May 20, 2010

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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).

Andy Pettitte is off to an amazing start in 2010, but is it somewhat due to luck? Each pitcher's BABIP will vary based on what types of contact he induces, but the overall average for pitchers is around .300. More ground balls and fly balls usually make for a pitcher with a lower BABIP.

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 coming weeks:

Andy Pettitte -- LD%: 21.4, BABIP: .262

Kenshin Kawakami and John Maine have the same LD% as Pettitte, yet their BABIP's are .310 and .349. Something's gotta give, and it will likely be Pettitte's strong 3.23 FIP (and even stronger 1.79 ERA).

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.

Predicted season-end BABIP: .303

Jon Garland -- LD%: 21.3, BABIP: .233

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

Phil Hughes -- LD%: 19.1, BABIP: 228

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.

Predicted season-end BABIP: .276

Other pitchers who should see an increase in BABIP if they maintain their current LD%: Shaun Marcum (18.4, .240), Matt Garza (19.4, .259) and Colby Lewis (18.7, .261)

Dan Haren -- LD%: 17.6, BABIP: .357

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.

Predicted season-end BABIP: .317

Cole Hamels -- LD%: 17.2, BABIP: .348

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.

Predicted season-end BABIP: .312

Tommy Hanson -- LD%: 13.4, BABIP: .315

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.

Predicted season-end BABIP: .296

Other pitchers who should see a decrease in BABIP if they maintain their current LD%: Felix Hernandez (18.6, .328), Chad Billingsley (16.8, .320) and Hiroki Kuroda (13.9, .310)

Ricky Romero -- Romero is better in '10 than '9 in almost every way. His K/9 is up, his BB/9 down and his FIP is way down. With strong ground ball and strikeout skills, the only reason to be down on Romero is the competition he'll face regularly in the AL East.

John Ely -- Ely's FIP (1.61) suggests his ERA (3.51) is lying to you. His 8.33 K/BB is just ridiculous thanks to three walks in 25.2 innings (none since his first start). The league will catch up with him eventually, but there's no reason fantasy owners shouldn't enjoy the numbers until then.

9.83: K/9 for James Shields through 54 innings. His current K/9 is 3.01 better than last year's rate and would be his career high by a big margin. Shields, 28, is getting more swings outside the zone and more misses outside the zone than he did last year, which is a big reason for the spike in K/9.


Johnny Cueto -- On the coattails of three straight productive starts, the 24-year-old looks like fantasy gold again. During the aforementioned three starts, his K/9 is 9.41 and BB/9 is 1.23.

Edwin Jackson -- What does Jackson's dominant April 17 start (eight innings, 12 strikeouts, four hits, no runs) at Florida mean? It means he's stream-worthy against weak-hitting or free-swinging teams. He's had four decent or good starts so far, two against the Padres, one against the Brewers and one against the Marlins.


CC Sabathia -- Sabathia is one of the most trustworthy fantasy starters out there, but his K/BB is now in decline for the fourth straight year. It's possible his high workload is getting to him, and it's also possible this is just another slow start. Either way, his value right now isn't what it was when you drafted him.

John Lackey -- If the season ended right now, Lackey would be looking at a career-low in K/9 and a career-high in BB/9. That pretty much sums up his start in Boston. Fantasy owners don't have many options other than to wait it out.

Need more pitches tipped? Send questions and comments to Don't forget to check out our Xclusive Edge Rankings to help with tough lineup decisions.

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