We are going to start doing the 2012 BABIP leaders posts again in a few weeks (mostly due to the fact that I do not want to write about Clint Barmes again), so let’s look at the 2011 leaders in BABIP, and how they have fared thus far. Remember, BABIP is how many balls put in play go for hits (excluding home runs).
5. Michael Young (0.367 in 2011, 0.306 in 2012, 0.337 career)
Young has gotten off to a slowish start, not putting up the BA (0.273) that we are accustomed to seeing from him. Young has never walked frequently, but his 3.9% BB rate is extremely low and should rebound. Young is getting older, but he has been productive throughout the 2000s, and there is no reason to doubt him yet. The walks will return, and his BABIP should creep up towards his career mark. He is a solid buy-low candidate in fantasy, as he should get his share of R and RBI in that lineup and has valuable position versatility.
4. Michael Bourn (0.369 in 2011, 0.377 in 2012, 0.344 career)
Even though Bourn had the fourth highest BABIP in the majors in 2011, he has an even higher BABIP thus far in 2012. Bourn has settled in nicely with the Braves, hitting over 0.300 thus far, something he has never done in a full season. Bourn’s baseline BABIP is going to be high, as he has tremendous speed and hits many groundballs. The rise in BABIP coincides with Bourn hitting more line drives, instead of almost 60% groundballs. The speedy center fielder should always be near the top of the BABIP charts if he does not suffer from unkind variance. His BABIP may drop slightly the rest of the way, but it would not be surprising to see him in the Top 5 at the end of 2012.
3. Emilio Bonifacio (0.372 in 2011, 0.351 in 2012, 0.340 career)
Bonifacio recently went on the DL, but has plenty of PA for his BABIP to be meaningful. Cut from the same mold as Bourn, Bonifacio is extremely fast and hits many groundballs. His walk rate continues to increase and currently sits at 10.6%, which would be a career best. He has already stolen 20 bases and has only been caught once. The baseline BABIP is obviously high for Bonifacio, and he does not hit enough line drives like Bourn does to keep it as high as 2011. If he suffers from variance, his BA will plummet, as he is only hitting 0.268 with his 0.351 BABIP. He strikes out too often to ever have a very high BA, but as long as he legs out base hits, he should provide a respectable average to go with his versatility on defense.
2. Matt Kemp (0.380 in 2011, 0.385 in 2012, 0.353 career)
Much has been made of Kemp’s torrid start until he recently went on the disabled list. Kemp has been homering at an unsustainable pace, and he is walking much more than ever before, perhaps gaining more respect across the league. One of the reasons I was a bit down on Kemp (in terms of his own lofty 50/50 expectations) was due to his abnormally high BABIP in 2011. He has repeated it thus far in 2012, and it is hard to doubt that it will continue at this level for the rest of the season. With potentially the highest active career BABIP (will have to check), having a BABIP that is only 0.030 points above that is certainly not that strange. An average closer to his 0.324 mark in 2011 seems more likely than his current 0.359 BA, but his OBP will benefit from all the free passes pitchers are now willing to give to Kemp.
1. Adrian Gonzalez (0.380 in 2011, 0.323 in 2012, 0.322 career)
Gonzalez captured the AL batting title in 2011, thanks to an MLB-best 0.380 BABIP. He has returned to his career mark thus far in 2012, and he is only hitting 0.271. Gonzalez has suffered quite a power outage as well, as he has not hit extremely well since the All-Star break last year. Gonzalez will be moving to RF with the return of Kevin Youkilis, as the Sox want to leave Will Middlebrooks in the lineup. The slick-fielding first baseman is not walking as often as usual, and is striking out more. The batting title was definitely fluky, but Gonzalez is a better hitter than this. Even his last year with San Diego, Gonzalez had a baseline BABIP and still hit 0.298. Whether it’s tougher pitching, a different (although much smaller) ballpark, or maybe not healing 100% from his shoulder surgery, something is off with Gonzalez.
cover photo Associated Press