August 5, 2012 posted by Matthew Dewoskin

2012 Fantasy Baseball: Leaders and Laggards Hitter’s BABIP Revisited Leaders Edition

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Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates, OF

 There’s a good reason that a lot of teams with Andrew McCutchen and Mike Trout are in first place right now. McCutchen and Trout are both in the middle of career years and they have sky high BABIPs. BABIP can be phenomenal when you’re on the right side of it. Batting averages tend to rise when ground balls find their way through the infield and hitters take fantasy GMs to glory and victory in fantasy leagues. We’re about to take a long hard look at some of the luckiest S.O.B.s in fantasy baseball. These guys have their teams flying almost as high as their BABIP is right now. Some are legit and should continue to stay that high and others are stay aways either for this year or next in this week’s leaders edition of Leaders and Laggards.

1. Andrew McCutchen .423
2. Joey Votto .398
3. Mike Trout .397
4. Austin Jackson .396
5. Melky Cabrera .386
6. David Freese .375
7. Carlos Gonzalez .375
8. Dexter Fowler .372
9. David Wright .369
10. Joe Mauer .366

Andrew McCutchen’s BABIP is almost 100 points over his career average. He possesses elite speed and owns a 1.39 GB:FB ratio, so he is capable of maintaining a higher than average BABIP. His career high 23.4% LD % also plays a role in McCutchen’s ridiculous BABIP. The problem is that anything over .400 is unsustainable, even for a hitter like The Dread Pirate. He’s in the middle of a career year and there’s a good chance that it’s too late to sell high. McCutchen owners are best served riding this one out and staying away next year. Regression is coming and there might be some very disappointed fantasy GMs who spent a high pick on McCutchen in 2013.

We’ve seen Joey Votto post BABIPs over .360 and .370 before. Votto has a 30.2% LD % for 2012 and a 24.6% career rate. He hits a lot of line drives and they help him maintain a higher than average BABIP. He’s one guy that regression simply doesn’t affect as much as most.

Mike Trout is very hard to evaluate with advanced metrics because we simply don’t have enough of a track record to look back on. It’s hard to know what’s luck and what’s skill without a larger sample size. He has elite speed, a 24.3% LD % and a 1.18 GB:FB ratio. He also has a high contact %(89.7%) and solid strike zone knowledge(27.3% o-swing %). The .397 BABIP looks high, but he also appears to have the skills to post a higher than average BABIP. He’s another guy that fantasy owners just need to hang on to and enjoy the ride. He looks like a guy who is going to help a lot of fantasy GMs win championships this year.

Austin Jackson appears determined to have a sky high BABIP. His current .396 BABIP isn’t that far off his career mark of .375. AJAX has a 1.33 GB:FB ratio, solid speed and a 20.3% LD %. All three of those work in concert to maintain a higher than average BABIP. What’s made AJAX useful in fantasy baseball is that he’s improved his plate discipline. His 12.6% BB% is a career high. He’s cut his K% from 27.1% last year to 21.6% this year. His improved plate discipline is even reflected in his swing metrics. His 21.7% o-swing % and his 8.6% swinging strike % are both career lows. It would be nice to see him get the green light on the basepaths more often, but AJAX has turned into a legitimate option in fantasy baseball.

Melky Cabrera’s BABIP is almost 80 points over his career average. Cabrera will show up on a lot of bust lists next year and it’s completely justified. Cabrera has basically given up on hitting the ball in the air. He’s rocking a 2.08 GB:FB ratio with a 22.4% LD%. That’s all well and good when those grounders are finding holes, but what’s going to happen when they find gloves? Cabrera is another guy who will disappoint a lot of people in 2013.

David Freese’ .375 BABIP in 2012 isn’t that far off his .369 career average. Freese is the same guy he’s been for the last three years. He’s playing almost exactly to his career averages. He doesn’t have much speed, but he seems to go out of his way not to hit fly balls(1.85 career GB:FB ratio). He would be a legit 25-homer guy if he ever tried to put the ball in the air more regularly.

Carlos Gonzalez posting a high BABIP is something we’ve seen before. CarGo is good when his BABIP is in the .320-.330 range, but he becomes a top ten player when that number gets above .370. It’s amazing what a little luck does for a guy. There’s not a lot to evaluate here. CarGo has a solid LD%(22.1%), a GB:FB ratio over 1.00(1.54) and solid speed. He should be able to have a higher than average BABIP.

Dexter Fowler is one of the big surprises on this list. He still strikes out a ton(23.9% K%) and hits too many fly balls(35.1% FB%). Fowler owns a .347 career BABIP, so it’s not absurd to think he can post a .372. He’s showing more power, but it’s coming with a 15.4% HR:FB ratio. His career mark is only 6.4%. He’s also stopped stealing bases the way he did when he came up in 2009. 12 homers with 9 steals and a .294 average is a great way to finish somewhere in the middle of the standings.

We’ve seen David Wright do this before. His career average is .342. David Wright carrying a higher than average BABIP shouldn’t surprise anyone. What is surprising is that he hasn’t suffered any nagging injuries to sap his power/hitting ability.

Joe Mauer is posting a high BABIP with no power to speak of? Who could have called that? The $184 million dollar man has a .344 career BABIP. The problem for fantasy GMs is that he’s given up on putting balls in the air. He’s maintained his high LD %(24.0% this year), but his 2.61 BABIP will hurt more than help. That’s a lot of balls on the ground and a lot of outs. 2009 is getting further and further in the rearview mirror and it’s become clear that Mauer’s days of double digit homers are gone.


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