M's Line Drive Rate: .243. Their BABIP: .265. Usual difference: 100.

 ............

In the American League in 2011, you could project a team's BABIP -- its batting average on balls in play, that is, its AVG on everything except HR's, BB's, and K's, i.e., its AVG on balls that fielders had a chance to make a play on -- by adding 100 points to its line drive percentage.  The league hit 19.6% line drives, and its BABIP was .295.  

Fielders get to 70% of balls hit into fair play.  Think about it and you'll see why this figure couldn't possibly be 90% or 50%.  The earth is 70% covered by water, and the baseball field is 70% covered by defensive players.

This .300 AVG on balls in play is driven by the fact that ML teams hit 20% line drives.  A team that hit nothing but screaming line drives would see about 75% of them go for base hits.  Also known as Kevin Millwood Against Lefty Hitters The Other Day.

...........

This can range up and down a bit.  The A's, playing in their ballpark, added only 75 BABIP points to their line drive percentage in 2011 -- their LD's were 20.8%, and their BABIP .283.  Only 75 points.  That was the lowest gap in the league.  

The feeble 2011 Mariners, playing in a bad park for BABIP and playing with bad hitters for generating offense of any kind, had 18.6% line drives and a .283 BABIP.  The horrible offensive production still generated the normal 97-point gap between LD's and BABIP.

The woeful 2010 Mariners, the team that scored 513 runs, setting a DH-era record and in fact emulating a 1900's deadball offense, still had the usual 106-point gap.  They hit 17.6% line drives but posted a .282 BABIP.

Some teams, of course, do better than that 10% gap.  Last year, the Cardinals had a teamwide .337 BABIP, even with pitchers batting, and that was good for a 112-point difference.  The Astros had a 117-point gap.  etc.

..........

The Mariners have a spectacular 24.3% line drive rate in 2012.  That is easily the best line drive rate among 30 teams.  But their BABIP is 27th in baseball.  (No, fly ball rate and IF/F rate do not affect the conclusion significantly.  The Mariners' "expected BABiP," broken down by GB's, IFF's, etc., is still vastly more than .265.)

The Mariners are hitting the best balls-in-play in the major leagues, period.  They are getting close to the worst results on balls-in-play in the major leagues.  Their BABIP is 22 (!!) points higher than their line drive rate.   There is no way in heaven or earth that figure will be below 75 points at the end of the year; almost certainly it will be 90-110 by the end of the year.

..........

The unluckiest individual Mariners?  Miguel Olivo has a .176 line drive rate and a .176 BABIP.  Heh!  

Ichiro has a .259 line drive rate and a .264 BABIP.  That's .005 points.  For his career, Ichiro's spread is .148 points.  Even last year, the disaster year, his spread was 104 points.

Michael Saunders has a .267 line drive rate and a .276 BABIP.  There you go, Lonnie.  With a normal amount of balls falling in for him, Saunders is a 300/400/500 hitter.

Justin Smoak's line is unpossible.  He's got .289 line drives (!) and his BABIP is .278 -- he's got fewer balls hitting the ground between fielders than he has balls struck perfectly on the nose.

Seager isn't much better.  His LD rate is .295 but his BABIP only .302.  He's hitting a nice .292 with a .458 SLG, but it should be more like .370 with a .600 SLG.  Also Dustin Ackley's BABIP is about the same as his LD rate.

..........

There is one correct thing to tell the Mariners' hitters.  GREAT job, men!  Keep doing what you're doing.  The breaks will even out pretty quick here.

BABVA,

Dr D

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Comments

ghost's picture

ghost

On this point, Doc...I absolutely agree. The folks in the earlier threads saying this offense reminds them of 2011 and 2010 I'm having a hard time seeing eye to eye with other than that I do find it frustrating that they're not putting the great ABs up with men in scoring position the way they are with the bases empty. They're pressing a bit...but things wil get better there when the breaks go their way more often I think.

This is a good hitting team...playing spectacularly unlucky.

1

Thanks, Doc.

