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December 14, 2010
Hit Luck - 2010

Batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is defined as the player's batting average when they are not striking out or hitting a home run. It is a measure of luck, as it shows how often the fielders were able to turn his batted balls into outs. A lower than expected BABIP could indicate that the hitter was just unfortunate to hit it at the fielders too often. Conversely, a higher than expected BABIP could mean he had a lot of seeing eye singles and his bloopers found the outfield grass.

So which batters were the luckiest and unluckiest in terms of BABIP during the 2010 season?

There were 270 batters who received 300 or more PA this year. These guys had far more hits than they should have based on their career BABIP. Justin Morneau led the way, hitting .389 on balls in play, 89 points higher than his career .300 mark. Most players with a significant number of at bats have a career BABIP between .290 and .320, so his career mark is fairly typical. Morneau hit .345/.437/.618, good for a 1.055 OPS. If his balls in play had fallen in at his career .300 rate, his line would have been something like .280/.382/.534, for an OPS 139 points lower at .916.

Also of note in the top ten luckiest list:
Josh Hamilton, who rode a .394 BABIP to the AL MVP award.
Omar Infante, whose .357 BABIP led to his first All-Star appearance.
Jay Bruce, who can partially thank a .339 BABIP for the 6-year, $51 million contract extension he signed after the season.
Adrian Beltre, whose .336 BABIP could also mean big bucks as he is currently fielding free agent offers.

1.Justin Morneau296.389.300.345/.437/.6181.055.280/.382/.534.916.139
2.Carlos Ruiz371.337.282.302/.400/.447.847.256/.361/.388.748.099
3.Ramon Hernandez313.335.282.297/.364/.428.792.254/.325/.374.699.093
4.Omar Infante471.357.316.321/.359/.416.775.286/.327/.373.699.075
5.Josh Hamilton518.394.349.359/.411/.6331.044.325/.380/.589.969.075
6.John Buck409.342.293.281/.314/.489.802.248/.283/.446.728.074
7.Nick Swisher565.337.289.288/.360/.512.871.255/.330/.468.797.074
8.Adrian Beltre589.336.297.321/.365/.553.919.289/.336/.512.848.071
9.Nelson Cruz399.355.312.318/.374/.576.950.286/.345/.535.880.071
10.Jay Bruce509.339.293.281/.353/.493.846.249/.324/.453.777.069

And now for the unlucky guys. These guys could have been expected to hit much better if they had been able to match their career BABIP. The clear leader is Aaron Hill, who managed an unfathomable .197 BABIP versus a reasonably normal .290 career mark. He could have been expected to hit about .279/.339/.488, but put up an actual line of .205/.271/.394, for a 162 point loss in OPS.

Also of note in the ten unluckiest list:
Tony Gwynn Jr., who was released by San Diego and signed by the Dodgers.
Derek Jeter, whose disappointing season led to a heated contract battle with the Yankees.
Carlos Pena, who hit .196 and settled for a 1-year, $10 million contract with the Cubs. In his case, some of the low BABIP may be explained by his inability to adjust to the extreme shift deployed by many opposing managers against him, turning possible singles into outs.
Mark Reynolds, who hit .198 and was shipped to the Orioles for two relief pitchers.

Players who were significantly unlucky in 2010 are good candidates to bounce back to form in 2011. Last year's unluckiest player, Kelly Johnson, had a terrific comeback season for the Diamondbacks after signing cheaply. So keep an eye on Hill and the others in this list.

261.Mark Reynolds499.262.328.198/.320/.433.753.232/.349/.478.827-.073
262.Bobby Abreu573.299.348.255/.352/.435.787.290/.383/.481.864-.076
263.Carlos Pena484.225.284.196/.325/.407.732.233/.355/.455.810-.077
264.Derek Jeter663.309.358.270/.340/.370.710.311/.377/.419.796-.085
265.Jimmy Rollins350.248.292.243/.320/.374.694.282/.354/.427.781-.086
266.Aaron Rowand331.264.319.230/.281/.378.659.271/.319/.430.749-.090
267.Tony Gwynn Jr.
268.Carlos Lee605.239.290.246/.291/.417.708.290/.332/.472.803-.095
269.Mark Kotsay327.247.299.239/.306/.376.683.284/.347/.434.781-.097
270.Aaron Hill528.197.290.205/.271/.394.665.279/.339/.488.827-.161

Download the data for 2010 here: 2010 Hit Luck.

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