By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com
I want to briefly share with you some information about one of my favorite stats: BABIP. To start with, this should not be confused with one of my favorite Korean dishes, Bibimbap, which a bowl of warm white rice topped with all sorts of delicious goodies and spices.
BABIP is an acronym for Batting Average on Balls In Play and, like the name suggests, it tracks what happens when a ball is hit and can or cannot be fielded. I like the fact that it can be used both to see what is going from the hitters perspective and the pitchers, as it measures what happens when the batter hits the ball and what happens after the pitcher delivers the ball. It also takes into account, to a degree, fielding expertise, but lets not muddy the water too much.
Heres the simple BABIP formula:
-- Hits minus homers (remember it's balls in play; a homer most of the time is not playable)
-- Divided by At Bats minus strikeouts (not in play), minus homers, plus Sacrifice Flies (sac flies are playable balls but dont count as At Bats which is why they need to be added back into the equation).
The average BABIP is between .290 and .310, which means that about 30 percent of all balls that are hit, fall for base hits. There are certain variables that you should be aware of when looking at how far above or below a BABIP average might be.
Lets look at Adrian Gonzalez, who through Tuesday is a lifetime .284 hitter with a career .310 BABIP. This season, his batting average is about the same as his career average but his BABIP is .329, considerably higher. Why is that? Well, for one thing, thus far Adrian has yet to find the power stroke that he had in San Diego, so he has more hits in play.
Now, lets look at Carl Crawford, who through Tuesday is a lifetime .294 hitter with a career .329 BABIP. Why is his BABIP so much higher than A-Gons? Because speed is a BABIP variable. CC will beat out hits, while Gonzalez will barely edge out tortoises in a race. Crawford is not even hitting .170 on the season and his BABIP is just .188. It was .342 each of the last two seasons. We should expect things to level out as the season progresses.
If speed is a variable, so is luck. I still find it incredible that any pitcher can throw a no-hitter. How many times have you seen a batter hit a ball on the screws only to see it nestle itself comfortably in a fielders glove? Probably the same amount of times youve seen a batter get totally fooled on a pitch, or a break a bat, and watch as a dribbler sneaks through the infield or a pop falls safely for a hit. Dont discount the goodbad luck factor in hitting and that does have an influence on BABIP.
Chances are though that over the course of a season a batters BABIP will settle in between .290 and .310 and that is why it becomes an interesting way to see where a player is now and basically, the likelihood that player will return to what is normal. Recently numbers were released that showed run scoring is down this season. When you look at the chart blow, you will also see that the AL average BABIP is down as well and it remains to be seen if that is a first month quirk or a season pattern.
Here are the Sox batting BABIP stats through Tuesday:
BAbip BA lgBA MikeCameron .188 .136 .254 CarlCrawford .188 .163 .254 J.D.Drew .375 .276 .254 JacobyEllsbury .250 .221 .254 AdrianGonzalez .329 .281 .254 JedLowrie .413 .400 .255 DarnellMcDonald .111 .133 .255 DavidOrtiz .267 .261 .254 DustinPedroia .323 .284 .254 JarrodSaltalamacchia .286 .186 .255 MarcoScutaro .222 .208 .254 JasonVaritek .158 .100 .254 KevinYoukilis .244 .212 .254 League Average .283 .248 .248 Team Total .277 .237 .254
BABIP averages that stood out to me are Kevin Youkilis (lifetime BABIP of .332), Jed Lowrie (lifetime BABIP of .308), and J.D. Drew (lifetime BABIP of .314).
Lets look at the other side of the ball: The Red Sox pitchers. Lets start by understanding that Sox have superior defense. They have committed the fewest errors in the American League, just seven through Tuesday, and just think about the outfield where Crawford and Ellsbury have speed to burn and you never ever see Drew out of position or mis-read a fly ball. Good defense will help every pitcher lower their BABIP.
Here are the Sox pitching BABIP stats through Tuesday:
BA BAbip HidekiOkajima .400 .500 BobbyJenks .290 .409 DennysReyes .333 .400 DanWheeler .333 .360 JonathanPapelbon .226 .350 FelixDoubront .364 .333 DanielBard .229 .320 ClayBuchholz .312 .308 JohnLackey .284 .308 JonLester .230 .288 League Average .248 .283 DaisukeMatsuzaka .198 .210 MattAlbers .143 .200 JoshBeckett .138 .182 TimWakefield .231 .182 AlfredoAceves .179 .143 Team Total .241 .274
(Tables courtesy of baseball-reference.com.)
Pitchers that standout for me are Jonathan Papelbon (.275 lifetime BABIP), Josh Beckett (.297 lifetime BABIP), and Bobby Jenks (.302 lifetime BABIP).
You can see that Clay Buchholz and John Lackey are both 25 points higher than the rest of the league for BABIP. Of greater concern is that Buchholz is 45 points higher than his 2010 performance, his only full year in the majors.
Im always contending that Lackey is your prototypical WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) pitcher and he is proving it again this season: his 2011 BABIP and his career BABIP are both .308.
Delicious BABIP Stats:
-- Wade Boggs had a career BABIP of .344, Ted Williams was .328, Carl Yastrzemski was .290, and Pedro Martinez pitching had a .288 BABIP.
-- BTW: Ichiro has a lifetime .356 BABIP.
Now go out to your favorite Korean restaurant and try some bibimbap and then, when you're watching the Sox, try some BABIP. I think youll find them both very satisfying.