By the Numbers: Out of luck

You can find more from Michael Salfino at Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia.

See also: Bucking bad luck.

Here is the second of two pieces looking at first-half stats that we think best isolate luck (both good and bad) so we can get a bead on which pitchers and hitters are most likely to regress and progress for the balance of the year.

For hitters, we look at outliers (relative to personal history and league averages) in batting average on balls in play (BABIP), average with runners in scoring position (BARISP) and percentage of fly balls that become home runs (HR/FB).

We judge pitchers by fielding independent (FIP) ERA (minus actual ERA), HR/FB rates and defensive efficiency rating (DER, percentage of balls in play that become outs). To get the best read on DER outliers, we factor in a pitcher's rate of line drives allowed (relative to league average). Remember, about 75 percent of line drives are hits.

Our focus here is on "lucky" players – those our projection model says should fare significantly worse in the second half as their performance in these key metrics regresses toward their individual and/or league averages. Thus, we do away with the standard "Buy, Sell, Hold" format. All of the below are "Sells" unless otherwise indicated.

All stats cited are first half (through the All-Star break) only.


I'm not going to throw a name up here just to do it. Sure, there are guys with very high BABIP. David Wright(notes) is .426 – that is unsustainable, but not wildly so. Wright is regularly over .340. Matt Kemp(notes) (.391) also regularly is well above average (.300) on BIP. The same is true with guys behind them on the list of BABIP leaders. Since they're not that far above their averages, I can't say to sell any of them.


Yunel Escobar(notes), SS, Braves: He's about 100 points over his career average with RISP at .410. Expect his RBI rate to decline about 25 percent post-break.

Bobby Abreu(notes), OF, Angels: At .387, he's about 100 points over his rate the last two years, too. He will not maintain his 100-RBI pace without boosting that homer rate.


Ben Zobrist(notes), OF, Rays: Zobrist qualifies at multiple positions. But has he developed more power (23 percent of fly balls are homers) than Ryan Howard(notes) (21.2 percent)? I buy Zobrist having above-average power, but not elite power.

Joe Mauer(notes), C, Twins: Another guy out-powering Howard (23.9 percent). Keep in mind that Howard's current rate is about twice average. Yes, Mauer is great – and power can emerge suddenly and dramatically with great players. But skepticism here is healthy.

Brandon Inge(notes), 3B, Tigers: Love the catcher eligibility, but 22.1 percent homers (career average is 10.9 percent)? All attributable to some subtle change in his stance? Seems fishy. Lock in those profits now.

FIP minus ERA

J.A. Happ(notes), P, Phillies: He's 1.66 runs per game better than his peripherals suggest. There's no big league track record to give us comfort that he defies the BIP odds.

Kevin Millwood(notes), P, Rangers: Everyone is skeptical, so good luck finding a buyer. The price is so low relative to performance that you might be better off buying into the chance he's skilled/clutch enough to sustain an actual ERA 1.36 runs better than his FIP ERA.

Note that I ignore Matt Cain(notes) (1.46 runs per game better than his FIP says) because I'm tired of putting Cain on all these sell lists. To repeat what I wrote recently, great stuff might buy you more than your fair share of good luck.


Zack Greinke(notes), P, Royals: He's struggled lately – 4.00-ish ERA with a 1.40-plus WHIP since June 1. If he keeps allowing that many baserunners, his ERA will rise because he will not continue to allow homers on just 3.7 percent of fly balls (average is 10.5 percent).

Tim Lincecum(notes), P, Giants: He's not throwing nearly as hard as the last two years – off about a mile and half down to 92.6 on his average heater. His HR/FB is always good, but it's more than a third lower at 4.6 percent than his career average.


Jarrod Washburn(notes), P, Mariners: If you're just average or worse at preventing line drives, you shouldn't be well above average in DER (average there is about .700). Washburn gets outs on .756 of balls in play despite a sub-par 21.9 percent line-drive rate. Yes, the Mariners have the best team DER in the AL – .711. But Washburn doesn't have peripherals to support being better than that Mariners average.

Scott Feldman(notes), P, Rangers: His line-drive rate is 19.4, so his DER should be closer to .700 not .760. Again, I realize the Rangers finished the first half as the second best defensive team in the league, but overall they're only .706 (league DER at the break was .694).

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