Saturday, April 26, 2014

Some early batted ball anomalies

A month of a baseball season is still a fairly small sample size. After all, we are only nearing the 15% mark of the season. There are a lot of games left to be played. Even so, 23 to 24 games played is a pretty good chunk of games to see a few trends taking place. Whether sample size or a meaningful chunk of games is up to the eye of the beholder. However, it does allow for some weird batted ball statistics. I have compiled a few for your viewing pleasure. Just don't make too much of what is being presented. Because it IS early yet.
Thirty-six qualifying players have yet to hit an infield popup. I find that figure to be pretty amazing. You would think that not many popups would lead to a pretty good average for balls in play (BABIP). But that's not the case for David Freese. Not only has he not hit a popup, but his line drive percentage is at a healthy 25%. Those are good batted ball odds. And yet his BABIP sits at .186. It is no wonder that the guy is hitting .143 after eighteen games.
But that is a little bit misleading. Freese is striking out at a 29.6% clip, so he only has 45 balls in play altogether. Even so...
For another extreme, we look at Adam Eaton. Eaton has brought some enthusiasm to the White Sox and that team seems far from the dead team they were last year. But Eaton's statistics are really weird. His line drive percentage of 11.1% is the fifth lowest in the Majors right now. And yet his BABIP is a healthy .313. That's kind of hard to do.
But it doesn't end there. Adam Eaton's batted ball statistics show that a full 74% of his batted balls are grounders. That gives him a ratio of ground ball to fly balls of 4 to 1. Holy cow, I have never seen those kinds of numbers put together in one batter.
Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays is off to a slow start. He has a .151 average and a .538 OPS. Those are pretty bad numbers despite the five homers he has hit. His average makes sense because his BABIP is only .125, which is insanely low. is insanely low only if you don't see the details.
Brett Lawrie easily is last in the Majors at hitting line drives. His 8.8% line drive rate is so far off the Major League average (usually around 19.5%) that it almost seems silly. He is the only MLB player (qualified) that is under 10%. Needless to say that Mr. Lawrie is not squaring up many baseballs. Maybe he should use a fatter bat?
Ruben Tejada of the Mets also has some mind-blowing batted ball stats. He leads the Major Leagues in line drive percentage. His rate so far in that category is almost staggering. 38.1% of his batted balls have been line drives. And he has a .688 BABIP when he hits a line drive. So why is his overall BABIP stuck at .285? That's weird isn't it?
You don't know the half of it. Tejada has hit 16 line drives. He has also hit 16 ground balls and ten fly balls. Only one of his 26 combined ground balls and fly balls have fallen in for a hit. One! And it was on a grounder. That is amazing.
Tejada, amazingly enough, is not alone. Nick Castellanos also has a similar problem. Castellanos is second in the Majors in line drive percentage at 37.7%. That's the good part. But his BABIP is only .280. Castellanos has hit 24 fly balls. Only two of them are hits and that is only because they went over the wall for homers. He only has one ground ball hit.
The Royals' Alcides Escobar is off to a pretty good start this season and is batting .301. That is despite the fact that he leads all players in popping up to the infield. He has done so 27.8% of the time. And yet he has a healthy BABIP of .368. How does that happen? It happens when 80% of your line drives turn into hits (way over average) and 40% of your ground balls turn into hits (again, way over average). I don't think he can keep that up.
We have already seen a pretty amazing stat of Adam Eaton hitting four ground balls to every fly ball. But that is chicken feed compared to Ben Revere. Revere's ratio is an astounding 7.83 ground balls for every fly ball. He has only hit eight fly balls all season. And yet, Revere's BABIP is sitting at .342. Being fast helps.
Okay, one more. There are only three players in the Majors who have a rate of 30% or higher of their fly balls going over the fence. You could probably guess that they would be Mark TrumboAlbert Pujols and Jose Abreu. The other commonality these three share is very low BABIPs. Abreu's is the highest at .258. Trumbo's was under .200 before he got hurt. And Pujols is sitting at .240. But who cares when so many of your fly balls are sailing majestically over the fence.

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