Last week, we had some fun discussing the unluckiest players of 2015. By popular demand, let's examine some of the luckiest players of the season.
Let's just say Atlanta's Shelby Miller hates these guys. Eovaldi leads the majors in winning percentage with his 14-2 record, and Hutchison ranks with third with his 13-3 record. Sure, it feels good to wake up in the morning and see that win-loss record next to your name, but win-loss records can be deceiving! The Blue Jays, in fact, are 10 games over .500 when Hutchison starts and only eight games over .500 when everybody else starts, even though he has a 5.07 ERA. The Blue Jays have scored six or more runs in 19 of his 26 starts. Hutchison's .813 winning percentage would be the highest ever for a pitcher with an ERA of more than 5.00 who qualified for the ERA title. The old mark: Roxie Lawson went 18-7 (.720) for the 1937 Tigers despite a 5.26 ERA.
Eovaldi has pitched a little better -- especially the past couple of months -- with a 4.17 ERA, but he's also been blessed with great run support.
It can get a little tricky when analyzing pitchers. Greinke has a 1.59 ERA but a 2.63 fielding independent pitching. That suggests that perhaps some luck has gone into his low ERA, and it's not a bunch of unearned runs, because he's allowed just two of those. A key to Greinke's run prevention has been a left-on-base percentage of 85.9, best in the majors, and the highest rate since Pedro Martinez in 2000. Greinke has been at 81 and 80 percent the past two seasons, so he's been very good at this since joining the Dodgers. But he's also gone the other way: In 2011 with the Brewers, he had a LOB rate of 69.8 percent, so his ERA of 3.83 was much higher than his 2.98 FIP. Greinke's ERA comes from a lot of skill but probably at least a little good fortune as well.
Don't get me wrong, I love Sano, and his power display has obviously been impressive. He's hitting .293/.400/.609 even though he's struck out in 36 percent of his plate appearances, with 79 K's in 184 at-bats. So how is he hitting .293? He has a .424 average on balls in play. Remember, BABIP takes home runs out of the equation. Sano's .424 mark is the highest for any batter with at least 100 plate appearances since 2000. Yes, he hits the ball hard, and that will contribute to a high BABIP, but .424 is also unsustainable long-term, so if he's going to keep hitting .293, he'll have to put more balls in play.
Another rookie who has been on fire, hitting .345/.377/.547 in 40 games, a big boost from the .272 average he had in Triple-A. His story is the same as Sano's: a high BABIP. His .420 mark is third highest since 2000 for a player with at least 100 plate appearances.
Here's a good reminder for single-season BABIPs: Danny Santana of the Twins had a .405 BABIP last year on his way to hitting .319. His BABIP this year is .297 and he's hitting .217. I'm not suggesting Sano and Piscotty will go the Santana route in 2016, but both are way over their projected batting averages.
St. Louis Cardinals pitching staff
The Cardinals have a remarkable 2.72 ERA, which would be the lowest since the 2.66 mark of the 1981 Astros and the lowest in a full season since the 1972 Athletics. This despite ranking just seventh in the majors in opponents' batting average and 10th in strikeout rate. As with Greinke, the Cardinals have left a lot of runners stranded: 79.9 percent. That's more than 5 percent higher than the No. 2 team (the Dodgers) and is so high that it would rank ninth among all qualified starters. It's also the highest ever for a staff in the live ball era since 1920. As with Greinke, give the Cardinals credit here: They are getting the outs when they need them. But there is good fortune bouncing their way as well.
J.D. Martinez, Detroit Tigers
According to the ESPN Home Run Tracker, Martinez leads the majors with 15 "just enough" home runs. Hey, they all count the same on the scoreboard.
Morales is fourth in the majors with 99 RBIs and because of that is going to appear in the top 10 of a lot of MVP ballots. Don't get me wrong, he's had a very nice season, and he is hitting .358 with runners in scoring position. (Don't get Mariners fans started.) Anyway, the RBI count is partly a result of that good hitting but also a result of having the third most runners on base while at the plate. Only Carlos Santana and Todd Frazier have had more runners on base. Compare that to, say, Mike Trout, who leads the majors in OPS with runners in scoring position but has just 74 RBIs. Trout has had 285 runners on base compared with 392 for Morales. So for Morales, it pays to be good and to be in the right spot in the batting order.