One particularly valuable statistic for those getting into the more advanced side of fantasy baseball is Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). This statistic is generally a measure of a hitter or pitcher’s luck as it only measures a player’s batting average on balls that were hit into play, which should generally stay the same unless a fielder misplays it or the ball finds a funny spot in the field. For hitters, which we are analyzing here, the BABIP statistic alone does not tell the whole story as certain players have a knack for getting a higher BABIP throughout their career because they are faster than another player or have a better knack for getting basehits. However, there are some hitters each year who have a very high batting average that was aided by an unsustainable and unusual BABIP number for them. Let’s take a look at last season’s top 10 BABIP leaders and compare their BABIP to the past two seasons to see how sustainable it might be.
And, for those who like a little more visual presentation in order to make comparisons, here’s a nifty graph:
In the graph above, note the players that have a huge drop between their 2010 values and any of their previous values. These are the players that had an unusually high BABIP based on their past history. In this group, those names would include Josh Hamilton, Carlos Gonzalez and Colby Rasmus particularly.
With that in mind, before you invest highly in either of those three, you should realize that a regression should take place with their batting average. Josh Hamilton will not hit .359 again without a lot of luck. He’ll still likely hit around .300 but don’t draft him with the expectations of much more than that. Carlos Gonzalez made me look good last year but the .336 average will fall as well and likely should be under .300 based on how lucky he was in 2010. Colby Rasmus didn’t even have a particularly high average but that too should fall quite a bit in 2011.
As the preseason rolls along, we’ll touch on BABIP quite a bit and what it means for expectations of certain players in 2011. As for now, don’t completely back off of Carlos Gonzalez or Josh Hamilton but keep in mind that they were particularly lucky in 2010 and their draft status is slightly inflated because of that.