What The Luck – Hitters Aided By BABIP

Hey, did you miss me? Okay, so you probably didn’t notice that I took a week-or-so hiatus from posting but I’m back anyway!

This week in What The Luck, we’ll take a gander into the baseball landscape in search of undervalued or overvalued players.  Taking metrics to determine who is for real and who is not, we looked at ERA-FIP last week for pitchers and now let’s take a look at the BABIP leaderboard for hitters.

Traditionally, you’ll find the hitters who have the best batting averages early on are being aided by the monster known as BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play).  Whether a ball lands in the green grass of an outfield or in the brown mitt of a fielder is often a difference of mere inches.  Sometimes, there are players who get many fortunate bounces so it seems that they’re playing outstandingly well despite luck aiding them on.  BABIP helps us see that by telling us only what a player’s batting average is on the balls that are hit into play.  Most hitters will have a BABIP around .300 or so but a more skilled hitter might have a higher BABIP by aiming hits better or a speedy player may also have a higher BABIP by getting to first base faster.  So, whether a player is hitting at an unsustainable pace is tied into not only their current BABIP but their career BABIP.

Career BABIP
Matt Holliday
Andre Ethier
Matt Joyce
Travis Hafner
Peter Bourjos
Brett Wallace
Jason Kubel
Matt Kemp
Howie Kendrick
Michael Young
Jed Lowrie

*Bourjos has had a longer minor league career where he had a .346 BABIP

Looking at the leaderboard, it’s no surprise that most of these hitters are batting well above the .300 mark right now with BABIP’s that are at extremely high levels.  Matt Holliday is a great hitter who has a wonderful career BABIP but he won’t maintain that .393 batting average.  It doesn’t mean that he’ll hit .250 the rest of the way to balance things out but expect him to hit closer to his usual .300 mark the rest of the way (which would still give him a season average of around .320).  If you find an owner in your league who is thinking that Holliday will contend for a .400 season, he may be willing to offer you a king’s bounty so take advantage of that though.

In the rest of the list, you see a bunch of names that might be at the peak of their value and worth shopping around on the trade market.  Andre Ethier has drawn a lot of attention with his hit streak and he’s a good hitter but hitting .290 the rest of the way is more likely for him than .360 so take a look around and see what people might be willing to offer.  And, Travis Hafner is certainly worth shopping around if anyone wants him because not only will his batting average drop but he’s a walking injury risk.

(As a side note, It’s interesting that Peter Bourjos is towards the top of the BABIP leaderboard despite not hitting above .300 but he’s not really hitting a lot of balls in play with his 31.5% strikeout rate.)

Just because some of your players may be on this list does not mean that you need to completely jump ship on them.  This mainly serves as a caution sign that things are not as they seem and this “hot streak” will not last forever.  For the rest of the season, you can still expect these players to perform as you expected when you drafted them.  However, if someone comes knocking on your proverbial door to ask for one of your high BABIP superstars, take a good listen to what they might be offering you as they might not realize that these sunny days won’t last forever.

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