May 11, 2011

What The Luck - Hitters Aided By BABIP


Hey, did you miss me? Okay, so you probably didn't notice that I took a week-or-so hiatus from posting but I'm back anyway!

This week in What The Luck, we'll take a gander into the baseball landscape in search of undervalued or overvalued players.  Taking metrics to determine who is for real and who is not, we looked at ERA-FIP last week for pitchers and now let's take a look at the BABIP leaderboard for hitters.

Traditionally, you'll find the hitters who have the best batting averages early on are being aided by the monster known as BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play).  Whether a ball lands in the green grass of an outfield or in the brown mitt of a fielder is often a difference of mere inches.  Sometimes, there are players who get many fortunate bounces so it seems that they're playing outstandingly well despite luck aiding them on.  BABIP helps us see that by telling us only what a player's batting average is on the balls that are hit into play.  Most hitters will have a BABIP around .300 or so but a more skilled hitter might have a higher BABIP by aiming hits better or a speedy player may also have a higher BABIP by getting to first base faster.  So, whether a player is hitting at an unsustainable pace is tied into not only their current BABIP but their career BABIP.
Player
AVG
BABIP
Career BABIP
Matt Holliday
.393
.471
.351
Andre Ethier
.369
.429
.324
Matt Joyce
.356
.429
.302
Travis Hafner
.337
.408
.319
Peter Bourjos
.291
.407
.297*
Brett Wallace
.336
.407
.366
Jason Kubel
.347
.402
.305
Matt Kemp
.336
.400
.348
Howie Kendrick
.322
.396
.342
Michael Young
.349
.392
.336
Jed Lowrie
.327
.381
.310
*Bourjos has had a longer minor league career where he had a .346 BABIP

Looking at the leaderboard, it's no surprise that most of these hitters are batting well above the .300 mark right now with BABIP's that are at extremely high levels.  Matt Holliday is a great hitter who has a wonderful career BABIP but he won't maintain that .393 batting average.  It doesn't mean that he'll hit .250 the rest of the way to balance things out but expect him to hit closer to his usual .300 mark the rest of the way (which would still give him a season average of around .320).  If you find an owner in your league who is thinking that Holliday will contend for a .400 season, he may be willing to offer you a king's bounty so take advantage of that though.

In the rest of the list, you see a bunch of names that might be at the peak of their value and worth shopping around on the trade market.  Andre Ethier has drawn a lot of attention with his hit streak and he's a good hitter but hitting .290 the rest of the way is more likely for him than .360 so take a look around and see what people might be willing to offer.  And, Travis Hafner is certainly worth shopping around if anyone wants him because not only will his batting average drop but he's a walking injury risk.

(As a side note, It's interesting that Peter Bourjos is towards the top of the BABIP leaderboard despite not hitting above .300 but he's not really hitting a lot of balls in play with his 31.5% strikeout rate.)

Just because some of your players may be on this list does not mean that you need to completely jump ship on them.  This mainly serves as a caution sign that things are not as they seem and this "hot streak" will not last forever.  For the rest of the season, you can still expect these players to perform as you expected when you drafted them.  However, if someone comes knocking on your proverbial door to ask for one of your high BABIP superstars, take a good listen to what they might be offering you as they might not realize that these sunny days won't last forever.

May 3, 2011

What The Luck - Pitchers to Sell High or Buy Low On


With a month of baseball in the books, we're starting to get enough data to do some proper analysis of who has been lucky and unlucky thus far.  Though we trust our core numbers that we grew up with like ERA and AVG, there's a lot of luck factors that go into whether a pitcher lets up a run or a batter gets a hit.  We're going to take a glance at some of the lucky and unlucky pitchers from the year thus far and the metric of choice here will be comparing FIP to ERA.

FIP was developed by Tom Tango and is more properly known as Fielding Independent Pitching. It is used to estimate ERA based on HR allowed, BB allowed and strikeouts compared to innings pitched as those are the three true outcomes that are under a pitcher's control. The idea being that a ball in play is often in control of the fielders as opposed to the pitchers so this statistic accounts for that by estimating the ERA that the pitcher actually deserved as opposed to the ERA that they actually had.  So, by comparing the actual ERA of a pitcher to their FIP, we get a sense of how poorly luck has treated them.

