Saturday, August 16, 2008

So, how's your hitting?

As you all know by now, batting average is a piece of shit. Not even human shit. We're talking the shit from that Bigfoot that those guys found. Smelly, useless, and produced in large quantities by simple but prolific sportswriters.

You also know about BABIP, but BABIP is only part of the batting average story. To get an even better picture of how a hitter is hitting, one of your best bets is the self explanatory "line drive percentage, and the best place to check out LD% is at the Hardball Times:

Line Drive Percentage. Baseball Info Solutions tracks the trajectory of each batted ball and categorizes it as a groundball, fly ball or line drive. LD% is the percent of batted balls that are line drives. Line drives are not necessarily the hardest hit balls, but they do fall for a hit around 75% of the time.

Line drive percentage is helpful, because it allows us to give context to a players BABIP. BABIP, remember, helps to tell us how lucky a player is, and in generally, the league average BABIP is around .290. Keep in mind, however, that not all hitters are the same. We would expect a better hitter to have a higher BABIP just because he is a better hitter. He will hit more hard balls into play.

So, some people who are smarter than me figured out that you could figure out "expected BABIP" by adding .12 to a players line drive rate, and then compare their actual BABIP to that, to get a more accurate luck reading.

Let's take a look at everyones' most disappointing Brewer, Rickie Weeks.

Rickie's been shit all year, but is he just unlucky, or does he actually suck? A quick look at his LD% tells us that the "sucking" explanation holds a lot more water.

In Weeks' first two seasons in the Majors, Weeks was consistently driving the ball 20% of the time. He suffered a minor decline in 2007 to 17% and a major decline this year all the way down to 13.9%. Rickie's expected BABIP is therefore about .260, which means that his actual BABIP of .273 is on the lucky side. Indeed, it could be worse for Weeks.

I suspect that the wrist injury, as well as other nagging injuries that seem to plague Weeks, have caused him to gain some bad habits as he fails to generate power from his previously quick wrist action, but that's just a guess.

Anyway, Weeks can't blame his poor play on luck. Something is definitely wrong with the guy, be it injury, lack of concentration, or one of any of the thousands of things that affects people, including baseball players on a daily basis.

For the sake of comparison, Braun's LD% is 17.9%, Fielder's is 16.9, Hart's is 19.5 (which helps him compensate for his poor OBP) and Hardy's is 14.4.

Weeks might be able to correct this problem. He's still young and should have his prime ahead of him, but if he does not show improvement soon, he will not be a major leaguer much longer.

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