Batting Average of Balls in Play is a common stat used in sabermetrics to determine a relative "luck" factor.
It is basically showing you for ever time a batter makes contact against a pitcher, the batting average of when that happens when it's not a home run.
Confusing? Okay, so let's give two examples:
Wakefield is on the mound. He is facing Toronto's Vernon Wells.
Wakefield throws a knuckleball. Wells grounds out to second base.
Wells is 0-1. Wakefield's BABIP is .000
In the alternate realty, same two players.
This time Wells lines the ball in to right field for a base hit.
Wells is 1-1. Wakefield's BABIP is 1.000.
This is an overly simplified explanation, but let's say in the course of the game Wakefield has 21 hitters make contact against him. Assume that none of these are home runs. Let's suppose that out of the 21 hitters to make contact, six of them get hits. six divided by 21=.286.
Tim Wakefield's BABIP is .286 for the game. Again this is over-simplified so that if you are not familiar with the concept, it will make sense. The actual equation is as follows:
(Hits-HRs)/(AB-Ks-HRs+SF) = BABIP
The BABIP league average for pitchers is around .300 so if you are are at .286, as Wakefield was in the example, you are experiencing a bit of lady luck.
Pitchers really have little control over their BABIP. Once a ball is out of their hands, there is not a lot they can do.
Take a close look at the Red Sox pitchers and you can see that a few of them have been snake-bitten on balls in play so far in April.
Josh Beckett—.349 BABIP (Career—.302)
Jon Lester—.375 BABIP (Career—.310)
Justin Masterson—.340 BABIP (Career—.259)
So what does this mean?
If you are in a league where the Beckett or Lester owner is panicking, try to acquire them. Riding out the rough April will pay dividends come mid-summer. These BABIPs will normalize and you will get yourself some nice production shortly.
The Red Sox are 14-7 even with a bit of crappy luck for their top two starters. Pretty good, eh?
Meanwhile, in New York, Joba Chamberlain, AJ Burnett, CC Sabathia, and Andy Pettite have a combined average BABIP of .275 and only six wins among them. This means a long year is in store for the Yankees' pitching staff.
As for Brad Penny, don't expect anything to get better. His BABIP is right at league average, and he still stinks. Where is John Smoltz?
Red Sox (14-7)
Darryl Johnston is the Red Sox correspondent for Fanball.com. He has many years of sports writing under his championship belts. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org