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June 19, 2013

BP Unfiltered

Blind BABIP Results: You Suck

by Sam Miller

When we did the Blind BABIP test for Jake Peavy last year, we were collectively sliiiiightly better than random guesses. So slight that it was hard to pat ourselves on the back, but better all the same. When we did the Blind BABIP test for Jose Iglesias, we were quite a bit worse than random guesses. On average, each of you got 4.45 answers correct out of 10. It's one thing to say baseball is hard to crack. It's another to say that baseball is actively misleading us, and yet that's the case. Given more information, we do a worse job of figuring out what is going on than if we had no information.

As with the pitching challenge, it's important to note that the distribution of correct and incorrect guesses makes it clear that we aren't guessing randomly; if we were, we'd expect something like 50 percent right on each one. On the first one—which I, mistakenly, declared the hardest one—64 percent of you got it right. That's the highest success rate. On no. 7, meanwhile, just 11 percent got it right.

(I should note, incidentally, that one person—TyTheLip—got all 10 correct. Nobody else got more than seven correct, and only two got even that many, so I'll leave it to you to judge the validity of this slate of guesses. TyTheLip's prediction that he would get 10 is, I assume, a wink at us all, so by my reckoning he was just having a bit of fun, bless his heart.)

So what of no. 1 and no. 7, the outliers? Here's no. 1:

The out is on the left; Iglesias, a little late and a little jammed, popped out to right field. The hit is on the right. I would have guessed the hit was on the left. In the still, Iglesias looks perfectly balanced and prepared to dash a line drive off to right field, though I probably underestimated how late he was on the ball. On the right, Blanton misses his target (and is Blanton) but still ends up with a pretty good pitch, a fastball right at the corner and not too much above the knees. Further, Iglesias is trying to pull it. If he tries to pull it, my guess is he grounds out to shortstop.

Well, he did. He grounded it out to shortstop. He grounded it out there, but didn't ground out there, because he beat it out for an infield single. This is the one you all predicted best, and frankly I call BS on you all. There's no way anybody saw this and said "weakly hit to shortstop, that's got to be the hit right there."

Louispupu helpfully broke down just exactly what he thought happened, which is helpful in assessing intent. Here's what he said for this one:

1L out, pop up to catcher or weak comebacker to pitcher

1R hit, line drive over the 1st baseman

He basically got the one on the left right, though the pop up did travel a bit further than that. Maybe that's what it comes down to; Iglesias, you all saw, was beaten by Kohn's fastball, and that's as far as you needed to look. If so, you were right. Here's no. 7:

I didn't give you the screengrabs on this one. I wanted to see whether the screengrabs helped, and apparently they did: the three without screengrabs induced the sixth, eighth, and 10th most successful guess rates. I agree with the consensus that the hit should be the one on the right; it's a little curveball that stays up just enough, and that Iglesias times well. In fact, he grounded out to third base. Ground outs to third base might be the ultimate BABIP screw you. There's virtually no difference between groundballs to third base and groundballs just past third base. In this case, Manny Machado fielded it and threw Iglesias out.

The pitch on the left, meanwhile, is a high fastball, out of the zone and almost certainly too quick for Iglesias to catch up on. And he doesn't! He pops to right field and the ball simply drops into no-man's land. Let's note, while we're here, that in the first example we talked about, we had a pop-up to right field and a grounder to the left side; in this example, we have a pop-up to right field and a grounder to the left side. The hits were swapped, though. This is seriously impossible, what we're doing. It seems like it should be possible; we know what good hitting looks like, and we know what good pitching looks like; but we don't totally know, or even mostly know, and then you throw seven scoops of luck onto every play. Impossible.

(Louiepupu got pretty close to nailing it, though of course he got the answer wrong: "7L out, pop up to 1st base; 7R hit, line drive to left")

No. 6, which 39 percent of you got right, was probably the most difficult to get if you knew exactly how each ball was hit. The out was a line drive smoked to third base; the hit was a simple grounder that got past the third baseman. More detailed descriptions of each set:

  1. Left F9; right infield hit, shortstop (64 percent correct answers)
  2. Left infield hit; right 4-3 groundout (25 percent)
  3. Left line drive single off glove of diving right fielder; right fly out, hit very hard to left field warning track (30 percent)
  4. Left 6-3 groundout; right soft line drive to right field (55 percent)
  5. Left infield single dribbled down third-base line; right F3 (57 percent)
  6. Left line drive out to third base; right single between short and third (39 percent)
  7. Left popped up single to right field; right 5-3 groundout (11 percent)
  8. Left line out to second base; right double off base of wall, left-field corner (59 percent)
  9. Left 4-3 groundout; right line drive off Green Monster (61 percent)
  10. Left line drive double over first base, right 1-3 weak groundout (45 percent)

Yes, there were some clips in which we guessed better than random chance, but never was the answer so obvious that we really whomped it. In conclusion, we are awful.

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

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