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Chris Johnson: Lord of BABIP

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Chris Johnson: Lord of BABIP

The Lord of BABIP
The Lord of BABIP
Scott Cunningham

Over at FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan has a great breakdown of Chris Johnson and his batting average on balls in play. He is currently leading the National League in batting average while hitting just six home runs, so he has had a ton of balls land on the field for hits. To say that he will not continue this pace, as Sullivan explains in his post, is not worth the time used to write said words.

But let us take a look at just how insane his BABIP has been this year. He currently has a .430 mark. The last time a player BABIP'd .400 was in 2002 -- Jose Hernandez with the Brewers. In fact, the last time a player had BABIP north of Johnson's current mark was 1894. It has been over 100 years since we have seen anything like this and the game was a much different game than it currently is. To be frank, we have never seen a season like this ever.

Rather than explain how it is going to likely come down and come down fast, I would like to marvel at it for a second. Chris Johnson has shown that he can post high BABIPs in his career so being near the league lead in this category is not all in itself surprising. I imagine he ends up cracking the .400 barrier even if he crashes and burns for the final two months. He is currently on a seven game multi-hit streak and is hitting line drives with extreme regularity this year. His line drive percentage is bested only by James Loney and Joe Mauer (Freddie Freeman is fourth). Whether he can continue to do this or not (he cannot continue it at this specific level), he has shown that his bat is a more impressive asset than many of us expected before the season.

When it comes to what to do with him after this year, it is far less simple than some of the questions I have received on twitter. The thoughts I have seen were to sell high on him due to the likely regression he is facing. The issue with that is that all of the other teams see that BABIP as well, not just us guys here on the internet. Atlanta does not have an heir apparent ready and trading for one better than Johnson is unlikely. He will be here to stay for at least another year, I expect, BABIPing his way to usefulness all around. Because while he is a fun guy and has been a pleasure to watch this year, his tools outside of this are lackluster at best. I am not a huge fan of the batting title, but Chris Johnson contending for that award in his first season in Atlanta has to go right up there with the most unexpected things that happened this season.