As we approach the end of the first month of the 2012 regular season, members of the media are likely trying to use April statistics to formulate ideas about how players will perform for the rest of the season. They will likely jump to the wrong conclusions though, because April statistics scream the "Small Sample Size" song. As awesome as it would be, Derek Jeter is not going to hit .400 for the season. Freddy Garcia's ERA will not hover around twelve (ideally). David Robertson will probably give up a run at some point. Maybe.
Either way, the statistic that can help fans determine who's about to head in a different direction is BABIP, Batting Average on Balls In Play. BABIP shows which players are receiving some good luck thus far on plays like the bloop single that isn't hit hard which happens to fall in the outfield. So let's split the regulars' BABIP up into different categories to get an idea of what we might see in May.
The Hot Starts Headed For Regression (.370+ BABIP offense, .230- BABIP pitching)
Derek Jeter: .405 BABIP, .386/.421/.591 triple slash, 175 wRC+
It would be outstanding if Jeter could hit .400 on the season, but that's not going to happen. Those "Jeterian" opposite field singles are finding holes in the infield, and sooner or later, the infielders will start eating them up. He's certainly off to a fantastic start, which bodes well for him, but it would be unfair to expect the soon-to-be 38-year-old to maintain his performance.
Brett Gardner: .429 BABIP, .321/.424/.393 triple slash, 140 wRC+
IGYAR's favorite player is currently on the DL, but he was off to a fantastic start to the season thanks to his ridiculously high BABIP. He also had a high line drive rate prior to his injury, at 42.9% (his average in other seasons was closer to 19%). Gardner's incredible outfield play won't be affected by his regressing BABIP, but on offense, Gardner might not be as much of an offensive spark as he has been thus far.
Eduardo Nunez: .370 BABIP, .345/.394/.379 triple slash, 153 wRC+
Nunez has gone under the radar so far this year because his shaky fielding has overshadowed his bat, but he's certainly doing well at the plate. Unfortunately, hit hitting has received quite a bit of luck due to his high BABIP, a number that should decrease soon and bring his wRC+ down to less surprising levels.
David Phelps: .178 BABIP against, 90.3% LOB%, 3.57 ERA/5.67 FIP
Phelps has impressed the Yankees in relief in April, but his performance against the Rangers was likely more indicative of what fans will see going forward from Phelps. He's good, but not as good as he's looked, and his ERA/FIP indicates that. Still better than Garcia though.
"Tomorrow is Only a Day Away": Who Will Likely Hit Some Better Luck Soon (.230- offense, .370+ pitching)
Andruw Jones: .118 BABIP, .143/.242/.357, 60 wRC+
Andruw has been dreadful so far, and the only factor saving his slugging percentage is the fact that he's hit two home runs out of his four hits. His abnormally high fly ball rate (57.9%) will calm down soon, and more hits will find holes. Andruw got off to a slow start last year, and many fans (admittedly including myself) thought he was washed up, but he turned his season around quickly. He's still one of the best fourth-outfielders in baseball, and he fully deserves some more time to right himself.
Russell Martin: .194 BABIP, .176/.354/.314, 97 wRC+
As with Andruw, the only factor helping Martin offensively is the fact that he's hit two home runs out of his nine hits. Unlike last April, Martin has gotten off to a horrendous start, but fortunately for him, there is no AAA catcher breathing down his neck this year. Thus, the Yankees really have no other alternatives but to let Martin play through his slump and hope that his defensive abilities make up for his shaky offense. Automatic outs are absolute gifts in lineups as stacked as the Yankees' regular lineup, and Martin needs to stop making himself one of these presents (it must be because of his "veteran presents"). Martin is not that good of a hitter, but he is certainly not this awful.
Freddy Garcia: .440 BABIP against, 41% LOB%, 12.51 ERA/5.51 FIP
Freddy can't be this bad, can he? We can only hope so. His high opposing BABIP indicates that some of these hits will find gloves soon, but it's worth noting that his 42.3% line drive rate does not promise anything good (even if it should also decrease soon). Either way, it's hard to feel comfortable when Garcia takes the hill.
Ivan Nova: .421 BABIP against, 76.9% LOB%, 5.18 ERA/3.75 FIP
Fortunately for Nova, the Yankees' offense has come alive every time he's pitched and he has yet to incur a loss on the season. He hasn't been pitching that well though, and despite the fact that ground-ball pitchers' BABIPs tend to run high since they pitch to contact, the rates are rarely as high as Nova's. The fact that he's winning now even with these problems is certainly something to be optimistic about going forward.
Rafael Soriano: .381 BABIP against, 92.9% LOB%, 1.29 ERA/3.50 FIP
I feel bad about including Soriano on this list since he's only pitched seven innings, but it's worth discussing. The pricey reliever has had a couple bad outings in the early-goings, and his high BABIP against isn't helping (neither is his team-high 7.71 BB/9 ratio). Both statistics are going to change soon though, and ideally, fans will see more of the 2010 Soriano who was one of the best relievers in baseball than the overpaid schmuck 2011 Soriano.
Phil Hughes: .373 BABIP against, 56% LOB%, 7.88 ERA/6.37 FIP
The "Master Chef" has already served up several meatballs, as his team-high 2.81 HR/9 indicates, and those hits have contributed to his high ERA and poor performance so far. Like Garcia, he hasn't been keeping his team in games, and good teams like the Rangers have hit him even harder. His 9.56 K/9 is something good to look at, but the strikeouts haven't led to many outs at this point in the season. Hughes needs to get out of innings in other ways to prove he belongs in the rotation.
BABIP can be a fickle statistic, but it can also properly demonstrate how unusual baseball tends to be. Players will go from poor to outstanding in the snap of a finger, and slumps can begin just as quickly. It's likely only a matter of time before these BABIP rates are normalized.