BABIP, or Batting Average on Balls In Play, is the “gateway drug” to other sabermetric statistics in fantasy baseball.
What is BABIP? The actual equation is below for those of you who like numbers, but for those of you who don’t, it’s a statistic that measures the percentage of fair balls that fall for a hit. The metric excludes sacrifices and home runs, but otherwise would include all batted balls within the two foul lines.
BABIP = (Hits – Home Runs) / (At-Bats – Strikeouts – Home runs + Sacrifices)
So why should you care? For one, BABIP is one of the easiest to understand sabermetrics and is increasingly being used on televised broadcasts. More importantly, however, BABIP can measure the overall talent of a hitter while simultaneously indicate whether a batter is struggling or succeeding due to luck.
League-wide BABIP typically hovers around .300, while the average in 2018 was .296. While sometimes it’s relevant to compare a player to the league-wide average, often the best way to analyze BABIP for individual players is by looking at his career average. If his BABIP is significantly different from his career numbers, then that should indicate something is going on.
There are three primary factors that impact a player’s BABIP:
1. Talent: The concept is logical, but better hitters tend to hit the ball harder. The harder the ball is hit, the less time the fielder has to react.
2. Luck: Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard a ball is it if it’s hit right at a defender, or if every blooper in the outfield is hit just at the right distance to fall between the shortstop and left-fielder. Over the course of the entire season, ball placement will generally level out, but things like the shift can significantly alter a player’s BABIP for heavy pull hitters.
3. Defense: Hitters can’t control the defense that is fielding their batted balls, which is why defense can cause BABIP to fluctuate up and down. A hit down the third baseline with Nolan Arenado at third base is less likely to result in a hit than the same hit with Miguel Andujar manning third.
Why is BABIP a “gateway drug?” BABIP is best used to flag interesting players to analyze, but ultimately you need to look at other statistics to confirm your hunch. If a player’s BABIP is much lower than his career average, the easy analysis is to label him as being unlucky and his BABIP (and consequently his batting average and other counting stats) should naturally rise closer to his average levels, making him a nice buy low. The inverse is true, as well, that if a player’s BABIP is significantly higher than his career average, meaning his performance will most likely regress back to his career levels, making him a sell high candidate. You can use this as a general guideline to help make decisions until you’re able to master the other indicator sabermetrics like hard hit rate or barrels per plate appearance.
Here’s a preview of the week ahead in fantasy baseball.
Favorable two-start available pitchers:
Max Fried (Atlanta) — vs Arizona, @ Cleveland
Matt Shoemaker (Toronto) — @ Minnesota, @ Oakland
Joey Lucchesi (San Diego) — vs Colorado, vs Cincinnati
Reynaldo Lopez (Chicago) — vs Kansas City, @ Detroit
Kyle Gibson (Minnesota) — vs Toronto, @ Baltimore
Jake Odorizzi (Minnesota) — vs Toronto, @ Baltimore
Felix Pena (Los Angeles) — vs @ Texas, vs Seattle
Trevor Richards (Miami) — vs Chicago, vs Washington
Consider using the following schedule notes as a guide when making weekly lineup decisions between two close players on your roster.
Favorable offensive schedules
Los Angeles Angels — LAA will draw 6 average to below average starting pitchers over the next 7 days and 4 of those starters will be left-handed.
Kansas City — KC will face 5 average starting pitchers over the next 7 days, which will be partially offset by facing LHP James Paxton and RHP Masahiro Tanaka next weekend.
Los Angeles Dodgers LAD will face 6 average to below average starting pitchers and will play 4 games in the offensive friendly Miller Park. The best starting pitcher they will face is RHP Luis Castillo.
Unfavorable offensive schedule
Atlanta Braves — ATL will face LHP Robbie Ray, RHP Corey Kluber, RHP Trevor Bauer, and RHP Shane Bieber
San Francisco Giants — SF will face RHP Stephen Strasburg, LHP Patrick Corbin, RHP Jameson Taillon and RHP Chris Archer
Teams with seven games: Angels, Blue Jays, Brewers, Dodgers, Mariners, Orioles, Phillies, Reds, Royals, Twins, White Sox
Teams with five games: Astros, Athletics, Pirates
Waiver wire additions for offense
Carlos Gonzalez (OF) – Power (+), Batting Average Risk (-)
Raimel Tapia (OF) – Batting Avg (+), Favorable Ballpark(+), Low power (-)
Jarrod Dyson (OF) – Speed (+), Low power (-)
Hunter Dozier (1B/3B) – Power (+), Position Eligibility (+), Schedule (+), Bad Team (-)
Tyler O’Neill (OF) – Power (+), Potential Role Change (+)
Leonys Martin (OF) – Speed (+), Favorable Batting Order Position (+), Bad Team (-)
Brian Goodwin (OF) – Runs (+), Speed (+), Low Power (-)
Brandon Lowe (2B) – Power (+)
Waiver wire additions for pitching
Touki Tousant (SP) – K% (+), Role Change(+)
AJ Minter (RP) – New Closer (+), K% (+)
Hector Neris (RP) – Potential Closer (+), K% (+)
Erik Swanson (SP) – Role Change (K%), Former Top Prospect (+)
Max Fried (SP) – High Groundball % (+), Good Ratios (+), Low K% (-)
Michael Waldo is a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA) and is a season-long fantasy sports analyst for Fantistics Fantasy Sports, as well as the managing editor of MyFantasyFix, a daily fantasy sports (DFS) research website. You can hear him host the Fantistics show on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio on weekend mornings 9 a.m.-noon. Follow Waldo on Twitter @MichaelWaldo or reach him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.