July 6, 2012
The Blind BABIP Test
If we want to evaluate a pitch, there are few things we can focus on. We can look at the qualities of the pitch itself as it moves toward home plate, including movement, pitch type, and location. We can look at the catcher's glove, to see how much it moves from its target. We can look at the batter, to see how balanced he is as he swings at it. And we can look at the result: hit, out, stung, dribbled. I have a theory, which is that we (non-scouts) are mostly unable to make much of the first, second and third ways. That, mostly, we only remember the fourth.
So what follows is an experiment. I don't know what the point of this experiment is or what it will show. I don't know the best way to conduct this experiment. This might be an experiment I revisit in a better form someday in the future. But the experiment is simple, and I think it will be interesting, and I can't wait.
Last week, Jake Peavy started a game against the Twins. It was a kind of a classic BABIP-buster game. He struck out seven and walked one; he didn't allow a home run. But he gave up 10 hits and three runs, and he took the loss. Twins batters put 20 balls in play, and 10 became hits. This raises the question of whether BABIP failed Peavy, or whether Peavy failed BABIP, and whether these hits were his fault. So I've created GIFs of these 20 pitches. One was a bunt, and one had bad camera work, so 18 GIFs. Nine hits, nine outs. The twist is that you get to see only up to the frame just before the ball is hit, which means the ball is, at the very most, within eight feet of the batter. You don't get to see the result. You get to see three of the four pieces of evidence, but not the fourth. (I'll also give you the count, and a description of the previous pitch, so you'll have a sliver of sequencing information.) Can you identify the hits?
Each pair below has an out and a hit. Write down your guesses and leave them in the comments, or send them to me by clicking the email button below, or send me a tweet at @sammillerbp. You can simply list the guesses ("The hits are on the 1. Left 2. Right 3. Right" etc). Or you can give me more specific guesses of what you think happened and your explanations of why you think this; I will be fascinated by all information I get out of this, and every response is valuable. Once I have a bunch of guesses, I'll pop back in and add the answers to the bottom of this page, and we'll see how we all did. I don't really have a hypothesis for how this will go, but I think it will say something about a) pitching or b) observation or c) BABIP. Here we go!
1. Pitch on the left came on a 1-1 pitch after a swinging strike on an outside slider. Pitch on the right came on the first pitch of the at-bat.
2. Pitch on the left came on a 1-2 pitch after a low two-seamer for a called strike. Pitch on the right came on the first pitch of the at-bat.
3. Pitch on the left came on the first pitch of the at-bat. Pitch on the right came on a 2-2 pitch after an inside slider for a ball.
4. Pitch on the left came on a 2-2 pitch after a two-seamer outside. Pitch on the right came on a full count after a slider low and outside.
5. Pitch on the left came on a 2-0 pitch after a two-seamer outside. Pitch on the right came on a 1-2 pitch after a fastball high and away.
6. Pitch on the left came on a 1-0 pitch after a fastball low and away. Pitch on the right came on a 1-2 pitch after a slider away.
7. Pitch on the left came on an 0-1 pitch after a slider taken for a strike. Pitch on the right came on a 1-2 pitch after a slider low and away.
8. Pitch on the left came on a 2-1 pitch after a changeup low and away. Pitch on the right came on a 1-1 pitch after a fastball up and away.
9. Pitch on the left came on a full count, after a changeup outside. Pitch on the right came on a 2-2 pitch, after a fastball taken inside.
[Update: I've got to do some tallying, so I'll report back on Monday. Sorry to make you all wait. The responses have been great.]