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2014's Unluckiest Hitters

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Some hitters were very unlucky with batted balls in 2014. Which ones could bounce back and which ones won't?

Brian McCann had a down year in 2014. Was he just unlucky?
Brian McCann had a down year in 2014. Was he just unlucky?
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Player BABIP
Brian McCann 0.231
Mark Teixeira 0.233
Chris Davis 0.242
Matt Dominguez 0.244
Carlos Santana 0.249
Zack Cozart 0.255
David Ortiz 0.256
Edwin Encarnacion 0.26
Dayan Viciedo 0.261
Andrelton Simmons 0.263
Albert Pujols 0.265
Curtis Granderson 0.265
Allen Craig 0.266
Coco Crisp 0.266
Chris Carter 0.267
Brian Dozier 0.269
Domonic Brown 0.269
Jay Bruce 0.269
Jimmy Rollins 0.269
Asdrubal Cabrera 0.272
Dustin Ackley 0.273
Jean Segura 0.275
Khris Davis 0.275
Miguel Montero 0.275
Omar Infante 0.275
Yangervis Solarte 0.275
Aaron Hill 0.276
Adam LaRoche 0.277
Josh Donaldson 0.278
Salvador Perez 0.278
Jed Lowrie 0.281
Yunel Escobar 0.282
Brandon Moss 0.283
Lucas Duda 0.283
Evan Longoria 0.285
Jordy Mercer 0.285
Adam Dunn 0.286
B.J. Upton 0.286
Jose Bautista 0.287
Ian Kinsler 0.288
Jason Kipnis 0.288
Neil Walker 0.288
Nelson Cruz 0.288
Ryan Howard 0.288

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
Albert Pujols 0.265 0.303 18.9% 19.0% 74
Jimmy Rollins 0.269 0.286 19.3% 21.0% 14
Mark Teixeira 0.233 0.287 21.2% 20.9% 16
Evan Longoria 0.285 0.301 20.4% 19.6% 47
Ian Kinsler 0.288 0.282 19.6% 19.9% 10
Curtis Granderson 0.265 0.3 18.9% 20.5% 43
Brian McCann 0.231 0.283 22.2% 20.2% 106
Coco Crisp 0.266 0.294 20.5% 19.7% 3
B.J. Upton 0.286 0.314 18.1% 17.9% 9
Yunel Escobar 0.282 0.3 20.0% 18.9% 2
Ryan Howard 0.288 0.319 22.1% 23.0% 149
Aaron Hill 0.276 0.29 24.5% 19.9% 14
Nelson Cruz 0.288 0.299 17.2% 17.0% 14
Jay Bruce 0.269 0.293 20.7% 19.7% 117
Omar Infante 0.275 0.306 22.7% 21.6% 4
Asdrubal Cabrera 0.272 0.307 19.1% 20.3% 5
Miguel Montero 0.275 0.306 20.8% 20.4% 18
Neil Walker 0.288 0.307 22.6% 22.5% 6
Adam LaRoche 0.277 0.302 22.1% 20.9% 161
Jed Lowrie 0.281 0.292 24.4% 21.5% 22
Jason Kipnis 0.288 0.308 22.6% 23.2% 6
Andrelton Simmons 0.263 0.262 16.4% 17.5% 5
Chris Davis 0.242 0.32 24.6% 23.1% 199
Brian Dozier 0.269 0.272 19.9% 20.4% 8
Dustin Ackley 0.273 0.288 18.4% 20.2% 14
Brandon Moss 0.283 0.299 21.0% 19.9% 96
Zack Cozart 0.255 0.276 17.7% 18.4% 1
Allen Craig 0.266 0.325 21.1% 23.1% 3
Jordy Mercer 0.285 0.299 20.1% 21.3% 2
Jean Segura 0.275 0.302 18.3% 17.8% 4
Khris Davis 0.275 0.279 21.4% 21.2% 3
Lucas Duda 0.283 0.292 20.4% 21.2% 51
Chris Carter 0.267 0.283 21.6% 21.7% 30
Yangervis Solarte* 0.275 0.288 19.5% 19.5% 6
Dayan Viciedo 0.261 0.291 17.3% 18.9% 3
Matt Dominguez 0.244 0.255 17.7% 18.3% 7
Domonic Brown 0.269 0.275 17.4% 20.0% 24

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.

Player Unlucky/Typical?
Albert Pujols Unlucky
Jimmy Rollins Typical
Mark Teixeira Typical
Evan Longoria Typical
Ian Kinsler Typical
Curtis Granderson Unlucky
Brian McCann Typical
Coco Crisp Typical
B.J. Upton Typical
Yunel Escobar Typical
Ryan Howard Unlucky
Aaron Hill Typical
Nelson Cruz Typical
Jay Bruce Typical
Omar Infante Typical
Asdrubal Cabrera Unlucky
Miguel Montero Typical
Neil Walker Typical
Adam LaRoche Typical
Jed Lowrie Typical
Jason Kipnis Unlucky
Andrelton Simmons Typical
Chris Davis Typical
Brian Dozier Unlucky
Dustin Ackley Typical
Brandon Moss Typical
Zack Cozart Unlucky
Allen Craig Unlucky
Jordy Mercer Unlucky
Jean Segura Typical
Khris Davis Typical
Lucas Duda Typical
Chris Carter Typical
Yangervis Solarte* Typical
Dayan Viciedo Unlucky
Matt Dominguez Unlucky
Domonic Brown Typical

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!