Luck or Skill?!: Looking At The Five Highest Hitter’s BABIP (Trout, McCutchen & More)

We all know the players who have enjoyed “lucky” seasons. It’s fairly easy to identify them, once you peek at te league leaders in BABIP. The question is, was it really luck or is the skill repeatable? Let’s take a look at the five highest batters BABIP to try and reach some conclusions:

1) Dexter Fowler – Coloado Rockies
2012 BABIP – .390

We have discussed Fowler in detail already, so make sure you click here t0 check that out. That said, it is hard to completely write the number off based on his 27.2% line drive rate. Do we really expect him to replicate that type of mark? It’s not likely, especially considering he had been between 21.0% and 21.6% the prior three seasons.

At 27-years old entering 2013, however, it is easy to conclude that he has figured things out a bit. While a regression from 2012 is a near given, seeing hs numbers remain elevated from his prior years is realistic as well. He saw a major jump in HR/FB last season and if that is real along with the line drive rate, he could easily hit .275-.280 with double-digit power.

There are a lot of ifs in the statement, but the bottom like is that he is worth rolling me dice on.

2) Torii Hunter – Los Angeles Angels
2012 BABIP – .389

Now with the Detroit Tigers, it is easy to realize that Hunter isn’t going to match last season’s .313 average. A career .277 hitter, Hunter has seen his line drive rate increase each of the past four seasons:

  • 2009 – 16.3%
  • 2010 – 18.3%
  • 2011 – 21.0%
  • 2012 – 22.6%

That is encouraging, even despite his career mark of 17.8%. Of course, he is also now 37-years old so that improvement only holds so much weight. In 2012 he also posted a career high strikeout rate (22.8%) and groundball rate (52.0%).

Do I think he can be a productive player hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder? Absolutely, but he is not going to come close to last year’s average. Just keep that in mind before over-drafting him based on his new locale.

3) Mike Trout – Los Angeles Angels
2012 BABIP – .383

We all know how impressive Trout was in 2012, but as I said in my comparison between him and Ryan Braun (click here to view) even with his speed and line drive rate (22.6%), this type of number is hard to imagine him repeating. That said, of all the players on this list I would buy into Trout maintaining an elevated mark the most. With his skill set there is no reason for me to think that he can’t routinely post marks in the .350-.360 range, kind of like Ichiro Suzuki but with more power. He is a fantasy stud, there’s just no doubt about it.

4) Andrew McCutchen – Pittsburgh Pirates
2012 BABIP – .375

He exploded last season, but there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of him replicating it. While he had an overall line drive rate of 21.9%, he actually had three months at or below 18.6%. In reality, he was scorching hot for three consecutive months, skewing his overall numbers.

Go into 2012 with your eyes wide open. You couple this likely regression along with a potential drop in power (19.4% HR/FB) and you get a very real chance that he posts a sub-.300 average. That type of risk drops him or of the first round for me, which means he is nt a player I a going to be drafting.

We recently posted our 2013 projection for McCutchen, which you can view by clicking here.

5) Austin Jackson – Detroit Tigers
2012 BABIP – .371

Jackson is an interesting player to look at, because his numbers have varied so wildly from year-to-year-to-year. Just look at this comparison (Average // BABIP // Line Drive Rate // HR/FB)

  • 2010 – .293 // .396 // 24.2% // 3.3%
  • 2011 – .249 // .340 // 16.8% // 6.9%
  • 2012 – .300 // .371 // 23.8% // 11.4%

It’s obvious that the power is increasing and, on te surface, it would look like 2011 is the aberration. While another strong line drive year (coupled with an improved strikeout rate of 21.7%) would go a long way in convincing me, he has at least started to make me into a believer.

Do I think he can maintain a .370 BABIP? No, but even if he stays in the .340 range, with the improving power he can hit .285+. With his runs scored potential, there is suddenly reason for optimism.

What are your thoughts on these five hitters?  Who do you think can maintain their success in 2013?  Who do you think is in store for a regression?

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Make sure to check out all of our 2013 projections:

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