Now, I'd just like to preface this entire post by reminding everyone that hitters can in fact have a good deal of influence on what their BABIP is. Some hitters hit more line drives (which are hard to catch and lead to high BABIP's) and some hitters hit more infield flies (which are quite easy to catch and lead to low BABIP's). Some guys are faster and beat out grounders that would be easy outs for lumbering sluggers. Some guys will generally have a BABIP closer to .340, while some will see only 26% of their balls in play go for hits.
But at the same time, luck is an integral factor in BABIP, and some guys just get flat-out lucky. Today, we're going to take a look at a few hitters that are rocking the high BABIP. And frankly, some of the names are pretty surprising, with a wide array of players that includes slap-hitting leadoff guys and slow-footed sluggers.
And taking it a step further, we'll look at which guys are more likely to maintain their BABIP's, using both their track records and the handy xBABIP calculator provided by The Hardball Times. The calculator takes different components, such as batted ball data, and determines what a player's BABIP should be given those figures.
CF Austin Jackson, Detroit BABIP - .417 xBABIP - .350
Jackson is pretty much the king of high BABIP's right now, as his .417 mark is easily the highest of any player qualified for rate statistics. But as you can see with his xBABIP, he's not getting that lucky. His line drive rate is sitting at an astonishing 27.8%; only James Loney's 28.4% LD rate is higher than Jackson's among everyday players. Factor in a low infield fly rate and Jackson's above-average speed (15-for-18 on SB attempts), and you have exactly the kind of player who could sustain a high BABIP. Jackson won't keep his BABIP over .400 for much longer, but he's not going to regress to near .300 any time soon.
1B Adam Dunn, Washington BABIP - .369 xBABIP - .310
Honestly, I didn't realize that Dunn was having this kind of season until I glossed over the leader boards. He's showing off easily the worst walk rate of his career at just 11%. But with a .369 BABIP, he's also got a .291 batting average, which is 25 points higher than his full-season career high. Unfortunately for Dunn, he should probably go back to walking more soon. With his lack of speed and high number of fly balls, he's probably due to see his BABIP drop closer to his .310 xBABIP or his .297 career mark.
RF David DeJesus, Kansas City BABIP - .360 xBABIP - .322
There's been a lot of talk about DeJesus lately given that he's a major trade candidate this summer. And while DeJesus is seemingly having a breakout season offensively (.322/.391/.455), the rest of his numbers indicate that he's just getting a bit lucky with balls in play right now. His 2010 xBABIP and his career BABIP are identical .322 figures, and it's pretty reasonable to believe that he'll regress to somewhere around that number in the near-future. Whoever trades for DeJesus probably isn't going to get an OBP over .390 for the rest of the season.
2B Cristian Guzman, Washington BABIP - .340 xBABIP - .326
Guzman is a really odd case. From 1999 to 2005, he put up sub-.300 BABIP's on five occasions in seven seasons. That includes a .254 BABIP in 2005. But apparently he found a four-leaf clover in 2006 or something, because he's put up BABIP marks of .359, .337, .322 and .340 in the past four seasons. The former everyday shortstop offers up the quintessential hollow batting average, as he rarely walks or hits for power, so having a high BABIP is pretty integral to his offensive success. Right now, xBABIP seems to buy that he's going to sustain a high average on balls in play, but maybe not quite as high as it currently is. And that's probably going to be a problem, because Guzman's already a below-average hitter as is.
OF Cody Ross, Florida BABIP - .340 xBABIP - .336
Here's a BABIP that looks sustainable given Ross' statistical line. And that's a good thing, because Ross' power numbers have trended downwards for the third straight year, from .318 in part-timer in 2007 to .132 while playing everyday this season. The decline in power is understandable: he's seen his fly ball rate drop from 48% in 2009 to 30% in 2010, and essentially all of those fly balls turned into grounders. Ross was definitely a more effective hitter when he was hitting more fly balls and producing more power. But the improvement in his batting average appears to be sustainable, as his performance can probably sustain a BABIP near .340 all year.