The Mockingbird

Last Post About BABIP Ever I Swear To God

with 16 comments

Seeing that I don’t even have the time to wrap up the rather interesting stuff that I’ve been working on for months, I think this blog is just going to become a depository for completely ridiculous statistical statements this season, as was its original intention. So here weeee goooooo! Arash Madani, are you freaking kidding me?

Anthony Gose’s ascension to the big-leagues was fast. His progress in the show –15 stolen bases and a batting average of .340 with balls in play through 56 games with Toronto last season — was encouraging.

As I’ve ranted, BABIP is interesting for pitchers, and almost completely useless and/or misleading for everyone else. Having a high BABIP is equally likely due to a low contact rate (or luck — HR hurt it, too). If you take huge cuts and strike out instead of making weak contact on every 2 strike count, congrats! Your BABIP goes up! (Isn’t this just a terrific modern stat?) Obviously Madani trying to imply that this means Gose’s speed means he often reaches base when he does put the ball in play, but the real reason is that if Gose’s AB were extrapolated over an entire season, he would have struck out the 5th most times in major-league history (with only Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds above him). Ummm, yeah…that’s highly encouraging for a powerless slap hitter with great speed…totally…

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Written by halejon

March 9, 2013 at 3:22 am

Posted in Seriousness

16 Responses

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  1. Well, 190 PA isn’t enough to establish a clear idea of true-talent BABIP, but Gose’s .340 last season still is promising. BABIP isn’t the whole story, of course, but it’s important. Not “completely useless and/or misleading.” It’s helpful to have some indication if Gose is more likely to fall in the Ichiro group of high-BABIP speedsters or the less impressive Ozzie Smith group (career .279 BABIP).

    Yes, Gose needs to cut down on the strikeouts, and has a fair ways to go; but that doesn’t mean his BABIP is meaningless.

    Gabriel Syme

    March 9, 2013 at 5:33 am

    • But it’s no indication of that at all. Tell any hitter to just strike out when he gets to 2 strikes instead of even trying to make contact and he’ll have an relatively high BABIP to go with a ludicrous K rate. You can’t have it both ways and say “well, he strikes out at an insane rate but at least his BABIP is good” because they are basically the same thing. If he can get his contact rate up to a major-league level, then we can talk about what BABIP says about the quality of that contact/his speed, but until then it’s not a positive sign for the future at all. It’s a false signal, even worse than meaningless.

      halejon

      March 9, 2013 at 10:51 am

      • No, they are not the same thing by any stretch. As far as I’m aware, there’s basically no correlation between K% and BABIP. It’s not even clear to me that your causal chain is valid for a speedster like Gose; one could argue that taking a more defensive approach with two strikes is likely to increase the number of ground balls and balls hit to the opposite field: both of which tend to have result in a higher BABIP. The thing that is most likely to be adversely affected is his ISO. Even presuming your causal link is sound, a .340 BABIP with his flawed approach is a better indicator than if he’d posted a league-average BABIP with the same appoach.

        If Gose adjusts his approach, could his true-talent BABIP change? Sure, but that’s speculative, and we don’t even have a compelling reason to think his BABIP would drop.

        There’s a fair bit of hope that even absent a change in his approach, Gose will be able to reduce his strikeout rate. His SwStr% while high (at 11.5%), isn’t stratospheric, and he did show good plate discipline. Young players tend to improve their contact rates a little, so there’s some hope his SwStr% will come down a little through normal development.

        Gabriel Syme

        March 10, 2013 at 3:23 am

      • Gose has to change his 2-strike approach/results to replace some of those strikeouts with more balls in play or else he will not play in the majors. Those 2-strike balls in play will come with a lower BABIP that the ones he puts in play in other counts. That will drive his BABIP down. It’s not speculative at all.

        It doesn’t matter how well you slap balls to the left side on 2 strikes. It’s always going to affect your BABIP more negatively than just K’ing and forgetting you ever got in that hole to begin with (for the sake of your BABIP only).

        halejon

        March 10, 2013 at 5:30 am

      • Those 2-strike balls in play will come with a lower BABIP that the ones he puts in play in other counts. That will drive his BABIP down. It’s not speculative at all.

