StrategyJune 25, 2009

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BABIP Outliers

By R.J. White

The statistical side of baseball is continually evolving, and smart fantasy owners constantly look for new metrics to aid them in their quest to the title. BABIP (which stands for Batting Average on Balls In Play) is a relatively new metric that has started to become widely known. Most players hover around a .300 BABIP most years, and a player with an unusually high or low BABIP could be in line for a massive batting average correction.

Let’s take a look at a few hitters and pitchers that might be on your trading block, and whether they can turn around their seasons.

Hitters with Low BABIPs

Jay Bruce, OF, Cin
.216 Avg, 37 Rs, 17 HRs, 36 RBIs, 3 SBs, .206 BABIP

Hidden inside a horrendous .216 average has been a breakout year for Jay Bruce. He’s upped his walk rate to 10.6% (from 7.4% in 2008) and lowered his strikeout rate to 21.6% (from 26.6% in 2008). He’s been a victim of the swinging-for-the-fences syndrome, and it’s resulted in his flyball rate rising 15 points to 49% this year. The main culprit in his low BABIP has been a terribly-low line-drive percentage. In his rookie year, Bruce had a BABIP of .298, which coupled with his excellent minor league career likely means that this year’s low mark is the exception, not the rule. Bruce could easily be hitting .250 right now, and with the kind of power he’s displayed, that’s an average many fantasy owners could live with. If you have a chance to pick him up cheaply, you should take advantage of it.

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phi
.214 Avg, 41 Rs, 6 HRs, 27 RBIs, 10 SBs, .222 BABIP

Jimmy Rollins is usually a guy you can count on for elite speed and above-average power from the SS position, but this year has been a tumultuous one for his owners. After hitting .277 or better in each of the last five years, Rollins has only managed a .214 average in nearly 300 ABs this season. What gives? Well, he’s walking far less than normal, as his 5.1 BB% is the lowest it’s been since 2000. He’s also suffering from a pretty low line-drive percentage (16.4%) and an abnormally-low HR/FB rate. While I wouldn’t expect him to bounce completely back and provide second-round value, frustrated owners might be looking to give him away. He should still provide you enough SBs and HRs to be worth picking up.

Pitchers with High BABIPs

Cole Hamels, SP, Phi
4 Ws, 4.24 ERA, 1.36 WHIP, 72/14 K/BB, .355 BABIP

Cole Hamels currently has the worst BABIP among pitchers in the league, yet still sports a respectable ERA. His last few outings have likely shut the window on acquiring him at a discount, but his career low FIP of 3.64 shows that he’s probably having his best season to date, although it has been masked by the average ERA and WHIP. Try to get a price from the Hamels owner in the league, and if he’ll consider selling, you just might be able to get him for a good price.

Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Col
3 Ws, 5.85 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 82/36 K/BB, .346 BABIP

Earlier in the season, Jorge de la Rosa tantalized fantasy owners with back-to-back double-digit strikeout games, leading him to be claimed in many fantasy leagues. He was promptly dropped after running together several awful outings. The Ks have been there, but de la Rosa has suffered from control issues. He’s also had trouble keeping the ball in the park. When the ball has stayed in the park, it’s falling for a hit at a higher-than-average rate. Combining all the elements, de la Rosa has pitched relatively well this year, and the gap between his 5.85 ERA and his 4.03 FIP is the largest of any starting pitcher in the league. Does this mean that de la Rosa will pitch at a 4.00 ERA clip for the rest of the year? Not necessarily, but he has a good shot of being closer to 4.00 than to 6.00 from here on out. Deep league owners could benefit from gambling on this talented young pitcher.

Remember, we’re answering questions all week at Take care!

R.J. White (or daullaz) has been actively involved in fantasy sports for over 14 years, making him an addict at this point. He loves writing, the Atlanta Braves, music, the Buffalo Bills, theatre, the Philadelphia Eagles, his family, and the number 42, though not in that order.
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