CHICAGO, July 17, 2013 — MLB has reached its All-Star break. This means a lot of analysts are going to look to forecast, again, what they believe will happen over the rest of the season. One of the stats likely to be used for hitters is Batting Average on Balls In Play, otherwise known as BABIP.
BABIP is a measure of how many of a batter’s balls put in play become hits. Over time, about 30% of balls put in play become hits and so far this year the BABIP for all of MLB is .297. As with any number though, context should be considered by looking at what a player has done over the course of his career.
There are three things that can influence a batter’s BABIP; defense, luck, and changes in skill level. Great defense can prevent line drives from becoming hits, seeing eye singles can slip through constituting luck and a player who is hitting the ball harder than a previous month or year may show a change in skill.
A quick look at the ten highest qualifying BABIP’s in MLB so far in 2013 may reveal some players likely to decline in the second half:
1. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins. 2013 BABIP of .387. Mauer has a career .348 BABIP. His highest previous season was a .373 BABIP in 2009 when he won the American League batting title. He may regress, but the effects will likely not be severe.
2. Jhonny Peralta, Detroit Tigers. 2013 BABIP of .385. Peralta has a career .315 BABIP. His highest previous season was a .346 BABIP in 2005 when he was 23 years old and likely much faster. In addition, Peralta has been named in the Biogenesis case. Even if there are no suspensions from the Biogenesis case, it looks as though Peralta may have less impressive results in the second half.
3. Mike Napoli, Boston Red Sox. 2013 BABIP of .382. Napoli has a career .309 BABIP. His highest previous season was a .344 BABIP in 2011. Given all of the issues with Napoli’s hip this past offseason, it is unlikely that he has had a change in ability this late in his career. Napoli may be a potential player to regress substantially in the second half to his career number.
4. Michael Bourn, Cleveland Indians. 2013 BABIP of .382. Bourn has a career .346 BABIP and his highest previous season was a .369 BABIP in 2011. With Bourn, although there may be some regression, the result will not likely be drastic.
5. Allen Craig, St. Louis Cardinals. 2013 BABIP of .380. Craig has a career .345 BABIP and his highest previous season was a .344 BABIP in 2011. It looks like there may be a mild regression from Craig, but his health will likely the determining factor. He has yet to play more than 119 games in a season.
6. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers. 2013 BABIP of .378. The reigning AL MVP owns a career .347 BABIP. Cabrera’s highest previous season was a .379 BABIP in 2006 when he was 23 years old. Cabrera is one of the best hitters in the game. He may be able to keep this up, but even a regression to his career numbers would not be awful.
7. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds. 2013 BABIP of .377. Votto has a career .361 BABIP. His highest previous season was a .404 BABIP in 2012 when he had only 475 PA’s. This season’s results are not that far away from Votto’s career numbers. He may be able to keep this up.
8. Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves. 2013 BABIP of .373. Freeman has a career .328 BABIP and his highest previous season was a .339 BABIP in 2011. Freeman is only 23, so it is possible that he has made a leap in skill. However, with his current numbers, he is likely to see some regression even if that is the case.
9. Michael Cuddyer, Colorado Rockies. 2013 BABIP of .366. The veteran has a career .308 BABIP and his highest previous season was a .315 BABIP in 2007. Looking at Cuddyer’s age, 34, and career numbers, he appears to be a candidate to see a steep correction in the second half.
10. Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies. 2013 BABIIP of .363. Gonzalez has a career .349 BABIP. His highest previous season was a .384 BABIP in 2010 when he won the National League batting title. It appears that CarGo is performing well within his capabilities.
Finally, two rookies who have extremely high BABIP’s are the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, .472 BABIP, and Boston’s Jose Iglesias, a .414 BABIP. Looking at historical outliers can help provide some context for these numbers. The ten highest BABIP’s since World War II range from .395 to .408. Based on these numbers, it appears that both Puig and Iglesias are likely to see their numbers drop off in the second half.
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