        Look, your suggestion is plausible, but there are some problems. Firstly, in Gose’s case, his BABIP in two-strike counts was in fact lower than his overall BABIP (.317 v .340 overall). A lower BABIP in two-strike counts is generally the case, but to a lesser extent than Gose showed. So we should probably expect regression to the mean, not a greater divergence. Your claim rested on the idea that Gose was somehow artificially inflating his BABIP due to his two-strike approach. The evidence does not demonstrate that at all.

        As for speculative, I note that the overall numbers for BABIP by count do show a two-strike disadvantage; but since the difference isn’t large (roughly .008) and we don’t have a breakdown by handedness and SPD score, it’s entirely possible that fast left-handed hitters see a positive differential. That’s admittedly speculative; but so is the claim that such hitters would mirror the general trend.

        Gabriel Syme

        March 11, 2013 at 6:51 pm

      • No…my argument is that you can’t crow about a high BABIP paired with a ludicrous contact rate. Under all the statistical mumbo-jumbo, BABIP is nothing but an attempt to evaluate quality of contact once contact has been made. For most major league hitters, their contact rate is close to average, or set in stone, so you can put on the blinkers and separate the two as long as you really think about it means. Doesn’t work for evaluating prospects whose rate is off the chart or has to change. As soon as we get down to count BABIP, it’s the sample sizes that are meaningless. Gose’s particular 189 AB are not the point — I was just trying to use the 2-strike thought experiment to demonstrate how easy it is to come up with a situation where your BABIP is positively influenced by things that are the exact opposite of encouraging signs for a hitter. And even still, it applies…more 2-strike contact at the .317 rate will drive his overall .340 rate down, even if not quite as much as if the spread was more typical.

        If you’re trying to say that Gose’s BABIP with two-strikes is going to “regress” upwards since there’s typically a greater divergence between it and overall BABIP, I am calling the SABR police. You can’t just pick out one number from all this fog and cast “regression” at it. The statistical principle does not apply and there’s just nothing of value you can say using those numbers. This is a major peeve of mine — it’s all the rage, and online SABR types have somehow got the idea that all numbers are universally magically attracted back to league average. The real meaning of regression and when you can apply it is much more subtle.

        I could break it down by handedness if you’re really interested, but the idea doesn’t make logical sense to me. If left-handed speedsters had a higher BABIP, (i.e. were having more success with 2-strike contact), it would mean something was wrong with their approach and they should always be in the desperately-defending-the-plate-from-pitchers-pitches mindset. I dig that guys like Gose are going to have a somewhat better BABIP with 2 strikes than the rest of the league because they can beat out lousy contact to the left side, etc, but higher than in their own hitter’s counts? No.

        halejon

        March 11, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      • my argument is that you can’t crow about a high BABIP paired with a ludicrous contact rate.

        Well, my argument was simply that Gose’s .340 BABIP last year tells us something positive, even if it isn’t hugely significant. I’m happy to disagree on the degree of significance. And while Gose’s contact rate is pretty bad, it would have only been 15th worst in the Majors among qualifiers last year. There are players who succeed with Gose’s contact rate; the problem is that they all hit for power, and Gose does not.

        As for the regression I referred to, I should perhaps made clearer said that we should expect the differential to regress, not the two-strike average. Perhaps I’m misusing the term, but my understanding of regression is that it’s simply a means of estimating true-talent by using what we know about baseball players in general to adjust our expectations. In Gose’s case we know that he had a ~.040 BABIP differential in 189 PA last year, and we know the average player has a ~.008 differential. Absent additional information, we should expect Gose’s true talent in this area to be more likely below a ~.040 differential than above it.

        If left-handed speedsters had a higher BABIP, (i.e. were having more success with 2-strike contact), it would mean something was wrong with their approach and they should always be in the desperately-defending-the-plate-from-pitchers-pitches mindset.

