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Hitter BABIP Leaders

Last Saturday, I looked at the bottom dwellers in hitter BABIP. In a surprise move, one of those hitters, Adam Lind, was actualy sent down to Triple-A. Today we will look at the BABIP leaders. These are your potential trade candidates, but I’ll look more in depth into the interesting names.

Name BABIP LD% GB% FB% IFFB%
David Wright 0.470 29.8% 44.2% 26.0% 0.0%
Kirk Nieuwenhuis 0.422 29.4% 47.1% 23.5% 5.0%
Josh Hamilton 0.407 22.0% 38.5% 39.4% 0.0%
Bryan LaHair 0.406 22.8% 39.2% 38.0% 6.7%
Paul Konerko 0.406 24.8% 39.8% 35.4% 2.5%
Michael Bourn 0.406 26.9% 51.5% 21.6% 3.4%
Adam LaRoche 0.402 30.9% 29.8% 39.4% 18.9%
A.J. Ellis 0.400 21.9% 41.1% 37.0% 3.7%
Rafael Furcal 0.400 20.5% 53.8% 25.8% 8.8%
Jason Kubel 0.393 30.4% 34.8% 34.8% 6.3%

David Wright is having one crazy season. Though his .470 BABIP is obviously nowhere near sustainable, check out that line drive rate! Oh, and he has yet to hit even one pop up all season. He also has just four home runs, but that’s because his fly ball rate is by far a career low. He is too busy hitting liners like mad, so it’s tough to hit many over the wall. The good news is that his HR/FB rate is back to where it typically has stood after last year’s slightly down year. Also worth nothing is that his strikeout rate is at its best career mark, and much improved after suddenly hitting a new lower level beginning in 2009. While his average is sure to drop, he is clearly back to being the five-category contributor he used to be and so there is no reason to try selling high.

Kirk Nieuwenhuis has been quite the pleasant surprise in New York. Unfortunately, a .422 BABIP has only led to a .291 average, making it scary to think what it might be once that regresses. Like Wright though, Nieuwenhuis has been a line drive machine, suggesting that the current BABIP hasn’t required much luck, but that doesn’t mean such a high LD% is actually sustainable. Jason Bay should be back soon, so Nieuwenhuis is going to be at risk of losing at bats once his luck runs out. He simply doesn’t make enough contact to keep Bay on the bench or have enough power to offset the high strikeout rate.

What else needs to be said about Josh Hamilton? The ridiculous BABIP, crazy 41.9% HR/FB ratio and injury risk all make him an excellent sell high candidate. While he’s still a top level player, it’s worth seeing what kind of return you can get. Aim your sights high, send out a ton of offers, and hope one gets accepted. You might be surprised.

It’s funny how my bold predictions that miss seem to miss so significantly as to be the opposite of what happens. I guess I was wrong about Bryan LaHair! But still, he’s in a similar boat as Hamilton, albeit without the established track record of a first or second rounder. Do you really expect his HR/FB ratio to remain above 30%? That said, I would probably value him now as a .270-.280 hitter with 30 home runs over a full season. It’s doubtful you can truly sell high on him to make it worth it, so owners may just have to hold him and hope the BABIP regression isn’t too harmful.

Did Adam LaRoche not get the memo this year that he is a second half hitter? For a guy who generally hits line drives at a league average rate, that 30.9% mark is pretty amazing. Interestingly, he’s also popping up at a very high rate. The HR/FB ratio is a little higher than normal, but nothing too out of the ordinary, so it’s basically just his batting average that’s in for some obvious regression. I doubt you can sell him high as he is as established as it gets.

For a guy who posted a .392 OBP last year, owns a .462 OBP this year, and has never posted a mark below .363 in his professional career, it is hilarious to me that A.J. Ellis continues to bat at the bottom of the order. It is true that batting order has little overall effect on how many runs a team scores, but it does tell us immediately whether the team’s manager has any clue as to what drives run scoring. Don Mattingly has proven that he does not. Ellis’ BABIP will drop precipitously at some point, so he’ll go back to having much more value in real baseball than fantasy. But it still boggles my mind how managers are offered jobs when they cannot grasp one of the basic concepts in baseball.

Soooo, I guess Rafael Furcal is healthy? Between he and Carlos Beltran, something is going on in St. Louis. Since he’s now stealing bases again, then he should continue to generate value again in mixed leagues.

I figured Jason Kubel would see a bump in power moving out of Minnesota and into a hitter-friendly park in Arizona. So far instead, it’s been his BABIP that has seen a dramatic spike, while his ISO is at its lowest mark since 2006 and HR/FB the lowest of his career. He has caught the line drive bug though like a number of others on this list, but that cannot be expected to last. Since he hasn’t produced enough in the other categories, he isn’t a sell high guy right now. Just hope the power reappears or he’ll be generating little mixed league value very soon.