Not even Miguel Cabrera can will every ground ball he hits past the fielders, and even Justin Upton needs to hope for a long fly ball to sneak over the fence now and again.

What do they have in common? Not much aside from the fact that they’re hitters. Relying on luck is something that every hitter does to some degree. 

But not every hitter benefits from luck to the same degree. Especially not when we’re talking about a still relatively small two-month sample size like the one we’ve got now. Contained within are hitters who are getting more than their share of favors from Lady Luck.

I’ll warn—pointlessly, most likely—that I’m not trying to insult anybody here, but there are five hitters out there who catch my eye as the luckiest in baseball this season. Let’s count ’em down…


5. Alex Gordon, LF, Kansas City Royals

They don’t make ’em much more underrated than Alex Gordon. The guy’s a terrific defensive left fielder, and he’s at least an above-average hitter and baserunner. Gordon has certainly been better than above-average at the plate this season. Through 48 games, he’s hitting .338/.377/.502 with six homers. 

There’s a funny smell, though, and it has to do with Gordon’s BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play if you’re not into the whole sabermetrics/brevity thing). Via FanGraphs, we know that Gordon’s BABIP .400. That makes him one of only four hitters in the league with a BABIP that high.

If there’s one thing we know about BABIP, it’s that what goes up is probably going to come down. The best hitters are capable of high BABIPs, but anything near .400 is a little too high. Anything over .400 is too high.

So why am I singling out Gordon and not Jhonny Peralta, Joey Votto or Joe Mauer? Because they’ve been making better contact than Gordon. Those three all have line-drive percentages (LD%) north of 26 percent, whereas Gordon’s is 21.7. That represents a significant decline from where he was last year and is the lowest his LD% has gone since 2009, according to FanGraphs.

The trade-off for Gordon has been more ground balls, which is generally fine. You have a greater chance of getting a hit on a ground ball than you do on a fly ball, so it’s better that Gordon’s getting on top of the ball rather than under it.

But according to, the league average on ground balls is a mere .238. Gordon’s average on ground balls is .368. That’s a 130-point difference in Gordon’s favor, and his average on ground balls, not surprisingly, puts him at the top of the chart.

Gordon can maintain a high BABIP. He’s done as much the last two years with BABIPs over .350. But as long as he’s getting most of his hits on grounders, his .400 BABIP this season is doomed.


4. Yadier Molina, C, St. Louis Cardinals

The power isn’t quite there yet, but Yadier Molina looks like he’s going to improve his batting average once again. After hitting .305 in 2011 and .315 in 2012, Molina is hitting .346 this year.

In terms of batted ball types, Molina is doing pretty much the exact same thing he did last year. With numbers courtesy of FanGraphs:

Year GB% LD% FB%
2012  24.8  40.0  35.2
2013  24.7  40.4  34.9

We know Molina’s not getting the extra batting average points from homers. He’s hitting about as many fly balls as he was last year, but his infield pop-up percentage is roughly twice as high as his HR/FB percentage. Blame bad luck if you want, but I’ve never been one to chalk pop-ups up to ill fortune.

The extra batting average points aren’t coming from Molina’s line drives either. He hit .721 on line drives last year and is hitting .717 on line drives this year.

That leaves a familiar culprit: ground balls. Yup. Molina is hitting .353 on ground balls. That’s not only well above the league average, but way above Molina’s own career average. He’s a career .232 hitter on ground balls and only hit .269 on ground balls last year in what was a career year for him average-wise.

Settling for hits on ground balls is not a habit Molina wants to get into. He’s not going to be able to show off his above-average power if he’s hitting the ball on the ground, and luck is bound to catch up to him eventually. Fielders are going to get to more and more of his ground balls, and as a catcher he doesn’t have the speed to beat their throws on a regular basis.

So here’s hoping Molina starts squaring up more fly balls. If he wants to maintain his high batting average, that’s the way to go.


3. Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox

I’ll say this much about Alex Gordon’s and Yadier Molina’s high batting averages on ground balls: At least the bulk of their grounders are finding their way past fielders.

The same is not as true in regards to Dustin Pedroia. He’s batting .365 on ground balls, but the difference between him and Gordon and Molina is that Pedroia is getting a lot of hits on balls that never leave the infield. His infield hit percentage is 17.2.

