These junior-circuit hurlers had elevated BABIPs last year, but was it all because of bad luck?
As we learned in the NL iteration of this exercise, BABIP affects bad and good pitchers alike, but that doesn’t mean it is pure luck. Team defense, ground-ball rates and the ability to miss bats all factor in to a pitcher’s likelihood of retaining a low BABIP, decreasing a high BABIP or just producing consistent a consistent BABIP year-to-year.
Below are the top five BABIP affected pitchers in the American League from 2013. While one has since been sent to the National League, there’s reason to believe that four of the five have the ability to be better this year than they were last year. Then there’s Joe Saunders.
These five starters saw a lot of the balls hit against them land for hits, but was it bad luck or a sign of things to come?
A lot of the time, batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is used as a shorthand for luck, and while that can be the case, it’s not necessarily the case. Today I’m going to look at the top five BABIP pitchers in the National League with a minimum of 150 innings pitched to see what, if anything, connects them, and if that means there is hidden value in these players.
Mike reexamines how much you should factor in a player's BABIP this year when forecasting his performance for next year.
Every offseason, there is a hitter or two who is dubbed as a poor bet for next year because of an extremely high BABIP. While the warnings are usually valid, they are often vague and don’t give us enough information. Should we avoid a hitter entirely because of a high BABIP? Or are there circumstances where a strong BABIP hitter might be a decent investment the following season?
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.
Jose Iglesias has a .507 BABIP this year. This article is not about that BABIP, exactly, but we are starting there. Iglesias entered the season with a .164 career BABIP in the majors, and a .300 BABIP in the minors, and a reputation as the best defensive shortstop in baseball, with a bat that might be just weak enough to support that glove. Finding out Jose Iglesias has a .507 BABIP is like finding out that Chin-lung Hu quietly signed with the Pirates and hit 14 home runs in May. Anyway, like I said, this article isn't about that BABIP.
A year ago, we did a blind BABIP test for a Jake Peavy start; 20 balls put in play, 10 were hits, and you tried to guess which were which based on all the information you could collect up to the point of contact. Gosh, did you ever do terribly. Given a 50 percent chance of guessing the correct answers blindly, you collectively got 52 percent of the answers correct. But maybe that wasn't fair; maybe focusing on the pitcher (who, as we know, controls his BABIP only a little bit) is a doomed exercise. Hitters control their BABIP some bit more than that. So maybe we should be focusing on the batter, looking to see if he's balanced and putting a good swing on the ball or flailing, jammed, late, or on top of the ball. So what happens if we do this from the batter's perspective? Will we be any better? I suspect... well, honestly, I don't know.
Ben and Sam discuss whether a pitcher's body language can cost him strikes, whether it's worth trading for relievers early in the season, a study about perceptions of steroid use, and whether a low BABIP is always unlucky.
A Scutaro hot streak and slump explain why the "good luck" and "bad luck" narratives don't always make sense.
Some players’ stat pages are interesting for any number of reasons. Others are nondescript, save for a single defining stat that stands out so much more than all the others that you quickly come to associate the player with that particular category. Marco Scutaro is a “single stat” guy.
Scutaro’s defining characteristic is that he makes more contact than anyone else. When someone says “Marco Scutaro” 10 years from now, you won’t think about that one time he led the league in sac flies, which his black ink would have us believe was the only time he led the league in anything. You might remember his unusual career arc: a utility guy throughout his 20s who “clearly was put on Earth to be a reserve,” according to Baseball Prospectus 2006, Scutaro bloomed late and became an above-average starter at shortstop in his early- to mid-30s. But mostly you’ll remember that his bat touched the ball on roughly 95 percent of his swings, and that he cut down on his K’s as his career went on while the rest of the league’s strikeout rate rose.
What can we learn about hitting from a pitcher with five career hits?
As you know, pitchers seem to demonstrate a small amount of control over their BABIPs, and hitters seem to demonstrate a larger amount of control over their BABIPs. Within reason, at least. No active player has a career BABIP below .244, and no active player has a career BABIP higher than .368, unless you lower the plate appearance threshold to something too low to be significant.
But if you lower the plate appearance threshold to something too low to be significant, then you get to include everybody, including pitchers. Your BABIP if you played baseball would likely be null, because you wouldn’t put any BIP. But if you did put some BIP, your BABIP would be something ridiculously low, like .098 or something absurd.