Friday, May 08, 2015

Your 2015 Giants: xBABIP

BABIP is Batting Average on Balls In Play, and every hitter has their own level of skill in maintaining that batting average.  People could periodically try to develop an estimator.  Someone associated with Fangraphs gave it a try (here is the article) using BIS batted ball data.  The idea is that tying the likely results given where and how a ball is hit to develop what should have happened given the batted ball would give us a better idea of the underlying BABIP skill of the hitter.  The author provided a link in his article to the data, and below is my thoughts on Giants players and select NL West hitters.

ogc thoughts

Brandon CrawfordGiants0.2590.330-0.071
Buster PoseyGiants0.2750.284-0.009
Nori AokiGiants0.3370.341-0.004
Joe PanikGiants0.3240.325-0.001
Angel PaganGiants0.4040.3380.066

According to the analysis, the big surprise is that Crawford has been hitting much better than his results so far.  But so far, people have been very happy with what he is hitting, while his BABIP suggests even more to come.  Is a breakout coming?  

Crawford is hitting .253/.358/.484/.842 right now, but if he reached that xBABIP, he would be around 1.000 OPS!  His career BABIP is .291 so even if he reached that, he would add on 0.032, and that should put him around 900 OPS, again, still very good.  Oddly enough, his strikeout rate is still pretty high, and his walks just slightly elevated.  So he's good now and could be even better later!  Sometime to watch for!

Unfortunately, another thing to watch for is Posey.  While he's underperforming his xBABIP slightly, he is much under his career .325 BABIP, showing that something is affecting Posey this spring.  He has not been hitting for power, and that shows with his xBABIP, as it is so low relative to his career.  Is the catching starting to affect his hitting?  Something to watch for...

Aoki is a mixed bag.  His xBABIP is high, but his BABIP has been falling, it is now at .308 for the season.  But his current batting line of .280/.356/.364/.720 is basically what his numbers have been the past two seasons.  As long as he continues to his this, he is an asset leading off for us.

Panik, after a very slow start, is hitting like he was last season.  He is hitting .289/.343/.423/.765 thus far and has been a great asset in the 2-spot.  He has been walking more (5.6% to 8.3%), hitting homers more (1.1% to 4.2%), more than doubling his ISO ( from 63 to 134).  His BABIP is currently at only .310, but it will take a while for him to accumulate enough PA to get a strong feel.  But his projections by ZIPS and Steamer says that he will suffer a fall in production. 

One reason to not trust the projections as much is that he worked out over the off-season to build up some more strength so that he can hit for more power. He already has 2 HR in 97 AB, while last year only 1 HR in 269 AB.  Even if the projections are right in all other aspects, if he then maintains the 134 OPS with that projection, he would still be hitting in the low to mid 700's, which is good enough.  Something to watch and see.

Not surprisingly, Pagan is expected to drop a lot.  Hopefully as he falls to xBABIP, Crawford rises to his.  Pagan has a career .322 BABIP but .332 BABIP while with the Giants, so that xBABIP is right in line with career numbers.  He has already cooled off already, hitting only .336/.359/.427/.786, which is good but not great.  A fall of that magnitude would drop him into the mid-600's OPS.  His strike out rate is not that elevated, but his walk rate is down, as well as his ISO.  Fortunately, in the #3 spot, his drop in power does not have as much effect because hitters rarely drive in runs from that position (ironic since most managers view #3 as an RBI position).

Overall, looks like Crawford is headed for an exciting breakthrough season, and if so, increases our chances of winning the division.  However, Posey has been weak so far and not hitting for much or like his prior performances and Pagan looks off as well, hitting for low power as well.  Aoki and Panik look headed for similar batting lines, providing good OBP up top the lineup, which is all we can really ask for.  Hopefully Panik can continue hitting like he did in the majors last season and not like the projections using his minors stats.  That one bad year probably hurt his projections a lot.  

Jimmy RollinsDodgers0.1920.283-0.091
Howie KendrickDodgers0.3150.370-0.055
Adrian GonzalezDodgers0.3610.3130.048
Joc PedersonDodgers0.3510.2950.056

Now, I had some sense of where the Giants players career BABIP were.  Checking on the Bridegrooms, Rollins has a career .284 BABIP and a .273 BABIP the past three seasons, right in line with his BABIP, so he's probably going to improve some, though I would note that Dodger Stadium does put a crimp on hitters, so perhaps he's having a problem adjusting, oh, no, he's just not hitting well either at home or road, in fact, better at home right now, .225 BABIP.  and at age 36, could be hitting career decline.  Hitting .162/.246/.305/.551 at this moment (should note that the spreadsheet data came from a number of days ago), so I would bet he gets at least into the mid-600 OPS range.