Only in Marinersville and The Twilight Zone do we see such impossible things, year after year after year. If it ain't one improbable thing, it's another.

In the fabric of the baseball universe, we have somehow managed neither warp nor weft, only a hopeless tangle of threads.

There be a weave somewhere in this design, but I'll be doggone if I can see it now.

http://img844.imageshack.us/img844/362/brainweave.jpg

2

Call it devil's advocate, Doc. What you say makes sense to me, and I'm inclined to nod and move on... but.

...you called out Big Blog the other day for missing that: a pitcher throwing an unprecedented amount of consecutive strikes might actually be aiming to do precisely that. The author of said premise attributed the strike/ball result to a coin toss (if weighted). But missing the pitcher's intent seemed blindingly obvious in retrospect.

Is there any chance that there's an unseen factor at play in this environment too? That the LD%-to-BABIP link is too tenuous to rely upon, or that an additional effect needs to be found and accounted for in this case? Because, man... if not, we are about to challenge for the playoffs THIS year. As a favorite going in to October.

3

Supposing there were something at play that did affect the BABIP - LD gap, it would only affect the (x)BABIP within a certain range.

All teams have BABIP's that range between 75 and 125 points above their LD's.  It's just the nature of the game that if you whack the ball on a line, it's probably going to hit the ground.  The fielders aren't moving 60 MPH out there.  Well, except Bourjos.

You might as well ask, "the Cardinals are getting 11% of their infield popups dropped this week.  Could they maybe get 11% of them dropped all season?"

..........

You MIGHT posit something (and it would be baseless) that deflected the M's gap from 100 points to 80.  Not to 22.  Yes, the M's BABIP vs LD gap will absolutely go way up, very soon.

Whether they'll keep hitting all these line drives is another question.  Even if they stopped hitting line drives, their BABIP and AVG would still go up from where it is now.

4

Colorado mariner's picture

Colorado mariner

Are the mariner line drives finding fielders because the fielders are shifting to the hitters spray patterns? I.e. Smoaks line drive last night or Seager's ground ball up the middle that Cleveland's shortstop reached for an out. Just a thought.

5

Smoak gets shifted.  Which is a raging debate at Bill James Online, whether shifts help the defense AT ALL.  Dewan says, a little, James says, not at all, because the defense gives it back on pop fouls down the 3B line that don't get caught.  

If you shift Justin Smoak, you're going to take his BABIP on LD's down from 72% to 62%, or something.

.............

In theory, great defensive positioning might help lower the BABIP - LD gap from 100 to 90 or so.  Not to 22.

In the real world, my observation is that the 2012 M's enemies have gotten little or nothing from defensive positioning --- > that is beyond what normal ML scouting reports always give to a defense.  I don't remember more than one or two balls where I went, wow, good call from the dugout on that positioning.  The Seager ground ball, maybe.  ML shortstops do make plays behind 2B, though.

I do remember oodles of long line drives that held up for outfielders.  :- )  My observation, for what it's worth, is simply that the Mariners' hitters have been aiming the balls at fielders ... they rope a 300' fly ball and it's to the CF, rather than between the OF's.

............

You could say, wow, their problem is that their singles are hit so hard that they're staying up for the OF's.  But actually those 300' liners should give an astronomical doubles rate.

6

tjm's picture

tjm

It's unassailable logically and, more to the point, every single MLB hitter knows this to be true. You hear it all the time, that a guy hit the ball hard tonight and just got unlucky. What you never hear and will never hear is that an entire team was unlucky for a long stretch of time. Other players wouldn't even buy it if a team mate told them he'd been unlucky all year.

For whatever reason, a stat that everybody endorses in the short term is one that no one would endorse for the long term. Don't know why this is. Maybe players believe in luck, but not fate and luck this bad, this far out on the tail of the distribution, begins to look like the universe plotting against the team. Then you have Daddy-O's warp and weft. Can't happen, right? Anybody ever read David Carkeet's splendid little novel, The Greatest Slump of All Time?

