Here are the bottom 5 hitters in baseball in BABIP in 2011, and how they are currently faring in 2012. Some may be suffering a decline in skill, while others find themselves more fortunate in 2012. There is a pattern among some of these players; most are hitting for low BABIPs specifically against their career marks that were established in the height of their careers. Their baseline BABIP is no longer as high as it once was, and the deviation is not as great as it appears. Again, BABIP is the measure of a player’s batting average on balls put into play.
5. Ian Kinsler (0.243 in 2011, 0.297 in 2012, 0.283 career)
It is surprising to see Kinsler among the worst BABIPs in baseball in 2011, given that he had an excellent season. Kinsler’s BABIP (and subsequently BA) tend to vary from year to year. It alternates between good and bad, with this year primed to be a good one. Kinsler is performing well in 2012, hitting for a decent average with solid power and speed. He looks to be having a standard Kinslerian season, but is hitting a lot fewer flyballs than he has in years past (32.7 in 2012, 45.6 career). However, these flyballs have seemed to turn into line drives thus far, as he is sporting a stark increase in those (28.4% in 2012, 19.8% career). Other than that, it looks like business as usual for Kinsler.
4. Evan Longoria (0.239 in 2011, 0.377 in 2012, 0.304 career)
It is difficult to arrive at any substantial conclusions from Longoria’s 2012, since he only registered 97 PA before getting injured. However, even this small sample proves that his 2011 was very fluky, and the usual Longoria will return with a normal BABIP. While he may not hit 0.300 over the course of a season, he is better than the 0.244 BA he hit for in 2011. Hamstring injuries are always dangerous, with increased chance of reinjury and having lingering effects. If Longoria can return fully healthy, he should put up excellent numbers.
3. Mark Teixeira (0.239 in 2011, 0.223 in 2012, 0.293 career)
For a hitter who hit 39 HR and drove in 111, Teixeira is getting quite a bit of criticism in 2012. His BABIP is even lower than his 2011 mark, and he really has not put up near his career BABIP since 2009 (0.302). Teixeira admitted to altering his swing due to Yankee Stadium, and it showed with an increase in flyballs since coming to the Yankees. However, this season he is not hitting as many flyballs, and has hit a career high % of groundballs. This would lead most hitters to a higher BABIP, but teams know how to shift Teixeira. He only hits groundballs to the shifted side, and with three infielders usually shifting over there, it is difficult to sneak a single through. His power will return soon enough; Yankee Stadium cannot hold Teixeira down. However, the days of a high 0.200 BABIP are probably over. His BABIP should increase, as even with the shift, his current number is too low, but his baseline BABIP is probably closer to 0.260 at this point in his career.
2. Alex Rios (0.237 in 2011, 0.291 in 2012, 0.306 career)
The career BABIP for the 31 year old Rios is probably too high for him at this point in his career, given his declining speed. Thanks to Adam Dunn, Rios did not have the worst season on the White Sox in 2011, but it was still quite putrid. He was the victim of a low BABIP, and many people suggested that he was done. He is much closer to his career mark in 2012, and is hitting for a 0.268 BA, much more acceptable than the 0.227 mark he had in 2011. His power vanished in 2011, and he has not found it in 2012. The days of 30+ steals are also over for Rios, who seems to have lost a step. The baseline BABIP for Rios is closer to 0.280 than his 0.306 career mark, and he has turned into an average hitter at best.
1. Vernon Wells (0.214 in 2011, 0.241 in 2012, 0.281 career)
Apparently the Blue Jays are BABIP wizards, as they dealt both Rios and Wells, the bottom two players in BABIP in 2011. Wells had an incredibly low 0.214 BABIP in 2011, resulting in a 0.218 BA. Wells did not walk either (3.8%) leading to a 0.248 OBP. His 2012 has not been much better, as his BABIP stands at only 0.241. Wells BABIP was hurt by an extremely high 48.1% flyball rate, much higher than his career number. He also hits a ton of infield popups, effectively damaging his BABIP. The Angels won’t see him for 8-10 weeks after undergoing surgery repairing a ligament in his thumb. The power for Wells is still there, as he did hit 25 HR last season. With the promotion of Mike Trout, the Angels outfield looks too crowded for Wells to be a part of; even a high BABIP will not help with that.
cover photo: (AP Photo/Mike Carlson, File)