2013 Fantasy BaseballBrett TalleyFantasy Baseball

2013 Fantasy Baseball, The Rubber – Week 9: BABIP, BABIP, BABIP

Lately I’ve been talking a lot about a recent study by Baseball Prospectus’ Russell Carleton in which he establishes the point at which certain statistics stabilize. I’ve been using it to look at the statistics that have passed their stabilization point already this season to identify some guys who have made some improvements. But today I want to see which pitchers have allowed enough balls in play in their career to pass the very high stabilization point for BABIP which is 2,000 balls in play. Balls in play does not count home runs since they don’t stay within the field of play.

Below is a list of the 54 qualified starters in 2013 who have allowed 2,000 balls in play in their career. I’ve also listed their career BABIP, their 2013 BABIP and the difference between the two.

Name Career BABIP 2013 BABIP Gap
Joe Blanton 0.304 0.386 0.082
Justin Verlander 0.287 0.368 0.081
Barry Zito 0.271 0.34 0.069
David Price 0.281 0.345 0.064
Doug Fister 0.292 0.338 0.046
Jon Garland 0.286 0.327 0.041
Edwin Jackson 0.304 0.341 0.037
Brandon McCarthy 0.289 0.323 0.034
Adam Wainwright 0.296 0.326 0.03
Yovani Gallardo 0.298 0.326 0.028
Joe Saunders 0.293 0.32 0.027
Anibal Sanchez 0.301 0.327 0.026
Dan Haren 0.292 0.315 0.023
Felix Hernandez 0.299 0.32 0.021
C.J. Wilson 0.29 0.31 0.02
Tim Hudson 0.279 0.297 0.018
Jason Vargas 0.277 0.292 0.015
CC Sabathia 0.292 0.306 0.014
Tim Lincecum 0.296 0.309 0.013
Kyle Lohse 0.298 0.309 0.011
Bartolo Colon 0.292 0.301 0.009
Jason Hammel 0.314 0.319 0.005
Kevin Correia 0.292 0.296 0.004
Mark Buehrle 0.29 0.294 0.004
Ian Kennedy 0.281 0.282 0.001
Cole Hamels 0.281 0.276 -0.005
Edinson Volquez 0.299 0.292 -0.007
Homer Bailey 0.301 0.293 -0.008
A.J. Burnett 0.289 0.279 -0.01
Kyle Kendrick 0.284 0.274 -0.01
Ubaldo Jimenez 0.29 0.277 -0.013
Paul Maholm 0.305 0.29 -0.015
Ryan Dempster 0.302 0.285 -0.017
Clay Buchholz 0.28 0.263 -0.017
Bronson Arroyo 0.283 0.265 -0.018
Jake Peavy 0.284 0.265 -0.019
Ervin Santana 0.284 0.265 -0.019
Ricky Nolasco 0.308 0.289 -0.019
Jorge de la Rosa 0.303 0.283 -0.02
Trevor Cahill 0.274 0.254 -0.02
R.A. Dickey 0.285 0.264 -0.021
Justin Masterson 0.304 0.281 -0.023
Jeremy Guthrie 0.273 0.249 -0.024
Matt Cain 0.263 0.238 -0.025
James Shields 0.297 0.269 -0.028
Jon Lester 0.3 0.27 -0.03
Gio Gonzalez 0.283 0.253 -0.03
Cliff Lee 0.294 0.259 -0.035
Hiroki Kuroda 0.279 0.244 -0.035
Wandy Rodriguez 0.295 0.259 -0.036
Jason Marquis 0.287 0.247 -0.04
Max Scherzer 0.311 0.266 -0.045
Clayton Kershaw 0.271 0.223 -0.048
Scott Feldman 0.293 0.244 -0.049

 

Next I decided to take a look at the pitchers on either extreme of the list and see if their expected BABIPs (xBABIP) this year match up with their  career BABIPs.

If you’re unfamiliar with BABIP, the idea behind it is that pitchers don’t have a ton of control over whether balls in play go for hits. There are too many variables that have nothing to do with the pitcher that determine whether a ball in play turns into a hit or an out. But they do have some control. The xBABIP factors in some things that a pitcher does have control of that can have an impact on BABIP.

Matt Swartz did some excellent work for Fangraphs in 2011 and found that more strikeouts and fly balls lead to lower BABIPs. This makes sense. Pitchers who can avoid contact via strikeout can also induce more weak contact. And fly balls go for hits less than balls hit on the ground. So his xBABIP formula is .290 + (.045 x GB%) – (.103 x K%) = xBABIP. Below are the 2013 BABIPs, career BABIPs and xBABIPs for all pitchers whose gap between 2013 and career BABIP was substantial in the chart above.

Name 2013 BABIP Career BABIP xBABIP
Joe Blanton 0.386 0.304 0.297187
Justin Verlander 0.368 0.287 0.2802
Barry Zito 0.34 0.271 0.292359
David Price 0.345 0.281 0.290742
Doug Fister 0.338 0.292 0.296434
Jon Garland 0.327 0.286 0.300135
Edwin Jackson 0.341 0.304 0.290799
Brandon McCarthy 0.323 0.289 0.294936
Cliff Lee 0.259 0.294 0.293569
Hiroki Kuroda 0.244 0.279 0.291247
Wandy Rodriguez 0.259 0.295 0.300318
Jason Marquis 0.247 0.287 0.27706
Max Scherzer 0.266 0.311 0.283606
Clayton Kershaw 0.223 0.271 0.29293
Scott Feldman 0.244 0.293 0.29293

 

Everyone’s xBABIP indicates regression to the mean. This is not a surprise.

Although they’ll see positive regression, Zito, Price, and Garland  aren’t displaying near the same level of hit prevention skills that they have previously in their career. The regression might not be as extreme for them.

Jackson and Verlander’s xBABIPs indicate that their hit prevention skills have been better this year than previously. Verlander is an obvious trade target, and Jackson is worth a look if he’s on the wire.

Kuroda and Kershaw have also seen lesser hit prevention skills this year, and their regression could be more than just to their career BABIP if that continues. I can’t imagine anyone trading away Kershaw, and this doesn’t seem like enough of a reason to do so. But Kuroda might be a guy to deal.

The real star that sticks out in this exercise is Scherzer. He’s got the third largest gap between his 2013 BABIP and career BABIP, but his xBABIP shows that he’s had something to do with it, it hasn’t been all luck. Don’t sell him because of BABIP regression fear. In fact, his strand rate is unsustainably low right now, so he’s an excellent trade target.

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