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April 18, 2010

BP Unfiltered

Not Complaining About BABIP

by John Perrotto

Jay Bruce has the rudimentary understanding of sabermetrics and he grasps the concept of BABIP. However, the Reds right fielder declined the opportunity to write off his .223 batting average of 2009 to a poor BABIP.

"People have told me about it but you can't use it as an excuse," Bruce said. "Your batting average is what it is. I hit .223 last season."

Bruce's BABIP was an extraordinarily low .221 in 387 plate appearances in '09. The league average is usually around .300.

"I did feel like I hit in some tough luck last year," Bruce admitted. "But I don't know if I really did or not. I don't really get caught up in statistics. Ultimately, you just have to go out and perform. I did feel I had a productive season, though, despite the low batting average. I didn't go home feeling like I had a horrible season."

Bruce hit 22 home runs and had an outstanding .246 isolated power figure as he slugged .467. It was mentioned to Bruce that players who have low BABIPs usually regress to the mean the following season, meaning more balls should fall in for him in 2010.

Bruce smiled and had a slightly understandable skeptical look on his face. Bruce carried a .146 batting average into Sunday's game against the Pirates at PNC Park and his BABIP was just .191, albeit in the small sample size of 46 plate appearances.

"I hope you're right," Bruce said with a smile. "I could use a few hits."

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

Related Content:  Jay Bruce

3 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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BABIP has it's uses, but BP has taken to beating that drum way too often. Not necessarily in this blurb, but this is just what made me think of it. It was quite obvious in reading the annual that the writers are placing an emphasis on BABIP, and it's a shame. Relying on it to explain away a performance--Bruce, Kinsler, and Hamels come to mind--misses a LOT of what was going on with those players. You look at it and say that Bruce was unlucky, while a scout will look at Bruce and tell you that his approach at the plate is terrible and his swing produces too many fly balls. I really think BP needs to be more judicious in the way it uses BABIP.

Apr 18, 2010 12:55 PM
rating: 0
BP staff member Matt Swartz
BP staff

I think you might want to go back and check my series on Expected BABIP that I wrote a few weeks ago. It isn't really about explaining away performance, but there is a lot of luck involved and it can be a clue. In Jay Bruce's case, his infield pop up rate just wasn't high enough to justify such a low BABIP last year. His line drive rate was low, but those things tend to bounce back pretty quickly. Expected BABIP sees him as a .278 BABIP caliber hitter, which is below average but not extremely so. He loses points for having a swing that produces a lot of balls in the air, but his ability to hit for power negates a lot of that problem so that he's not so far below average. The kind of BABIP he had last year is the kind that you'd expect from a guy who has an uppercut but no power, not one with power. Bruce hits the ball too hard. In Hamels case, BABIP provided a clue that I analyzed a lot more thoroughly where it was just clear people weren't hitting the ball harder off of him. They were swinging and missing as much, fouling as much, hitting grounders/liners/flies/popups as much, and hitting the ball out of the infield just as much. BABIP provided the clue in that instance. Of course, it can't be the only tool but in the case of Hamels and even Bruce it's a pretty great way to get to the root of what changed.

Apr 18, 2010 16:47 PM

In particular, while pitchers have little persistent control over their BABIP, BABIP varies quite a bit for batters.

Apr 18, 2010 13:24 PM
rating: 1
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