Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Your 2016 Giants: Duffman Considered

As I noted in another post, I'll be doing more posts where I don't feel I have the final answer, but found something interesting to ponder, which I do a lot of time, but then just tuck away.

Today, Baggarly wrote about Matt Duffy, from a nice interview he did with him, noting that some might question whether Duffy can repeat his 2015 season.  So I went into his splits and dug around and see what I could noodle either way.
ogc thoughts

I wasn't looking for this, but I noticed that he had a huge split in 2015:

SplitGPAABBBSOBAOBPSLGOPSTBBAbiptOPS+sOPS+
vs RHP1394564262277.310.348.455.803194.360110122
vs LHP68156147819.252.295.347.64251.2726979
vs RHP as RHB1394564262277.310.348.455.803194.360110129
vs LHP as RHB68156147819.252.295.347.64251.2726975
vs LH Starter43185175827.257.293.371.66565.2907485
vs RH Starter1064273982269.312.352.452.804180.357111123
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/29/2016.

As you can see, he hit RHP way better than he did LHP.  And he had a very high BABIP vs. RHP while having a pretty bad BABIP vs. LHP.  Initial knee jerk reaction is that he's going to regress and not hit as well in 2016, since he had the high BABIP, plus hit so poorly against LHP, which he should hit well, and thus one could reason that his RHP could regress to be lower than his LHP, since he was an unheralded amateur, drafted late, and expected to hit like he did against LHP and not like how he did against RHP.  So that got me curious about how he did before, though there is not a lot of data.

Here is how he did in 2014 (including his MLB stats):
Split G PA AB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
vs RHP as RHB 108 308 268 33 56 .302 .378 .399 .777 107
vs LHP as RHB 73 173 159 10 24 .358 .399 .465 .864 74
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/29/2016.

Against RHP, he had a BABIP of .369, while against LHP, he had a BABIP of .412, showing that he had hit better against LHP in 2014, but in any case, whether RHP or LHP, had a very high BABIP, suggesting that his hitting and speed could possibly support a high BABIP in the majors.

And if you look at the original table, he hit well against older pitchers as well, though not as well as he did against younger pitchers.   I wish now that I had left it in there, but it is amazingly close to what he hit in the majors in 2015, perhaps it's a stat I should look at more for players in the high minors:

Vs Older Pitchers 2014:  .304/.366/.392/.758, .375 BABIP, 1 HR, 25 XBH/104 hits (24% XBH)
MLB Pitchers In 2015:    .295/.334/.428/.762, .336 BABIP, 12 HR, 46 XBH/169 hits (27% XBH)

Looks like the 10-15 pounds he added last off-season helped as he said it did.  Baggarly reports that he added another 20 pounds this season (coincidentally, apparently Blackburn had noted in AA that the doubles Duffy was hitting would be homers if he would add 20 pounds; I guess he knows his baseball).  So that would explain the jump in ISO from 88 to 133 between those two stat lines, when normally a drop would be expected (especially because he went from being -1.7 years younger than the league in 2014 to -4.2 years younger in 2015), because of the improved competition.

In 2013:
Split G PA AB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
vs RHP as RHB 99 378 331 40 51 .296 .378 .456 .834 151
vs LHP as RHB 32 76 62 12 6 .339 .446 .371 .817 23
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/29/2016.

Against RHP, he had a BABIP of .327, while against LHP, he had a BABIP of .375, which again supports the notion that Duffy can hit for a high BABIP, plus here he again hit better against RHP than LHP, using OPS, though he hit for a better batting average and OBP against LHP.

Summary Thoughts on Duffman's Hitting

Nothing definitive, but

  1. It appears that he can sustain a high BABIP vs. both LHP and RHP, as that is what he did in the minors.  Speed and hard hit balls accounts for high BABIP, so the fact that he was able to do that in the minors at least suggests that it's possible that he could do it in the majors.  So this suggests that his poor hitting vs. LHP is more of an outlier than his hitting RHP well.  Another consideration for LHP is that because there is usually so many more AB's against RHP than LHP, SSS can greatly affect a hitter's splits year to year, resulting in more volatility in his LHP results.  
    1. However, I would note that I've not seen any study that found any relationship between BABIP in the minors and BABIP in the majors.  My supposition is that given that pitchers in the minors are not as accomplished the BABIP a player accomplishes in the minors will generally be a ceiling on how good he can be in the majors.  But I believe that there can be development as a hitter rises that can help him hit better as he rises, so I don't believe that hard and fast, but more as a possible ceiling to watch out for, kind of 80/20-ish.  
    2. As well, it's a moving target because even a hitter's BABIP suffers from SSS, because it takes around three full seasons of AB's to get a good idea of what he's capable of, and Duffy didn't even have three years of minor league data.  Plus, it's a moving target because he might be developing faster than the pitchers.  
    3. Still, while nothing definitive, I think this data suggests that he can sustain high BABIP against both LHP and RHP, which would mean that he has upside to his LHP hitting, at least 60 points upside, and won't lose it all back against RHP, which would mean that he can sustain his 2015 hitting, if not improve if he can keep up the RHP while upping his LHP.  
  2. It is not out of left field that he might hit better against RHP than LHP.   He had a higher OPS in 2013 against RHP, even more so considering he had a much higher BABIP against LHP than RHP. There have been hitters who have reverse splits and hit better against pitchers who throw the same way they hit, though these type of hitters are rare.  Of course, no way to prove it other than to play ball and see how he does.
  3. Based on how he hit against older pitchers in 2014 (and he did similarly in 2013), it suggests that he could handle older, more experienced pitchers, as he rose a level.  How well he could handle, so far, he has been able to keep up the good hitting with each level the past couple of seasons.  That, to me, suggests that his 2015 hitting is a repeatable performance.    Of course, I've not seen any studies that show such a relationship, but it makes sense to me.  

