Earlier this week, we looked at poor souls who were victimized by bad luck during the 2014 Major League Baseball season and who are therefore due for good luck in 2015.

‘Twas a happy discussion, as forecasting good luck is cheerful work. Certainly much more cheerful than forecasting bad luck, anyway.

Alas, that must also be done. Just as there are players who are due for some good luck in 2015, there are also players who are due for some bad luck. And unfortunately for them, they’re not hard to spot in these days of newfangled numbers and analytics.

Like with last year’s unlucky players, there are plenty who are doomed to suffer from bad luck in 2015. But once again in the interests of Internet-friendly brevity and proper thoroughness, I’ve narrowed my list down to five.


Danny Santana, SS, Minnesota Twins

Talk about your all-time quiet breakouts. Though Danny Santana broke through with a .319 average and .824 OPS as a 23-year-old rookie in 2014, few seemed to notice. 

Which is a shame for him. Because the odds of him repeating that performance in 2015 are somewhere between “slim” and “none.”

Though Santana had the batting average of a hitting machine in 2014, he didn’t have the look of one. He walked in only 4.4 percent of his plate appearances and struck out 22.8 percent of the time. Those figures reflected an approach that was very much undisciplined.

That leaves one explanation for Santana’s success: his .405 batting average on balls in play (BABIP). That was the highest among all hitters with at least 400 plate appearances and 106 points higher than the MLB average of .299. That’s the kind of performance that reeks of unsustainability.

Now, even if a .405 BABIP is much too high to sustain, it must be said that it is possible for a hitter to consistently blow away the league average on a year-to-year basis. If he keeps making good contact, odds are his BABIP will remain sky-high.

But just how much hard contact Santana made in 2014 is up for debate. Though he did post an excellent 26.0 line-drive percentage, he’s nowhere to be found on Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Info’s list of hard-hit rate leaders:

As for where exactly Santana’s BABIP came from, we can dig a little deeper and find that he was blowing away the league averages on ground balls and fly balls. His BABIP on grounders was 98 points higher than the league average, and his BABIP on fly balls was 46 points higher than the league average.

None of this should be taken to mean Santana can’t hack it in the major leagues. He has the speed to steal upwards of 30 bases and can hold his own at both shortstop and center field. 

But it’s unlikely that he’s going to hit .319 again. He has neither the approach nor the hard contact for the task. And more than likely, he’s never again going to have the luck for it either.


Miguel Gonzalez, SP, Baltimore Orioles

Looked at one way, Miguel Gonzalez was a solid pitcher in 2014. He only logged 159.0 innings, but in those, he posted a 3.23 ERA. By ERA+, that made him 19 ticks better than the average pitcher.

Looked at another way, however, and Gonzalez might have been one of the worst pitchers in baseball.

There’s no better way for a pitcher to be successful than to rack up strikeouts and limit walks and home runs. To this end, Gonzalez was merely average at limiting walks and notably worse than average at limiting homers and racking up strikeouts.

It’s no wonder his Fielding Independent Pitching—or FIP, which measures what a pitcher’s ERA should have been based mainly on his strikeouts, walks and homers—was 4.89. The negative difference between that and his ERA was easily the largest among all pitchers with at least 150 innings.

Looked at in more practical ways, we find that Gonzalez curiously managed a low ERA despite being one of baseball’s worst pitchers at preventing hard contact. Per Simon:

Take a close look, and you’ll notice the only pitcher on that list with a lower ERA than Gonzalez was Masahiro Tanaka. And unlike Gonzalez, he was one of baseball’s best strikeout and walk artists.

That’s not all. Gonzalez prevented runs largely because he stranded a league-best 85.5 percent of the runners he put on base. That looks odd on a guy who had all sorts of trouble getting strike three, avoiding ball four and avoiding hits with men on base:

With numbers like those, by all rights Gonzalez should have been one of baseball’s worst pitchers at stranding runners. Not the best.

The one thing that can be said in Gonzalez’s defense is that he tends to have very good gloves behind him. Pitchers who pitch to contact in front of good defenses have an easier time getting away with bad FIPs and are more likely to be bailed out in pressure situations.

But I’d be wary of Gonzalez. He’s not getting any better at missing bats or finding the strike zone, and his 3.23 ERA from 2014 doesn’t reflect how hard he was hit or how many issues he had with men on.


Drew Stubbs, OF, Colorado Rockies

Drew Stubbs was dwindling from relevance after 2013, as he’d hit just .222 with a .636 OPS over the previous two seasons. But he came roaring back to relevance in 2014, hitting .289 with an .821 OPS.

But remember how we looked at a BABIP leaderboard that had Danny Santana on top? Did you see who was directly below him?

