BABIP Numbers Speak for Themselves, Luck or Not

Nick TysonCorrespondent IJune 13, 2009

NEW YORK - JUNE 10:  David Wright #5 of the New York Mets bats  against the Philadelphia Phillies during their game on June 10, 2009 at Citi Field in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

There is a certain amount of luck in Major League Baseball, those aspects of the game that are really very much out of the players’ hands.

Some people believe that batting average per balls in play is one of such statistics. With that said, I will examine the top and bottom five batters in terms of their BABIP, recap how they got to where they are, point out the things that will bring them up or down to normal, and show you that luck has very little to do with it.

1. David Wright, New York Mets

Wright is the MLB leader in BABIP at .481, and there are several factors as to why. Looking at his statistics, almost everything looks similar, except that his home runs are significantly down (four through more than 50 games), and his strikeouts are up (on pace for more than 150).

This seems to be the opposite of what typically is seen in the game: a player’s power increasing alongside his strikeouts.

The thing that Wright has been able to do this year that has made his BABIP soar, is adjust his swing so that he is producing more clean line drives as opposed to upper-cutting and hitting fly balls.

Although this hurts his power, it definitely is a positive and his power numbers should return later on this season.

2. Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox

The only player even close to Wright in terms of BABIP, Youkilis’ mark is at .418. He does not have as many games played or plate appearances as most of these other players, and so you should expect this number to naturally come down as his appearances rise.

Youkilis’ ground ball percentage has actually decreased pretty significantly compared to his last two years, and unlike Wright, his power has increased (slugging .636 through June 13).

The only decline in Youkilis’ BABIP is one that will come naturally as he plays in more games. He is a phenomenal player who, with full playing time, is really coming into his own and developing into the dream player that Billy Beane tried to hard to draft.

3. Jason Bartlett, Tampa Bay Rays

If you are a fantasy owner with Bartlett on your team, he is definitely a guy to trade away while his value is soaring.

Bartlett has a BABIP of .418, and is hitting .373. These statistics are fantastic, but Bartlett is historically an inconsistent player, and everything points to him falling back to Earth.

His ground ball percentage has historically been very high, almost 50 percent, but this year it is down to 33 percent, and this is a big reason for his increased BABIP.

While it is good that he is hitting more line drives, as pitchers figure out his holes it is likely he will turn back into the ground ball hitter that he has been the past four years.

4. Justin Upton, Arizona Diamondbacks

Upton’s first season truly started out fantastic before pitchers began to figure him out and found his weaknesses. His 2009 start is great as well, indicated by his .388 BABIP.

Will it fall like 2008 did? The answer is probably not.

Upton is turning into the type of player fantasy owners always imagined him being. He is hitting with more power, more line drives, and his average has risen significantly.

Although it is possible that pitchers could find some new holes in the young Upton, it is likely that he has finally figured out the Major Leagues and will be a force for many years to come.

5. Carlos Beltran, New York Mets

With two players in the top five, it is evident that the Mets' offense is getting the job done. Beltran, historically a weak a player who starts off the season cold and finishes it hotter than anyone, strangely has a BABIP of .375 and an average of .343.

Beltran until about a week ago had a higher average than teammate David Wright, yet his BABIP was and still is much lower, and this is due to the fact that Wright’s strikeout total is much higher and so less of his outs made are coming from balls in play.

Although Beltran may end with a great season, look for this BABIP to come down under .350, still a fantastic number, but not the same as .396. Some other guys have not had as much success this season.

Here are the bottom five players in terms of BABIP closely examined.

1. Garrett Atkins, Colorado Rockies

Once a key piece of the Rockies’ future, Atkins is now the weakest link on the team. His average is under the Mendoza line at .193, and his BABIP is only .199. Atkins needs to even out his swing to return to his usual form.

He is hitting almost half as many line drives as he usually does, and he is hitting weak grounders, hurting his own stats as well as his team.

He is a smart player and when he clicks, he will really make some noise. Expect Atkins to have a strong summer and his power numbers to rise as well.

2. Jay Bruce, Cincinnati Reds

Bruce is like Atkins in that he is hitting far fewer line drives. Interestingly enough, Bruce is also hitting fewer ground balls, but his power numbers have increased.

What this statistic shows, is that he is taking a power/home run approach at the plate, swinging with an uppercut swing for the fences, and the result is routine fly-balls and pop ups.

Although he may have to sacrifice some power numbers to raise his .200 BABIP, until his line drive percentage cracks 20 percent, the rest of Bruce’s numbers will greatly suffer.

3. Brian Giles, San Diego Padres

Giles is coming to the close of a strong career, and there may not be much of a hope for him in terms of returning to his old form.

His BABIP is .221 this year and is mostly because of his ground ball percentage of 46 percent, which has steadily risen over the past five years before a great jump this year.

Because his overall average is so low, Giles’ BABIP should increase somewhat throughout the rest of the year, but not by so significant an amount that it is important to pick him up or hold onto him in fantasy leagues.

4. Dan Uggla, Florida Marlins

Uggla is one of the only guys on this list that I would not feel too worried about. He has historically been a player with his strongest months in June and July, and he has raised his average by a significant amount just in the last weeks, showing that he already is beginning to heat up.

Uggla’s BABIP rests currently at .227, and as has been the current trend in all of these bottom feeders, he has been hitting far more fly balls.

Watch for him to explode in the next few months, and if he is available in your fantasy league, he is definitely a risk worth taking. Fantasy owners may recall Uggla’s 12 home run May and seven home run June last year, and it is likely that June and July could produce similar results this year.

5. Chris B. Young, Arizona Diamondbacks

Similar to Bruce, Young is a player who is swinging for the fences. After a 32 home run rookie campaign, he has seen his stolen bases decline and his power as well.

Young has a BABIP of .238 and has seen a great increase in the number of fly balls he hits, but these are not towering drives.

His infield fly-to-fly ball ratio has drastically increased, his swing is not evened, and so the hits are not coming. If he continues to falter, Young may be a player who sees minor league time before the end of the year to work on his mechanics.

This article was originally posted on fantasypros911.com.  Go to fantasypros911.com for your latest news and advice for your fantasy teams.


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