        This doesn’t seem likely to be the case. Even low-power left-handed hitters would likely be sacrificing a significant amount of what power they do have, and this would make them worse-off, even if they received a fairly significant BABIP gain. There would also be knock-on effects: lower power would probably mean pitchers would throw more strikes, resulting in fewer favourable counts. It might also be difficult for many hitters to adopt a two-strike approach in earlier counts without also expanding the strike zone; and an expanded strike zone would increase the problem of falling into unfavourable counts.

        It would be interesting to know if there’s a difference in two-strike BABIP differential by handedness; but it’s certainly not terribly important. Thanks as always for the interesting thoughts- I always find your writing stimulating, even when I disagree in part.

        Gabriel Syme

        March 11, 2013 at 9:30 pm

      • You lost me. In that paragraph I mean if someone had a higher BABIP in 2-strike counts, it would mean they were doing something wrong and need to change their approach.

        halejon

        March 12, 2013 at 1:29 am

      • Sorry if I was unclear. If someone had a higher BABIP in 2-strike counts, I don’t think that would necessarily mean that they should use the same kind of approach outside of 2-strike counts.

        Three reasons: most players sacrifice power for contact with two strikes; you lose ISO in exchange for on-base percentage. Such an exchange may make sense with two strikes, but probably won”t make sense earlier in the count. Secondly, with less power in evidence, pitchers would probably try to throw more strikes to the hitter, which would mean the hitter would end up in fewer hitter’s counts. Thirdly, most two-strike approaches expand the strike-zone; it might be difficult for hitters to adopt their two-strike swing earlier in the count without also expanding their strike-zone, which would also result in fewer hitter’s counts.

        Hope that’s somewhat helpful.

        Gabriel Syme

        March 12, 2013 at 2:14 am

      • Not really…you keep bringing in complications instead of responding to my broader points. BABIP reflects the quality of contact being made. If that was for any reason higher in 2-strike counts, i.e, if a player was making better contact in 2-strike counts then otherwise, then there is something terribly wrong with his approach. He’s not making any effort to avoid strikeouts or something. Think about it for a second. It does not make sense in any way that anyone in the universe, no matter how fast they are, what side of the plate they hit from, etc, etc, would hit the ball better/harder/more successfully in 2-strike counts compared to all those juicy 3-1′s, etc. I’m not going to wade into these fancy effects you’re seeing if someone had to ‘change their approach’ because there is just no way to argue against contact on 2 strikes being of a fundamentally lower quality for every hitter imaginable.

        halejon

        March 12, 2013 at 2:53 am

      • BABIP reflects the quality of contact being made. If that was for any reason higher in 2-strike counts, i.e, if a player was making better contact in 2-strike counts then otherwise, then there is something terribly wrong with his approach.

        So, hopefully I understand where we are misunderstanding each other. Your first statement, while mostly true, isn’t entirely true. Fly-ball hitters tend to have lower BABIPs than ground-ball hitters, but this doesn’t mean the quality of their contact is worse. More to the point, I was suggesting that for swift left-handed hitters, hitting more ground balls to the left side (as one can imagine resulting from a defensive swing) may result in a higher BABIP, even though overall quality of contact declines. It was this hypothetical group I had in mind in the above discussion.

        Gabriel Syme

        March 12, 2013 at 3:24 am

      • BABIP between groups is a whole different kettle of fish than it is for one individual on 2 strikes and not. And everyone sacrifices fly balls for grounders on 2 strikes; it doesn’t come close in terms of effect on BABIP to having to face pitchers’ pitches.

        halejon

        March 12, 2013 at 5:40 am

  2. I’m fine with whatever you use this blog for, Jon. Always making me a slightly smarter and more critical baseball fan.

    dlbno

    March 9, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    • Thanks. That is my only aim and the highest compliment. We learn together.

      halejon

      March 10, 2013 at 2:44 pm

  3. [...] The Mockingbird, Jon Hale rants about BABIP and scoffs at the hitting potential of Anthony [...]

  4. completely ridiculous statistical statements should be banned. Or this create problems between us.Having a high BABIP should now be required by any of the players.

    Dorothy Mcneil

    July 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm


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