Yup. Stubbs had a .404 BABIP. And just like with Santana, one doubts that Stubbs will do that again.

In fairness to Stubbs, it did help that he made the move to Coors Field, which caters to BABIP better than any other ballpark. Also, Mike Podhorzer of FanGraphs pointed out that Stubbs hit the ball farther on average in 2014 than he did in 2013.

However, nowhere else did Stubbs look like a changed man. He once again had a swing-and-miss element to his game that led to a 32.1 strikeout percentage. And though he did hit more line drives than usual, he didn’t really have the batted-ball profile of a high-BABIP hitter.

Instead, contributing to StubbsBABIP were some clearly unsustainable performances. Most notably, he beat his career BABIP against right-handers by 65 points and blew away three key league averages:

Again, we grant that it is possible to maintain a high BABIP if you’re regularly making hard contact. But despite Stubb’s increase in batted-ball distance, one thing he has in common with Santana is that he’s nowhere to be found on Simon’s hard contact leaderboard.

So don’t expect Stubbs to flirt with a .300 average again. That would require him to overshadow his shortcomings with another absurdly high BABIP, and there’s little to suggest he’s capable of that.


Alfredo Simon, SP, Detroit Tigers

Alfredo Simon went from being on nobody’s radar before 2014 to being on everybody’s radar by the All-Star break. There was a former setup man pitching to an impressive 2.70 ERA.

Of course, that didn’t last. Simon pitched to a 4.52 ERA in the second half, which, as I outlined last month, was roughly the performance that his first-half peripherals suggested was coming.

Simon succeeded in the first half last year largely because he had a ridiculously low .232 BABIP that was making up for his subpar strikeout rate. You can take that same sentiment and apply it to the 3.44 ERA he finished the season with, as he had a .265 BABIP that overshadowed a rate of 5.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

What makes that look even fishier is that Simon did not appear alongside Gonzalez among Simon’s hard-contact leaders, but he didn’t show up among Simon’s soft-contact leaders either. Where things get even more curious is what happens when we focus in on ground balls and fly balls.

On ground balls, Simon held hitters to just a .193 BABIP, the lowest among all pitchers who induced at least 300 grounders. He also had a .0310 BABIP on fly balls, which was second only to Reds teammate Johnny Cueto among pitchers who induced at least 100 flies.

It’s unusual to see a pitcher enjoying the best of both worlds like that, especially one who wasn’t in any way overpowering. So, the word “sustainable” doesn’t exactly come spring to mind.

In fact, things could be really, really bad for Simon in 2015.

One luxury he had last year that he won’t have this year is pitching against National League competition. He’ll also be transitioning from the Cincinnati Reds defense to the Tigers defense. According to Baseball Prospectus, that means a transition from MLB‘s third-ranked defense to MLB’s 29th-ranked defense.

There’s your warning not to have high hopes for Simon in 2015. His star breakthrough was short-lived and is likely to soon be forgotten altogether.


Chris Carter, DH, Houston Astros

At 6’4″ and 250 pounds, Chris Carter has always been a big dude with big power. And he finally pushed his power to its full potential in 2014, hitting 37 homers to tie Giancarlo Stanton for second in the majors.

But you know what the weird part is? Relatively speaking, Carter didn’t really show off his best power in what was his best power-hitting season.

Among hitters with at least 500 plate appearances, Carter was one of only six guys with a home-run-per-fly-ball rate (HR/FB) of at least 20 percent. But though that signals that his power was elite, figures from Baseball Heap Maps and ESPN Stats & Info can show that Carter had easily the least amount of thump among last year’s HR/FB leaders:

Carter was the only one with an average batted-ball distance of under 290 feet, and the only one to average under 400 feet on his home runs.

That indicates that Carter hit a lot of cheapies last year, which is actually true. Only Jose Abreu hit more “Just Enough” home runs. More specifically, a map of his home dingers from BaseballSavant.com shows he clearly needed Minute Maid Park’s short left field porch to post his 25.9 home HR/FB rate.

Granted, Carter hasn’t moved away from Minute Maid Park. But as Mike Podhorzer wrote at RotoGraphs:

Minute Maid Park does sport a 104 RHH home run park factor and [Carter] has seemingly benefited greatly from calling the park home last year. His home HR/FB rate sat at 25.9% vs 18.2% in away parks in 2014, but he posted opposite splits in 2013. While I would be he improves on the components driving his xHR/FB rate mark, be aware that there is some hidden downside here from a power perspective.

We’re not saying Carter isn’t a powerful hitter. All we’re saying is that last year’s 37 homers make him look a lot more powerful than he really was, and that a reality check is likely in order for 2015.

Which is not a happy thought where Carter is concerned. Downgrade his power, and you’re not left with much.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted/linked.

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