NEW YORK - JUNE 12: Jorge Posada #20 of the New York Yankees hits a grand slam in the third inning against the Houston Astros on June 12, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Its was Jorge Posada's 250th career home run. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
You often hear about batting average on balls in play, and how it can cause a player's offensive contributions to vary significantly over short periods of time. If your offense is boasting multiple low-BABIP hitters, you're probably in some trouble unless those guys are churning out walks and homers. The Yankees have the third-lowest BABIP in baseball, but the game's second-best offense according to wOBA. So you can succeed without a high BABIP. But teams rarely can match New York's current paces in power and patience; a low BABIP tends to bring about ugly overall numbers.
But as we've seen from a few teams so far this year, having multiple low BABIP hitters doesn't mean the end of the world in terms of pushing guys across the plate. Of the fifteen teams in the bottom half of the majors in BABIP, twelve of them are below-average to awful. And yet, three MLB teams are currently thriving offensively despite having nasty luck when it comes to seeing-eye liners and poking balls through the gaps.
The Yankees are the most notable of the three teams. As I said earlier, they're currently one of the best offenses in the game, but that's due to the sheer power and on-base skills of their players. Of their regulars, only Brett Gardner currently has a BABIP above .290; he's at .319 on the season. The majority of New York's offensive nucleus, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Russell Martin, Nick Swisher and Jorge Posada, have BABIP marks below .265 so far this year. But the Yankees have 57 homers, 13 more than the second-place Reds, and 142 walks, only one less than the first-place Mets, so they're still thriving. And they're not alone in succeeding with the homers+walks=runs formula as the basis of their offense.
Most of the attention directed towards Toronto so far this season has been focused on the monster numbers of Jose Bautista, but like last season, the Blue Jays continue to boast one of the most powerful offenses in the league. And like last season, those monster power numbers are coming in tandem with an extremely low BABIP. Toronto posted a .269 BABIP last season, 12 points lower than any other MLB team, and this season their mark is actually higher, at .282. When it comes to the team's low BABIP, Bautista is no longer one of the culprits, though. His mark currently sits at .343. And while numerous other players join Bautista in having high BABIPs so far this year, everyday players Edwin Encarnacion, Aaron Hill, J.P. Arencibia, Juan Rivera, John McDonald and the demoted Travis Snider all have posted BABIPs below .280. But the Jays have the sixth-most homers and tenth-most walks among MLB teams this season, so they continue to be one of the better offenses in the game.
Only the Yankees and Cardinals have better team wOBA marks than the Rangers so far this year, but like the Jays and Yanks, their BABIP sits in the bottom half of all MLB teams. Josh Hamilton posted an extremely high BABIP in his 44 PA's so far, Michael Young is currently at .392, and the Rangers only have five players with particularly low BABIP marks this year. But those five players are all key parts of the Texas offense, and they're all posting BABIP marks below .240 so far this year. With Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli, Ian Kinsler, Yorvit Torrealba and Adrian Beltre all sitting below .240 in both BABIP and batting average, it's pretty incredible that the Rangers continue to be one of the best offenses in baseball.
And that's really the scariest part of all of this. While the power-hitting ways of these three teams presumably help to explain why they all have low BABIPs so far, all of these teams are displaying big-time power and patience at the plate. Combined with some increased luck in the BABIP department, and these offenses could reach even higher peaks. You just have to wonder if the increase in BABIP needs to come at the expense of some of these walks and homers.