Fantasy Baseball: Line Drive Rates

This article was originally posted by Seth Walder over at Fake Teams

It will come as no surprise to any baseball fan when I say that line drives are good. If you’re a hitter, the best chance you’ve got of picking up a base knock is by way of a line drive.

What may be a little more surprising is how unstable line drive rates can be. According to the Hardball Times, there is some correlation between hitters’ line drive rates from season to season, but not much. So let’s take a look at a couple players who have very low line drive rates (and low BABIP’s, to show they aren’t getting lucky on ground balls and fly balls, either) and figure that if they simply regress to the mean, they ought to play at a higher level than they are now. 

It’s worth noting that average line drive rate is in the range of 19%.

Aaron Hill (LD% = 7.6%, BABIP = .177)

To be fair, Hill lost some playing time due to injury so he has a smaller sample size than most, but his line drive percentage is the lowest in the league by a mile. For comparison Hill hit line drives at a 19.6% clip last season, and his BABIP was a more normalized .288. If you can get Hill for cheap in your league be sure to pull the trigger, though you should always be wary of his injury-prone tendencies.

Juan Rivera (LD% = 13.8%, BABIP = .237)

Nothing particularly flashy about Juan Rivera, but he’s still a worthwhile player. Rivera is available in a lot of leagues, and someone who will see increased playing time thanks to Kendry Morales’ now infamous walk-off celebration. Rivera has always had a low LD%, with a career average of 17.5%, but he should pick it up. Word of warning: Rivera’s K-rate has increased substantially; if that continues, he may not be able to improve his average quite so effectively.

And now a couple players doing the opposite…

Austin Jackson (LD% = 30.6%, BABIP = .453)

Jackson’s numbers are so troubling. If you’ve had him so far, congratulations, but I would try and unload him as fast as possible. FanGraphs doesn’t keep line drive percentages for the minor leagues, so we don’t have something to compare his against, but I can assure you they weren’t this high. He’s batting .332 while striking out 27.4% of the time, and that’s hard to do. ZIPS projects Jackson to hit .264 for the rest of the season.

Ian Stewart (LD% = 27.6%, BABIP = .339)

Considering how high his line drive percentage is, we can’t really say that his BABIP is particularly off course. And, honestly, I think his power numbers are pretty much where they should be. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes the year with over 20 home runs. But I believe that Stewart is much more of a .250 guy, not .275, despite the fact that he’s reined in the strikeouts a little bit. Not really a huge difference, but his run and RBI totals probably won’t stay at this pace all year long. If you need power and can live with a .250-hitting second basemen, then hang onto him, but because batting average is so scarce you might want to deal him.

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