Good morning White Sox twitter. I’d like to be the first to say, I know very little about how the ole BABIP train gets a working, what I do know is that it exists and it is a fickle beast. What is BABIP?
Batting Average on Balls In Play
Okay, wtf is a ball in play?
A ball in play is one that is hit out into the field of play but does not go over the fence. Ie, it is a ball that is hit that results in some sort of official scoring that isn’t a Home Run. So, plate appearances that end in Walks, Strike Outs, Hit By Pitch and Home Run don’t fucking count. Got it!?!?! I hope my old school baseball people are sticking with me right now, because much like Taylor Negron’s character Julio in the 1983 Feature Film “Easy Money” reading a book called “El Joy de Sexo” to his new wife Allison Capuletti played by Jennifer Jason Leigh…..this ALSO has a Very Happy Ending.
The White Sox lead the baseball world in BABIP last season. It was a thing, not just because they did it, but because they did it by a lot and it’s considered a bit of a lucky thing to win it by a lot and two of their bright young starts were the front runners in leading this charge.
Lately, I have seen plenty of discussion about how Tim Anderson is likely headed for a BABIP regression (meaning less of the balls he hits out into the field will turn into hits than did in 2019), but much less about Yoan Moncada. There is quite a bit of faith out there in the Twitterverse that Yoan is going to be a little better off than old Tim with ye olde BABIP gods.
I truly had no clue what to believe. I don’t really know what characteristics lead to a good BABIPer. I’d assume it probably helps to have speed, I’d assume it probably helps to hit line drives, but after that, really no fucking clue. So what should I do? I attempted to datamine an answer. See the table below. This is the “qualified” BABIP leaders of the last 10 years. It’s a goofy list. I was overjoyed to see some of the silly names on this list.
I figured though to narrow my search a bit and to make it easier to ingest the information in blogging form, I’d cut the list down to just Moncada + anyone on the list with 4,000 PA. Then, I decided to look at their batted ball stats to see if any patterns arose….
Now, just from this table, you can’t really know much. Right!?!?!? I mean, half of you probably don’t even know what some of the symbols stand for in the columns (don’t worry, we’ll go through the important ones in a second). We need to know a little bit of additional data, that I looked up but didn’t put in table form, because, well, it was just easier this way. One thing that became pretty clear from the get butt, is that speed might not be that big of a factor. There are speedy players on this list, but half the list is 1b/DH types that generally don’t play a game that requires a lot of speed.
LD% = Line Drive Percentage
That’s right, the percentage of balls that this group hits for line drives. As you can see, Freddie Freeman is actually the leader of the group and he and Joey Votto over the last 10 years have hit A LOT of fucking line drives. The MLB Median LD% is 20.5%, so everyone on this list is above the median
IFFB% = Infield Fly Ball Percentage
You know what an infield fly ball is, right? It’s a fucking pop up. The easiest possible ball to catch. The MLB Median IFFB% is 9.8%, these fellas are all comfortably below that number, which means they aren’t giving up easy outs when they put the ball in play (look at Joey Votto’s comically low pop up %).
Hard% = (GET YOUR FUCKING MIND OUTTA THE GUTTER!!!) Hard contact percentage aka Percentage of Hard Hit batted balls
Hitting the ball hard would seem to be a pre-requisite and the MLB Median for Hard% for this time period was 30.5%, which the entire group other than Austin Jackson, is comfortably above (side note, Austin Jackson’s 57.9% Med% is the easy leader in this group and well above the MLB Median of 50.8%). What is interesting about this and directly related is how the MLB Median for Soft % is 18.6% over this period and none of this group comes close to being around the number, meaning that they just don’t hit many balls softly. Unclear how strong a correlation that might have.
In conclusion, after looking at the highest BABIP hitters of the last decade, I’d say Yoan Moncada stacks up nicely with them and is very likely to be one of the best BABIP hitters of the 2020’s. Will there be some regression from a monster 2019? Probably. Will he have a bad BABIP year tossed in there somewhere? Likely. But I would expect him to stay among the leaders of this “LUCKY” category for the remainder of his career.