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Nine to Know – BAbip for the last nine seasons

by Bill Chuck on March 8, 2012

There is really a fascinating consistency when it comes to Batting Average balls in play. Over the last nine years there is only a nine point ranger between the highest and lowest numbers with the median being .297 and the mean .298.

  1. 2007 – .303
  2. 2006 – .301
  3. 2008 – .300
  4. 2009 – .299
  5. 2004 – .297
  6. 2010 – .297
  7. 2005 – .295
  8. 2011 – .295
  9. 2003 – .294

The 2011 AL BAbip average was .294.

The 2011 NL BAbip average was .296.

2011 Team BAbip

Tm BAbip ▾
DET .318
BOS .314
KCR .311
HOU .308
NYM .307
STL .305
TEX .304
CHC .301
PIT .301
COL .300
LAD .299
CIN .297
CLE .297
LgAvg .295
ARI .294
SDP .294
MIL .293
NYY .292
WSN .292
FLA .291
BAL .288
LAA .288
MIN .288
ATL .284
OAK .283
PHI .283
SEA .283
TOR .283
SFG .281
TBR .281
CHW .280
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 3/8/2012.
Five players who had the 2011 “average” BAbip of .295:

BAbip is an important number for fantasy players when choosing their 2012 team, but like all stats it should not be purely viewed on face value.

Take the case of Matt Kemp. You look at his BAbip and see a .380, so you naturally assume that through the law of averages his .324 batting average would naturally drop next season. Matt’s stats speak to the contrary. In fact, had you paid attention to this you could have almost predicted his monster 2011 season. Kemp has a lifetime .352 BAbip only falling below .330 once in his career and that was in 2010 when his BAbip was .295.

Invariably, BAbip speaks to the luck a batter has on a batted ball. For a moment, let’s look at Albert Pujols, who “stunned” the baseball world falling below .300 last season for the first time in his career. He hit a measly .299. Then again, his BAbip was just .277 significantly below his lifetime .311 BAbip. On the other hand,  Pujols’ BAbip has decreased each of the last four seasons: .340 in 2008, .299, .297, and a horrid .277 last season. These numbers might be due to teams pitching and defensing him better, or it could just be bad luck (I think the former).

Speed and ground balls have an effect on BAbip as well. Take the case of Ichiro Suzuki who now has a lifetime BAbip of .351 after last season when it was .295, making him an average BAbip-er. But his .272 batting average was well below his lifetime average of .326 and significantly below the .331 average he had entering the season. One cause you might look at is his slapping at the ball which encouraged outfielders to play him more shallow decreasing his opportunities to drop base hits. Another, likely cause was the slowing of his now 37-year old legs. Over the last five seasons, Ichiro has averaged 56.4 infield hits per season. Last season he had 42, significantly below the 60 he had averaged the previous four seasons. Another 18 infield hits would have added over 25 points to his batting average. All this supports Seattle manager Eric Wedge‘s decision to bat him third this coming season and see if his batting practice power will be exhibited in games and open up the outfield for more hits.

Caveat emptor: There are a number of players I will be watching this season because their BAbip seems too high to feel comfortable to predict future success. For example, Detroit’s Alex Avila hit .295 last season, but had a .366 BAbip and Hunter Pence hit .314 and had a .361 BAbip. Avila’s BAbip was 49 points than Miguel Montero, the second highest for all catchers. While Pence, who has never had under a .300  BAbip and even had a .377 in his 108-game rookie season, his .3043 BAbip over the prior three seasons seem more reasonable.
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