A Post That Turned Into Talking About BABIP
By Stuart Jones
People use statistics for a lot of different reasons, some for evaluating who they want on the field, historical contributions, and to predict what will happen going forward. A lot of people aren’t convinced advanced statistics can contribute to the game. People don’t like change, and don’t like what they don’t understand, I get that. I see a lot of that when it comes to the steroids conversation, too, but that’s for another day. If people take the time to investigate and ask themselves, “what does this really look at, and how does the player/team get to this spot with this statistic” I think people might realize the fallacies of the many stats that are so mainstream. I’m going to address some of the offensive categories and talking about something you may have not been lucky enough to hear of, but by the end, you’ll see how you might want to use it.
This guy. Great player, right? How do you know? In 2010, he hit 54 home runs to really put him on the map. But did his .260/.378 Batting Average/On Base Percentage scare you into not being a believer? Just a fluke year, right? You already know the answer: wrong. But which stat could have warned us? ISO? No. wOBA? Not really. wRC+? WAR? OPS+? No, no, no. BABIP? Yes. BABIP = Batting Average on Balls in Play. This advanced stat recognizes the luck that goes into getting a base hit with all the variables that exist. Joey Bats’ BABIP in 2010? How about .233, the 3rd lowest among qualifying hitters that season. That’s really low. A trend like that probably can’t last forever, and so when he raised it to a little more normal .309, his line improves to .302/.407, along with many other advanced stats that you may evaluate an individual by (wOBA, wRC+, WAR, OPS+ )… also helped that his BB% went up 5.6%.
The opposite end of the spectrum? How about Ranger extraordinaire Josh Hamilton. His 2010 was MVP-worthy with his .359/.411/.633, with his 100 RBI probably playing in to the equation (you didn’t see it, but my eyes were rolling when discussing the RBI). It was a great season, no doubt about it. Injuries have been something of a bother for Hamilton so maybe he isn’t the one I should be targeting, but his BABIP that year was 2nd best at .390. For a hitter that was traditionally in the ballpark of .315-.333 BABIP, you had to figure his numbers would probably go down. Breaking news: they did, along with the BABIP to falling within the range of .317 and a line of .298/.346/.536 in 2011 in 121 games. BABIP could not have predicted his injuries, I will give you that though, for you super skeptics.
So who’s next to be on the upswing and/or the downswing based on their BABIP? Here are some players who were on top and at the bottom in 2011 (BABIP and rank in parenthesis) and why I think what I think:
Adrian Gonzalez (.380, T-1st) Can he give an encore to his welcoming party that was 2011 in a Red Sox uniform? He might still rack up the RBI, but his numbers will probably be slightly down for a guy who’s highest BABIP was .340 prior to coming to BeanTown.
Matt Kemp (.380, T-1st) The runner-up MVP may finally be realizing what he can do, like Adrian, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his numbers go down a little bit, but not by a lot at all. Gotta make sure that K% doesn’t keep rising, already above 20%, you could make a case he falls back to a .280/.350/.500-ish line I think he could pull off in his sleep.
Emilio Bonafacio (.372, 3rd) This is the guy I expect to fall to a batting average of the .250-.260 range after going .296/.360 in BA/OBP in 2011. Speedy, yes. He will get his opportunities, and is a career .339 BABIP, but if the bounces don’t go his way, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear grumbles from Miami.
Ian Kinsler (.243, 5th lowest) A career .282 BABIP, Kinsler with his .255/.355/.477 line should see a jump in 2012, as I just have too much blind confidence in him and as long as he stays free of distractions of tweeting CJ Wilson’s phone number, general fans of the game should buy that he’s “bounced back.”
Evan Longoria (.239, T-3rd lowest) A higher career than Kinsler at .301, .239 was impressively low for Longo, and while his higher BABIP won’t necessarily raise his HR total, fantasy managers should be happy with what he gives you from the not so awesome stadium that is Tropicana Field.
Mark Teixeira (.239, T-3rd lowest) An interesting trend with Tex as his BABIP has gone down by about 30 points in the last two years, if it went down 30 again, Yankee fans might actually start complaining about his batting average. They’d start comparing him to Adam Dunn and Dan Uggla. If he continues to look to mash the opposition, there might be an improvement in the line, but maybe just slightly below his career average of .281/.373/.532.
By the way…
Aubrey Huff was at a .271 BABIP in 2011, and .303 in 2010, career average of around .291. Good thing being in the best shape of his life will make him luckier. It actually might, if he can get his BB% up, as he might find he’ll get more pitches to hit.