By Fred Zinkie
Special to Yahoo Sports
Batting average is a fickle stat that tends to swing wildly and is impacted by many factors outside the batter’s control. But thanks to the gurus at Statcast, we can now take a more educated look at each players’ batting average through the xBA (expected batting average) stat. Here are 10 players (five in each direction) who currently own a batting average that does not match up with their xBA.
Justin Smoak (.225 BA, .279 xBA)
Those rostering Smoak in shallow leagues will likely be content to leave him on waivers when he returns from the IL, but according to Statcast, they should take a closer look. The slugger should be batting .279, which is not surprising for someone who hit .270 in 2016 and has significantly improved his plate discipline (0.91 BB:K ratio) this year. Smoak’s barrel rate (13.2 percent) and hard-hit rate (40.1 percent) are the kinds of things that smart fantasy gamers speculate on.
Jason Kipnis (.235 BA, .283 xBA)
This one is a bit of a head-scratcher for me. Kipnis may deserve better than his .235 average, but his 5.6 percent barrel rate and 35.0 percent hard-hit rate are nothing to write home about. He hit below .235 in each of the previous two seasons, and I don’t see anything in his batted ball profile to indicate that the 32 year old deserves much better this year. Sure, Kipnis may not be such a batting average drain going forward, but he is still unlikely to be good enough to help most mixed league teams.
Jose Ramirez (.207 BA, .248 xBA)
I can’t quit Ramirez, and apparently neither can Statcast. But even though Ramirez deserves a better average, he has still declined from last season in key metrics such as barrel percentage, hard hit percentage, strikeout rate, and walk rate. Those who need steals are still wise to acquire Ramirez in hopes that he continues to swipe bags while experiencing better luck overall (.226 BABIP, 4.3 percent HR/FB rate).
Kyle Schwarber (.231 BA, .264 xBA)
Statcast surprisingly believes that Schwarber should be helping rather than hurting fantasy teams in the batting average category. Sure, the unlikely leadoff man strikes out often (27.7 percent), but his marks in barrel rate (14.5 percent), hard hit rate (52.0 percent) and average exit velocity (92.9 mph) are elite. Schwarber has always been able to rip his share of round-trippers, and he could push himself into shallow-league lineups by reaching the Statcast expectations in batting average.
Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (.253 BA, .278 xBA)
We can count Statcast among the many observers who believe that the ultra-talented Guerrero should be having a better rookie season. After all, the 20 year old is well better than the average MLB player in barrel rate (9.4 percent), hard hit rate (44.6 percent) and strikeout rate (18.7 percent). His legendary plate discipline has yet to show up in the Majors and his launch angle (7.6) could stand to improve, but Guerrero remains someone to acquire rather than trade away.
Fernando Tatis Jr. (.318 BA, .227 xBA)
According to Statcast, no player with at least 100 plate appearances this season has been more fortunate than Tatis. The rookie is producing plenty of hard contact (38.5 percent), but he is striking out often (28.6 percent) and isn’t hitting many line drives (15.9 percent). His .416 BABIP and 22.2 HR/FB rate is an unsustainable mark, meaning that gamers shouldn’t get too comfortable with Tatis as a five-category stud.
Daniel Murphy (.263 BA, .221 xBA)
Typically a high-average hitter, Murphy owns an unremarkable .263 average to this point in his initial season with the Rockies. But Statcast believes that Murphy should be faring even worse since his barrel rate (2.6 percent) and hard-hit rate (26.7 percent) are well below major league average. Still, the benefits of playing half his games at Coors Field should keep Murphy from going much lower in the batting average column.
Eduardo Escobar (.279 BA, .237 xBA)
Gamers are within their rights to wonder how this career .259 hitter is batting .279, as his barrel percentage (7.2), average exit velocity (88.0 mph), hard hit percentage (29.8) and strikeout percentage (20.5) are all similar to major league average. Although Escobar has been a mixed-league asset for 2.5 straight seasons, he is likely a little over his skis with his batting average and counting stats (17 HR, 49 R, 59 RBI) thus far.
Bryan Reynolds (.357 BA, .307 xBA)
Although Reynolds was not heralded among the most touted 2019 freshman, his lofty .357 average has made the outfielder one of the most valuable rookies. But he has been extremely fortunate (.441 BABIP) despite producing a below-average 4.9 percent barrel rate and an unremarkable average exit velocity of 90.4 mph. The good news is that Reynolds could be a legit .300 hitter, and that average would be good enough to keep him on mixed-league rosters without notable power or speed.
Robinson Chirinos (.234 BA, .196 xBA)
Gamers are loving Chirinos for his plus power (12 homers) and respectable (for a catcher) batting average. But Statcast has an entirely different take on the 35 year old, opining that he should own a lowly .196 average to this point in the season. To be sure, Chirinos would be sitting on waivers in shallow leagues if in possession of a sub-.200 batting mark, which means that those rostering him shouldn’t yet view him as a set-and-forget catcher.