Who Got Lucky in 2015?

Winter is coming and baseball has once again forsaken us. We are left to over-analyze stats and obsess about free agents and trades. As I did in 2013 and 2014 I’ll try to find last season’s luckiest and unluckiest players in an attempt to find players likely to regress or improve (egress?) next season.

First lets see what happened to the lucky/unlucky players from 2014:

BAPIP Leaders by Position – Luckiest Batters in 2014

2014 BABIP 2015 BABIP
Catcher Tyler Flowers .355 .320
First Base Adam Lind .369 .309
Second Base Jose Altuve .360 .329
Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki .355 .331
Third Base Justin Turner .404 .321
Right Field J.D. Martinez .389 .339
Center Field Danny Santana .405 .290
Left Field Scott Van Slyke .394 .299

As expected everyone’s BABIP dropped, and not surprisingly their OPS dropped from 2014 to 2015 as well. This was the biggest problem for Troy Tulowitzki and Danny Santana, who had large drops in OPS and WAR. Jose Altuve, Justin Turner, and J.D. Martinez were relatively unscathed by their BABIP drop.


BABIP Losers by Position – Unluckiest Batters in 2014

2014 BABIP 2015 BABIP
Catcher J.P. Arencibia .195 .364
First Base Mark Reynolds .218 .300
Second Base Brandon Hicks .208
Shortstop Stephen Drew .194 .201
Third Base Mike Olt .203 .255
Right Field Nate Shierholtz .231
Center Field Arismendy Alcantara .266 .133
Left Field Raúl Ibañez .197

Brandon Hicks, Nate Shierholtz, and Raúl Ibañez  couldn’t overcome their bad luck in 2014 and didn’t play in the majors in 2015. J.P. Arencibia turned his luck around the most, adding .169 to his BABIP, .313 to his OPS, and 2.2 to his WAR. Despite this he was released and is currently a free agent.  Arismendy Alcantara actually managed a drop in BABIP, but that was with only 32 plate appearances in 2015.

ERA-FIP Leaders – Luckiest Pitchers in 2014

2014 ERA-FIP 2015 ERA-FIP 2015 FIP-2014FIP 2015 ERA-2014 ERA
Miguel Gonzalez -1.67 -0.10 0.12 1.68
Doug Fister -1.52 -0.36 0.62 1.73
Josh Beckett -1.46
Chris Young -1.36 -1.46 -0.50 -0.59
Danny Duffy -1.3 -0.35 0.50 1.55
Edinson Volquez -1.11 -0.27 -0.33 0.51
Johnny Cueto -1.05 -0.90 0.23 1.19
Henderson Alvarez -0.93 2.60 0.27 3.80
Alfredo Simon -0.9 0.28 0.44 0.61
Shelby Miller -0.8 -0.43 -0.90 -0.72


Everyone had a higher ERA-FIP except for Chris Young who got even luckier in 2015 with a -1.46.  The Royals just signed Young to a 2 year contract. Shelby Miller’s also stayed fairly lucky, with a big drop in FIP but only slightly smaller drop in ERA.

Henderson Alvarez had the biggest shift in ERA-FIP, adding 3.8 to his ERA and only pitching 4 games. He’s a free agent after being non-tendered by the Marlins. Miguel Gonzalez had the next biggest shift, posting a career worst ERA. The biggest free agent on the list, Johnny Cueto, had his luck even out in 2015 with a 2015 ERA-FIP of -.09. He will still make a lot of money.

ERA-FIP Losers – Unluckiest Pitchers in 2014

2014 ERA-FIP 2015 ERA-FIP 2015 FIP-2014FIP 2015 ERA-2014 ERA
Jacob Turner 1.97
Edwin Jackson 1.88 -0.75 0.63 -3.26
Trevor Cahill 1.72 0.48 0.03 -0.21
Justin Masterson 1.38 0.72 0.39 -0.27
Clay Buchholz 1.33 0.58 1.39 2.08
Ricky Nolasco 1.08 3.24 -0.79 1.37
Nathan Eovaldi 1 0.68 0.05 -0.17
Yusmeiro Petit 0.91 -0.42 1.31 -0.02
Phil Hughes 0.87 -0.3 2.05 0.88
Brett Oberholtzer 0.83 -0.3 0.92 0.07
Marcus Stroman 0.81 -1.87 0.7 -1.98

Ricky Nolasco managed to get even unluckier in 2015 than he did in 2014, although he only had 37.1 innings pitched. He posted a huge 3.24 ERA-FIP in 2015, despite the Twins defense actually improving from the 27th to 18th ranked defense.

Clay Buchholz had the biggest drop in ERA, which isn’t surprising since he has been the best pitcher on this list over his career. He took 2.08 off his 2014 ERA in 2015. While his FIP also dropped 1.39, this seems more like  a return to form than a swing in luck as he still ranked as the 20th unluckiest pitcher in 2015.

