Lucky Charms: a Tale of LD% and BABIP

We discussed the positional players and Starting Pitchers who have experienced some bad luck in baseball’s first half. Now let’s get into some good luck. There are a lot of variables we can look at when labeling a player unlucky/lucky, but we’ll continue down the BABIP/LD% path. We’ll take a quick look at a few Sell High targets and others who should just see a little regression in their Batting Average. Enough small talk…

There are players are have been lucky and then there is Brennan Boesch. The Tigers OF is not making a lot of solid contact (15.5% LD%), but his BABIP is among the league’s best (.378). He actually has the 17th worst LD% and has the 5th best BABIP, that is ridiculous. Other players with a 15% LD% include: Hunter Pence (.280 BABIP), Alberto Callaspo (.279 BABIP), Rajai Davis (.313 BABIP), Shane Victorino (.254 BABIP), Hanley Ramirez (.320 BABIP), Chris Young (.297 BABIP), B.J. Upton (.297 BABIP) and Erick Aybar (.331 BABIP). It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that Boesch is due for some serious regression. His AVG will plummet and his counting stats will come down with it. If there ever was a Sell High candidate, this is him. It should also be noted that Boesch has a 42.6% O-Swing%, which means he swings at a lot of outside pitches. Only Vladi, Pablo, AJP and Francoeur swing at more balls. Act accordingly.

David Wright was pegged as a BABIP beneficiary last season when he posted a .394 BABIP. Not many people expected him to post a .300 AVG if he continued to strike out as much as he did last year. So what happens in the first half of 2010? He strikes out more often (up to 30% K% now), hits less Line Drives (LD% down 5% from last year) and he posts another .394 BABIP and .300 AVG. What a punk. The Home Runs are back (somewhat), but that isn’t enough for me to think he can maintain his current Batting Average. Wright does have an elevated career BABIP (.349), but even that is still 45 points below what it is now. Selling High on Wright is your choice, parting ways with a productive 3B is tough. You’ve been warned though.

How does a guy hate on Ichiro Suzuki? This feels kind of dirty saying this, but Ichiro’s .322 AVG has been a little lucky this year. His BABIP is right in line for his career average, but his LD% has been trending downward since 2005 and it’s down to 16.7% now. He is a fast guy so he will beat out more than his fair share of ground balls, but it needs to be said, Ichiro is slipping. LD% numbers: 2005 (22.1%), 2006 (21.5%), 2007 (20.1%), 2008 (19.9%), 2009 (18.2%), 2010 (16.7%). Ichiro will likely continue to hit .300 and steal bases, so he isn’t really much of a Sell High candidate. He is like the Johan Santana of hitters, trending downward, but still quite useful.

Dan Uggla usually has a bad Batting Average (.261 career) so it shouldn’t be difficult to understand that his current .285 AVG is going to fall. Uggla usually has a bad BABIP and LD% to go along with the poor AVG, but he has had some good luck in the BABIP department this season. Here is the scary part, his LD% is down from his 15.9% career average, to 12.7%. He has the second worst LD% in baseball and his BABIP is 36 points above his career norm. He should be hitting .250 or worse, not .285. If you can find someone who is willing to pay for Uggla’s current production/rank, take advantage.

Quick Hitters: Carl Crawford (16.7% LD%), Joey Votto (16.9% LD%), Erick Aybar (15.9% LD%) and J.D. Drew (16.9% LD%) should experience some minor regression in Batting Average if their LD% continues to hover below their career averages.

Austin Jackson leads the league in BABIP (.417), but he also has a great LD% (27.8%). Both are outrageous numbers, maybe even historical. The last time someone had a better LD% was when Placido Polanco posted a 28.2% LD% in 2005 and I quit looking for a .417 BABIP after getting down to 1995. Here is the deal, Jackson is doing his part to inflate his BABIP, but can we expect him to maintain a 27.8% LD%? It was nice to see Jackson cut down on the strikeouts after March/April, but I can’t help but think his pretty .303 Batting Average is going down. This leads me into a different set of quick hitters: those whose BABIPs are somewhat justified, but are too high to maintain anyway.

Quick Hitters: Adam Dunn (.369 BABIP, career .297), Justin Morneau (.385 BABIP, career .295), Colby Rasmus (.361 BABIP, career .307), David DeJesus (.360 BABIP, career .322), Josh Hamilton (.385 BABIP, career .338), Adrian Beltre (.361 BABIP, career .291)