The Lucky Riot

Continuing our series of lucky/unlucky players, today we take a look at the other side of the coin: the players who benefited from great luck on their batted balls in play. In this series, I’ll refer you to Peter Bendix and Chris Dutton’s insightful article on the role of luck/skill on BABIP. In it they define BABIP with the following formula:


They also formulate a new version of xBABIP that takes into account a number of components of the hitter and models the way their BIP should be converted to outs/hits.

Last year Ryan Theriot had his best season as a big-leaguer. He was at worst a decent play at SS in most fantasy formats, and a very good play in 5×5 formats. He hit for a good average, got steals, and played a pretty scarce position (with a lots of flexibility). His average on the year was .308, he got 22 steals, and scored 85 runs. Among SS he was second in average, 9th in runs scored, and 4th in SBs (his numbers aren’t quite as good compared to 2B/3B, but the flexibility is helpful). Looking at these numbers it’s hard to argue against Theriot as a average-to-above-average SS. The one hidden aspect of his success, though, is his reliance on luck to achieve his numbers.

Since Theriot doesn’t hit for much power (IsoP of only .052 with 1 HR), most of his value is derived from his ability to get on-base. Since he can’t drive himself in or steal first he has to walk or get a hit to get the steals and runs your fantasy team needs. Last year Theriot coupled a good BB-rate, relatively low K-rate, and extraordinary luck to get on base at a .387 clip. Where does the extraordinary luck come from? Well, Theriot had a BABIP of .330 and an xBABIP of .291. If we account for this “luck” and control his statistics for the hits he “earned,” then his statistical record has an astonishingly different look.

Rather than a slash-line of .307/.387/.359/.745, his slash line is a more pedestrian .266/.348/.309/.657. The loss of 24 hits or 24 trips to the base-paths hurts his two other good categories, as well. His R and SB drop from 85/22 to 77/20. This season wouldn’t make Cubs fans or Theriot’s owners (if he even has any at that point) very happy. I would expect something a lot closer to these numbers for Theriot next year than the numbers he put up this year.

We hoped you liked reading The Lucky Riot by Ryan Glass!

Please support FanGraphs by becoming a member. We publish thousands of articles a year, host multiple podcasts, and have an ever growing database of baseball stats.

FanGraphs does not have a paywall. With your membership, we can continue to offer the content you've come to rely on and add to our unique baseball coverage.

Support FanGraphs

newest oldest most voted

I’m assuming that all of this is predicated on Theriot’s lack of power? Don’t all players that have good offensive years post a high BABIP? So should we expect a drop off for all offensive players this year as they all regress to a xBABIP? I know, however, that that is total hyperbole.