Who Got Lucky in 2013?

It’s November so we’re left to obsess over the free agent market and stats from last season for a few more months. Let’s take a look at some regression candidates from the 2013 season. We’ll look at some stats that could indicate players that were unlucky or lucky this last season.

BABIP Leaders by Position – Luckiest Batters in 2013

BABIP is Batting Average on Balls In Play. Batters with an exceptionally high BABIP may be getting lucky or benefited from some bad defense. Here are the 2013 BABIP leaders with at least 200 plate appearances by position:

Catcher: Joe Mauer (.383)
First Base: Mike Carp (.385)
Second Base: Scooter Gennett (.380)
Shortstop: Jhonny Peralta (.374)
Third Base: Chris Johnson (.394)
Right Field: Yasiel Puig (.383)
Center Field: Junior Lake (.377) *Mike Trout only a point lower
Left Field: Christian Yelich (.380) *Mike Carp led at this position as well, but mostly played 1B.

We’ll leave out Designated Hitter since that’s just American League nonsense and not a real baseball position. League average BABIP is usually around .300 BABIP. Some players hit particularly hard or are extra speedy and can have a naturally high BABIP but once you get into the territory of the gentlemen above there is room for regression. The one that stands out to me on this list is Joe Mauer. A thirty year old catcher with a history of injuries is not going to maintain a BABIP that high, even with the Twins moving him to first base. I would love to see Puig come back down to earth but he is so athletic his BABIP might not slip much.


BABIP Losers by Position – Unluckiest Batters in 2013

Here are the batters with the lowest 2013 BABIP with at least 200 plate appearances by position:

Catcher: Martin Maldonado (.214)
First Base: Yuniesky Betancourt (.226)
Second Base: Darwin Barney (.222)
Shortstop: Ruben Tejada (.228)
Third Base: Jerry Hairston (.224)
Right Field: Jason Bay (.231)
Center Field: Sam Fuld (.223)
Left Field: Don Kelly (.226)

These aren’t exactly All Stars so I’m not sure how informative this list is. Sometimes a player has a low BABIP because they make weak contact or are slow around the bases. Jason Bay, Jerry Hairston, and Yuniesky Betancourt are free agents, so if a team is looking for a bargain these guys could improve with a bit more BABIP luck next season. Sam Fuld doesn’t seem too slow with twenty stolen bases in 2011. Maybe he can bat into some better luck and run out some more hits. Ruben Tejada, Sam Fuld, and Martin Maldonado had big drops in Batting Average from 2012, so they certainly could be due for rebounds. Hairston also had a Batting Average drop from 2012, but that’s probably because he turned 37.


Now lets take a look at starting pitchers. To measure their luck in 2012 we’ll subtract FIP from ERA. FIP is Fielding Independent Pitching, which is pretty much what it sounds like. It’s an estimate of what the pitchers ERA should have looked like assuming league average defense.

ERA-FIP Leaders – Luckiest Pitchers in 2013

Here are the ten starting pitchers with the lowest ERA-FIP (minimum 100 IP) for 2013 indicating they had a stellar defensive behind them or were lucky:

  1. Jason Marquis (-1.59)
  2. Clay Buchholz (-1.04)
  3. Hector Santiago (-.98)
  4. Chris Archer (-.85)
  5. Randall Delgado (-.79)
  6. Travis Wood (-.78)
  7. Hisashi Iwakuma (-.78)
  8. Jeremy Guthrie (-.75)
  9. Zack Wheeler (-.75)
  10. Kyle Lohse (-.73)

Clay Buchholz’s had the best year with a 1.74 ERA and World Series Championship. Even with regression he should be a good pitcher next year. Hisashi Iwakuma also has some room to slip with a 2.66 ERA in 2013. The rest of this group should be handled with caution. Jason Marquis and Jeremy Guthrie in particular look bad. Both are in their 30s and had ERAs over four despite their good luck. The Orioles are stuck with two more years of Guthrie’s 3 year, $25 million contract. Marquis is a free agent that teams should probably avoid. I feel slightly better about the Giants trading Zack Wheeler after seeing him on this list, but he’s young and still has big potential.


ERA-FIP Losers – Unluckiest Pitchers in 2013

Here are the ten starting pitchers with the highest ERA-FIP (minimum 100 IP) for 2013 indicating they had a poor defensive support or were unlucky:

  1. Edinson Volquez (1.49)
  2. Wade Davis (1.39)
  3. Mike Pelfrey (1.20)
  4. Edwin Jackson (1.19)
  5. Jordan Lyles (1.09)
  6. Jeremy Hellickson (.98)
  7. Juan Nicasio (.88)
  8. Rick Porcello (.86)
  9. Dallas Keuchel (.85)
  10. Barry Zito (.83)

barryzitoLooking further down the list I see the Giants’ Ryan Vogelsong at 11th and Tim Lincecum at 18th. With Barry Zito at 10th this partly explains why the Giants went from World Champions to not making the playoffs. Vogelsong is still a free agent but Lincecum will be back for sure next year. The Giants just signed a deal with Tim Hudson who is 26th on this list. If these three can rebound and overcome some bad luck the Giants will be in a better position in 2014.

Zito is a free agent after the Giants declined his option. Being on this list is further evidence that he is not quite as bad as he seems. If he’ll take bottom of the rotation money he could be a bargain. Rick Porcello and Edwin Jackson had the lowest 2013 FIPs but neither are free agents. Mike Pelfrey had a 3.99 FIP in 2013 and a 2.29 ERA in three games in 2012. He could be a good bargain for 2014. I don’t think anyone on this list are All Stars that just ran into some bad luck.

BABIP and FIP are far from definitive stats but they’re some of the better numbers for speculating which players played above or below their ability. Only time will tell if the players on these lists regress toward the mean.

5 thoughts on “Who Got Lucky in 2013?

  1. “We’ll leave out Designated Hitter since that’s just American League nonsense and not a real baseball position.”

    Yes, let’s ignore one-ninth of a league’s hitters over petty, partisan BS. Never mind that the data might be meaningful or interesting. Never mind that they’ve got “hitter” right in the name.

    I notice that, due to your minimum-plate-appearances requirement, you conveniently leave out pitchers as hitters, too. It just underscores how pitchers aren’t real hitters and why the DH exists in the first place.

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