In a sport like baseball, where getting a hit 28 percent of the time (.280 average) is considered good, luck is revered. Pitchers won’t touch the field lines, they don’t like it when baserunners walk over the mound and you don’t talk to a pitcher throwing a no-no.
Luck is immeasurable. However, batting average on balls in play has changed that a bit in the baseball world. A couple weeks ago, we looked at BABIP for the luckiest and most unlucky hitters in the game. Now it’s time to turn to the pitchers. This first installment will discuss the 10 luckiest pitchers so far in 2010.
The luckiest pitchers in baseball:
Ubaldo Jimenez — Success, especially dominating success like Jimenez has had, is usually helped along by a little luck. Opponents’ BABIP on Jimenez is .223. He’s stranded 92.4% of the runners he’s allowed on base and only 1.6% of his fly balls — he has a higher fly ball rate than his career average — have gone for home runs. All of those numbers point to an eventual and possible violent correction. For reference, the last pitcher to have a BABIP under .245 was Chris Young with a .237 in 2006. In three of the last five seasons the average has been in the mid-.250s. Jimenez’s career average is .282.
Tim Hudson — The 2.30 ERA is more than a full run under his career mark and it’s not surprising considering his .225 BABIP. It’s more than 60 points lower than his career mark. He’s also in the top 3 in LOB% with 85.5.
Todd Wellemeyer — As the first outlier on this list, Wellemeyer probably doesn’t feel too lucky this season. Sporting a 5.03 ERA will do that. However it’s still nearly a run better than his 2009 ERA (5.89). He has a .226 BABIP in 2010, a number that is nearly 70 points lower than his career mark (.294). Despite batters reaching less on balls put in play than all but two other pitchers in baseball, he still has a 1.38 WHIP.
Livan Hernandez — Hernandez has made the most of his luck in 2010. His .229 BABIP is 80 points under his career mark and 100 points lower than his 2009 BABIP. He also has the second-highest left on base percentage in baseball in 2010 (88.8%). He has a 2.15 ERA. The lowest season ERA was 3.20 with the Expos in 2003. That year he had a .292 BABIP.
Jason Vargas — His .236 BABIP is the first almost realistic number on the list. Well, it’s not realistic for Vargas. But it would be realistic for the league leader. Vargas is currently operating at around two runs per nine better than his career average. His correction could really hurt.
Matt Cain — One pitcher you wouldn’t want to call lucky to his face, Cain can’t catch a win despite his 2.50 ERA. He’s got a .237 BABIP. He was also among the league leaders in BABIP in 2009 with a .268. His 2010 ERA is nearly a full run better than his career mark (3.45).
David Price — It shouldn’t come as a surprise to see Price on here. He’s been outstanding this season and his .238 BABIP is an indication that he could slow down. His 80% left on base percentage — ranking him in the top 12 — is another indicator.
Jonathan Sanchez — In the preseason, I figured Sanchez would have an ERA around 4.00. It’s currently at 2.90, thanks in large part to a lucky .238 BABIP. He could finish the season with an ERA around 3.50 instead of that original 4.00, but in either case, there could be rocky roads ahead for Sanchez.
Jeff Niemann — Had a lucky stretch last season to finish with 13 wins and a 3.94 ERA. So far this season, a .240 BABIP has held his ERA to 2.79. He also has a top 5 LOB% (84.5). His return to Earth could be a painful one for fantasy owners.
Doug Fister — Another not-so-surprising member of this list. Fister, whose BABIP is .240, has been the focus of many fantasy articles this season, warning of an incoming correction. In his last 20.2 innings, Fister has given up 10 earned runs and four homers. His ERA (2.45) and WHIP (0.96) are correcting themselves as we speak.
Some other notable players below the top 10: Jamie Moyer, Mat Latos, Ryan Dempster, Barry Zito and Colby Lewis.