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Getting Saber Smart: Fantasy Baseball Stats and Terms Glossary (Part 1)

In this series of articles, we'll take a look at some sabermetric stats which you'll hear tossed around many RotoBaller articles and many other sites as well.

The goal of these glossary pieces is to help you understand these statistics and how to use them in your fantasy baseball analysis. In Part 1 of this series, we'll look at BAPIP, Line Drive Rate, and HR/FB Rate.  You can also check out Part 2 of the series which focuses on pitching.


Hitting Sabermetric Statistics



By Colette Morton and Dan Holden (DSCF0551) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsOf all the advanced metrics, BABIP is almost certainly the easiest to understand, and also the easiest to misuse. It stands for Batting Average on Balls in Play, and this title really does an excellent job of describing what the statistic is all about.

While traditional batting average numbers measure the percentage of at-bats that turn into hits (hits per at-bats), BABIP looks only at the balls the player was able to actually put into play (i.e. eliminating foul balls, outs, walks, etc), and then determines what percent of these were converted into hits (hits/balls-in-play). It's called a player's Hit Rate. A league average BABIP will usually fall somewhere around .300, but the best benchmark for an established player will usually be his career average number, rather than the league average.

BABIP is also a favorite stat for owners looking to excuse a player's recent performance. If a little known hitter goes on a tear? High BABIP, just some good luck, he'll regress. A star goes through a month-long slump? Low BABIP, just some bad luck, he'll regress. The issue with this is that it's a phenomenally lazy way to analyze players. Perhaps that star is getting unlucky, but maybe he's lost a bit of that footspeed that let him beat out ground balls a year or two ago, or maybe he's lost a bit of bat speed and isn't able to hit balls with the same kind of authority anymore. You can't know these answers just by looking at BABIP.

Best understood, BABIP is something like the 'check engine' light in your car. When somethings off about it, it's a signal to you to investigate further. Line drive rate, ground ball rate, fly ball rate, speed, health, mechanics, are all things that can influence a player's performance, and their BABIP, in addition to just plain bad luck. If you think somethings amiss, you would be wise to look at them too.


Line Drive Rate

By Keith Allison on Flickr [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsLD% is a pretty simple stat. Of all batted balls put in play by a player, the LD% is just the percentage of those balls hit for line drives. It's most useful for giving fantasy owners a bit more insight into a player's current batting average, and whether or not it's likely to rise or fall as time moves on. That makes sense intuitively.

A player hitting 20% or more line drives but only batting .200 is probably getting exceedingly unlucky (or is facing an aggressive shift like Chris Davis), while a player hitting .350 through May with a 12% LD% probably isn't making anywhere near enough solid contact to keep that up. Obviously, LD% doesn't tell the whole story, but it's probably the first number you should take a look at after a player's BABIP if you're looking to get a bit more insight at the state of their batting average talent going forward.



This is exactly what it sounds like. It's merely the percentage of fly balls (put in play) that a player hits for home runs. You can think of it like the batting average of home runs if you'd like. The league average HR/FB is usually around 10% most years, give or take a percentage point. The big sluggers will have higher numbers of course, with the very best of them having HR/FB rates somewhere north of 20% (for example: in 2013 when Chris Davis hit 53 home runs, his HR/FB percentage was an astounding 29.6%).

Large deviations in HR/FB rate can signal a change in a player's approach, an injury limiting their ability to drive the ball, a declining skill set or even luck. On its own, HR/FB doesn't really give you enough information to make this determination, but it can point you in the right direction more often than not.  A couple good quick examples of how to use HR/FB rate are with Jayson Werth and Jose Abreu. Before Werth's recent tear, his HR/FB rate was below 10%, far below his career average, and because everything else about Werth looked the same, he was a good candidate to turn it around, as he's begun to do.

On the other hand you have Jose Abreu, whose current 34.5% HR/FB rate would be the highest in the past 8 years. Only 2 players in the past decade eclipsed a 30% HR/FB rate - Ryan Howard did it 3 times and Jack Cust twice. Four of those five seasons were around 30-31%, so you can understand that Abreu's astronomical 34.5% HR/FB rate will likely decline a bit.  He should easily end up in the 43-45 HR range, but 50+ would be a stretch.


Super Two Deadline

Gregory Polanco Pittsburgh PiratesEvery season, there's that stud prospect in the minor leagues who you just KNOW would light it up in the majors. Spring Training rolls around, and your star-to-be spends all month hitting the cover off the ball, until you're convinced that he's the next fantasy MVP. It's crushing, then, when a player like this gets sent back to the minor leagues at the end of spring. But why? Usually that answer has to do with the player's “Super Two” status.

You're probably familiar with the way rookie contracts work by now. The first three years after a player is called up from the minor leagues, his major league team essentially gets to set his contract with little input from the player, followed by an additional three years of arbitration. According to the rules set out in the latest collective bargaining agreement however, certain players, the so-called “Super 2” status guys, are able to reach arbitration without having a full three years of major league service time.

This effectively gives them an extra year of arbitration-- i.e., their first six years with the team would look like this: league minimum, league minimum, arbitration, arbitration, arbitration, arbitration. Because arbitration salaries build on each other, this can have a huge impact on the total salary of a player over the extent of the contract, giving small-market teams with young stars a huge incentive to avoid Super 2 status if at all possible.

So what qualifies a player for Super 2 status?

a) He has at least two years of major league service time, but less than three.

b) His collective service time ranks within the top 22% of all two-year players.

The exact date at which a team can avoid Super 2 status changes each year, because its based on the service time of other players, but it usually falls somewhere around late June to early July.