That sort of IFH% puts Pedroia in select company. Per FanGraphs, he and Milwaukee’s Norichika Aoki rank one-two in IFH%, and the only other player in baseball with an IFH% over 15 is Milwaukee’s Jean Segura.

What makes Pedroia relevant to this discussion is that neither Aoki nor Segura have a BABIP as high as he does. Pedroia‘s .379 BABIP is significantly higher than Aoki‘s .312 and slightly higher than Segura‘s .374.

It’s a more than fair bet that Pedroia‘s not going to be able to keep this up all season. He has the speed to leg out infield hits, but before this year his highest-ever IFH% was 9.9 last year. To go from there to 17.2 is too big of a stretch.

You can count on Pedroia to bat over .300 this year. Just not quite like he’s been doing so far.


2. Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants

Buster Posey led baseball in batting average last year, so it pretty much goes without saying that he had a high BABIP. His was .368, sixth-highest in the league.

This year? Not so much. Posey’s doing just fine with a .311 batting average, but his .324 BABIP puts him well off last year’s pace. By all rights, however, he should be doing worse.

Posey’s claim to good luck has to do with his performance on fly balls. He’s hitting a lot more fly balls than usual this season, as his FB% of 35.7 is well above his career average of 31.2 (FanGraphs).

The trade-off one hopes for there is more home runs, but that hasn’t been the case. Posey’s HR/FB percentage has dipped from 18.8 last year to 13.7 this year. That’s nothing special, and from looking at that and nothing else you’d think that Posey was watching an awful lot of his fly balls find leather.

Except not. Posey’s BABIP on fly balls is .293. That’s the best of anybody in the majors, and it comes close to putting him a full 200 points over the league BABIP of .106 on fly balls.

Remember, BABIP doesn’t count home runs, so we’re talking about a guy racking up a ton of hits on fly balls that find the outfield grass. Given the reputation of his home ballpark, you’d think that would mean a lot of fly-ball hits to Triples Alley at AT&T Park.

That’s only kinda-sorta-not-really the case. Consider his spray chart for the season, courtesy of

A couple hits into the right-center gap are pictured here, but notice the ones to straightaway center and to the left of it. Posey is hitting some balls well, but it’s not like he’s been peppering Triples Alley to send his batting average on fly balls soaring.

This is also not something that Posey is really in the habit of doing. Even when he hit .336 last year, his BABIP on fly balls was only .232. As the season moves along, I’d expect this trend to correct itself in one of two ways. Either Posey’s going to send more balls over the fence, or more of his fly balls are going to end up as outs.

For what it’s worth, Giants fans, I’m leaning toward the first one as the better bet.


1. Domonic Brown, LF, Philadelphia Phillies

Domonic Brown still isn’t the sort of star-level player he was built up as coming up through Philly’s system. But with a .475 slugging percentage and a team-high 10 homers, at least Brown is showing off some pop.

The catch? That would be that Brown’s pop really isn’t much to speak of. tracks average home run distances, and they have the average distance for Brown’s 10 bombs at 380.5 feet. Of the 31 players who have hit at least 10 homers this season, that’s easily the shortest average distance.

So while still respectable, Brown’s 22.2 HR/FB rate is not as thunderous as it looks on paper. He may have a higher HR/FB rate than Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo (see FanGraphs), but he’s not in their league when it comes to power. The two of them are right at the top of the charts in “No Doubt” homers, and Trumbo has hit the longest homer in the majors this year.

Among the guys who have hit longer average home runs than Brown are David DeJesus, Andrelton Simmons and Alejandro De Aza. Not exactly the first names that come to mind when the topic of the hour is “sluggers.”

The next 10-homer guy on the list ahead of Brown is Vernon Wells at 389.2 feet, and at least he’s hit a couple over 400 feet. Brown has hit only one homer longer than 400 feet, and it was a 412-footer that was hit off a lefty reliever with an ERA near 9.50 on the season.

That home run was also really the only homer Brown has hit this season that hasn’t been to straightaway right field. can show that that’s where the bulk of his homers have gone, with half of them being shorter homers down the right field line.

Brown could keep it up, but he might as well be wearing a sign warning pitchers not to give him anything to pull. They’ll get the message eventually.


Note: Stats courtesy of unless otherwise noted.


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