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Among all the "new" statistics that baseball pundits have embraced, batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is one that has gained particular attention. In some ways, it attempts to evaluate luck in a way that few baseball statistics have tried. In its most basic terms, BABIP is hits minus home runs divided by at-bats minus home runs, minus strikeouts, plus sacrifice flies. It's been discussed in some detail in For Better, For Worse in the past, but it also offers a potential glimpse into the future.
To a certain degree, BABIP is a measurement of which players are getting lucky on batted balls and which are finding more outs than the laws of averages would otherwise support. Yet, more than just evaluating luck, which is not a common scoring category in fantasy baseball circles, BABIP is a fairly good measurement of which hitters are likely to get better, while others can be expected to get worse. In fantasy circles, those with an artificially high BABIP are unlikely to maintain that number, while the converse is also true. For anyone who has been privy to a true premonition, and there are very few, everyone agrees that seeing the future can be an invaluable tool. BABIP may be a window into future events and fantasy success.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, New York Yankees. It's been a tough row to hoe for Teixeira owners in 2010. With just two home runs and a .136 batting average through 22 April games, Big Tex started the season in a deep, deep hole. It's something he's done in the past, but never to this degree. At the conclusion of June, Teixeira's batting average was still just .231, prompting some to wonder if he'd ever dig his way out of tat proverbial hole. The power (18 HR) is there, as are the runs and RBIs (65 and 62 respectively), but the batting average (.253) continues to be a point of concern for all involved. However, through 14 July games, Teixeira is hitting a robust .377 with all signs pointing to a return to something approximating his career mark of .287. Continued patience is already paying off for Teixeira owners, even if his batting average has yet to cultivate fulfillment.
Carlos Lee, OF, Houston Astros. It should be clear to even a casual baseball observer that Lee is in the decline phase of his career, a fact to which his age and body-type can attest. In addition, his all around numbers indicate that his best years are most likely behind him. However, it's also rather clear that his season, a disappointing one to date, has been hampered by a career low BABIP of .234. That's of little solace to those owners that have endured his .238 batting average, unless they're patient enough to wait for a theoretical turn around. Lee holds a .288 career batting average (.287 career BABIP) and hasn't hit lower than .281 since 2005. Unless there's an undiagnosed injury impeding his progress, placing a bet on a turn-around may pay significant dividends.
Carlos Quentin, OF, Chicago White Sox. This is not an effort to single out the Carloses around MLB, but it is an attempt to point out that over a long enough time line, good hitters will eventually hit. Quentin is a good hitter. In fact, when he's "on", Quentin is a stellar hitter. This much was made clear to the world in 2008 when he made a run at American League MVP by hitting 36 HR with 100 RBI. A late-season injury cost him all but one game in September, running an otherwise great season. Quentin's 2010 season has been marred, here again, by bad luck. While he has 19 home runs and 64 runs driven in, a .244 average (.223 BABIP) has stripped Quentin of much of his overall fantasy value. However, he's already showing signs of a turn-around. A .286 average since the start of June (.355 in July) are good indicators that Quentin's luck may have finally changed.
Brennan Boesch, OF, Detroit Tigers. Boesch has been one of the pleasant surprises of the 2010 season, with a .325 batting average, 12 home runs, and 50 runs batted in. Not as glorified as some other rookies (Jason Heyward, Stephen Strasburg), Boesch is out-producing most, if not all, of the rookie competition. During a three-year minor league career, Boesch did little to indicate that he'd produce at such a high level upon reaching the major leagues. Boesch flashed impressive power with 28 HR in 2009, but carried a .273 batting average over five seasons. This is, to be perfectly clear, not a player that scouts expect to hit for a high average. That being said, a .325 average as a rookie seems somewhat suspicious given the available data. For those keeping score, it seems more than likely that a .363 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) may have something to do with his early success.
Adam Dunn, 1B/OF, Washington Nationals. The two knocks on Dunn during his career have been his huge strikeout totals and his typically low batting average. In 2010, Dunn is still striking out 34.3 percent of the time (second-highest in the game), but his batting average (.286) is .034 above his career batting average (.252). Much of Dunn's newfound average may be luck driven, as indicated by his .371 BABIP. Considering Dunn's career-best batting average to date is a mere .266, and his career BABIP is .297 (almost exactly the median) it seems logical that a batting average regression is looming on the horizon.
Austin Jackson, OF, Detroit Tigers. It may seem as though things are being unfairly heaped upon the Detroit outfield, but in this case the numbers simply do not lie. Among all BABIP numbers, the one that stands out the most is that of Austin Jackson. His .420 mark is more than .025 higher then the closest competition and it is largely responsible for his current .304 batting average. Those owners that have enjoyed his surprising production to date may be wise to market Jackson to the competition before the inevitable batting adjustment. While his 16 stolen bases are a clear indication of his actual athletic talent, his artificially inflated batting average is most likely a byproduct of luck.
Damian Schaab is a senior writer for SportsGrumblings.com, and member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. Visit SportsGrumblings.com today to ensure total fantasy sports dominance.