Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Luck Police

May 5, 2010
By Bret Sayre

Ladies and gentlemen, the story you’re about to hear is true; however, the names have not been changed to protect the lucky.  Within this column we’ll take a weekly look at BABIP (batting average on balls in play) for hitters and BABIPa (batting average on balls in play against) for pitchers to determine how much regression to the mean you can expect for different guys.  The process we use here at Fantasy Beards is a comparison between current stats and 5-year rolling stats (or career stats if they’ve been in the show for less than 5 years); since we firmly believe that everyone regressed to different statistical means.  We’ll then point out some guys who we think are interesting.  This disclaimer will self-destruct in 5, 4, 3..

Let’s start with the hitters.  Here are your Top-20 Future Risers:

The most interesting name on this list?  Paul Konerko.  The first thought with Konerko is that he’s a sell-high – he was a popular 1B sleeper in the pre-season, but right now leads the majors in HR’s with 12.  The crazy thing though, is that his peripheral stats are off-the-charts compared to what we’ve grown to expect from him.  His K/BB rate is 10/19 and he has NEVER had more walks than strikeouts in a single season – and the improvement is in both areas.  His current K-rate of 11% would be tied for the lowest of his career (oddly with 2003, his worst season last decade) and his current BB-rate of 17% would shatter his career high of 13% (in 2008).  This means, we’re potentially looking at a career year for Konerko in 2010 – and considering he’s had two years of .275/40/100, that’s saying a lot.

Most of the guys we talked about last week are still on this list and still make pretty good buy-lows.  Seth Smith won’t have too much time left for his luck to turn around as Brad Hawpe will be back soon, but he’s certainly capable of it.  The Cubs will be awfully happy when Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee start getting a little luckier, and fantasy owners should not have any concerns here.  I’m starting to get a little concerned about Chris Coghlan though, and not because I don’t expect his luck to turn around.  The craziest stat of the 2010 season so far has to be the fact that Coghlan has ZERO extra base hits through 88 AB’s this season – this compared to the 46 XBH he had in just over 500 AB’s last season.  

Now let’s move onto the guys who, for the most part, are hotter than:

There are definitely a few guys on here who I think have a more sustainable level of BABIP improvement than others.  The three that jump out to me on this list are Colby Rasmus, Brett Gardner and Elvis Andrus.  Colby Rasmus should not be a career .278 BABIP guy (and will not be when all is said and done), and while he does have some regression ahead of him, there’s no reason he can’t be a .280 hitter instead of a .250 one.  Brett Gardner is getting pitches to hit and taking advantage of his speed – someone as fast as him should have BABIP over .320 (for example, you’ll see Michael Bourn has a .327 5-yr BABIP) and could maintain a .300 batting average.  Additionally, he’s well on-pace for the lowest K-rate of his career.  All of the same things apply for Andrus – except that he’s got a much higher upside than Gardner does.

Outside of that, you’re looking at a lot of solid short-term options in Kearns, Rosales, Theriot and Schierholtz who will all cool off shortly and some guys who potentially could have some actual improvement (but I don’t believe in yet) like Chris Young and Franklin Gutierrez.  Longoria, Werth and Morneau will regress but are still awesome.  Just don’t be the guy chasing Pudge or Andy LaRoche – neither of those things will end well..

Now we’ll move onto pitchers – and since these numbers REALLY should be taken with a grain of salt since most starters have picked up 4 starts so far this year, I’m not even going to worry about the color commentary.  We’ll save that for when it’s more meaningful.

Top 20 Future Risers:

Top 20 Future Fallers:

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