Archive for BABIP

Adam Jones: Too Good to be True?

Posted in Offense with tags , , on May 7, 2013 by oriolesprovingground

Many Orioles have gotten off to a great start in 2013.  Last week we took a look at the hot start of Chris Davis, to determine if his success was due to good luck, or a change in approach.  This week, we’ll take a gander (thank you Microsoft Word thesaurus!)* at the hot start for Adam Jones, and see if we can answer the same question.

*just kidding, I don’t need Microsoft Word’s thesaurus to help me write anymore

As of May 6, Adam Jones is the owner of a very healthy triple slash line, which is sitting at .331/.360/.519 (AVG/OBP/SLG).  All of three are above the levels of his breakout 2012 season, when those statistics were also career highs.  Despite the .519 slugging percentage, he is hitting for slightly less power this year compared to less, as his ISO is currently 0.030 lower than it was in 2012.  Still, between last year and 2013’s great start, the Orioles front office and its fans are feeling pretty good about that extension Jones signed last year to stay with the team through 2018.

Similar to Davis, the first thing that jumps out about Adam Jones’ season so far is his extremely high BABIP, which is currently at .400 (career .320 BABIP), and ranked as the 7th highest in all of baseball (Chris Davis is ranked 17th).  While BABIP can be an indicator of good or bad luck, luck is not the only reason for a high or low BABIP.  As previously discussed in the Davis post, hitters who are fast and hit line drives have a better chance to maintain high BABIP’s.  Jones certainly has above average speed and his line drive rate is currently 3.3% above his career average.  However his 2013 LD% is basically the same as it was last year, when his BABIP was .313.

One reason being touted for Jones’ great start to the season has been his improvement when hitting with two strikes.  The numbers back this up, as Jones is hitting .302/.333/.476 with two strikes in 66 PA’s.  He also has an ABSURD .545 BABIP with two strikes.  Read that last sentence again.  In a count where the pitcher likely has a huge advantage, Jones getting hits on over half of the balls he puts in play.  In his career, Jones’ numbers with two strikes look a lot different, with a line of .211/.257/.329 and a BABIP of .331.  Even Chris Davis has a.228/.297/.491 line, with a BABIP of .409, is not even close to Jones’ two strike numbers in 2013.

While there is no reason why Jones will keep up his pace with two strikes, maybe he has changed his approach at the plate with two strikes through a shortened swing, better strikezone awareness, etc.  I have admittedly not watched enough Orioles games this year to make that claim one way or another, but the plate discipline numbers do not back this up.  Cue the table!

table

Jones is basically right around his career averages in the above plate discipline categories.  These numbers in addition to his current walk and strikeout rates don’t really show any sort of change in approach.  Jones has never been known to take a lot of walks, but so far in 2013, both rates are trending in the wrong direction (the blue line indicates league average).

BB Rate

BB Rate

K Rate

K Rate

Finally, before we finish up, let’s look at a couple players in the BABIP top ten with similar BB%, K%, and AVG/OBP/SLG as Jones…

compare

Any idea who those players might be?  Hint: it’s probably not who you were hoping for.

  • Player A is Chris Johnson, third baseman for the Atlanta Braves.  If his name sounds familiar, he was part of the package Arizona sent to the Braves with Justin Upton this past offseason.  Over the course of his career (1,400+ PA’s), he’s basically been your average hitter, with a career triple slash line (AVG/OBP/SLG) of .279/.318/.432.
  • Player B is Nick Hundley, catcher for the San Diego Padres.  Hundley has almost 1,500 major league PA’s in his career and has been a below average hitter, with a .242/.300/.397 line.
  • Player C is Starling Marte, left fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Marte has accumulated roughly a half season of PA’s in his two years in the majors and was one of the Pirates top prospects as recently as last year.  Scouts love his potential, but a lot believe he will never learn the plate discipline needed to reach it.  I don’t believe that it is unrealistic to say that Marte would be fortunate if his ceiling is Adam Jones type production, but he has a long road to get there.

If you don’t feel good about these players continuing to produce at those levels for the rest of the year, you shouldn’t, because it’s not likely that they will.  Unfortunately, the same can be said of Jones, especially since his plate discipline numbers indicate that his approach at the plate has not been any different this year than in previous years.  At some point, Jones’ balls in play will stop finding holes (especially with two strikes), and his numbers will regress to last year’s levels, or even closer to his career levels.

Chris Davis: Too Good to be True?

Posted in Offense with tags , , , on May 4, 2013 by oriolesprovingground

On Tuesday, Matt Kremnitzer over at Camden Depot took a look at the hot start to the season for Chris Davis, and came to the conclusion that his early season success can be attributed to his improved plate discipline.  Kremnitzer has a similar table in his piece, but take another look to see just how much Davis’ approach at the plate has improved so far this year, compared to his previous time with the Orioles (updated numbers for 2013).

Untitled

*2011 stats reflect Davis’ time with the Orioles only

Currently, Davis is sporting a triple slash line of .337/.438/.704, with a .467 wOBA (as of May 3rd).  Is he going to keep that up during the entire season?  Absolutely not!  But, as Kremnitzer pointed out in his piece, his improved approach at the plate is a very positive indicator that Davis has a good chance to continue his success over a sustained period of time.

However, before we start talking about Davis as a potential MVP candidate, there are some reasons to be skeptical of his hot start.  I bring this up not to be a “Debbie Downer”, but more to temper expectations.

