Dirty Dining

The Great Regression: Hitters' Edition
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Last month, I looked at four pitchers I'm leery of going into the 2014 season after they experienced extremely good fortune last season.

Now, it's time for the hitters.

If you're thinking about drafting any of these bats for the numbers they put up last season and last season alone, it's time to reconsider.

Michael Cuddyer, 1B/OF, Colorado Rockies - Cuddyer won the National League batting title with a career-high .331 average, but he was a career .271 hitter going into 2013. That's red flag No. 1. Almost nothing changed with Cuddyer in 2013; he struck out in 18.5 percent of his plate appearances and walked in 8.5 percent (career 17.9% K rate, 8.9% BB rate) while hitting 20.2 percent line drives (career 18.8% LD rate). The one thing that did change, however, was Cuddyer's average on ground balls. He hit .323 on them last season but has a .253 average on grounders in his career. He also has hit .263 on fly balls and .725 on line drives in his career, but he batted .304 on flies and .810 on liners in 2013. Hitting in Coors Field is probably the cause of his inflated average on fly balls; he has hit over .300 on flies in each of his two seasons with the Rockies. But grounders are largely random. For instance, he hit just .196 on them in 2012. Overall, Cuddyer had a .382 batting average on balls in play (BABIP), 70 points above his career BABIP.

Chris Johnson, 3B, Atlanta Braves - While Johnson didn't make Braves fans forget about Chipper Jones, he was a capable replacement (Chipper also stayed on the minds of Atlantans by accidentally starting a forest fire and venturing on his four-wheeler to rescue former teammate Freddie Freeman from traffic caused by a snowstorm). Johnson held a lead over Cuddyer in the batting race as late as late as Sept. 21 before going two for his last 23 (.087) with 10 strikeouts. The Braves third baseman finished with a .321 average that was boosted by a .394 BABIP, highest in the majors by 11 points. Johnson has posted a .361 BABIP in his career because he hits a lot of line drives and doesn't pop up often, but a .394 BABIP isn't going to happen again. If he had a .361 BABIP in 2013, it still would have ranked 13th in baseball but would have cost him 13 hits and 25 points off his batting average. A .296 hitter with 12 homers, 68 RBI, 54 runs and zero steals is a lot less desirable than one who hit .321.

Yasiel Puig, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers - Puig was great last season, both for the Dodgers -- he was worth 4.0 WAR and the team went 69-38 after his callup -- and fantasy owners -- he hit .319 with 19 homers, 42 RBI, 66 runs, 11 steals and a .925 OPS. But Puig benefited from a .383 BABIP, tied for second highest in the majors among players with at least 400 plate appearances, even though just 19 percent of his balls in play were line drives and more than 10 percent of his fly balls were infield popups. Puig also hit just .234 with eight homers and a .761 OPS over his last 46 games as the league caught up to him. Out of all players with at least 400 plate appearances, Puig had the fifth lowest contact rate (67.6 percent) and the highest swing-and-miss rate (16.9 percent).

Colby Rasmus, OF, Toronto Blue Jays - After years of disappointing fantasy owners who were tantalized by his first-round pedigree and luxurious hair, Rasmus finally made strides toward recognizing his potential by hitting .276 with 22 homers, 66 RBI and an .840 OPS last season. But it may have been a mirage. Rasmus struck out in a career-worst 29.5 percent of his plate appearances, 10th worst in the majors among players with at least 450 plate appearances. The only reason he didn't hit lower than .230 for the third straight season is because he had a .356 BABIP, 97 points higher than 2012. Rasmus did hit lines drives at a career-high rate of 22 percent, but that's not good enough to portend a BABIP over .350, especially when combined with Rasmus' 12.6 percent infield-fly-ball rate.

Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Thomas J. Harrigan at tharrigan@sportsnetwork.com.

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