Afflicted to Effective (Players who were “unlucky” in 2011 that could help your fantasy baseball team in 2012)
Steve Hamby @SteveOnSportsOK on Twitter
Every year in the majors there are players who have shown consistency in their performances season after season, but for whatever reason they failed to live up to expectations.
In some cases, the blame falls on injury, opportunity, or, in some cases, just plain bad luck. Players such as Dan Uggla and David Wright in 2011 come to mind. Although it can be hard to draft or trade for a player who burned you last year, there are some of those guys who not only deserve a second look in 2012, but are must own players.
But first, how do we define bad luck? Sabermetricians will often refer to Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) for hitters and Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) and/or Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) in the case of pitchers.
I’ll be using these and other sabermetrics in this article, but, to save time, I won’t go into detail with formulas. All of that information can be found via a simple Google search or by clicking here.
Lets start with some hitters. The average BABIP across the majors in 2011 was .295. And there was no hitter in baseball more unlucky than Vernon Wells who had a miniscule .214 in the category.
Although Wells has never been a great BABIP guy (.282 career), the balls he put into play just didn’t seem to fall for hits. And although he did walk less and strike out more than his career averages, his ISO (.194) and HR totals (25) were still in line with what we’ve come to expect from him (plus he stole nine bases).
He’s currently being drafted around the 23rd round in standard 2012 fantasy baseball 10-team leagues. So target him a bit earlier than that, with confidence, as a bounce-back candidate who could hit 30 HR and steal 8-12 bases for you.
Also be on the lookout for the second most unlucky player (according to BABIP) in 2011 – Alex Rios.
Rios’ BABIP last season was .237, or .069 lower than his career numbers. But be a little cautious when targeting Rios. Even though he struck out 4.2% less than his career average last year, his ISO dropped to .121 – the lowest since his rookie season in Toronto. His Ground Ball-to-Fly Ball rate and Line Drive Percentage hint that Rios is in a steady, but not drastic, decline. However, as a late round flier, you could do much worse.
So who was the most unlucky pitcher in 2011? If we use BABIP Against, it was Edwin Jackson.
No pitcher in the majors had a BABIP Against as high as Jackson’s .330. Now, his career average in that category is .311 but that is still getting a bit unlucky. Jackson posted a 3.55 FIP and 3.73 xFIP which hints that he could repeat and possibly improve on his 3.79 ERA from 2011.
Jackson also set 5-year bests in HR/FB (8.2%), HR/9 (0.72), and set a career best in BB/9 (2.79) and K/BB (2.39). A 3.60 ERA and 1.30 WHIP aren’t out of the question for Jackson who is going between picks 220-240 in most fantasy baseball drafts.
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