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Dear Mr. Fantasy: BABIP: An Indicator of Regression in Starting Pitchers?

Source: Michael Maher

Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) can be used to determine how ‘lucky’ or ‘unlucky’ a pitcher has been when compared to the league average. The average BABIP for pitchers in 2011 was .295. The average so far in 2012 is .296. It is often said that baseball stats are subject to a ‘regression to the mean’. In other words, if players are experiencing stats far outside the norm, it is fair to assume that the stats will come back to Earth and settle in somewhere closer to the average sooner or later. As a result, it can be said that a pitcher who sports an unusually low (or high) BABIP will be subject to regression to the mean. Here are some pitchers which have experienced markedly low BABIP so far in 2012 and may see a correction start to take place:
R.A. Dickey (NYM)
A lot has been made about Dickey’s start to the season, especially in regard to fantasy baseball. However, one thing that cannot be denied is the incredibly low BABIP of .228 that he has seen so far this year. At some point, he is due to see a increase in the number of hits generated from batted balls on his pitches.
James McDonald (PIT)
On the surface, it would appear as though McDonald is ‘putting it all together’, so to speak. While he hasn’t exactly relied on smoke and mirrors, as his K rate and peripheral stats will attest, the Pirates starter has benefited from a .229 BABIP which is sure to regress in the second half. Combined with the fact that he still has the tendency to be a bit wild at times, McDonald may be in for a some regression in the second half.
Johan Santana (NYM)
There’s no denying the fact that Santana is having a great season so far in 2012. Although there have been some bumps, overall his season has been marked by some incredible pitching performances capped by a no hitter on June 1st against the Cardinals. However, when opposing batters do put the ball in play, they have turned those batted balls into hits at only a .244 clip. That number is likely to rise and affect Santana’s stats accordingly.
The Giants’ right-hander keeps proving his critics wrong by piling up the quality starts in 2012. However, he has seen a BABIP almost 40 points lower than 2011. Keep an eye on him in the second half as he may see some regression in his stats as a result of correction.
There is no doubt that these pitchers will end the year with decent stats. However, a lot could be riding on a great first half partially due to low BABIP. In fantasy baseball, what a pitcher will do for your team is as important as what he has done for your squad. Keeping in mind the idea of regression to the mean, these pitchers may just experience a slight reversal of fortune in the coming months.
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