The Notorious BABIP

We all know her. She is a sadistic sorceress. When in possession of her sacred talisman, a stretch of Albert Pujolsian dominance is possible. Get caught under one of her hexes for a season, though, and she can cause a whole city to turn against you despite you having been a bearer of the talisman just one season earlier--carrying the mysterious charm all the way to a World Series MVP award. She's Miss BABIP, and she's a fickle beast. Over a long enough span, however, the volatile magus sent here as Base Ba'al's earthly proxy reaches equilibrium at around .300. Observing this etherial phenomenon permits followers of the almighty Base Ba'al, the Lasermetricians, to predict the future. In his infinite benevolence, Base Ba'al has endowed hitters with a slight ability to influence Miss BABIP, as Base Ba'al was once a hitter himself. Pitchers, on the other hand, have been granted little to no control over her.
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(Visual depictions of the actual Base Ba'al are strictly forbidden. Instead we represent him symbolically with the above rendering. via zozone.mlblogs.com)

Which Phillies are the most likely to break free of this enchantress Miss BABIP's cruel spell and enjoy a bounce-back in 2011? Which bearers of the sacred talisman in 2010 will relinquish their claim to the relic this season?

He Hath Risen:

 

Batter 2010 BABIP Career BABIP
Jimmy Rollins .246 .290
Shane Victorino .273 .301
Chase Utley .288 .314

 

Rollins: 2010 marked the second year in a row that Jimmy Rollins has languished under the curse of Miss BABIP after posting just a .251 mark in 2009. Some have begun to speculate that Rollins was not in fact under any curse at all, but that he has been possessed by the dybbuk of decline. I, for one, am not sold on this. I know a dybbuk when I see one, and this doesn't look like a dybbuk. Rollins played just 88 games in 2010 and was hampered by a calf injury for most of the games he did play. It is more likely that Miss BABIP was displeased by his yearly prognostications, and decided to remind him who his God was. His BABIP may not rebound all the way to his .290 career mark, but even if creeps up to the .270 range he will enjoy something of a rebound year in 2011, if he can keep healthy. If not? Then we might really have a dybbuk on our hands.

Victorino: Shane Victorino's 2010 was plagued by a rare case of the "L/R split BABIP curse." Every once in a while, to punish them for their ambidexterity, Miss BABIP puts a curse on a switch hitter just on one side of the plate. From the right side of the plate, Victorino fared fantastically, posting a .341 BABIP and a .921 OPS. From the left side, he managed just a .247 BABIP (compared to a career .298 mark) and a .681 OPS. It has been suggested that Miss BABIP infected Victorino's swing from the left side of the plate and the dip in his line drive percentage attests to this.

Utley: As a minor deity himself, curses do not affect Chase Utley in the same way they do mere mortals. Despite battling an injury and a BABIP 26 points below his career average, he still managed to post 5.2 WAR for the season. Unencumbered by an annoying curse in 2011, this taciturn, slick-backed prophet can be expected to put up the kind of monster season we have come to expect from him.

Pitcher 2010 BABIP Career BABIP
Joe Blanton .321 .297
David Herndon .357 N/A

 

Blanton: Prior to the 2010 season, Joe Blanton signed a 3-year $24 million contract. Can you think of another pitcher who signed a 3-year $24 million deal with the Phillies? Yes, him. As the lore holds, it was on March 24th that a young Miss BABIP and her cousin Lord xFIP first made contact with Base Ba'al through a Ouija board. Since then, the numbers 3 and 24 have been among the most sacred in all of Lazermetrics. No, but seriously, Blanton's a good pitcher and his contract is fine. He was just really unlucky last year. Shut up about it already.

Herndon: Pink backpacks are nothing compared to Miss BABIP's rookie hazing ritual: a .357 BABIP. David Herndon is likely to start the 2011 season in the minors, and, frankly, that's probably the best place for him to be in order to fully recover from the terror that he endured at her hands. Herndon is not the most talented pitcher, but he has shown a knack for inducing the groundball and it's hard to imagine him posting a BABIP that high again.

The Dispossessed:

Batter 2010 BABIP Career BABIP
Carlos Ruiz .335 .280

 

Ruiz: Chooch loves ice cream. Miss BABIP loves ice cream. Indeed, a mutual love of ice cream is all it takes to convince Miss BABIP to lavish on you 55 points more than your career BABIP. Thus, the Phillies most significant off-season acquisition was not Cliff Lee, it was the soft serve machine that has been installed in the clubhouse. But alas, Miss BABIP is not susceptible to lame emotional bribery of this sort. Now that she has assisted Ruiz's ascendancy to fan-favorite status, the burden will be his to bear alone in 2011. He likely won't post an .847 OPS again, but something in the mid-.700s is likely.

Pitcher 2010 BABIP Career BABIP
Brad Lidge .243 .306
Roy Oswalt .221 (.253 full-season) .295

 

Lidge: Through the trials and tribulations of his disastrous 2009 campaign, Brad Lidge's faith in God never wavered. While Miss BABIP would have preferred that his faith was in the Almighty Base Ba'al, she was nonetheless impressed by its steadfastness. In other words, consider her gift to Lidge in 2010 an act of missionary work. The steadfastness of Lidge's faith should thus give Phillies fans pause, as it is extremely unlikely that he will submit to Miss BABIP's overtures, in which case she will revert to punishing him for his heresy and the cycle will begin anew. Please, Miss BABIP, if you are listening, bless him for one more year. And if you choose not to bless him, then leave him be. He may not post a sub-3.00 ERA again, but I think I speak for all of us when I say we would be more than happy with something in the high 3s.

Oswalt: He has done it rather quietly, but by most statistical measures Roy Oswalt has been among the ten or so best starting pitchers of the last decade. Miss BABIP knows this. So, in a rare act of kindness to help get Oswalt the respect he deserved she gave him a little boost. Add a career-low .253 season BABIP to already excellent peripheral stats and you get a 2.76 ERA, a league-leading 1.02 WHIP, and the sixth time in his ten years in the Major Leagues that he has garnered Cy Young votes. This year, he will more than likely be forced to pass on the sacred talisman after sapping it of every drop of its power. No matter, even without it Oswalt is a solid bet for an ERA in the mid 3s.

Amen.

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