Running the Math on Early Season Batting Averages

We’re now into May.  For the last month you’ve been beaten over the head with fantasy advice telling you to wait until at least May before making any significant moves.

You’ve exercised patience.  You haven’t made any brash decisions.  But maybe you’re still sitting with B.J. Upton (.149 BA), Ike Davis (.167), Will Middlebrooks (.193), Jose Bautista (.205), Edwin Encarnacion (.221), Matt Wieters (.224), or Martin Prado (.232) on your team.

Or maybe you’re me, with all of them…

Unfortunately, they’re not really on the bench. I just ordered them this way to show them next to each other. Perhaps foolishly, I trot most of these guys out into my lineup every day.

But what do these batting averages mean?  How bad are they?  How far are they from being acceptable?  What would one good week do to a struggling player’s average?

I’m Glad You Asked

But first, let’s gain a little perspective.  I may have a fundamental flaw in the construction of this team, because with the exception of Prado, none of these guys could be expected to hit .300.  Here are their current year and career batting average and BABIP at the time of this article:

Current Year and Career BA and BABIP, Stats Courtesy of Fangraphs

From looking at the career BABIPs and their BABIPs to this point, it’s clear that each of these players has been “unlucky” to some degree (many of their BABIPs are 80 to 100 points below career levels).  

With that in mind, let’s play a simple game of “what if”.

What If Each of These Guys Had Five More Hits Since Opening Day?

As I mentioned above, we’re at about the 30 game mark for most teams.  We’re at the end of the fifth week.  What if, over the five weeks, each of these players had JUST ONE MORE HIT EACH WEEK?  I’m not asking for the world here.  Just one more hit each week, for a total of five more hits since opening day.

Scenario 1 – Each Player Has One More Hit Each Week of the Season So Far (five more hits)

Look at the column “BA w/ 5 More Hits”.  That looks a lot better, doesn’t it?  Most of the players see their average jump at least 50 points.  In fact, of the seven players listed, three of them (Bautista, Encarnacion, and Wieters) actually SURPASS their career batting averages under this scenario.  And four of the seven players reach the .250 mark (Bautista, Encarnacion, Wieters, and Prado).

Things are not as bad as they seem.

Yeah, But Those Five Hits Didn’t Happen…

You’re still skeptical?  I’d be seeing the glass as half-empty too if I had any of these batting average leaches on my team…  Oh wait.  I have them all.

But if you’re not sold on five bloop hits dropping in over the course of a month, let me propose another scenario.

What If Each Of These Guys Has A Good Week Starting Tomorrow?

And let’s keep it reasonable.  We’ll say they go 10-for-25 next week for a .400 batting average.  I ran a rough scan of stats for the last seven days, and it looks like 11 players went at least 10-for-25 in the last seven days.  So it’s not improbable for this to happen.

Here are the results:

Scenario 2 – Each Player Goes 10-for-25 Next Week (.400 BA)

Again, things aren’t as bad as they seem.  The results are very similar.  Here they are side-by-side:

Scenario 1 and 2, Side-by-Side

So if either of these scenarios were to play/have played out, I imagine your perspective on these players would be significantly different.

I Swear I’m Not Drunk

For curiosity’s sake, what would the numbers look like if BOTH of these happened.  These guys had just one more ball drop in over each of the last five weeks AND they have a strong week starting tomorrow:

If Both Scenario 1 AND Scenario 2 Happen(ed)

WHOA!  Now that’s what I’m talking about.  And if you don’t think a scenario like this can play out, let me introduce you to Chris Davis (.330 BA, .262 career BA), Mark Reynolds (.293 BA, .237 career BA), and Carlos Gomez (.367 BA, .252 career BA).

The Takeaway

The point of this silly exercise is to demonstrate just how much batting averages can fluctuate at this point in the season.  And to remind you NOT TO OVERREACT.  Each of these players is just one good week OR five bloop singles away from a respectable batting average.  Or just one good week AND five bloop singles away from carrying your team.

It’s reasonable for you to assume one player can make such a turnaround…  Unfortunately for me, it’s ridiculous to think all seven can pull it off.  I’m in trouble.

Suckers!  I don’t Have Any of These Guys On My Team.

Good for you.  Go try to trade for them.  Owners of these players are probably frustrated.  They probably have not thought about batting average from this perspective.

Think about what your team needs and target accordingly.  If you need power, solicit the owner of Bautista, Middlebrooks, or Wieters.  If you need speed, go after Upton.  Because of his position flexibility, I’d go after Prado in any league.

As always, be smart!