In a previous post, I regaled you with a tale of some lucky hitters in 2014. Some were truly lucky, some were just showing off their impressive BABIP skills. I promised you all in that post that I would flip the script and look at the opposite: unlucky hitters in 2014. So, here we are. I have once again compiled a list of hitters and their 2014 BABIP values. I pulled every qualified hitter with a BABIP under .290 in 2014. League average was .299, so anything under .290 was pretty unlucky and, as you will see, some were way under .299.
I am not going to re-hash the background stuff about BABIP and batted ball types. Check out my lucky hitters post for a refresher. Let's dive in to the big table. It is sorted by BABIP, lowest to highest.
The guys in yellow, as you may have guessed, are guys that are obviously talented and don't really require further analysis. They were mostly good this year and should be even better next year when their BABIPs bounce back. They are all fantasy stars and can only get better next year.
The rest are a collection of former stars, 2013 breakouts that fell back to the pack, poor hitters, inconsistent hitters, and legitimate hitters that we should probably trust going forward. Just as I did with the lucky hitters, I took the guys that aren't in yellow and dug deeper to try and find out whether they were just unlucky or whether they truly can't hit. The next table shows the results of my deeper study, with the player's average career BABIP, 2014 line drive %, career LD%, and the number of times they hit into an infield shift in 2013 (I know, that's not the right year, but alas, infield shift data is proprietary and 2013 is the most recent I could find for free).
|Player||2014 BABIP||Career BABIP||2014 LD%||Career LD%||# Shifts on BIP 2013|
Infield shifts have been shown to reduce BABIP by an average of .030 or more. This is obviously an anchor for all those guys that are heavy pull hitters that experience a lot of shifts. It turns out that most of the pull hitters from 2013 are still pull hitters in 2014, so the number of times they hit into a shift in 2013 is still useful in this analysis. Allen Craig and his mysteriously awful 2014 season is a notable exception, since he was unshiftable in 2013, but suddenly became easy to shift on in 2014.
Here's how I used this data to determine who was just unlucky in 2014 and should bounce back and who won't. If their 2014 line drive rate and BABIP were below their career average and a large number of infield shifts wasn't the reason their BABIP was well below average (i.e. if their BABIP was more than .030 below their average), then they were probably just unlucky. Otherwise, a typical or above average line drive rate or an average or above average shift-adjusted BABIP gets you put into the "typical" hitter pile, showing that 2014 was not a fluke and a bounce back may not be in the cards. The last table shows the final verdict for each hitter: unlucky or typical. I would expect a similar year from the "typical" ones and look to buy low on the "unlucky" ones next year.
I can already hear some complaints, so I will put that fire out now. This does not mean that Brandon Moss, Chris Carter, Evan Longoria, Brian McCann and company should not be owned next year or that they are bad players. It just means that the numbers indicate that 2014's down years are not necessarily a fluke and it would not be surprising if they put up similar numbers in 2015. Ok, I hope that clears things up. Tschus!