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.


Dr D

Klat Categories: 


ghost's picture


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


tjm's picture


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.



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...


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.
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.


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moethedogI'm with you moj. Way in. Keep 'em both! Willie who?5 hours 9 min ago
Tacoma RainJordy Lara played a couple innings yesterday at 3rd too5 hours 21 min ago
SpectatorNow that I look at it, Blash hasn't been given a shot or Paolini in the first 3 games. But Cousino did. Guess that's a little tip about how they see the pecking order. Unless there's injuries or something.5 hours 41 min ago
Gordon GrossI missed on Chris Taylor too originally, Spec. I thought he was a Bloomquist type, which has value but not great value. He certainly seems to be on a higher trajectory than that. Elias and Landazuri were big with me in spring of 2013, so I'm glad one of them has come through. Still have hopes for Lando. Also, Jordy Lara in the outfield is not really what I wanna see - and yeah, Kivlehan isn't slowing down yet. I really, really love that.5 hours 51 min ago
DragoHey I think we should get an SSI Fantasy Baseball league going! I have plenty of friends who are into fantasy football but I can&#039;t scare up anyone to play fantasy baseball!5 hours 56 min ago
SpectatorJordy Lara playing OF. He and Blash and Romero and Paolini would all be in the mix for RH OF reserve ... but Kivlehan is blowing them all away.6 hours 1 min ago
MtGrizzlyMarte on defense...yikes.6 hours 12 min ago
SpectatorHere's the 2013 spreadsheet used by the guy who compiles the consensus rankings. Credit to Fangraphs (and Gordon) for having Kivlehan at No. 11. I had him No. 33. Look in vain for the name Chris Taylor. It's not there. Nor Roenis Elias. Nor Dominic Leone. John Sickles had Carson Smith No. 18. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1anJblCbm3y3dQ9psaztJhjN-G1CGQ_-PpyLnCV_uXBc/edit#gid=06 hours 21 min ago
Gordon GrossI've now jinxed Marte, and he's returning to the form that makes me nervous about him. ;)6 hours 34 min ago
Gordon GrossMarte looks the part of a real ballplayer out there. Got a nice bit of muscle over the last couple seasons too. I can understand why scouts really like him - a tweak here or there at the plate might help boost him quite a bit.6 hours 53 min ago
mojicianSo why can't a bat first shortstop with wheels make a good benchie? Taylor? Miller? Why choose? use them both.7 hours 2 min ago
mojicianWho is Tyler Olson who struck out Kendrick, jam pitched Ethier and got a weak popout on Uribe? He is a native of Spokane, went to Gonzaga, and was taken in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. He was apparently the 2014 Jackson Generals resident staff ace. After a quick scan of the blogosphere, it appears Spectator called Olson pitcher of the year before he had his 1 point nothing ERA in August. Its nice to hear about tomorrow's news nine months ago.7 hours 4 min ago
Gordon GrossNice home run by Taylor - that two-horse race between him and Miller should be fun all Spring.7 hours 6 min ago
mojicianErasmage on Gameday: Pitched all right but tubed several pitches, especially in the first inning. Given that McClendon has zero tolerance for centered fastballs or similar horse (manure), I think Erasmo is done as a Mariner.7 hours 23 min ago
SABR MattHeard about that yesterday, and don't find it the least bit surprising. Felix's home country is in a heap of trouble.10 hours 47 min ago
MtGrizzlyFrom the Times: "• Multiple sources in Venezuela are reporting that the Mariners have closed their baseball academy in Aguirre, Carabobo, because of political and social unrest in the country. The players, coaches and staff in Venezuela will be transferred to the Mariners’ new facility in the Dominican Republic. Organization officials would not comment on the situation."13 hours 50 min ago
SABR Mattsuch a shame to lose Choi...I thought he was the most mature hitter in our system...the most likely to succeed immediately.14 hours 15 min ago
GrumpyUgh. Worst case scenario for Choi. Other than breaking his back again at the same time.16 hours 29 min ago
Tacoma RainDutton says the Mariners expect Choi to miss at least 4 to 6 months... thus this is a lost year for Choi. And unfortunately for Choi, he will have a tough time getting attention with all the others coming behind him. I was really hoping for better things for Choi.23 hours 9 min ago
Gordon GrossVery true bat. I meant that it didn't affect Choi at all, but it is the smarter roster move for staying alert and able to be active in Spring Training.23 hours 19 min ago