Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Straws Within Our Grasp

The good people at The Hardball Times recently took to changing the way we look at Batting Average on Balls into Play. A neat little stat we can use to determine who may have been lucky, who may have been unlucky, and who may be terrible. When predicting BABIP, one adds .120 to the batter's line drive rate. Where the .120 comes from I honestly have no idea. But these fine gentlefolk decided to dig a little deeper into BABIP, adding many more factors to create a more telling predication of a batter's success.

A quick look at a player like Vernon Wells, you can see how much BABIP hints at potential success. His BABIP goes up, he has a good year. It goes down, he's not so hot. But why? What does this number tell us? Using factors such as speed, patience and contact rates, park effect, GB/FD, line drive rate, spray and many others (read the full explanation here), they created xBABIP, or expected BABIP to determine when a player's been getting lucky and when he's been getting hosed. Their research uncovered quite a few guys that had huge or unexpected 2008's (Ryan Doumit, Milton Bradley, Shin-soo Choo and Giovanny Soto) as players that outperformed their xBABIP as well as potential bargains for 2009 (Nick Swisher, Jason Giambi, Willy Aybar) that didn't get the bounces. Here are the numbers for the Jays core over the last few years. Actual BABIP is simply their non-homerun hits divided by balls in play (PA-K-BB-HR).

YearScumbag in QuestionBABIP (actual)xBABIPPoint DiffPercentage Diff
2008Vernon Wells.291.280-113.64%
2007Vernon Wells.260.29232-12.14%
2006Vernon Wells.305.3094-1.25%
2008Lyle Overbay.311.310-10.19%
2007Lyle Overbay.270.32151-18.86%
2006Lyle Overbay.340.319-216.20%
2008Alex Rios.329.314-164.71%
2007Alex Rios.316.3205-1.50%
2006Alex Rios.333.320-144.06%
2008Scott Rolen.283.2896-2.12%
2007Scott Rolen.282.2907-2.54%
2006Scott Rolen.295.2983-0.92%
2008Adam Lind.313.302-113.44%
2007Adam Lind.265.30338-14.29%

I believe these numbers tell us quite a few things about the Jays of the past as well as moving forward. Vernon Wells was, in addition to being injured in 2007, really unlucky. His shoulder was so bad it cut his Home Run per fly ball rate to nearly half is career number in 2007, not to mention he wasn't getting any love from the baseball gods. Vernon put up good numbers in 2008, numbers he should have no problem replicating in 2009 if healthy. One possible cause for concern could be the steady decline of his xBABIP for the past three seasons.

Lyle Overbay went from being really lucky in 2006 to freakishly unlucky (and injured) in 2007 to just about right in 2008. Overbay consistently puts the fat part of the bat on the ball, with high xBABIP year in and year out and a nice 20% line drive rate to go with it. Can we conclude that 2008 Lyle is about what we should expect in 2009? Without a marked improvement against left handed pitching, yes.

Alex Rios is a strange case. A little lucky in 2006 and 2008, unlucky in 2007 when he notched career highs in home runs and walk/k rate. Hmmmm Alex, put the bat on your shoulder?

Professional Hitter Scott Rolen steams along, grinds out at bats and hits line drives. One thing to watch is his HR/FB%, which finished a little over 7% for the year. His terrible month of July was the real outlier here, as he managed 0 home runs in 94 PAs. The rest of the year he sat near 12% HR/FB, a number that would suit me nicely for 2009.

Adam Lind is a little worrisome for 2009. He was so unlucky in 2007 with a correction coming in 2008. He really went into the tank in September, but his BABIP stayed high (.329) He's still young so I still have hope that he, unlike Overbay, will improve and show the kind of hitter he was in AAA.

A few other notes on important Jays. Aaron Hill is a player that exceeded his xBABIP in successive seasons but also improved his number from 2007 to 2006. Potential Jay scrap heap find Michael Barrett should take heart in getting terribly unlucky during his last full season .266 actual versus .292 expected. If you were wondering about Rod Barajas or Marco Scutaro; you shouldn't. Neither of them are important nor are they any good. Fine, Marco Scutaro got a little unlucky in 2008 while Rod Barajas's numbers don't count for much because he hits naught but home runs and gets on base less than Johnny Mac. Travis Snider didn't have enough at bats to quality, but surely his xBABIP for 2009 will be in the neighbourhood of .400. BECAUSE HE'S TED WILLIAMS RE-INCARNATE!


  1. This is by far the nerdliest thing you've ever posted.

  2. I had to offset all the LOLs in the previous post

  3. Now we need xBABIP against for pitchers so we can find out just how out of whack Scott Richmond's BABIP against was. I'm guessing: as out of whack as it looks like.

  4. I hate to deflate your boner, but it looks like Rocco's going to the Sawks.


  5. Terribly out of place on this site, I believe.


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