Tipping pitches: Soaring hurlers due for a cold dose of reality
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So what's the deal with BABIP?
First, a moment for a definition. Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) is tossed around a lot, but what does it mean? Basically, it measures the batting average of any ball a batter makes contact with, excluding home runs (H-HR)/(AB-K-HR+SF).
Even though it is well used in fantasy circles, BABIP is still a fuzzy science and many statisticians have very different ways of estimating it. One thing most agree about is that line drives correlate well with BABIP. Line drives fall in for hits more often than ground balls and fly balls, so if a pitcher allows a lot of line drives, his BABIP should be high.
Here are some pitchers bucking that trend that should be in line for a BABIP correction in the
Pettitte has averaged about 195 innings per season in his 15-year career. He's already pitched 45.1 this season, with a BABIP of .262. If he pitches 150 more innings in 2010 with his career BABIP of .315, he'll have a resulting BABIP of roughly .303 for the season. That matches up closely with his .301 of 2009.
He's much more likely to approach the 4.15 FIP/4.16 ERA of 2009 than maintain the 3.23 FIP/1.79 ERA of 2010.
If Pettitte's 2010 performance is labeled lucky, than Garland's needs to be called some sort of super lucky. Garland will post lower BABIP's than average because of his generally high GB%, but .233 is ridiculous.
The red flags are already flocking to Garland like seagulls to french fries because of his FIP-ERA disparity (FIP: 4.34, ERA: 1.88), so this is hardly a good sign for Garland's ability to remain a useful fantasy pitcher.
Predicted season-end BABIP: .274
This has been Hughes' breakout party to some degree. He's about to set a career-high for starts (already has six, high is eight) and he's finally living up to his early-career hype. So what's the problem?
While he's good, he's not quite this good. He won't continue to leave 86.7% of his runners on base, he won't maintain a 0.23 HR/9 and his BABIP won't hover around .230 for the rest of the season.
His numbers will normalize and his FIP will rise. Fortunately, his FIP is a sterling 2.50 right now, so there's room for an increase before Hughes becomes a liability in fantasy leagues.
Other pitchers who should see an increase in BABIP if they maintain their current LD%:
Quick, someone tell Haren it's May. The notorious quick starter has been anything but this year. He's carrying an unwieldy .357 BABIP as well as a LOB% of 66.9, well below his career 73.1 rate, so things should turn around.
The only non-luck negative appears to be his BB/9, which is up to 2.26. That's still good, but not good enough for the dynamite 5.00-plus K/BB fantasy owners have grown accustomed to from Haren.
Hamels' strikeouts and walks are both up this season. His bloated 4.60 FIP, despite an above-average 81.0 LOB%, is certainly concerning, but his BABIP should sink as long as he keeps the line drives down.
Hanson's progression from 2009 to 2010 has been impressive. His K/BB has gone from 2.52 to 4.31 and his FIP has improved from 3.50 to 2.85.
It's hard to tell how much his BABIP will decrease, because his LD% is much lower than it was last year (18.1). Fantasy owners will have to wait and see what his actual LD%, and therefore BABIP, tendencies are.
Other pitchers who should see a decrease in BABIP if they maintain their current LD%: