BABIP Leaders SP

Per Wikipedia: BABIP In baseball statistics, Batting average on balls in play is a statistic measuring the percentage of plate appearances ending with a batted ball in play (excluding home runs) for which the batter is credited with a hit. BABIP is commonly used as a red flag in sabermetric analysis, as a consistently high or low BABIP is hard to maintain – much more so for pitchers than hitters. Therefore, BABIP can be used to spot fluky seasons by pitchers, as those whose BABIPs are extremely high can often be expected to improve in the following season, and those pitchers whose BABIPs are extremely low can often be expected to regress in the following season. A normal BABIP is around .300.

Some pitchers have the ability to maintain a low BABIP, but most do not. Fly ball pitchers tend to have a slightly lower BABIP, because ground balls tend to find their way for hits more often. Line Drives are another variable to look at, a lower LD% will positively affect a pitcher’s BABIP. Obviously keeping hitters off balance with changing speeds helps too… with that, let’s get into five pitchers with a BABIP that is too low to maintain.

Liván Hernández [55% owned] It’s pretty amazing an old pitcher with a career 1.44 WHIP and 4.38 ERA is owned in more than half of Yahoo! leagues. Hernández doesn’t strike out many batters (in fact, his 2.91 K/9 is downright disgusting), has slightly better than average control and doesn’t induce an extraordinary amount of ground balls. So how the hell does he have a 0.99 WHIP and 1.04 ERA???!? He leads the league in BABIP. Liván hasn’t gained velocity, changed his repertoire or been allowed to use an emery board. A massive correction is coming and those fifty-five percenters… well can they be disappointed? It’s Liván Hernández we’re talking about. If you can sell, do it now.

Phil Hughes [85% owned] Looking to be the post-hype sleeper of the year, Phil Hughes has been “the man” this year. Of course, he is benefiting from the league’s second best BABIP (.213), so we’d be foolish to think he’ll finish the season with his current 0.94 WHIP and 1.69 ERA. We can beat him up some more by pointing out his slightly above average 3.66 BB/9, 0.83 GB/FB and 2.9% HR/FB%, but I got this guy in a dynasty league so I don’t want to dis him too much. Hughes has the pedigree, good strike out rate (8.72 K/9) and increased the usage of his improved Cutter (8.2 runs above average), so there are plenty of things to like about him. Plus he does have a career .288 BABIP and 7.3% HR/FB%, so he has shown the ability to limit base hits and home runs. If you can Sell High in redraft leagues, I’d explore your options, but I wouldn’t sell on him just to get rid of a lucky BABIP. When 2010 is over, I’m guessing we’ll see a 1.28 WHIP and 3.97 ERA.

Jeff Niemann [75% owned] No!!!! I don’t want to talk bad on Jeff Niemann. He was one of my sleeper plays at SP. No. I won’t do it, but Virgil has some things to say: obviously Niemann cannot keep up the 1.01 WHIP and 2.27 ERA. The .221 BABIP is just too low to maintain. Plus he’s working with an incredible 87% Left on Base Percentage and below average K Rate (5.77 K/9). However, Niemann has improve his control (2.68 BB/9) and increased the velocity and value of his Slider and Curveball. MDS was on point, drafting and trading for Niemann, but a correction in BABIP, WHIP and ERA are coming. Think 1.29 WHIP, 3.92 ERA. He will be useful and he isn’t a big name player so Selling High will likely be tough. The best value you may get from Niemann is letting him pitch for you.

David Price [89% owned] Uh oh Phil Hughes, you have a major contender for post-hype sleeper of the year. David Price was the cause of many snapped tendons, as owners were reaching left and right for him in drafts last year. A 1.35 WHIP and 4.42 ERA helped remind people that rookie pitchers usually do not live up to the hype they generate. This year, the price was right; his ADP doesn’t even register in Yahoo’s Draft Analysis section that covers SP up to Round 16. Price is looking great with his 0.99 WHIP, 1.91 ERA and 26 Y! Rank. Can we really put a ton of fault on Price with his .231 BABIP? He does own a .267 career BABIP. David has improved his control (2.98 BB/9, down from 3.79 BB/9 last year) and his Slider has improved vastly (-8.1 in 2009, +2.7 this year). His Zone% is down a little bit this year so his 2.98 BB/9 may come up a little bit, but I wouldn’t lose patches of hair worrying about that. Unless someone knocks your socks off, you shouldn’t be Selling on Price. Think 1.19 WHIP, 3.59 ERA.

Barry Zito [88% owned] You know something is wrong when Barry Zito is ranked 28 on Yahoo!. His .242 BABIP is 32 points below his career .274 mark. OK, that’s isn’t a drastic difference, but I need some kind of ammo to dis Zito. Who can possibly like this guy? I swear I seen two girls kissing in his truck, let the jealousy rage on! Zito is nothing special in terms of his K/9 (5.70) or BB/9 (3.61), so he is going to need to maintain that low BABIP. The real problem with Zito’s strong start is the fact that he hasn’t allowed a HR in 47.1 Innings. With a career 8.4% HR/FB%, his 0% mark is a huge red flag. His Slider isn’t looking like it did last year, but his Curveball is back to form from his Athletic days. If you want to hold onto Zito, good luck. He allowed 7 walks last night, he is more than capable of blowing up his pretty numbers in only a couple starts. Someone tried selling Barry to me for Wandy Rodríguez and actually cancelled the offer before I could reject it, saying Zito was too good. People are crazy. Expect a 1.33 WHIP and 4.10 ERA by seasons end.

Top Ten BABIP Leaders

.188 Liván Hernández

.213 Phil Hughes

.221 Jeff Niemann

.224 Chris Volstad

.230 Doug Fister

.231 David Price

.232 CC Sabathia

.234 Tim Hudson

.234 Mitch Talbot

.240 Jason Vargas

other notable BABIP beneficiaries: Ubaldo Jimenez (.243, career .287), Brett Cecil (.245, career .321), Dallas Braden (.245, career .308), Adam Wainwright (.247, career .299), Ian Kennedy (.252, career .289), Jamie Garcia (.252), Fausto Carmona (.252, career .301), Wade Davis (.253, career .286), Jonathan Sanchez (.254, career .313), Ted Lilly (.258, career .286), C.J. Wilson (.259, career .305)