Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Hitters can be familiar with scouting reports, guess the right pitch and hit the ball perfectly, but once the ball comes off the bat, they have no control over what happens.
While a frozen rope that finds leather and a tapper back to the mound are not struck with the same vigor, both plays end up as 0-for-1s in the box score nevertheless.
However, over time batting average on balls in play (BABIP) usually regresses to the league average, which this season is .296. And since line drives go for hits way more often than grounders and flyballs, players who hit a lot of liners can post BABIPs significantly higher than the average.
With that in mind, here are the five unluckiest hitters in baseball this season, guys who have hit the ball well frequently but have had little to show for it. We should see each player's batting average rise as their fortune improves.
Trevor Plouffe, 3B Minnesota Twins - Plouffe is expected to be activated from the 7-day concussion disabled list on Wednesday, and he'll return to a .254 average in 134 at-bats. Since he batted .235 last year, fantasy owners probably are not too surprised by his performance so far. But the third baseman actually has one of the highest line-drive rates in the majors at 28.7 percent (31 liners on 108 batted balls) and yet has a .286 BABIP. Of his 31 line drives, 13 were caught. He's also hitting just .184 (7-for-38) on grounders.
Martin Prado, 3B/OF Arizona Diamondbacks - Arizona's trade of Justin Upton to the Braves looks horrific for the D-Backs, mainly because Prado is hitting .257 and Upton is just one home run shy of Prado's career high already. Prado hit .301 last year and had a .322 BABIP and a 22.8 percent line-drive rate, and his career batting average is .293. His strikeout rate and groundball rate are similar to last year, and he is actually hitting a higher percentage of line drives, but he is 28-for-44 on liners and 17-for-91 on grounders. He's a career .690 hitter on line drives and a .270 hitter on groundballs.
Edwin Encarnacion, 1B Toronto Blue Jays - Home runs don't count as batted balls, and since a large percentage of Encarnacion's well-struck flyballs end up out of the park, his career BABIP shows up as .277. He hit .280 last year with 42 homers and a .266 BABIP. This season, however, his BABIP is even lower even though he has hit a significantly higher percentage of line drives and posted a nearly identical HR/FB to 2012. While he is batting .649 on line drives, he's hitting just .161 on groundballs. Encarnacion batted .287 (40- for-150) on grounders in 2012 and is a .230 hitter for his career on balls on the ground.
Andy Dirks, OF Detroit Tigers - Dirks hit .322 in 344 at-bats and had a 24.3 percent line-drive rate and a .365 BABIP. This year, he 27 percent of his batted balls were line drives, but his BABIP is .291. While the outfielder batted .790 on line drives and .293 on grounders last year, his batting average on liners this year is .621 and his average on grounders is .224.
Paul Konerko, 1B Chicago White Sox - Konerko has been a disappointment this season, but he is not deserving of his .235 batting average. The veteran has slammed a career-high 26.1 percent line drives but was out on 15 of his 36 line drives. He's 6-for-42 (.143) on grounders this year; his career average on them is .213. Konerko's career-low 7.9 percent HR/FB also is driving his average down, as fewer of his flyballs are ending up in the seats and more are finishing their journey in gloves, but his luck hasn't helped his batting average either.