Thursday, September 03, 2009

Is Kung Fu Panda's high BABIP Sustainable? Part II

Someone on the other site questioned my premise that I then posted at my blog here, so I responded thusly:

Not as preposterous as trying to compare the BABIP for unique hitters with other unique hitters. Just because Vlad and Franchez couldn't hit with that high a BABIP doesn't mean that Sandoval can't. Each hitter's BABIP is unique unto themselves, they are all individuals.

If you are going to go the route of comparing players to determine whether a BABIP is sustainable, it would be better to find players who hit as well in the minors in terms of striking out as they did in the majors, and at a superior level, at least in their first year or so in the majors. I wouldn't know how to find these similar players easily, so that would not be an avenue of examination.

How did Other High BABIP Players' Careers Evolve?

Another way would be to see how comparable players did for their careers. Just because they don't or didn't hit for as high a BABIP as Sandoval, perhaps their career progression could be instructive regarding how their careers evolved. Of course, again, we don't know how to find players where they started off high then fell, so the assumption here is if Sandoval turned out to be a good hitter for his career, how did other good players perform in their later years.

Vlad had a .313 BABIP in his first half season, then a .331 BABIP in his first full season, which is .325 over the two seasons. His career BABIP right now is .319. So he has pretty much sustained it during his career, with it declining now as he has reached his 30's. For his 20's, after the initial two above seasons, it was .321. So while it was down in his 30's, it was not drastically down, at .316 BABIP.

Freddy Sanchez is different in that he didn't make the majors full time until much later in age. In his first full season plus partial of the previous season, his BABIP was .334. It is .323 for his career. He has sustained it thus far, minus a little.

Some have called him Fat Ichiro. Ichiro is different because he started his career in the majors very late because he was in Japan for his early years. His first season he had a .369 BABIP and it is .357 for his career. It was only .349 for all his 20's so he actually raised things a notch in his 30's, where his BABIP is now .362. He has basically sustained his BABIP for his career, like the others, but down about 1 percentage points (10 for BA).

I thought I would check some other good hitters of similar shape. Tony Gwynn in his first full season had a .351 BABIP, which appears to have led the league. That would suggest that Sandoval cannot sustain a .350 BABIP. Then again, Ichiro not only has sustained that, but raised things a notch in his 30's. Gwynn is a little different because he had two half seasons before becoming a full-time starter. I would also note that his career BABIP is .341, so he pretty much did sustain roughly .350 BABIP during his career, and in his 20's, after that great first season, it was .343 BABIP, which means it went down slightly in his 30's as well.

Thinking of a similar shaped player, Kirby Puckett came to mind. His first full for the most part) season he had a .337 BABIP. He had a .342 BABIP for his career, and a .351 BABIP for the rest of his 20's. He not only sustained it, but raised it a notch in his 20's.

So, generally, for these good hitters, their BABIP was roughly about what it was their first season, season and a half, with a slight decline of 5 to 10 points when viewed by career. They were all roughly about the same level whether in their 20's or in their 30's or their first season, season and a half, meaning that these hitters were able to be pretty consistent with their BABIPs across their career, with a decline in their 30's but nothing drastic.

Sidenote: OPS Comparision

I thought it would be interesting to see their OPS.

OPS first full season:

Sandoval: .939 today
VladimirG: .960
Franchez: .851
Ichiro: .838
T.Gwynn: .853
Kirby P.: .715

A thing I should note regarding this is that all of the above players started out AFTER Sandoval. Sandoval had his first full season at age 22. Vlad at 23. Franchez at 27 (not quite full but I'll use this). Ichiro at 27. Tony Gwynn at 24. Kirby Puckett at age 24. That would suggest that Sandoval could have some additional development as he reaches 23, 23, 27.

He's already changing within this season, he didn't walk that much his first two month, much like his two months last season, but in June to August, he boosted his walk rate about double was it was the first two months. He had 8 walks in 180 PA in the first two months, then he had 28 in 324 PA in the next three months. 4.4% vs 8.6%. Without IBB, 2.8% vs. 6.6%.

How Do Other Not As Good Players Careers Evolve?

I was curious how other more journeymen players might fare in examining their career BABIP.

Marquis Grissom had a .302 BABIP his first full season plus his half season before and a .295 BABIP for his career. .302 BABIP in his 20's after that, he had his first full season at age 24. Similar results as for the stars, BABIP does not vary that greatly between his initial success and his later career numbers.

Michael Tucker had a .321 BABIP for his first full season plus his half season before and a .304 BABIP for his career. .302 BABIP in his 20's after that, he had his first full season at age 26. Again, similar, but a bigger drop than others.

Jose Cruz Jr. had a weird start to his career. Three partial but significant seasons to start his career at age 23, before his first full season at age 26. Ironically, his BABIP was much higher in those seasons than in his first full one: .295 vs. .258. .289 in his 20's after first full season. .282 for his career.

Luis Gonzalez had his first pretty full season at age 23, 137 games, BABIP of .295 vs. career .291 BABIP. .288 BABIP for his 20's after his first full season.

I thought Nomar might be a good one to check, as his career started out great but fizzled out due to injuries in his 30's. .315 BABIP in his first full season at 23 with .875 OPS. .324 BABIP in his 20's after that. .290 BABIP in his 30's, .311 for his career. Looks like the injuries that affected him starting at age 30 caught up with him, along with his age.

That got me thinking of Nick Johnson, another injury prone player, and the odd thing with him is that his BABIP actually rose during his career. .291 in his first "full" season (he's never had a lot of full seasons because of his injuries, except 2005 and 2006, and now maybe this season). .312 BABIP in his 20's, then .346 this season, his 30 YO season. His BABIP in his two full seasons was .324. Probably not a good example because his injury marred seasons were more subject to small sample fluctuations that a full season normalizes. What a waste, he could have been some player without all those injuries, it appears.

Then I thought, maybe a player who did not have a long career but long enough, like Marvin Benard. .290 BABIP in his first full season at age 26. His career ended basically at 31, though he got scattered ABs after that. His career BABIP is .310, so again, about the same as his BABIP for his first season.

No Evidence that Pablo Cannot Sustain his BABIP

All in all, I am still unconvinced that Panda's rate of BABIP is unsustainable. Just because it is higher than other players who are similar hitters does not mean that he is resigned to falling down to their levels because each player is different. There have been players who were able to sustain a .350 BABIP, though they were the best of the best, and it remains to be seen whether Pablo is in their league.

Looking at a variety of different hitters, while BABIP does vary greatly from year to year, a hitter's BABIP is generally around what it was in his first full season, season and a half, for his 20's and for his 30's with a drop in his later years. Of course, this is not random, so perhaps I'm just missing something. Still, that is a pretty good mix of players, and most of the them are around what they did in their early years.

Still, that does not mean Pablo will necessarily continue his high BABIP. Just that I couldn't find evidence. Perhaps someone with better means than manual examination can find a way to examine this.

1 comment:

  1. I think Nick Johnson is currently on the DL. Not sure what you would consider a full season for a guy who gets hurt so much...

    ReplyDelete

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