Good Luck/Bad Luck: NL Version
June 28, 2007
Well, here we are almost to the half way point in the season and I'm
writing my first column. OK, not my first column but it's been a
since I posted a typical Long Gandhi type column here (read: long) and
the masses were growing restless. I heard my peeps and so, voila.
Last year I wrote a piece
that turned out to be somewhat prophetic. I used batting average
balls in play (BABIP) to determine whether or not a pitcher's
was exceeding what should be expected of him, but instead of comparing
to a mythical league average I used both his team context and his own
So what I'd like to do is go team by team, NL today and AL either
or the next day, and look at who has been lucky and who has not.
should offer you a decent idea of who is on the upswing and who might
be falling off the proverbial cliff in the second half.
The D-backs have a team BABIP of .2975, so guys like Dustin Nippert
and Edgar Gonzales (.274) can be expected to fall back to the rest of
pack and maybe in a big way. Very rarely do pitchers go a full
with a BABIP under .250 and only guys with tremendous stuff and at
one legendary pitch, guys like Santana and Pedro Martinez, consistently
around the .265 range. Last year Gonzales posted a .292 BABIP so
if he is better at preventing hits than just about anyone on the staff,
probably be giving up more in the second half. Normally I
make a really big deal of a difference of less than 20 points, but
with Gonzales many of those extra hits will be home runs. He has
of the highest home runs allowed rates in the majors (11 in 55 innings
year). Those extra hits could mean a lot more runs than normal.
Conversely, Randy Johnson (.331) is way over his usual performance so a
in his favor is due. Both Livan Hernandez and Doug Davis are well
the team average but both have a consistent history of high BABIP so
much improvement should be expected.
The Braves' team BABIP is .2973 so it's easy to understand why Tim
(.280) is having a good year. Hudson has been in this territory
so even though he is exceeding the team performance, he might not
much of a drop-off. More good news for Braves fans: John Smoltz
has been extremely unlucky to date so a nice second half is in the
if he can stay healthy.
The Cubs' team BABIP is .277. Given how much turn-over they've
because of injuries and performance-related turnover, that's remarkably
Both Rich Hill (.234) and Jason Marquis (.244) are significantly
the team mark but neither are so far beyond their career rates that a
shift can be expected. Hill posted a .259 last year and Marquis,
a contact pitcher, has posted years of .268 and .269. Granted,
normally around .295 so there will be some second half regression.
guy who's been unlucky, suprisingly, is Bobby Howry. Relievers
notoriously unpredictable in this regard and it's not uncommon for a
to exceed or fail expectation by more than 30 points, but Howry is
at .316 and his career rate has been around .260 with a personal best
of .221 in 2005.
I expect he'll take control of the closer's job after the Break.
The Reds are one of the worst defensive teams in the NL and their BABIP
reflects that. So when guys like David Weathers (.240) and Aaron
(.295) are posting good numbers, it could be that they've been a little
Harang doesn't look that lucky on the surface but when you factor
his career average is near .320 and only once has he posted a BABIP
.311, you can see that this year the outs have been falling in his
The guy who hasn't been lucky is Bronson Arroyo (.334). I guess
is just a correction from last year when he posted a .271 BABIP.
The Rockies BABIP is .304. Jason Hirsch's BABIP is .264.
BABIP last year was .264. I don't know what to make of that.
he just really lucky or really good? I guess we'll find out in
The Marlins' BABIP is a surprisingly high .3142. Before I started
exercise I thought that maybe Dontrelle Willis' performance had been
by some bad luck when it came to the number of hits he's allowed, but
pretty close to team average (.316) and his career average.
he gets traded to a team that is really good at preventing hits like
Mets, there really isn't any reason to expect his season to get
better. The guy who got hosed by the Marlins' defense and the guy
think should get a real shot is Rick VandenHurk. His BABIP was
and I can think of about half a dozen of those hits falling in front of
The Marlins bullpen, for all it's turnover, has been remarkably good at
hits. Armando Benitez (.207), Kevin Gregg (.252) and Henry Owens
are all having surprisingly good years. Gregg is especially
because he has never posted a BABIP under .316. Expect a change
closer sometime this summer.
The Astros' BABIP is .3104. Chris Sampson's BABIP is .277.
a rookie so we really don't know what to expect but a betting man would
that he doesn't finish the season with a better BABIP than Roy Oswalt
which is pretty much his career average). One guy that has been
the wrong end of a few extra balls in play is Chad Qualls (.337).
Miller (.423) has also had some terrible luck but unlike Qualls there's
no chance he'll finish the season as the Astros' closer.
The Dodger's BABIP is .3024. So when Derek Lowe (.268), Chad
(.268) and Brad Penny (.283) are doing as well as they are, there's a
reason why you might have that feeling that the other shoe is going to
soon. In Lowe's miracle year of 2002 he posted a .238, but the
of his career he's been around .300. Penny is also around .300
his career, but he was remarkably unlucky last year (.327) so this
just be a little bounce back. Billingsley is for all intents and
a rookie but when he did pitch last year he posted a BABIP of .313.
is the only one of those three that I would hold on to but with his
of bad second halves I would at least listen to offers.
