FanPost

Regression Report: Batters Edition

reyes - Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

This week's exhilarating series sweep over the Boston Red Sox has resulted in the Blue Jays sitting, for the moment, all alone in first in the AL East. In the hours following Thursday's big win, many are asking if this team is finally for real, if they are finally putting everything which was promised at the beginning of last season together.

There are only two ways to answer this question. The first is to wait and see, but since we're all a bunch of impatient folks who would prefer answers right here and now, let's try the second way: examining individual BABIP and FIP/xFIP numbers. To avoid any sort of "preaching to the choir" on my part, I will refrain from wasting this post explaining what these terms mean. Besides, Fangraphs' definitions of BABIP and FIP are well written and easier to understand than how I would attempt to explain them. Moving along...

The easiest way to get a glimpse of the reality of the Jays' present fortunes is to take the team's active batters and pitchers and split them into two groups: the over-achievers and the under-achievers. The former group consists of batters/pitchers with elevated BABIP or FIP/xFIP levels, which the latter group represents those suffering the dubious end of the scale. In this post, we look squarely at the batters.

Batters due for negative regression

Name 2014 BABIP Career BABIP 2014 wRC+ Career wRC+
Melky Cabrera .344 .312 143 100
Jose Bautista .312 .270 173 128
Juan Francisco .375 .337 169 106
Adam Lind .396 .300 156 109

Even the most casual fan would argue that common sense suggests that Francisco is lightning in a bottle right now. Regardless, it's worth noting just to what degree he's been over-achieving and how the Jays have benefited from it. Melky and Adam are definitely riding hot bats as of this writing, and their impending negative regression will be a pain to go through when it happens. Bautista's BABIP numbers have been relatively low since he's played for the Jays, and his monster 2011 season saw him at a .309 BABIP. If he's going to regress, it won't be by much, if at all.

Batters due for positive regression

Name 2014 BABIP Career BABIP 2014 wRC+ Career wRC+
Jose Reyes .234 .310 95 107
Brett Lawrie .233 .292 83 102
Colby Rasmus .266 .297 104 103

Lawrie and Reyes have had very slow starts to this season. Reyes' hamstring injury on the first day of the season definitely didn't help in his case. In 2013, Colby sported a stat-inflating .356 BABIP, which has regressed as expected. However, the fact that he's still below his career mark and still managing a league average wRC+ gives me hope that we can expect better going forward in 2014.

Batters who are stuck in neutral

Name 2014 BABIP Career BABIP 2014 wRC+ Career wRC+
Dioner Navarro .283 .274 75 83
Edwin Encarnacion .252 .274 144 119

Navarro's career BABIP number is lowered by early career struggles. He has average a .307 BABIP the last three seasons, so there is reason for his 2014 wRC+ to ascend. However, given his below average numbers in recent years, there's no guarantee. Edwin's BABIP the last three seasons has hovered around this year's mark of .252, so his current amazing offensive numbers should remain(!).

I avoided discussing our bench players, since the sample sizes are generally too small to draw any meaningful arguments or conclusions. However, a quick glance at players like Josh Thole, Steve Tolleson, or Anthony Gose's Fangraphs page will show very high BABIP levels. These flashes in the pan will obviously not last, but I would be remiss if I did not admit that they have been helpful in the Jays' early season success.

Conclusion

So we have 3.5 over-achievers, 3 under-achievers, and 2 wildcards in the lineup. In other words, a very mixed bag. My hope is that positive regression from Reyes, Lawrie, and Rasmus will offset the impending slumps from Cabrera, Francisco, and Lind. Theoretically, this would result in the Jays' team batting fortunes remaining at their current respectable level, but we'll see what happens.

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