Beginner’s Guide to Sabermetrics: BABIP
FantasyPros has put together a glossary of sabermetrics statistics for readers to reference. Deeper statistical analysis is being used by fantasy players more and more in daily and season-long leagues. We’re providing the glossary so that you can easily reference what the stats we use in our articles refer to and how they should be used for fantasy baseball purposes. Below we’ll take a look at BABIP.
BABIP, in short, is a measure of how lucky or unlucky a player is getting with his hits. It stands for Batting Average on Balls in Play, and is a measure of how many hits in play end up with the player on base. It does not include home runs, strikeouts and walks (as they are not put into play), but every other hit, including sacrifices, are included.
The extremes of the stat can be described in two different scenarios:
- A weak dribbler that rolls up the line but never goes foul; this is a hit. Should it be a hit? Probably not. But it is.
- A line drive hit on a rope that goes straight to the right fielder; this is an out. Should it be an out? Probably not. But it is.
All a hitter can do is put the bat on the ball. Unless you hit it over a wall, any wall, really, including those in foul territory, a ton of factors are outside your control. Defensive positioning, weather, bad throws, lawn conditions, pure defensive skill and plain dumb luck all converge on the hitter delivering the ball into play to determine whether or not it turns into a hit or an out.
League average BABIP is about .300, but you cannot compare two players’ BABIP. A player’s BABIP is unique to himself, and includes factors such as how hard he hits the ball and his speed. A speedster like Billy Hamilton can sustain a higher BABIP than a lumberer like Billy Butler because Hamilton can leg out slow chops to third or go for the occasional bunt-for-hit. Butler is too slow to do this, so his BABIP would naturally be lower.
In order to use BABIP as a player evaluation tool, you cannot compare him to another player, you can only compare him to his prior performances. If you use the league average .300 to evaluate players, you could erroneously tab Joey Votto as a regression candidate because of his .327 BABIP in 2015. In actuality, Votto is such a skilled hitter that he is a career .354 BABIP hitter. To use BABIP, you’ll need to look at a player’s career BABIP and then compare it to what he is currently doing. BABIP can also be used to determine why a hitter’s batting average is cratering or why he’s over-performing his preseason expectations. It’s a great short hand tool to use for buying low and selling high. It can be used in a similar fashion to show when pitchers are getting lucky or unlucky.
Jeff Krisko is a correspondent at FantasyPros, and he also writes for Fantasy Sports Warehouse. To read more from Jeff, check out his archive and follow him on Twitter @jmkrisko and Fantasy Sports Warehouse @FantasySportsWH.