There is hope in Chavez Ravine. Randy Wolf (.338) has had some
luck and his career rate is around .300.
For all their reputation as being a poor defensive team, the Milwaukee
have been surprisingly average at turning balls in play into outs
Ben Sheets (.271) is the only regular starter who is well below
team average but he's been below league average in three of the last
years and last year he was extremely unlucky (.342). The guy to
an eye on in the second half is Claudio Vargas. Currently with a
of .311, his career rate is in the .280 range. He still needs to
his mental fortitude when bad things happen, but if the team could
enough balls to give him a little more confidence, this guy could
into a really nice second half find. Another guy to buy low is
Bush. He's been extremely unlucky when it comes to balls in play
and with a career average of .282 he's almost a mortal lock to have a
The Mets are the best team in the NL at preventing hits on balls in
(.2646). In fact, I can't remember a team being this good.
when guys like Tom Glavine (.279), John Maine (.257) and Jorge Sosa
are seemingly way out their depth, it's really that they are
from a remarkably efficient defense. That's not to say that there
some outliers here. Orlando Hernandez (.233) and Oliver Perez
have been stellar, and both have a history of being better than league
when it comes to balls in play ,but this is a little ridiculous.
those two, I'd venture that Perez will do a better job of keeping this
only because he was unbelievably unlucky the last two years (.336 and
and was due some good fortune. As for someone who might surprise
he was betrayed by the defense, keep an eye on Mike Pelfrey (.333) if
The Phillies BABIP is .3103. Jamie Moyer's BABIP is .269.
Moyer posted a .255 with Philadephia last year and has twice been under
since 2001. As unlikely as it sounds, he might just continue to
pretty good. Amazing for a guy who's nearly eligible for AARP and
break glass with his fastball. On a personal note, early this
in NL Tout Wars I picked up Francisco Rosario as Tom Gordon insurance.
didn't work out so well particularly when Rosario also went down with
However, I do feel a little better about my choice because
Rosario's BABIP is .415. Catch the ball, guys, and the Phillies
have an elite closer. I promise.
The Pirates have not improved much since last year when their defense
one of the worst in baseball. Their BABIP this year is .3122.
Matt Capps (.271) and Ian Snell (.285) have been on the lucky end of
defensive scale; Zake Duke (.366) has not. Capps posted a .292
year but as a closer there really isn't enough of a sample to say one
or the other if he's exceeding expectation. However, I don't
that his defense will let him down a number of times the way it did
Torres (.300) earlier this year. Snell's career BABIP is well
over .300 so
we should see some regression in the second half. Duke's is also
over .300 so I don't think we'll see as much improvement as one might
just looking at how poorly he's performed this season.
You want to know something scary? Jake Peavy's BABIP this season
.305. The Padres' team BABIP is .2822. Peavy's career rate
below .300 and he has posted years of .281 and .260. Everything
to Peavy getting even better in the second half. Try to get your
around the concept of a guy with a 2.14 ERA getting even better.
Germano (.233) and Chris Young (.245) have been lucky, but Young has
been as lucky as you might imagine. From 2004-2006 he posted
of .264, .294 and .232. He might just be this good.
on the other hand, posted a .389 last year. He won't be as bad as
out of a plane without a parachute, but he will be as bad as falling
the roof of your house. Ouch!
This one caught me off guard. The Giants have a team BABIP of
and have no one either exceeding or failing by 20 or more points beyond
Basically what you see is what to expect over the second half.
As I mentioned earlier, closers enjoy a small sample and so it's not
for one to exceed the league average by a sizeable amount. But
Isringhausen has just taken this a little too far. His BABIP is
His next best season is .247 with a career rate around .270.
team BABIP is .2944. He's in for a huge correction. A lot
people might think that Braden Looper has been too good, but his BABIP
perfectly even with the team's (.294) and is actually slightly worse
his career average. I had hopes that KipWells had been the victim
bad defense or bad luck but unfortunately his BABIP (.304) is pretty
in line with expectation. It looks like he's just one of those
guys with great stuff who can't learn how to pitch.
Two guys to keep an eye on, however, are
Todd Wellemeyer and Adam Wainwright. Wellemeyer has been used
as a reliever for his career so it's hard to judge this year, but his
BABIP should come down. Likewise, Wainwright's .329 should drop
to the .290 he posted last year.
I'm not sure how much of the National's success has been due to the
play of Cristian Guzman to date, but their .2907 BABIP is one of the
marks in the NL. Now that Guzman is out for the year it will be
to see how much that changes, if at all. Regardless, obviously
Bergman's luck (.197 BABIP) will change for the worse in the second
as well as Shawn Hill's (.240). Jason Simontacci (.339) and, if
ever gets healthy, John Patterson (.320) will benefit from better luck.
thinking (or hoping) that Chad Cordero's off-year is due to bad luck...
maybe a little. His BABIP of .299 is not far off the team's but
higher than his own career rate which is around .250.
I'll do the AL next column.