7

Everybody knows that you can't look at ERA and W/L, one year, without a bit of perspective ... 

Yet:  if Hector Noesi gives up 6 hits tonight, 3 BB and 7 K, but coughs up 6 runs and loses, we'll all chalk him up for bad pitching.

8

M's Watcher's picture

M's Watcher

I'm sorry. Olivo may be unlucky, but that doesn't make him a good hitter. Yes, his LD% and BABIP will work themselves out over the season or his career, but he won't become a good hitter. Ryan, Saunders (yet), and Figgie are also not good hitters, lucky or not. So we are not a good hitting, but unlucky team. A high LD% isn't everything, as line drives can be caught and don't require a throw. The M's are next to last in the league in HR, which don't count in BABIP, and aren't because of luck. Fewer HR means those well hit balls are in play, not in the seats. It reflects talent, such that the team may be developing, but doesn't yet have. Why didn't we unload Olivo in the off-season and sign Carlos Pena for 1B/DH? With kids we are relying on developing their potential, not demonstrated performance. We didn't spend any money on hitters with the latter, but just hoped to get lucky.

9

M's Watcher's picture

M's Watcher

Olivo's numbers should be better than they are, but Jaso's "are" better, lucky or not. It's too bad that Felix couldn't DH for Olivo.

11

They'll get way better, fast. It's killing me to watch them miss XBHs by these margins.

I remember what happened to Beltre when he hit a ball as well as he could hit it, to LCF, and watched it die harmlessly 10 feet in front of the wall. He was never able to recapture it at the plate. The Rangers talk about what a great bad-ball hitter Beltre is, how he can just dive off the plate and snag those sliders off the plate, looping em for signals.

Which gives me this face: o.0

Because he was worthless at that here. There should be no real reason for that - he's not hitting HRs in Texas off of those pitches that he could not hit here.

Comfort means a lot in the game of baseball. The reason pitchers would throw a fastball at your earhole in the Ol' Days if you crowded the plate: it made you nervous, and nervous batters are useless batters.

I hope our kids are mentally strong enough to ride it out. So far, only Ackley looks really shaky to start the season. Am I allowed to laugh at the idea that a 90 OPS+ from our 2B is "really shaky"? Compared to recent seasons, he's a monster in 2012.

But Seager, Saunders, and Smoak are all holding up well. Montero is on a fishing expidition, but I expect him to cut those out shortly.

No real panic in the lineup yet. I want us to have these line drives fall for hits before we get some.

~G

12

And that's the job of the coaching staff.  Keep doing exactly what you're doing, babe. You were 1-for-5 but you were rippin' it up out there, man.  You're en fuego.   Way to go, dude, think you can get us two more balls on the screws tomorrow?

If the hitter knows he's going to be in the lineup, if the coaches are giving him A's, then...

13

Nice arena to explore. Agreed that the current aggregate is unsustainable. However, I would also point out that LD% itself *MUST* fall within a specific range. Last year in AL, between 18-21%. In 2010 ... 17-19%. Therefore, the tie between LD% and BABIP is also only valid when the LD% itself is within a standard range for analysis. I would point out Yankees are currently 23.2 and .284 ... only a 52 point difference. The logic you propose suggests the Yankeess, with 75 runs scored (2nd in the AL), have been miserably unlucky so far as well.

Of course, since I am the founding father of the "not ALL BABIP is luck" party, this made me want to look at the player scores from previous years.
2011
Seager: 27.7 and .303.
Cust: 18.1 and .333
Bradley 13.0 and .294
Smoak 13.8 and .273
Figgins 18.3 and .215
Kennedy 22.5 and .226
Olivo 14.5 and .270

You mentioned Ichiro's current 28.1 and .286. But, the question is ... where does that go? Well for last 3 years, Ichiro's best LD% is 19.1. My take is that any reasonable view of what will happen going forward with Ichiro is that his personal LD% is almost certain to plunge. Understand however, that I also believe the impending plunge in Ichiro's LD% will 'likely' have only slight impact on his BABIP. (While there is the potential it could crash ... as is fairly common with aging players ... this is far from a certainty).

