August 5, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Leaders and Laggards Hitters’ BABIP Revisited Laggards Edition

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Jose Bautista, OF, Toronto Blue Jays

Fantasy GMs have reached that point in the season when they have to either look for someone who has under-performed all year and is primed for a late season breakout or it’s time to start thinking about 2013. Either way, BABIP is a good place to start. Batting average on balls in play is one of the best stats we have to judge how lucky or unlucky  a batter has been. If ever there was a time for luck it’s in the last eight weeks of the season. 

We’ve got at least three hitters that probably should have a low BABIP and more than a few legit sleepers for the end of the year and 2013 in this week’s edition of hitter’s BABIP laggards…

1. Justin Smoak .211
2. Jose Bautista .217
3. Brian McCann .227
4. Casey Kotchman .227
5. Ike Davis .230
6. J.J. Hardy .235
7. Logan Morrison .248
8. Adam Dunn .251
9. Gordon Beckham .253
10. Mark Teixeira .253

Justin Smoak was a victim of bad luck, big ballpark and a lack of patience. Smoak puts a lot of balls in the air(42.0% FB %), but he hits fly balls at a 48.3% clip at Safeco. That makes for a lot of long outs. Smoak was sent back down to Triple-A and it appears the Mariners are about to give up on him. He’d be a fantastic sleeper if he could ever get regular at bats in a hitters park. His walk rate actually went down this year. A 7.7% BB % isn’t where a guy like Smoak should be. It’s clear he needs a fresh start in a new organization.

Jose Bautista has been unlucky by his standards(.270 career BABIP), but his super low BABIP isn’t really a concern because of the amount of homers he hits. Does anyone really care about batting average when Joey Bats is supplying the power and run production numbers that fantasy GMs expect? No? Moving on…

Brian McCann’s woes this year can be tied to his lower than average BABIP. McCann’s 40.8% GB % and 17.7% LD % are actually higher than the numbers he posted last year, but he’s hitting 32 points lower and it’s tied to his .227 BABIP McCann’s career average is .293. He’s a fantastic buy low for next year.

Casey Kotchman was borderline relevant last year because he hit .306 with a .335 BABIP. His career average is .275. His .227 mark this year is the regression that he was due for. Also, don’t have Casey Kotchman on your fantasy roster.

Ike Davis was a sleeper candidate heading into 2012 when it was a little obvious that he played over his head in 2011 with a .344 BABIP. Add in a bout with Valley Fever in the preseason and it was setting up to be a weird year for Davis. The power has been there, but the .230 BABIP has killed his batting average and run production. Davis hits a lot of balls on the ground(1.26 GB:FB ratio). That’s not a number that fantasy GMs should want to see from a guy with Davis’ power. He’s regressed and he puts too many balls on the ground. His plate discipline has also regressed. His 8.3% BB% is a career low and his 26.3% K% is a career high. 2012 looks more and more like a lost year for Davis and 2013 looks like his breakout year.

J.J. Hardy has a gross batting average? No way! It’s not like he’s regressed after posting solid numbers before! Oh, wait. He does that all the time. Has anyone ever vacillated from overrated to underrated the way Hardy has? He’s going to be a fantastic sleeper for next year, but he’s unlikely to do anything worthwhile in these final eight weeks.

Logan Morrison has played with a banged up knee for most of the year and it sounds like he’s about to be shut down. His batting average was low because his BABIP was low. Earth Shattering analysis here, but that’s basically what happened. It’s almost exactly what happened last year too. He’s a guy who appears determined to have a lower than average BABIP. The problem is that he didn’t show the same power as last year because his HR:FB ratio normalized. Fantasy GMs can handle a low batting average as long as the hitter is capable of producing power and/or run production. LoMo was bad across the board this year, but could be a sleeper for 2013 if he comes back healthy.

Adam Dunn has a low BABIP. He’s also leading the league in homers. There’s not much to analyze here other than Dunn is still the same guy he was last year, but the ball is going a lot farther when he hits it. Anyone else think there was a hidden injury or a severe lack of conditioning last year?

Gordon Beckham has been unlucky in 2012 even by his mediocre standards. His career BABIP is .279 and he’s sporting a .253 mark this year. There aren’t any red flags with his GB, FB or LD rates. The problem lies with his swing metrics. He swings at a lot of pitches outside the zone(34.0% o-swing %), swings at a lot of pitches(50.0% swing %) and gets behind in the count more often than not(62.1% first pitch strike %). So, he doesn’t hit for average, he doesn’t have much power and he doesn’t steal bases. Why would anyone want Beckham on a fantasy roster?

Mark Teixeira has posted a lower than average BABIP in each of his two previous seasons. The difference between those years and this year is that his low BABIP is easily explained. Teix simply hit more fly balls then to maximize his power potential at New Yankee Stadium. This year? His FB % is under 40% and his BABIP is still low. His GB % is over 40% for the first time in years. So, if Teix hits lots of fly balls, his BABIP is low. It makes sense because fly balls are more likely to be outs. Now he’s hitting ground balls, but he doesn’t have the speed to turn them into base hits. They’re just rally killing ground outs.


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