In his excellent Rotoauthority blog, Tim Dierkes recently argued that Chris Young is unlikely to equal last season’s success, because his .230 BABIP is historically low, and likely unrepeatable. Although Tim did acknowledge that Young might improve in other areas (specifically his control), but he’s still projecting him for a 3.99 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, both of which seem substantially too high to me.
For those who don’t know, BABIP is ‘batting average on balls in play’, and research has shown that it’s largely out of the control of the pitcher, depending more on defense and luck. What that means is that when a pitcher has an unusually low BABIP one season, his stats are likely to change for the worse the next season, and when he has an unusually high BABIP, they’re likely to improve the next season.
While Young’s BABIP will almost certainly be higher than .230 this year, there are a couple factors that are likely to negate the impact this will have on his ERA and WHIP.
Firstly, he’s an extreme flyball pitcher. While this is generally a bad thing (because it means he’ll always allow plenty of home runs), it generally leads to a lower BABIP, so Young will tend to have below average numbers in this area. In other words, while his ERA may generally be higher than his K/9 and K/BB would predict, his WHIP will tend to be lower.
Second, and more importantly, despite the move from the AL to the NL, Young’s walk rate was almost 50% higher than either of the previous two years. While this could be due to some change in health or mechanics, I’m going to view it as a bit of a fluke until he proves otherwise by repeating the high walk rate. I think Young’s control will be so much better this year, that it cancels out the impact of a rising BABIP. I think Tim isn’t too far off on Young’s likely ERA (I’ll predict something like 3.60), but I think he’s way off on Youngs WHIP, where I think something around 1.17 or 1.18 is likely.