But, go look at Ichiro's top two BABIP seasons 2004 and 2007.

2004: 18.4 - .399
2007: 20.1 - .389

His top two LD% years?

2002: 23.6 - .344
2005: 22.1 - .316

My end point. LD% outside the box are NOT predictivve of BABIP. Currently, the Ms have ZERO hitters betwen 16.8 and 19.9 LD%. That's more a factor of small sample sizes than anything. But, IMO you cannot draw any conclusions from this data.

Go sort the entire AL by LD%. There's 14 guys with a LD% above 30 with more than 30 PAs. Only 3 of those have a BABIP above .400. Five of them have BABIPs at .300 or below.

The simple truth is that LD and BABIP don't correlate once LD gets out of its box.

I understand that nobody wants to hear this -- but the "luck" happening so far with Mariner bats is not bad luck BABIP -- it is "good luck" LD%. I have confidence that most of the young guys will migrate toward normalcy. That means 20 .300 combos will eventually appear. But, I remain concerned about several players - where I have grave doubts about whether they will remain permanently outside the 'normal' range.

This includes: Figgins, Ichiro, Olivo and Smoak. I don't expect all 4 to actually fail. But these are the guys that I put in the danger zone for "proving" that they have lost it (or never had it in the case of Smoak), which would be an ongoing disconnect between LD% and BABIP. I don't have a good explanation "why" it happens ... but I do believe that when players "lose it" - (or when MLB is simply beyond their ken) - BABIP may actually be a canary in the coal mine. The problem with this is that since BABIP is viewed so strongly as a purely luck stat that it's a major challenge to separate the random from the causal.

