Thursday, February 20, 2014

Jose Iglesias and Andrelton Simmons - Whose BABIP was more out of whack?

Jose Iglesias, if he plays full time, will be part of a debate between he and Andrelton Simmons on which is the better fielder. Simmons is fresh off one of the best fielding seasons for a shortstop...ever. Iglesias has that kind of reputation, but other than a few other-worldly highlights from 2013, has yet to put a full season together. But today, the focus is not on their fielding, but on which of the shortstops had a more unrealistic batting average based on balls in play (BABIP).
Iglesias ended the season with a batting average of .303 and a BABIP of .356. Andrelton Simmons ended the season with a BABIP of .247 and a batting average of .248. Since a large part of the two free-swinging batters on-base percentage is based on batting average (they do not walk much), this is an important question moving forward on their potential offensive worth.
Simmons did hit 17 homers in 2013, which Iglesias will never do, so Simmons does have that advantage. But looking at just the on-base percentage equation, the two players could not have had a more different outcome.
Here is a look at some BABIP figures for both as compared to each other and to the league average as a whole for 2013:
Where hit - MLB - Simmons - Iglesias
  • Ground - .240 - .183 - .304
  • Flyball - .182 - .145 - .200
  • Line Dr - .674 - .642 - .708
  • Pulled  - .391 - .317 - .545
  • Up Mid. - .301 - .265 - .275
  • Opp Fld - .307 - .195 - .367
While it is not a proper equation because of the percentage hit of each, you can see that Simmons is under on every category to the tune of a total of -348 points! Iglesias is over on every category except up the middle and is over by a total of 304 points. Those are some pretty glaring anomalies.
Most of Jose Iglesias' success with batted balls happened in the first three months of the season with the Red Sox. Regression set in during the month of July. At the end of July (the 30th), he was traded to the Tigers. In August with that team, his BABIP was .364. In September, he had another correction down to .243.
Of Iglesias' 290 balls in play for 2013, 18 of them were bunts. He beat out eleven of them. That 61.1% success rate would up his BABIP by four points. That's not a big push, but it does help. After looking at Iglesias' spray charts, a large percentage of his ground balls went to the left side of the infield and he beat out his share of those too. Those kinds of things help.
But, his BABIP was still a bit of a fluke as there were plenty of bloops and dribblers in there as all the Twitter conversation in April and May would attest.
Andrelton Simmons bunted thirteen times and beat them out for singles on four occasions, a .307 average. While still good, that will not make much of a dent on his BABIP. Like Iglesias, Simmons pulls a lot of his ground balls. But by attesting to his .183 average when hitting them, he does not beat a lot of them out.
Judging from Simmons' spray chart, he might be quite easy to defense as he does hit almost all of his ground balls to the left side: Source: FanGraphs 
Let's face it, if Simmons and Iglesias can be huge positives on defense for their teams, then it matters much less how well they hit. But every run gained is a positive one for a team. Simmons, despite hitting a large amount of ground balls to the same place in the infield, was unlucky overall in 2013. He should get better results if he can at least attain a BABIP near league average (.300). Iglesias will have to prove that his batting success in 2013 was not the fluke that it appears to be.

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