The rest of these pitchers’ luck improved as well. Marcus Stroman and Edwin Jackson had the biggest improvements in luck. They would rank in the luckiest 2015 pitchers if they met the innings pitch minimum. Their true talent likely lies somewhere in between their 2014 and 2015 numbers.

Who Got Lucky in 2015?

Now onto our Lucky and Unlucky leaders for 2015. Let’s find out who is likely to regress or bounce back in 2016.

BAPIP Leaders by Position – Luckiest Batters in 2015

Catcher Blake Swihart (.359)
First Base Miguel Cabrera (.384)
Second Base Dee Gordon (.383)
Shortstop Xander Bogaerts (.372)
Third Base Kris Bryant (.378)
Right Field Bryce Harper (.369)
Center Field Odubel Herrera (.387)
Left Field Chris Colabello (.411)

Well, that would make for a nice lineup. Interesting that there are a few rookies here, including NL Rookie of the Year Kris Bryant. We’ll see how the league adjusts to them next season. Chris Colabello leads in BABIP with .411.  He put up career numbers in his third season, but he’s not a prospect at 32. Next season may tell if it was a break out season, or if he’ll continue to be a fringe player.

.383 is a career high BABIP for Dee Gordon, but it isn’t surprising that baseball’s 2015 stolen base leader ran out so many hits. Miguel Cabrera isn’t fast, but a .534 slugging percentage doesn’t hurt. Bryce Harper actually led baseball with a .649 slugging percentage, so it’s not shocking that his BABIP is high.


BABIP Losers by Position – Unluckiest Batters in 2015

Catcher Chris Iannetta (.225)
First Base Albert Pujols (.217)
Second Base Stephen Drew (.201)
Shortstop Jose Ramirez (.232)
Third Base Gordon Beckham (.229)
Right Field Jose Bautista (.237)
Center Field Sam Fuld (.235)
Left Field Matt Joyce (.215)

Stephen Drew has the lowest BABIP in baseball at .201, which was also his batting average. He didn’t help himself with his free agency, but he’ll find a job with few infield options available on the market.

In his 15th year in the big leagues Albert Pujols isn’t the player he once was, but .217 is a career low BABIP. With six more years on his expensive contract the Angels are hoping he can rebound.

ERA-FIP Leaders – Luckiest Pitchers in 2015

Chris Young (-1.46)
Marco Estrada (-1.27)
Hector Santiago (-1.19)
Zack Greinke (-1.10)
Nick Martinez (-1.02)
Dan Haren (-1.01)
Scott Kazmir (-.88)
Josh Collmenter (-.85)
Wei-Yin Chen (-.82)
John Lackey (-.80)

Chris Young’s -1.46 ERA-FIP was helped by the top defense in baseball. The 36 year old free agent seems unlikely to repeat his 2015 success, but a 6’10” pitcher with a fastball in the mid-80s that has done as well has Young has is hard to predict. He was one of 2014’s Luckiest Pitchers as well, so maybe he’s figured out how to create weak contact.

Marco Estrada rode his lucky year to a nice two year contract, so Toronto is betting that 2015 wasn’t a fluke. Hector Santiago has had a large gap between ERA and FIP his entire short career, making the 2013 Luckiest Pitchers list, and a -.54 ERA-FIP in 2014. He might be another pitcher who can sustain his luck.

Zack Greinke doesn’t need luck to be one of the best pitchers alive. An insane 1.66 ERA helped him net a $206.5 million contract.


ERA-FIP Losers – Unluckiest Pitchers in 2015

Mat Latos (1.23)
Drew Hutchison (1.15)
Michael Pineda (1.03)
Odrisamer Despaigne (1.03)
Rick Porcello (.79)
Carlos Carrasco (.79)
Nathan Eovaldi (.78)
Trevor May (.76)
Gio Gonzalez (.74)
Jeff Samardzija (.73)

Latos had a tumultuous season being traded twice, dealing with injuries, losing an arbitration hearing, playing poorly, and finally being released by the Dodgers. He’s an interesting buy-low free agent, but he has always seemed like an asshole that could be trouble in the clubhouse.


Jeff Samardzija just signed with the Giants, who had the 2nd best defense in baseball in 2015.  That should help quite a bit since his former team, the White Sox, had the worst defense in baseball. AT&T park is also more pitcher friendly than U.S. Cellular Field. Add this to an ERA-FIP closer to zero and Samardizija could work out great for the Giants.

I don’t think any one else on this list is a free agent, but most of them seem like good pitchers to keep around and hope their luck turns around.

There you have it. Use these lists to create your fantasy baseball teams and send me my cut at the end of the 2016 season.

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