Kendrick has a career .341 BABIP and .345 BABIP over the prior three seasons, so it looks like he should improve some, but that his xBABIP is probably running a little high right now.  He did have .381 in his second MLB season (partial), back in 2007, but his peak is .347, which happened in two of the prior three seasons.  So he probably should improve on his .280/.347/.458/.805 batting line.  Oy!  But last three seasons, he has a .292/.336/.410/.746 batting line.  

A-Gon is hard to say.  Last three seasons, .315 BABIP.  Career .321 BABIP.  So it looks like he should fall to his xBABIP of .313, roughly, but in 2011 he was able to keep up a .380 BABIP all season, so it could happen, just not likely to happen, and thus a regression is probable but no slam dunk, as he is 33 YO, and hitters can keep it going sometimes with a surge in this age range.  He also had a .340 in 2006, but he was only 24 YO then and it was his first full season, long ago.  Wait and see regarding BABIP.  

Hitting .364/.433/.720/1.153, so hopefully and probably he cools off some.  He has hit .284/.338/.472/.810 the past two seasons with LA.  I recall being worried about a breakout last season, he was finally healthy in some way, I remember be crying on Shankbone's worried about him breaking out, but he never did last season.  In fact, he had a very hot April last season, 1.021 OPS, and hit peak 1.043 two games later, before hitting only .266/.321/.444/.765 the rest of the way with a .285 BABIP.  

Joc Pederson looks headed for a big fall.  His .351 BABIP definitely look inflated, with his xBABIP at .295 and in Fangraphs projections, ZIPS project .316 BABIP, Steamer .275, average roughly .295 between the two.   He is currently hitting .271/.427/.647/1.074, and so hopefully he cools off a lot.  He walks a heck of a lot, 23 walks in only 111 PA, but also 37 K's, so if he ever cuts out strikeouts, he could be another Bondsian type hitter.  He has 9 HR so far in only 85 AB, another Bondsian ratio.  

But ZIPS project .243/.339/.445/.784 (ISO 202) for the rest of the season, Steamer only .225/.322/.407/.728 (ISO 182), so here's hoping that he falls back to what he did in the minors projected to the majors.  However, there have been players, like Goldschmidt, who just defies the projections and the strikeouts and keep on hitting in the majors, like a bumblebee.   

Wow, that was a lot of work digging through individual stats.  I still only consider the Dodgers our main competitor for the NL West title (and at 4 games already ahead of the rest of the NL West, presumptive winner of the title, though I would note that last season the Giants was presumptive then had a great fall), so I'll just minimally cover the rest.

Chris OwingsDiamondbacks0.2810.329-0.048
Ender InciarteDiamondbacks0.3370.344-0.007
A.J. PollockDiamondbacks0.3290.3070.022
Mark TrumboDiamondbacks0.3280.3010.027
Paul GoldschmidtDiamondbacks0.4190.3750.044

Looks like Owings is suffering from a lot of bad BABIP luck right now, hitting below average.  Still, .571 OPS suggests at best getting into high 600 OPS once regress to mean.  Pollock, Trumbo, and Goldschmidt look headed for a fall.  Pollock has a very nice .302/.364/.385/.750 batting line, but a straight regression would drop him to .280/.342/.363/.706 batting line.  Trumbo should cool off a lot, he's hitting way above his career numbers, particularly the past couple of seasons.  But Goldschmidt is hitting like Pederson, 1.078 OPS, and so a fall to the .375 would just drop him into the 900 OPS range, still very good, and right in line with his career numbers, so he has some luck, but should still hit like his career numbers.  But his career BABIP is more like .350, so he could fall a lot more eventually.

Will MiddlebrooksPadres0.2210.349-0.128
Justin UptonPadres0.3380.3210.017
Matt KempPadres0.3720.3530.019
Wil MyersPadres0.2980.2650.033
Yonder AlonsoPadres0.3770.3220.055
Derek NorrisPadres0.3720.2830.089

Middlebrooks is struggling big time, and while that might just be bad luck, sometimes players hit a mental block that they just can't get out of.  Wow, the Padres have five players hitting much above what they normally hit.  One can expect some good falls on the part of these hitters.  Norris would plunge to horribleness if he regresses fully to the .283 BABIP.  Myers and Kemp would drop to pretty ordinary numbers if they regress.  Alonso would be OK but not that great.  Upton would still be in the 800's, so pretty good.  If these regressions happen, and they should, they would fall from 2nd in runs scored in the NL.  And their pitchers are doing pretty well, and still only .500, so they should fall further as the season progresses.  Again, lots of people were worried about the Padres in the pre-season, but I wasn't then and I'm still not.

