Ranking the Luckiest Players in Baseball

Chris Stephens@@chris_stephens6Correspondent IIApril 17, 2013

Ranking the Luckiest Players in Baseball

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    Baseball purists love the Triple Crown categories.

    They don't like to get into the numbers behind the stats. They just like the meat and potatoes.

    However, the new phenomenon is sabermetrics, which is specialized analysis through objective evidence.

    One such category in that system is batting average on balls in play or BABIP. Throw out all strikeouts from this category. It's all about what a person's batting average is when they actually make contact with the ball.

    Not only is that stat kept for hitters, it's also kept for pitchers in the same fashion.

    However, that number doesn't always tell the story, as some batters tend to strike out more than others, while certain pitchers tend to get the punch out more than others.

    Here's a look at the luckiest pitchers and hitters in baseball.


    Note: Stats courtesy of FanGraphs.

10. Mike Napoli

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    Mike Napoli actually has a decent BABIP at .281 for the Boston Red Sox.

    However, his overall average is .236 with 18 strikeouts.

    So, I guess you could say Napoli is lucky that he's striking out more, or else his BABIP would be a lot lower.

    One thing purists will point to is that Napoli has 14 RBI. In the grand scheme of things, if he's driving in runs, that's all that matters.

9. Mat Latos

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    Mat Latos is lucky in the sense that he hasn't picked up a loss on the season and that he's not giving up a lot of runs.

    However, the Cincinnati Reds starter has a BABIP of .321, which ranks 20th in MLB.

    He's only given up seven earned runs in three starts and has only gotten three double plays.

    So, how he's been so lucky to not only have a low ERA (3.26), but also pick up three no-decisions is unexplainable.

8. Starling Marte

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    Starling Marte makes this list not only because his BABIP is the highest in the league at .487, but I don't get how the life doesn't get sucked out of him by his team.

    The Pittsburgh Pirates have a decent record at 6-7, but outside of Travis Snider, the rest of the Pirates are struggling at the plate. After Snider's .296 average, the next highest is Andrew McCutchen at .255.

    Marte isn't lucky because of his BABIP; he's lucky because the bad luck that seems to befall the rest of the Pirates has failed to get to him.

7. Jake Peavy

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    Jake Peavy used to be an ace, and his purest stats look as if he is close to returning to that.

    The Chicago White Sox starter has a record of 2-1 with a 3.93 ERA, which ranks 33rd in the AL.

    However, his BABIP ranks 18th at .333.

    Part of his luck stems from having pitched against the Indians and Royals, which usually helps your record.

    As the season continues, his luck may run out as he faces tougher competition. We saw a sample in his April 9 start against the Nationals in which he gave up nine hits and six runs.

6. Ryan Braun

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    I'm probably going to tick off Milwaukee Brewers fans with this one, but oh well.

    Ryan Braun is not having a Braun-like season thus far in a sense.

    His BABIP is excellent at .471, which ranks seventh in the league. However, the manner in which he's getting that number is surprising.

    Known as a power hitter, Braun has 57.9 percent of his balls in play go on the ground. That's a high percentage for a guy known for hitting home runs. That number is usually reserved for speedy leadoff guys.

5. Hyun-Jin Ryu

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    Hyun-Jin Ryu has been extremely lucky this year for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    He currently sits at 2-1 with a 2.89 ERA. If you're a baseball purist, he's started out the season well...case closed.

    However, when you look deeper inside the numbers, you see Ryu has gotten lucky this year.

    His BABIP is .313 and ranks 13th in baseball. How a player has that low of an ERA and a BABIP that high, I don't know.

    One factor could be that he's only walked three batters, which keeps players off the bases in one sense.

    Another factor could be he's throwing 65.97 percent of his pitches for strikes.

    However you look at it, Ryu has received good treatment from the baseball gods thus far.

4. Chris Johnson

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    Chris Johnson makes this list simply because he's getting more playing time than he would normally get.

    Johnson ranks fourth with a .483 BABIP for the Atlanta Braves.

    The reason he's lucky to have a number that high is because Freddie Freeman is on the disabled list.

    As long as Johnson is getting consistent at-bats, his numbers will continue to be in the top of the league. However, once Freeman returns, Johnson will return to a third-base platoon with Juan Francisco.

    From there, his numbers will go down.

3. Ryan Zimmerman

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    You might say Ryan Zimmerman is average (at best) this year for the Washington Nationals.

    Zimmerman currently sports a .245 average with one home run and 11 RBI.

    However, his BABIP runs at a decent .286.

    Where I think he's lucky is that 61.1 percent of his balls in play are on the ground, which means he's found holes in the defense.

    What is nice to see is his line-drive percentage is at 16.7 percent. If that can climb up to 20 percent, Zimmerman could see his BABIP and regular batting average go up.

2. Mark Buehrle

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    Mark Buehrle is one of the luckiest pitchers in baseball currently.

    The Toronto Blue Jays starter is 1-0 with a 7.31 ERA.

    Yes, that is correct. He hasn't lost a game and has a 7.31 ERA.

    His BABIP ranks seventh at .362.

    What makes him so lucky is that he has two no-decisions to his credit. Buehrle gave up a combined 11 runs in those games, but the Blue Jays scored 18 runs.

    In Buehrle's case it doesn't matter how well you pitch, only on which day you pitch and whether the offense can give you enough support.

1. Adam Wainwright

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    Most people wouldn't call St. Louis Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright lucky, but that's what he's been in 2013.

    Wainwright is 2-1 on the year with a 2.05 ERA, which is a spectacular place to be.

    However, his BABIP ranks eighth in the league at .361.

    How does a player with a 2.05 ERA allow a .361 balls-in-play average against him?

    For starters, he's throwing strikes 69.15 percent of the time and averaging 107 pitches per start, which ranks third in the league.