Analyzing 2013 AVG, xAVG and BABIP for 2014 Sleepers and Busts

The batter swings and is able to connect with the inside breaking ball from the pitcher. The contact is solid enough to have the ball bloop into shallow left field. Unfortunately, the defense was aligned perfectly for this situation and the left fielder runs up for a sliding grab. The batter is out.

Somewhere else that day, another batter connects on an inside breaking ball and hits a blooper into the exact same spot in left field. But the defense was set up a bit further back and this left fielder is a just tad slower. The ball drops in front of the left fielder for a single. The batter is safe at first.

The batters did the exact same thing in both situations but there were two different results. Maybe the first batter was unlucky. Maybe the second batter got lucky. Regardless, there is an element of luck once the ball hits the bat. Some batters get more lucky than others during one season and they reap the benefits of the extra hits. Using three valuable statistics, we can help determine who got more of those lucky extra hits and who did not in a season.

  • BABIP – This is a player’s batting average on all balls hit into the field of play. League average BABIP is typically around .290 and generally those above or below that were affected by luck.
  • xBABIP – However, a player can control his BABIP by the types of balls he hits (line drives create more hits for example) and how speedy he is (faster players generate more hits on batted balls). Their expected BABIP may be quite different than the league average of .290. We can calculate a player’s expected BABIP by looking at their batted ball profile.
  • xAVG – Taking that player’s xBABIP, we can determine their expected AVG in a season. Comparing this to their actual AVG lets us know exactly how lucky each batter was.

For more information on these stats, read my past post about how to evaluate batting averages.

Let’s compare some of the AVG’s and xAVG’s from 2013 to see who might be due for a decline or improvement in 2014.

Players Due For A Decline In AVG

Michael Cuddyer
Jacoby Ellsbury
Freddie Freeman
Yadier Molina
Wil Myers
Mike Napoli
Jhonny Peralta
Yasiel Puig
Hanley Ramirez
Colby Rasmus

You will likely find most of these players being taken in the earlier rounds of the draft next season due to their high batting averages (and the added runs and RBI’s they got due to that influx of hits). However, buyer should beware in all of these cases as it seems that their high AVG was largely due to a high number of lucky hits. Yes, Hanley Ramirez with a .293 AVG is still a valuable player but many people will draft him very high in 2014 due to thinking that he will be a high .300 hitter again in 2014. You win your drafts by avoiding guys like these who are in store for a decline.

Players Due For An Increase In AVG

Norichika Aoki
Lonnie Chisenhall
Coco Crisp
Edwin Encarnacion
Alcides Escobar
Maicer Izturis
Jeff Keppinger
Paul Konerko
David Murphy
Andrelton Simmons

These are all players who will likely not be carrying premium price tags in 2014 drafts with the exception of Edwin Encarnacion. The other way you win your drafts is by finding value where others do not see it. Most will look at Andrelton Simmons’ 2013 season as fairly subpar but you are now smart enough to know that he was unlucky in his rookie season and likely could turn into a valuable player in 2014.

Curious about other players’ xAVG from 2013? Of course you are. Check out my spreadsheet with the xAVG for hitters in 2013. You can also see what their xAVG difference was last year to see if they might be establishing a trend of outperforming their AVG.

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  • Joe Dacquisto
    01/07/2014 at 3:41 PM

    Do you have any concern about Ryan Braun and Joey Votto? Their X Averages have dropped the past 2 years in a row and their stats have declined each year as well. Would you rather have Fielder over either of them?

  • Luke
    01/17/2014 at 7:05 PM

    Tricky. I think there's many reasons to be wary of Braun. Votto will continue a slow decline as well and I'd be wary of him. That being said, I'm not a big Fielder fan though so I'd still take Braun ahead of him.

  • Luke
    02/13/2014 at 5:52 PM

    Good call. I'll look into it. Since xAVG is merely a restating of xBABIP and xBABIP is something that there's still discussions every year about tweaking, I may need to see if there were developments with research there this past offseason. It's a new frontier.

  • GS
    02/13/2014 at 5:54 PM

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • GS
    02/13/2014 at 6:03 PM

    I went back and looked, my math was bad. xAVG projected 113 averages to decrease, and only 28 of those increased. xAVG projected 103 averages to increase and only 36 decreased. In total, that's 68% accuracy in projecting which whether the averages would increase or decrease the following season. So my original comment was wrong.

    It would be interesting to see a formula you could run to predict how far a player will rise and fall.