

This is very interesting to me. First of all: Geovany Soto, Kosuke Fukudome, Mike Fontenot, and Ryan Theriot have been simply hitting the leather off the ball. Each and every one of them have been hitting more than 20% line drives. Soto is hitting 35% line drives! In other words, they are all seeing the ball and putting a bat on it.

The analysis above helps us understand if these players have been properly rewarded for their hot hitting of late. Theriot is super close to his xBABIP, so we can safely say that he's been neither lucky or unlucky. Do we expect him to continue hitting the ball this hard? It's very unlikely. Still, he's close to where we expect him to be.

Both Fontenot and Kosuke have had pretty good starts, given their expectations. Their somewhat high xBABIPs lead us to believe they will normalize pretty soon, but still be decent options (especially given their high value on defense). I'm happy Fontenot has started well because I really think he can be a viable second baseman in this league (though maybe not for this team after Starlin Castro arrives).

Soto's BABIP is well below his xBABIP, yet he's still got an OBP of .423. This coincides with my expectations that Geovany Soto will in fact be good, if not great, this year. Once his BABIP normalizes (which it hasn't done in a full calender year), people will hopefully start to realize what an amazing commodity we have on our hands.

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  1. Fully agree about Soto. 26.9% walk rate before todays! Obviously that's coming down, but this guy is going to be very very good at the plate. Hopefully he's hitting fifth by July.

  2. Soto earning a 5th spot in the lineup? That would be a thing of beauty. Especially given scout's high regard for his defense.

    Soto is seriously and undeniably our most valuable commodity.