Regression Report: Can Dee Gordon Keep Up His Stolen Base Pace?
Regression, defined as a return to a former or less developed state, is a word thrown around a lot in baseball. When a season is so long – when there are thousands and thousands of data points to collect – there’s no reason for fans and analysts of the game to jump to early-season conclusions about a batter or pitcher, only to see those same players regress to their mean.
Sometimes though, things change. Sometimes a return to former play doesn’t occur because a player developed, hitting the ball well or throwing it with more velocity. Good numbers from a surprising source doesn’t always mean regression is about to occur. Perhaps that player is in store for a good season.
Each week, the plan with this article is to look at a handful of guys who seem to be outdoing themselves. While these players are sure to regress, some are bound to do so more than others. And that’s what I’m looking to figure out.
Jason Kubel, Minnesota Twins
On 108 plate appearances this season, Jason Kubel has an absurd .422 batting average on balls in play. His batting average is .292. Of the nine players with BABIP averages above .400, Kubel is one of two with a sub-.300 batting average. The other? Justin Upton.
Any baseball fan knows why this is happening: strikeouts. Upton's currently chillin' with a 32.8% K rate, while Kubel's is at 28.7%. And over the last two weeks, Kubel's been striking out at a 39% rate, the second-highest percentage in the bigs.
To be fair, Kubel's line-drive percentage is resting at an extreme 32.3%, which is a big reason his BABIP is so high. However, a natural regression from both that and his BABIP will bring an even lower batting average, as long as his strikeout rate stays consistent. Sorry, Twins fans.
Dee Gordon, Los Angeles Dodgers
Dee Gordon has 19 stolen bases, 7 more than anyone else in Major League Baseball. A big reason for that though is because he's been able to get on base more than usual, sporting the 24th-best on-base percentage in the entire league.
While I'm all for progression in his career, I'm simply being realistic in saying that his OBP is almost certainly going to drop due to an inflated BABIP of .417. Speed can certainly keep that average up, and Gordon's batted ball profile has been above average this season. However, to assume his on-base percentage will remain higher than it ever was in the minors probably isn't a smart idea. This isn't to say he's not valuable, but when this stretch of good fortune comes to an end, be prepared to see his stolen base numbers drop a bit.
Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers
On the other side of things, you have Aramis Ramirez, who's hitting .053 in 45 plate appearances over the last two weeks. Ramirez has one hit since April 21st, and during this 14-day stretch, has a BABIP of .000. Zero. Nothing. No ball put in play has been a hit for the Brewers third baseman during this time, as his only hit was a dinger.
His batted ball profile is a little weaker than you'd expect from the power bat, but clearly Aramis has hit a patch of bad fortune. Typically the reason I bring players like this up is because they can be bought low, most notably on daily fantasy sites. While at-bats don't stabilize for some time, prices for players on daily websites will fluctuate based on streaks. And really, streaks can just be luck-based, not skill-based. Ramirez is now part of a really low tier on most sites, and if you understand that he can turn things around quickly, you'll be able to find value each night with him, especially against lefties.
Nathan Eovaldi, Miami Marlins
We now have three straight numberFire articles referencing Nathan Eovaldi - one talks about how he's a good two-start value this week, the other saying that he's pitched well to start the year, and now this one. This is the one where I tell you all that he's bound to regress.
On the season, Eovaldi's ERA and xFIP aren't drastically apart, making his season's start pretty sincere. Over his last three starts though, the Marlins' righty has given up just two runs in 19 innings, which isn't incredibly believable given an xFIP that's well above 3.00.
The good news is that xFIP isn't the end-all, and Eovaldi is beginning to live up to his once highly touted prospect profile. His K/9 is significantly higher than it's been throughout his career, and while you'd expect his HR/FB rate to increase a bit, he's been pitching really well. This is merely to say that his last few starts may be a bit of a farce.