Carlos GonzalezRockies0.2420.321-0.079
Corey DickersonRockies0.3330.363-0.030
Justin MorneauRockies0.2820.311-0.029
Nolan ArenadoRockies0.2840.301-0.017
Troy TulowitzkiRockies0.3480.3320.016
Charlie BlackmonRockies0.3620.3340.028
DJ LeMahieuRockies0.4290.3520.077

Wow, CarGon should return to goodness at some point, but even with the bump, would still only be in the 700's OPS, he is just not doing well.  Morneau should get a bump, as well, probably, and return to goodness but not that good.  But Dickerson, I doubt he can get his BABIP up to the .363 level, that is elite level, and even with Coors, I don't see it happening.  Arenado should get a bump too, but wow, his OPS is already .906.  

But Tulo, Blackmon, and LeMahieu in particularly, should fall.  LeMahieu should fall to around 700 OPS if he regresses, a huge drop.  Tulo is minor drop, but he's not all that great right now, so a drop would make him ordinary.  He's still only 30 YO and hit well the past three seasons, I think he will adjust and actually hit better, his career BABIP is not that high, .321, so he is striking out a lot more and walking a lot less, to boot, so maybe something else is going on, maybe he won't return to goodness.  Will have to wait and see with him.  Blackmon, he should still be in the mid-800's even with adjustment and still be good.


Overall, it seems like the BABIP's across the eligible players balance out for the most part, if you add all the differences together.  But the Giants have run into more bad luck with our hitters than other teams, while some teams have had extreme good luck with their hitters (though we do have Pagan).  Exciting to see that Crawford might be breaking out, only guy looking that good among the NL West teams.  However, depressing to see that Posey's lack of power extends to the balls he's been hitting overall, leading to the question of whether all the catching is catching up with him physically.  

Panik is interesting because his BABIP and xBABIP in the majors so far is much higher than what is projected for him by the forecasting systems.  Given that he appears to be a line drive hitter, his MLB BABIP looks like that's closer to his true talent level than his projections are.  And the projections would explain why most prospect experts were not that high on Panik.   Which he is will fall out as this season progresses, but I lean toward higher than lower because of his LD characteristic.  

For example, Panik has around 23% LD% so far in the MLB, while the average this season is 21.0%.  And he has bumped up his FB% from 27.0% last season to 38.4% this season.  

If Crawford and Panik have breakouts, plus Aoki up top, and Pence returning in a week or two, we should be running off some good winning streak in June/July.  Of course, the pitching would still need to hold up.  Heston is starting to be discovered by the league and he will need to adjust to continue to do well.  Peavy is reportedly getting close to returning, needing a rehab start or two, and should be an improvement over Vogelsong.  Bumgarner and Lincecum are doing as I expected, but Hudson has been struggling and last night was not encouraging at all.  Perhaps he's finally losing it, or maybe finally winning it all last season has resulted in less fire in his belly.  In any case, he doesn't have one DOM start now in 6 starts, and that's not a good sign.  Makes me wonder if he has a health issue that normally would sit him, but because Cain and Peavy are already out, he's gutting it out.  Time will tell.


  1. The thing with Crawford it that he has started off in prior years doing better than general expectations and looking as if he were about to have a breakthrough season, but as the season moved on he appeared to tire, and regress. Bochy is aware of this, and has stated he will rest Crawford more, to try to abate the second half of the season let down. At the moment Crawford could be a possible all star.

    1. I think we are seeing about the same thing. To me it is not a matter of tiring, but that he has played with nagging injuries instead of resting. I understood it in 2013, a lot of guys went down already and he decided to gut it out after his injury. I recall him saying that he probably shouldn't have played with his injury. Not sure what happened in 2014, but he's aware that he stopping hitting homers after first month, for the most part.

      I perhaps was reading too much into it, but when Bochy said that he was resting Crawford, he noted that the guys had nagging pains and could use the rest, or something like that.

      That is part of the reason I think Duffy will not be the starting 3B anytime soon, that they want to use him to rest Crawford at short more frequently than in years past.



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