Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) has become one of the most popular stats among fantasy managers in recent years. To put it simply, BABIP measures the number of batted balls that fall safely for a hit (excluding home runs).
According to The Hardball Times Glossary, the exact formula for BABIP is: (H-HR)/(AB-K-HR+SF).
The major league average for BABIP is usually around .300. In 2009, it was .299. The 2010 season saw the average BABIP fall slightly to .297.
Generally, if a player’s BABIP is well above the major league average, we can conclude he has experienced some amount of good luck.
However, this is not always true. Some players such as Ichiro Suzuki (career .357) and Joe Mauer (career .344) have a knack for finding holes in the defense, which results in an inflated BABIP.
What follows are the 10 highest BABIP from the 2009 season:
- David Wright (.394)
- Ichiro Suzuki (.384)
- Hanley Ramirez (.379)
- Joe Mauer (.373)
- Joey Votto (.372)
- Shin-Soo Choo (.370)
- Derek Jeter (.368)
- Michael Bourn (.366)
- Chris Coghlan (.365)
- Jason Bartlett (.364)
All 10 players saw a decline in their BABIP from 2009 to 2010. Not coincidentally, nine of those players posted a lower batting average in 2010 as well. The only exception was Joey Votto, who increased his batting average by .002 points.
On average, the 10 players listed lost .039 points off their BABIP from 2009 to 2010. Similarly, their batting averages dropped an average of .034 points.
This isn’t to say none of these players had good 2010 campaigns. Rather, it’s unreasonable to expect any player to post an unusually high BABIP in consecutive seasons.
So how can we apply this information to our 2011 rankings? We turn to the top 10 batting averages on balls in play from 2010:
- Austin Jackson (.396)
- Josh Hamilton (.390)
- Carlos Gonzalez (.384)
- Joey Votto (.361)
- Omar Infante (.355)
- Justin Upton (.354)
- Colby Rasmus (.354)
- Ichiro Suzuki (.353)
- Jayson Werth (.352)
- Joe Mauer (.348)
If the numbers previously mentioned hold true, these 10 players will (on average) experience a decrease of .039 points in their BABIP and 0.34 in their batting average this season. This is especially discouraging news for Austin Jackson owners (.293 BA in ‘10, .259 BA projected in ‘11).
Josh Hamilton and Carlos Gonzalez are also likely to see their batting averages drop in 2011, though it may be less noticeable. If Hamilton losses .034 points off his .359 BA, he’ll still post an impressive .325. Same goes for CarGo, as .034 points off of his 2010 BA puts him at .302 for 2011. These, of course, are still above average clips, but a decrease of .034 points is still a significant drop-off.
Based on the simple law of averages alone, it’s possible—if not likely—that the value of both Hamilton and Gonzalez will drop at least slightly over the course of the 2011 season.
Jayson Werth (.296 BA in ‘10, .262 projected in ‘11) may be in for a less than lucky season as well.
The aforementioned Ichiro Suzuki and Joe Mauer (who appeared in the top 10 of BABIP in 2009 and 2010) are less likely to experience a significant dip in batting average this season.
BABIP totals don’t always explain everything, however. Justin Upton and Colby Rasmus each finished among the league leaders in BABIP last season, suggesting they were among the “luckiest” hitters. And yet, somehow, they posted .273 and .276 batting averages, respectably. A reasonable explanation for this shall be saved for a future article.
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