So, overall, it appears to me that Duffy seems capable of repeating 2015's performance.  He had a high BABIP, particularly against RHP, and while .360 is generally not a repeatable performance in the majors, especially against your same side hitting, he has had a high BABIP in the minors, against both RHP and LHP.  Thus while his BABIP might drop some against vs. RHP, it could go much higher vs. LHP, and counter balance each other.  And he has hit better against RHP before.  On top of that, he has put on more muscle and gained more experienced - he's a grizzled vet now relatively - and that should be to his advantage as well, boosting hopes of a sustained or improved BABIP and batting line.

Nothing definitive, but something I think makes me feel better about Duffy repeating his 2015 performance than just believing that he can do it.

6 comments:

  1. I have a couple thoughts on this, firstly his splits are still in the small sample range and it is hard to draw conclusions from. His minor league numbers don't show the same thing so it is likely that his splits will be more normal.

    The other thing that like you mentioned is that when discussing BABIP you can't ignore the way the ball is hit. He doesn't have much soft contact and doesn't hit a ton of fly balls, both of those are better for a high BABIP. I haven't looked deeply into what the expected BABIP would be based on splits but above .300 wouldn't be out of mind.

    I too am bullish on his prospects for this year.

    PS I enjoy the new posts with shorter stuff with unanswered questions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for sharing your comments.

      Yes, very small sample range, impossible to draw conclusions from.

      Yes, that was what I was trying to get at, I think his splits will be more normal, but the problem is, for us, will his RHP splits be the norm he leans to (Yeah!) or his LHP splits be the norm he leans to (Nooo!). I was trying to show that it appears that he is probably closer to his RHP batting line than his LHP batting line.

      Good point about him and the contact he makes. I should have looked into that. Looking at his contact percentages and then looking at the leaders in the majors, he is not in the top 50 in hardest hit balls. But he IS in the top 50 of softest, 37 out of 141 qualifying hitters, so he has more medium and hard hit balls than a lot of hitters. And he has some good names next to him in terms of soft, Arenado, A-Gon, Vogt, Longoria, Blackmon, Donaldson.

      I'm surprised that Fangraphs don't have a stat using these to generate an xBABIP or xBA or xISOp. Perhaps this year.

      Lastly, that's the worry about BABIP that I was trying to convey. If .300 BABIP range is his level, his RHP OPS would drop into the high 600's, which is OK but not great like it was last season. His LHP OPS would rise to low 700's, resulting in an overall OPS in the 700 range.

      Again, no correlation that ever been studied that I've seen, but he was able to maintain a higher end BABIP in the minors, which to me suggests that he could maintain a higher end BABIP in the majors. Staying in the .330 BABIP range would push him into the mid-700 OPS range, and that is still a good player, especially when one considers that he should only get better defensively the more he starts there, as he had very little experience before. I was trying to talk through all this above.

      Thanks again for the affirmation.

      Delete
    2. Of course, as luck would have it, my next post or two will probably be long, since Opening Day is looming, but I hope to continue my series of shorter thoughts and posts after that.

      Delete
  2. Duffy has a number of features which suggest he should have a very high BABIP. He not only has good speed out of the box but hits a lot of grounders (GB% of 52.6% last year)--his 20 infield hits last year was tied for 19th in MLB. He also hits very few infield flies (only 4 last year). I did a simple-minded xBABIP calculation of my own a few months ago for all the Giant hitters (based on expected averages for LD%, GB%, FB%, IFFB%, and IFH%), and Duffy's came out in the mid-330s. And this doesn't even count his spray chart, which was about as good as could be imagined (32%, 35%, 33%).

    ReplyDelete
  3. (I'm johnforthegiants, by the way) A few more points--there really wasn't anything in his Batted Ball data other than the BABIP to suggest that he should be much better against RHP. His LD% was higher (21.7 vs. 18.8) but his Hard% was lower (26.9 vs. 32.8) and all of infield flies were vs. RHP. I think the RHP/LHP BABIP differences are likely to be a fluke. Another factor which I think needs to be considered is that for a lot of the year Duffy was hitting in front of Posey and this was likely to affect the kind of pitching he was seeing (no one wants to walk the hitter in front of Posey). For example, when batting 3rd his BB% was 4.0% but when batting in other positions it was 5.7% (I don't have specific 'batting-in-front-of-Posey' data but this should give some idea of the difference). This year he probably won't generally bat in front of Posey, and this will probably have some effect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for all the excellent points above and here.

      I agree that the difference is a fluke. The greater question I was trying to address was whether the RHP BABIP was closer to his true talent or if his LHP BABIP was closer. I think, like like analysis, he's probably closer to his RHP BABIP than LHP.

      Interesting point about batting in front of Posey last season but probably batting 6th before Crawford mostly this season. Have not seen a lot of research about how that affects a player, but it makes sense to me.

      Delete

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