The first (and easiest) indicator is with Davis’ BABIP, which is a lofty .387, despite a line drive rate that is currently a career low and roughly 3.5% below his career rate.  To put this into perspective, typically batters who hit a lot of line drives and/or are fast can sustain a high BABIP.  For example, Ichiro Suzuki has a career .347 BABIP, and Dexter Fowler (who is speedy) led the league in BABIP last year with .390.  He also happened to lead the league in LD% at 27.2%.  Davis is nowhere near as fast as Fowler and currently has a LD% of 19.7%.  However, the career BABIP of Chris Davis sits at .338, so even a regression to his career level won’t send his overall numbers off a cliff.  This is the good news.  Now here comes the bad news.

Chris Davis swings at fastballs down and in…and crushes them.  Check out the figure showing his SLG on fastballs over his career by zone, courtesy of Brooks Baseball and Baseball Prospectus (from catcher’s point of view).

SLG

You may say that’s not bad news, or even that it’s not news at all, but it sets up the bad news.  And that is that Chris Davis also swings at pitches that initially look like meaty fastballs down and in, but turn out to be breaking balls (curveballs and sliders) that dart out of the strikezone.  As a result, he DOES NOT crush them, and often times he misses them completely.  This time, our trusty figure shows his swing rate on breaking balls, again from the catcher’s point of view.

SWG

Pay special attention to the highlighted area out of the strikezone in the bottom right corner (pitches down and in to Davis) and make a mental note of how many times he swings at breaking balls there.  Now combine that swing percentage with the fact that he whiffs on breaking balls in that area more than 53% of the time (and 71.4% specifically in the zone on the bottom right).  Breaking balls thrown out of the strikezone down and in to Chris Davis is an undeniable weakness.

Let’s look at a few more figures, this time from 2013, courtesy of Texas Leaguers.  The first figure in each set shows pitch locations where Davis swung, while the second figure in each set shows pitch locations taken (again from the catcher’s point of view).  First, the sliders…

Sliders

Now, the curveballs…

Curveballs

For some reason, opposing pitchers haven’t thrown Davis many breaking balls down and in out of the strikezone this year.  I’m not sure why they wouldn’t throw breaking balls in that area with more frequency, other than the fear of making a mistake and getting punished (Davis will crush breaking balls that don’t find their way far enough inside).  Another potential reason could have something to do with the batters in front of Davis consistently getting on base, requiring pitchers to guard against the steal or a passed ball.  A pitch down and in to a left hander is a difficult spot for a catcher to receive, especially when trying to throw out a potential base stealer.

Chris Davis is off to an amazing start to the year and there are good reasons to believe that an improved approach at the plate is a bigger reason for it than plain old luck.  As the season progresses and pitchers throw more breaking balls out of the zone down and in to Davis, we’ll see if that improved approach includes laying off those pitches, giving us a better idea as to whether Davis is going to have another breakout year.

Glossary

Posted in Glossary, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on March 22, 2013 by oriolesprovingground

Below are some definitions for some statistics that I will refer to over the next couple of posts (and most future posts).  I’m going to assume that everyone is familiar with more traditional statistics such as OBP, SLG, ERA, etc, but not necessarily familiar with some of the newer sabermetric statistics that both of my grandfathers would probably hate (my Dad may even hate them as well…I’ll ask him and provide an update at a future time).  All of these definitions are taken directly from Fangraphs, and if you would like to investigate them further, head over to the Fangraphs library page for more detailed explanations, as well as how these statistics are calculated.

BABIP (Batting Average in Balls in Play)Batting Average on Balls in Play measures how many of a batter’s balls in play go for hits.  Typically around 30% of all balls in play fall for hits.  There are three main variables that can affect BABIP rates for individual players: Defense, Luck, and Changes in Talent Level.

wOBA (weighted On Base Average) – Weighted On-Base Average combines all the different aspects of hitting into one metric, weighting each of them in proportion to their actual run value. While batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage fall short in accuracy and scope, wOBA measures and captures offensive value more accurately and comprehensively.  It is set to the same scale as OBP, so league-average wOBA in a given year should be very close to the league-average OBP.

UBR (Ultimate Base Running) – Ultimate Base Running is FanGraph’s way of accounting for the value a player adds to their team via base running. This value is determined using linear weights, with each individual base running event receiving a specific run value.

WAR (Wins Above Replacement) – Wins Above Replacement is an attempt by the sabermetric baseball community to summarize a player’s total contributions to their team in one statistic.  WAR basically looks at a player and asks the question, “If this player got injured and their team had to replace them with a minor leaguer or someone from their bench, how much value would the team be losing?” This value is expressed in a wins format, so we could say that Player X is worth +6.3 wins to their team while Player Y is only worth +3.5 wins.

FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching)Fielding Independent Pitching measures what a player’s ERA should have looked like over a given time period, assuming that performance on balls in play and timing were league average.  FIP’s concept is based on the idea that pitchers have little control over balls hit in play.  A better way to assess a pitcher’s talent level is by looking at results a pitcher can control: strikeouts, walks, hit by pitches, and homeruns.  It is set to the same scale as ERA, so a league average FIP in a given year should be the same as the league average ERA.

UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) – Ultimate Zone Rating puts a run value to defense, attempting to quantify how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess (or lack thereof).  Components that make up UZR include outfield arm strength, infielder ability to turn the double play, the range of the fielder, and errors committed.  UZR/150 is UZR, scaled to 150 games.  As with any advanced defensive statistic, UZR contains a lot of uncertainty, especially in small sample sizes.