14

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Gordon GrossIf Ackley or Morrison or Miller or Taylor have proven they can produce over a full season, I haven't heard of it. Jackson has had two poor years and two average ones out of his 5 as a big-leaguer. Zunino can't hit the Mendoza line. We've had a lot of REgression amongst our young hitters in their early campaigns, not PROgression. Can't have our whole season sunk if Seager takes a fastball off the wrist in May, y'know? I want to see surplus offensive production if everybody does what they should, not just "enough" production. I want a Miller breakout to make us into the 90s Indians offensively, not the 2014 KC Royals. I'm greedy. ;-) And so's Jack, since he still wants to sign someone...53 sec ago
SABR MattIf we didn't demonstrate that we are willing to spend more on proven commodities...I would be fine with that job share, Doc. But we showed we were willing to pay to get something more bankable. Being reduced to hoping Montero and Miller can handle out-of-position needs is a let down.3 min 30 sec ago
jemanjiMoe, nobody but Junior minds your pressing the Souza point :- ) … on the other Shout, it sez here: (1) LoGo being able to back up 20 games in CF seems like a 90% probability, (2) Montero hitting lefties is already a given, and (3) not sure why you need D.J. in the second half, given the first two points. :: shrug :: What *I* am missing is, what people dislike so much about a LoGo/Montero platoon to start the year. There will be exactly 2 positions at which the M's have unproven players.14 min 32 sec ago
jemanjiYep. Will cheerfully agree that the M's overestimated their chances on landing one of their primary targets. But personally I'm not let down by the "fallback" safety net of a Logo-Montero type of platoon. If that was the "floor" scenario then I'm comfortable with the "dropoff" (sic). From where I sit, though, I don't know why they had to get so down on Saunders' work ethic. Sometimes they seem pretty old-school that way.18 min 24 sec ago
DaddyOI'm with both Taro and moe here in that (a) moving Saunders looks far less attractive now that we've so far missed out on a major RF add, (b) I don't trust Jack in his "creative" endeavors, and (c) barring a big add either now or in spring training, Aoki is starting to look like a good value move if for no other reason than to give us OBP at the top of the order. I just hate to see the M's playing musical chairs indecisively while the best available seats are all being taken.1 hour 21 min ago
moethedoghave I missed something here? If we stand pat and bring in nobody else we are structured like this: Our 2nd CF is Miller or Jones. Miller and Cruz could share RF in a platoon, with Cruz moving back to DH when we face RHP. Romero and Montero then become our RH 1B options, getting some time at DH when Cruz is in RF. Kivlehan or Deej is potentially up soon. Choi is there when Morrison DL's. Such a scenario is doable but it makes three assumptions: 1. Miller can handle CF 2. Either Montero or Romero hits lefties 3. The AAA guys will be ready early.2 hours 57 min ago
moethedogIndividually, none of those are long bets. I would bet on any one of them. But would you bet on all three of them? With "unknowns" such as that, I won't be surprised if we look for a "sure thing" if we make just one move. Signing Aoki and his .350 OBP leading off, is probably the MOST SIMPLE sure thing out there. it wouldn't be my first pick, but because of it's simplicity (and affordability) it won't surprise me if we go that way.2 hours 58 min ago
TaroWould be nice to still have Saunders. I don't trust these guys to get creative.4 hours 44 min ago
TaroI'm with Moe on Souza. Should be our primary target.4 hours 46 min ago
moethedogSorry junior. I'm a one trick pony, I suppose. I'm not sure he's a HoF'er, but he sure looks like a guy who solves a COF/CF problem for us. He's got a solid pedigree, too. He's an unlikely get for us, admittedly. But we have things that Washington may need. Last year I was all over Van Slyke because of his upside and he solved our RHB COF/1B/DH problem in one fell swoop. This year it is the Washingon kid.....and Kivlehan. Hey, another post where I didn't say his name! :) Old dogs CAN learn new tricks it seems.6 hours 5 min ago
jemanjiThanks for the shout there DaddyO, on several levels :- )11 hours 59 min ago
jemanjiMoe can keep right on shoutin' … if and when Souza wins the ROY he can send us a postcard...12 hours 22 sec ago
rjjuniorWeird. A Moe posting without the word Souza in it. Must have hit Enter too soon.14 hours 47 min ago
moethedogI read it Bat. I think Guti has some upside...but he has a huge downside, as in falling apart physically again. I don't think he's a guy you can sign and confidently pencil in to a critical role. Minor League contract (or a cheap MLB one) and let him prove himself. I think I wrote something like that in the Creative Options thread. I meant to, anyway. Unless we're in on some kind of Atlanta swap, we're down to FA's Rasmus and Aoki. I've been a Rasmus fan, as stated, but the more I look at it, Aoki as a leadoff hitter might be just fine, if the deal is right. He has no split issues, is a better than decent glove, and gets on base. We could do worse. Of course, it still leaves the CF hole we need to fill.....and the 1B one.16 hours 54 min ago
Gordon GrossWell. Varvaro would be coming home if he came over here, and would free up a reliever to go elsewhere, right? ;)16 hours 54 min ago
moethedogGordon, you're mostly right about Kivlehan and Deej in the wings, but the thing about Souza is his ability to play CF. He looks like he is going to hit and get on base....if he can play CF, too...he's a great guy to have. If Rios is only getting one year, Aoki is getting no more than two, btw.16 hours 54 min ago
rick82Kendrys? Rios? Is the Royal strategy to sign bad ball players?18 hours 55 min ago
DaddyORoyals to sign Rios per MLBTR. http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2014/12/royals-to-sign-alex-rios.html19 hours 4 min ago
merksAnthony Varvaro has been designated and some of the Braves writers think he'll be packaged with Upton or Gattis soon.19 hours 31 min ago
Gordon GrossStill think he's looking for one piece. Maybe it's as simple as Smith and Guti. If Guti can't go (again) then we have Miller and Jones lying around. They ain't righties, but we'll survive somehow. ;-) This would still be easier with Saunders on the roster tho. That chasm between him and management might have been impassable, and I like Happ FWIW, but I'm still waiting on the sewn-up roster to finish my opinions.19 hours 39 min ago