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November 29, 2007

Schrodinger's Bat

Always Increasing

by Dan Fox

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"Software is like entropy. It is difficult to grasp, weighs nothing, and obeys the second law of thermodynamics; i.e. it always increases."
-Norman R. Augustine

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About a month ago in this space I introduced a new version of the Balls In Play Charting software for Windows, affectionately known in these parts as the "BIPChart". Some may recall that the application provides five years' worth of batted ball data for every hitter and pitcher in the game, broken down by hit type (popup, flyball, groundball, and line drive) and vector (left, center, and right) to which the ball was hit (actually, primarily by whom it was fielded). After the release I received some feedback from loyal readers indicating that something was a bit amiss with several of the spray charts. I also received some great feedback for improvements from Tom Tango (among others), so in my abundant spare time I've been fiddling around with the software, as well as letting entropy do its part. The result is that this week I give you-drum roll please-the latest incarnation of BIPChart, version 2.5.

Features and Fixes

Let's get right to the new features and bug fixes.

  • Yet Another Chart. It occurred to me that in viewing the application there wasn't a display that showed a spray chart for all the balls of any hit type for a given hitter or pitcher. By expanding the window size a bit I was able to add the new spray chart to the bottom left-hand corner, as shown below circled in red:

    chart 1

    This allows you to view a hitter from an overall perspective. As in the example here, note that in 2007 Moises Alou pulled over 56 percent of the balls he hit fair, while just one in five were fielded on the right side of the diamond. On the other hand, going from left to right Ichiro Suzuki went 38.4 percent, 26.8 percent, and 34.9 percent, ranking him as a true spray hitter.

  • What's New?. The other major change on the main window appears in the upper right-hand corner where an auto-rotating banner continuously scrolls through the latest articles published here on Baseball Prospectus:

    chart 2

    Each time you start the application it will check our site for the latest list, download it to the folder in which the application is installed (by default, C:\Program Files\DanAgonistes\BIPChart v2.5) and display it through the control. If you don't have internet connectivity, the title "New At Baseball Prospectus…" will be visible, but no new stories will appear, although it will display the last successfully retrieved list. You'll have to exit the application and restart in order to refresh the list.

    If you tire of watching a scrolling list you can also turn off the news banner by using the View menu, as shown here:

    chart 3

    Your selection will be saved, so when you exit and restart the application it will remember to keep the banner hidden. It can be reactivated using the menu. The software will, however, continue to attempt to download new article lists when possible, so you'll have the latest set if and when you turn it back on.

  • cBA and cSlug. If you look closely at the first figure above, you'll notice that within each of the ball fields things have changed slightly. First, what was called BABIP or Batting Average on Balls in Play has changed to cBA (for Contact Batting Average) in the field in the upper left-hand corner of the window that includes the totals. I decided to make this change since what I was calling BABIP was slightly different than the more general meaning of that term, as my version included home runs. Contact Batting Average includes all forms of contact including home runs, so a slugger will typically have a high cBA on fly balls, especially to his pull field. For example, David Ortiz in 2007 had a cBA of .571 on fly balls pulled to the right side.

    Second, I've now included cSlug (for Contact Slugging Percentage) to indicate the slugging percentage for a hitter (or pitcher) on all contacted balls. As you might guess, these numbers vary wildly. Slugging percentage on groundballs for all left-handed hitters from 2003 through 2007 was just .200, while for flyballs it was 1.155, and for line drives 1.063. Having this information allows you to look at how hitters may have changed through time. Jimmy Rollins is a case in point, where the chart shows us that from 2006 to 2007 he picked up 200 points of slugging percentage on both sides of the plate when hitting balls the opposite way, whereas Mark Teahen went from slugging .811 on flyballs to the opposite field in his "breakout year?" of 2006 to slugging just .395 in 2007, and was similarly disappointing on line drives.

    In the Totals field in the upper left you'll notice that cBA and cSlug are displayed for each hit type and listed with a slash between them following each type, i.e. cBA/cSlug. Both values are also displayed in each of the spray charts with cBA listed directly above cSlug, as is shown here for Teahen's flyballs in 2007.

    chart 4

    The actual number of balls hit to the specific vector are included directly under the percentage.

  • Accounting for Home Runs. The biggest bug that was squashed in this release was accounting for home runs in the flyball and liner spray charts. In the previous release I had neglected to consider that our play-by-play data does not record the fielder who fielded the ball on a home run (that would seem obvious, wouldn't it?), so the cBA values were skewed for those charts. That issue has now been corrected. My thanks to the several readers who noticed it early on.
  • Aggregate and Export. There have also been a few changes made to the new Grid Display window that you can invoke from the button on the main form. This window displays each season for the hitter or pitcher for each batter hand. This time around, two new columns to record the number of contact plate appearances (cPA) as well as cSlug have been added; BABIP has been renamed to cBA, per above. In addition, a totals row was added to the bottom so that you can see the aggregated values going back to 2003, as is shown in the following example for the MVP-less Matt Holliday:

    chart 5

    Finally, in case you weren't already aware of it, by clicking on the empty cell in the upper left-hand corner of the grid, the entire grid will be selected. Hitting CTRL-C will then copy the contents of the grid to the Windows clipboard in a tab-delimited table (yes, even including the column headers, Tom) suitable for pasting into your favorite spreadsheet or blog post (with the requisite credit no doubt).

    While on the subject of data, several readers have asked about manipulating the raw data. The data the application uses to make all of the calculations is installed with the software in the folder mentioned above. The hitters data is included in the power.csv file, and pitcher data in the pitcher.csv file, both comma-delimited, which can both be imported into Excel for your personal use. There are column headers in the file which should be self-explanatory.

  • A Little Help Please. Finally, each of the controls on the screen now support balloon tool tips that will pop up if you hover over the control, and which provide a brief explanation of what you're seeing, as illustrated below:

    chart 6

Install and Enjoy

So there it is. You can download the new version from this link, and keep in mind that it requires the Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0 runtime. If the framework is not already installed on your Windows computer the installation program for BIPChart should prompt you to download it and take you to the site, after which you can proceed. If you find you have to download the .NET Framework separately, you can do so from here. If you have a previous version installed, this version will not uninstall the first, so you may want to go the Control Panel "Add/Remove Programs" on your computer and uninstall the previous version before installing this one.

As always keep the comments and ideas for future upgrades coming, and enjoy.

Related Content:  CBA

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Premium Article Transaction Analysis S... (11/28)
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