Earlier this week, I wrote about the luckiest pitchers of the year, but in this article our attention will be pointed toward the luckiest hitters of 2013. In the same way that our previous article used FIP to discover which pitchers have been the luckiest, we will use BABIP as our tool to discover what hitters have received the most assistance from randomness.
How did I use BABIP? Simple. You take a hitters career BABIP and subtract it from his 2013 BABIP (all numbers used for this article are current up to mid-day Thursday), and the number you get is the hitters BABIPdif.
The larger the BABIPdif, the unluckier a hitter has been from batted balls; the smaller the BABIPdif, the luckier a hitter has been from batted balls. You get the point.
This list of the luckiest hitters was restricted to players with over one hundred plate appearances in 2013. If you want a laugh, go to Nick Punto’s FanGraphs page and do the math on his BABIPdif for yourself.
The Luckiest Hitters of 2013:
10. Jhonny Peralta, BABIPdif: -.067
9. Jay Bruce, BABIPdif: -.068This could be the first post of the season that says Jay Bruce has actually been lucky this year! But, his luck has only brought him from awful to bad, and is an indication of what a mess he has been at the plate this year. This is a recap of Bruce’s plate discipline numbers in 2013: more swings at pitches outside and inside the strike zone, and less contact with pitches inside and outside the strike zone.
Bruce has also swung and missed on 15.3% of the pitches he has seen, which is the highest percentage of his career and the ninth worst percentage in the majors this year. While Bruce’s power numbers are down because of his deteriorated plate discipline numbers, the only reason his batting average has not seen the same plunge is because of the assistance he has gotten from an inflated BABIP.
8. Adam Jones, BABIPdif: -.074
7. Yadier Molina, BABIPdif: -.078
Molina’s contact rate is up from 85% last year to 89% this year, which could explain his rise in in BABIP, but more importantly his current decrees in power. If Molina has sacrificed some power for contact, it would explain why his HR/FB ratio (4.5% this year) is down from last year’s career high of 13.8%, and would make last year and 2011 outliers when it comes to his power production.
However, this is doubtfully a change in approach by Molina, and more likely a regression towards the mean when it comes to his HR/FB ratio. This year could be the return to single digit home run totals for Molina.
6. Brandon Moss, BABIPdif: -.080
5. Colby Rasmus, BABIPdif: -.094
4. Torii Hunter, BABIPdif: -.108
Now is when we start to get into the territory of players that have BABIPs that are one hundred points higher than their career average. Meaning: the batting averages they have so far in 2013 are completely, utterly, absolutely, categorically, and unquestionably unsustainable. Case in point, Torii Hunter, who, at this point of his seventeen-year career, has a large enough of a sample size to be exactly the player the numbers depict him to be.
3. James Loney, BABIPdif: -.116
2. Carlos Santana, BABIPdif: -.128
When it comes to Carlos Santana, the 2013 season has served as conformation bias for fans that, until now, have looked at the Indians catcher with the thought of “what could have been?” Sustainability does not come to mind when you look at Santana’s batting average, but his power numbers are just as fraudulent.
Santana has hit as many fly balls as he has throughout his career, but this year he has managed to find the bleachers with one out of every four fly balls (25% HR/FB). Unless Santana has finally managed to develop into his full power potential, look for a dip in dingers.
1. Carlos Gomez, BABIPdif: -.136When Carlos Gomez managed to bat a career high .260 last year, everyone was impressed because he did it with a BABIP that was fifteen points lower than his career average. This year however, with a BABIP that is .136 points higher than his career average, many Fantasy players have managed to make the mistake and convince themselves that Gomez, like Carlos Santana, is finally the player they always thought he would be.
Fantasy Players should try and float as many Carlos Gomez for Matt Kemp/Andrew McCutchen trades out there while they can. While Gomez is the leader in the luckiest hitters gang for now, luck always runs out. Just ask the people that blow their lottery winnings after 15 months and didn’t invest any of it in a mutual fund.