A popular stat for fantasy baseball owners over the last decade is BABIP (Batting Average Balls in Play). I can’t stand this stat as I believe it has no value. Each player in baseball has their own skill-set and baseline for BABIP. Just like batting average, this stat is going to have a wide range from season to season for each player. What looks suitable for one player in one season may be bad for another player in the same year.
The bottom line for me is that if a player hits the ball hard, he will get more hits. With poor contact, a batter will make easier outs.
My best example of this is Barry Bonds. He has a career .285 BABIP while hitting .298 in his major career. In essence, his low BABIP was due to a high volume of home runs (762), which is the part that bothers me the most. Why are we discounting the hardest hit balls? If a player hits a line drive off the centerfield wall for a hit, the defense had no chance to catch the ball. The same goes for a ball over the fence. Therefore, I decided to go against the grain in this area. I came up with CTBA (contact batting average). I want to know what a player hits when he makes contact with the ball. CTBA = Hits/At-bats minus strikeouts. Looking back, I probably should add back sacrifice flies.
So back to Barry Bonds, his CTBA for his career was .353 (.350 with San Fran). This high average gave him a chance at hitting for a high batting average over in many seasons (his CTBA in 2001 was .407 – .370 BA).
When you look at Mike Trout’s career, you can see a high BABIP in some seasons (.383, .372, .349, .344, .371, .318, .346, and .298. He’s had an elite CTBA (2012 – .433, 2013 – .419, 2014 – .414, 2015 – .412, 2016 – .420, 2017 – .394, 2018 – .424, and 2019 – .391) in every seasons in the majors. His CTBA shows his explosiveness in batting average each year while his BABIP player had a much wider range of value while bottoming out in 2019 (.298). Ultimately, Trout has batting title upside based on his CTBA if his strikeout rate shrinks. He now has a BABIP of .348 in his career.
Just for comparison, Ichiro Suzuki hit .311 in his career with a BABIP of .338. His CTBA for his career is .349, which almost matches Barry Bonds (.353).
My goal here with CTBA is to determine a better range for batting average. Most of us fear high strikeout batters as they can kill us in batting average. A player with an elite CTBA can offset some of his downside in batting average by making hard contact delivering a high CTBA. In 2012 and 2013 in the minors, George Springer had a CTBA of .437 and .450 with a high strikeout rate in those two seasons (26.9 and 27.3 percent). His high CTBA allowed him to hit over .300 over that span. His natural path in strikeouts should rise in the majors, plus his CTBA should regress. Over his six seasons in the majors, He had a CTBA of .376, .384, .361, .355, .341, and .383. On the positive side in 2016, Springer lowered his K rate (23.9) with more growth in 2017 (17.7) and some regression in 2018 (19.7) and 2019 (20.3). Overall, Springer has a much better approach in the majors, while his power has been shorter than expected before 2019 (39 HRs – career-high).
Kris Bryant is another player that came into the majors with a huge CTBA. Over short at-bats in the minors in 2013, his CTBA came in at .462. He followed that up with a .485 number in 2014 in the minors. In his rookie season, Kris posted a CTBA of .428 while his BABIP came in at .378. Bryant did show batting average risk due to his high strikeout rate (30.6). Again, his ability to hit the ball hard led to a high batting average when he made contact. In 2016, Kris did a great job cutting down on his K rate (22.0) while posting a lower CTBA (.392 – .332 BABIP). In the case of BABIP, Bryant dropped by .47 percentage points from 2015 to 2019, but his batting average remains in a tight range (low – .272/high – .295). The BABIP crowd would suggest he was unlucky. I say he did a better job putting the ball in play while taking a step back in hard contact. His CTBA came in at .385, .376, and .384 over the previous three seasons.
The major-league average for CTBA in 2019 was .339, which makes sense. It tells us one out of every three balls put in play was a hit. Here’s a look at how each team ranked in CTBA last year:
Here are the top 30 players in CTBA in 2019 with 400 at-bats or more:
The key to the upside in batting average for the top players in CTBA is strikeouts. If a player like Mike Trout lowers his strikeout rate, he will offer an elite upside in batting average.
If a high strikeout player has a regression in his strikeout rate with a lower CTBA, he’ll have a lot more batting average risk, which was the case with Chris Davis in 2014. In 2013, Davis had a CTBA of .434 and a strikeout rate of 29.6, leading to .286 batting average with 53 HRs and 138 RBI. The next season his CTBA fell to .318 with a spike in his strikeout rate (33.0). He finished 2014 with a .196 BA and a drop-in HRs (26). In 2015, his CTBA (.418) moved back in a winning area with a slight improvement in his strikeout rate (31.0), pushing his batting average to .262 with a rebound in HRs (47). Davis had his highest BABIP (.286) in 2013 while slumping to .168 and .179 over the past two seasons.
Let’s face it a player with a low CTBA was minimal upside in batting average. A batter with a low BABIP still has the opportunity to hit over .300 if he has enough home runs.
In 2016, Joe Panik had the lowest CTBA (.266) in the majors with over 450 at-bats, thanks to a low strikeout rate (8.9). He finished that season with a batting average of .239 with weak BABIP (.245). In 2014 and 2015, Panik had a CTBA of .347 and .350 with a similar strikeout rate (11.5 and 9.7), helping him to a batting average over .300 in both seasons (.305 and .321). His BABIP was much higher over these two seasons (.343 and .305).
As a fantasy owner, I want the players who have the best chance to hit the ball hard, which tends to leads to home runs and production in RBI. We must walk a fine line deciding between high strikeout batters to limit the damage in batting average. CTBA is a way to see who has the best chance to get a hit when they put the ball in play, which isn’t the case for BABIP. A high CTBA and improving approach at the plate is a great skill set to be looking for on draft.
For more game-breaking advice from Shawn Childs, a 5-time high-stakes fantasy baseball national champ, subscribe to FullTime Fantasy. Use coupon code EDGE25 to receive 25% off your monthly season-long subscription & gain a cash-winning edge with FullTime Fantasy.