You hear the term Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) mentioned along in the analysis of players, and today I'm going to break down a few of the players whose current BABIP marks are outstanding for one reason or another.
WHAT IS BABIP?
BABIP, also referred to as a player's hit rate, is the rate at which batted balls end up as base hits. There is one caveat with BABIP; it removes home runs from the equation, because technically the ball isn't in play on a home run. Here is the simple formula in play for the measure:
The major league average is in the .290-.300 range, but it should be pointed out that players tend to set their own baselines, and even if their batting averages are similar, they can have differing BABIP marks. Example:
Ichiro Suzuki has a .330 career batting average, Albert Pujols .330. Ichiro has a .356 career BABIP, Pujols .313. (Part of the reason for that is that Pujols hits 40 homers a year, and they don't count toward a player's BABIP mark).
With that brief intro, here are some early season outliers. To be fair, there really isn't enough data to draw on for players in 2011, so this is more of a comparison looking at established levels than it is an indictment or thumbs up for the batters work through a couple of weeks of the big league season.
IN NEED OF TLC
.094 – Jorge Posada Remember when I wrote that .290-.300 is the big league average? I don't really need to break down how unlucky Posada has been this year then do I?
.162 – Jacoby Ellsbury Players with big time wheels often exceed the big league average by a substantial amount because their legs allow them to beat out balls that the average player simply can't. This situation makes Ellsbury's low BABIP even more odd, especially since he has a .315 career mark. Ellsbury's situation is bound to change, but he really needs to cut down on his Ks with 14 in 55 ABs this year or it won't really matter.
All of the following batters are mired in terribly slow starts that will turn around in short order if history is an accurate guide.
.167 – Jason Heyward .169 – Angel Pagan .176 – Ian Kinsler .179 – Carl Crawford .182 – Brett Gardner .183 – Chone Figgins .185 – Dan Uggla .197 – James Loney
The oddest name on that list might be Figgins. First off he has speed which, as mentioned, always helps. Second, his current mark is barely 50 percent of his career mark of .335. Third, he's been hitting the ball hard with a line drive rate of 20.7 percent. It's not quite up to his career level of 23.2, but it's better than the big league average of 19-20 percent. Add that all together and it appears that Figgins is a great buy low candidate.
MIGHT BE TIME TO MOVE
The following players have marks that are out of this world right now, ones that hey have no chance in hell of being able to extend out for the course of the season (Austin Jackson led baseball with a mark of .396 last year). You might consider selling high on some of these guys, especially the ones that aren't “household” names (obviously you'd only move the top-3 names on the list if you received a whopping package in return).
.500 – Matt Kemp .456 – Andre Ethier .444 – Joey Votto .431 – Maicer Izturis .426 – Alex Gordon .421 – David Freese .421 – Colby Rasmus .410 – Travis Hafner .410 – Nick Hundley
The last two names on the list deserve a mention.
Everyone is jumping on the Hafner train, and I fear that sucker is about ready to veer off the tracks. Maybe he is finally healthy after years of not being physically capable of playing everyday, but as a DH only eligible player he's really going to clog your roster up if he stops hitting. Hafner's career BABIP is .318, and only once in the last four years has he even reached that level.
Hundley is a catcher, so if he goes out there and hits .250-15-65 people will be happy, but some people seem to have the feeling that he might be the next V-Mart. He isn't, not by a long shot. In his three previous seasons Hundley posted marks of .288, .303 and .293 in the BABIP column, so do you really think he's going to be able to sustain a mark that is .100 points clear of that?
By Ray Flowers
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The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: Mon-Thurs 7 PM, Fri. 9 PM EDT), Ray also hosts a show Sunday night (7-10 PM EDT). Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three.
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