Player
ERA
BABIP
K/9
K/BB
FIP
xFIP
E-F
Travis Wood
6.82
.366
7.67
3.00
3.35
3.76
3.47
Matt Garza
3.96
.400
11.87
4.64
1.19
1.98
2.77
Daniel Hudson
5.30
.343
8.92
2.85
2.81
3.47
2.49
Edwin Jackson
5.86
.357
8.15
1.88
3.71
3.70
2.15
M. Bumgarner
5.34
.333
6.82
1.92
3.50
3.81
1.84
Yovani Gallardo
6.10
.358
6.53
1.76
4.40
4.00
1.70
Carlos Carrasco
4.97
.337
5.59
1.80
3.32
4.25
1.65
Jason Vargas
5.45
.315
6.49
2.78
3.81
3.91
1.64
Ervin Santana
4.89
.325
7.68
3.30
3.39
3.56
1.50
Carl Pavano
5.84
.279
4.14
1.70
4.43
4.81
1.41
J. Zimmermann
4.29
.294
4.54
2.57
2.92
4.27
1.37
Chris Narveson
4.64
.323
8.73
2.67
3.30
3.27
1.33
In this first group here, we see a laundry list of players who were unlucky through this first month of baseball.  If you look at the FIP statistic, you will see the ERA that is expected of that pitcher based on their core stats. These all represent possibly buy-low candidates that you may want to set your sights on.  Yovani Gallardo has had a tough start to the season based on his ERA and his owners are likely not happy with him so maybe it's time to dangle a carrot in their direction and see how they feel about it.

Player
ERA
BABIP
K/9
K/BB
FIP
xFIP
E-F
Alexi Ogando
2.30
.165
6.03
2.63
4.66
4.21
-2.36
Josh Tomlin
2.45
.179
4.91
2.25
4.67
4.02
-2.21
Dustin Moseley
1.63
.236
3.72
1.78
3.51
3.85
-1.89
Brett Myers
3.72
.274
6.05
2.17
5.32
4.25
-1.60
Zach Britton
2.63
.241
4.78
1.33
4.14
4.17
-1.51
Colby Lewis
5.70
.233
6.00
1.82
7.17
4.76
-1.47
Randy Wolf
2.39
.255
7.88
3.30
3.82
3.63
-1.43
Bruce Chen
4.04
.272
4.79
1.58
5.47
4.73
-1.43
Tom Gorzelanny
2.93
.181
6.75
2.56
4.24
4.32
-1.31
Jason Hammel
3.23
.295
5.28
2.25
4.47
3.70
-1.24
Jeremy Guthrie
3.00
.258
5.31
3.83
4.15
4.30
-1.15
Kevin Correia
2.90
.233
4.02
2.00
4.04
4.36
-1.14
Max Scherzer
3.82
.317
8.84
2.06
4.94
3.93
-1.11
Kyle McClellan
3.23
.307
4.99
1.70
4.31
4.34
-1.08
From the camp of overly lucky pitchers, here's some players that you may want to abandon ship on before they start to sink (or stink).  Zach Britton has been a nice surprise thus far (despite a K/9 under 5) but his FIP statistic tells us that he's pitched more like a 4.14 ERA pitcher than his actual 2.63 ERA.  He's done well but pitched a bit over his head and it may be worth checking out what others are willing to offer for him.  Other possible flash-in-the-pans include Alexi Ogando and Josh Tomlin.  Take note of these players if you own them and recognize that a fall from grace may be upcoming.

We like to think that the performances we see on the baseball field are devoid of luck but there's a much larger luck element to every play than we often care to admit.  By admitting that certain players have been lucky or unlucky, we can effectively find value throughout the season on the waiver wire or in trades.  These are all pitchers who have been on the extremely good or bad side of the luck equation and you'll want to start involving in trade talks one way or another.