There's a statistic commonly thrown around called Batting Average on Balls in Play. It is -- according to The Hardball Times -- "a measure of the number of batted balls that safely fall in for a hit, excluding home runs." It is calculated -- once again, according to The Hardball Times -- by using this formula: (H-HR)/(AB-K-HR+SF). The average BABIP is .290.
How does all of this mathematical mumbo-jumbo help your fantasy team? Well, just take a look at the stats. Pitchers with BABIP over .290 are considered lucky, while pitchers with a BABIP under .290 are unlucky. And, as we all know, luck tends to even out. Therefore, some of these guys will improve and others will regress. Here's a look at a few fantasy-relevant pitchers.
Figuring to Decline
Jeremy Guthrie, Baltimore Orioles - He has been a great story so far, getting released in spring training by the Cleveland Indians and making the Orioles rotation after a few subpar bullpen outings. Guthrie has captured the hearts of fantasy owners, as well. He has a ridiculous ERA, 2.74, so far. However, .235 BABIP is also ridiculous. Guthrie has great control, but with a porous Orioles defense, look for some of those hits to start falling.
Dan Haren, Oakland Athletics - Well, it's pretty obvious that Haren would not keep this up the entire year. His 2.30 ERA blows away anything he has ever done in the past, but he's still a good pitcher. However, his .238 BABIP so far figures to regress towards the mean. It won't be too bad, however. The A's are excellent at defensive efficiency, the process of turning hit balls into outs.
Jason Marquis, Chicago Cubs - This is a guy who gave up 14 hits in a game twice last year. Throughout his career, he has been known for high WHIPs, which means his BABIP of .247 is bound to rise. With that, his ERA should also go up from its 3.67 figure to something around 4.20. He's done a very nice job as a spot starter for fantasy owners so far this year, but now is the time to deal him, not deal for him.
Rich Hill, Chicago Cubs - Uh, oh, two Cubs on the "decline" list. That's not good for fans in the northside of Chicago. Hill has a .257 mark in the magical category, but you can't figure a huge decline for him in terms of ERA and WHIP. Why not? Well, Hill a strikeout to walk ratio of 3 to 1 so far, and he's doing a good job controlling his amazing curveball. His decline is coming, but it won't be horrible.
Figuring to Stay Where They Are
Chien-Ming Wang, New York Yankees - This may come as a little surprise, as Wang is a supreme groundout pitcher throwing in front of Derek "Worst Three-Time Gold Glover in the History of Baseball" Jeter and Robinson Cano. However, he has a .280 BABIP, which is right around what fantasy owners should be looking for.
Kelvim Escobar, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - I'll admit it, I'm a fan of Escobar. I drafted him in all of my leagues and tout him highly to all of my friends. Despite an average .289 BABIP, Escobar's ERA/WHIP are going to go up. Why? What he's doing so far just doesn't match what he's done in his career so far. Why isn't he in the "decline" list? Because he won't be that bad and may turn out to prove me wrong.
Tim Hudson, Atlanta Braves - He's got a deadly sinker that hitters continue to swing over or ground out on. He's got the steady Edgar Renteria and Chipper Jones on the left side of his infield and similarly steady Kelly Johnson and Scott Thorman on the right side. We can't really expect a huge decline or huge betterment in his stats.
Erik Bedard, Baltimore Orioles - The Orioles' left handed ace has put everything together after the hiring of Leo Mazzone as pitching coach. Coincidence? Probably not. Bedard has a 3.40 ERA and 1.13 WHIP heading out of the All Star Break, along with a .300 BABIP. We shoudn't expect a decline in either of those categories.
Figuring to Get Better
John Smoltz, Atlanta Braves - If he gets healthy, Smoltz should improve, as crazy as that sounds (he stands at 3.09 and 1.23 right now). His BABIP is .319, higher than teammate's Tim Hudson. However, they pitch in front of the same defense. I don't think there's some conspiracy not to play as hard behind Smoltz, and we can project a betterment of Smoltz's ERA/WHIP.
Chris Capuano, Arizona Diamondbacks - Here's someone who is just having some serious bad luck. Capuano, a lefty, has a 4.78 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Throughout his career, Capuano has always had high WHIPs, but he figures to improve majorly upon those stats. His .323 BABIP will drop, especially since his BAA is .273. He is a good pick up.
Paul Byrd, Cleveland Indians - Byrd gives up absolutely no walks (only six so far this year), which means his WHIP of 1.34 is a result of giving up quite a few hits. That .325 BABIP speaks to that. Look for Byrd, pitching in front of a decent defense in Cleveland, to lower his ERA and WHIP.
C.C. Sabathia, Cleveland Indians - Two Indians on the "improve" list? Interesting. Sabathia does not give up many walks, only 18 so far, but has been unlucky in the hits department. He's got a .326 BABIP, which means he should improve drastically there. That 3.58 ERA could drop to 3.10 and his 1.17 WHIP could get down to 1.05. He's an ace.
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