Last night was one of those games that really messes with your WPA totals, since there were so many crucial situations from the 8th inning on. We’ll get to that later this week, but today I want to look at two batting stats: line drive percentage (LD%) and batting average on balls in play (BABIP).
BABIP is one of the first places that many sabermetric analysts will look when they’re searching for a reason for a player’s good or bad performance. If a hitter is getting lots of hits on balls in play, there’s a chance he’s just getting lucky. The reverse is also true: if a hitter is putting the ball in play, but he can’t buy a hit, he might be due for some improvement.
Voros McCracken’s DIPS were revolutionary in the sabermetric realm because of the suggestion that pitchers have a limited amount of control over balls in play. As far as I know, the jury’s still out on how much control hitters have. Like pitchers, hitters typically have a certain “spread” of the three major batted ball types: ground balls, line drives, and fly balls. Grounders and flies are turned into outs most of the time, but line drives mostly fall for hits. As a result, a hitter’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is somewhat dependent on his ability to hit line drives. There are exceptions (speedsters do a little better on ground balls, etc), but overall that relationship is more or less true.
So today, our chart shows the Braves’ hitting performance in terms of both LD% and BABIP. Generally, a player’s BABIP will follow this formula: BABIP = LD% + .12. (Looking at this year’s stats league-wide, it looks more like LD% + .11, but that’s pretty close.) So you can see who might be getting a bit lucky so far (Schafer) and who might be due for more hits (Johnson, Anderson).
Stats are through Sunday’s game.
I never would have guessed that Anderson was hitting 25% line drives, but he’s probably due for a decent batting average improvement. He’s still a pretty marginal player even when he’s hitting .290.
KJ is making good contact this year, just like he always does (on average, at least), so there’s no reason to believe he won’t improve to at least a .270 average and an OPS around .800.
Schafer actually wasn’t that lucky on balls in play, but no one on the Braves has really been lucky, at least not using this comparison. Now, if you wanted to argue that David Ross won’t keep hitting line drives 27% of the time, I probably wouldn’t fight much. That would be a 50% improvement on his career average, which is completely unrealistic.