Hi everybody, this is my first post here. Today, I’ll be sharing some of my BABIP research with you. There will probably be several more in the near future.
Now, I don’t know about you, but Voros McCracken’s famous thesis stating that pitchers have practically no control over their batting average on balls in play (BABIP) always seemed counterintuitive to me, ever since I heard it about 10 years ago. Basically, my thought this whole time was that if an Average Joe were pitching to an MLB lineup, the hitters would rarely be fooled by the pitches, and would be crushing most of them, making it very tough on the fielders. Think Home Run Derby (only with a lot more walks). Now, the worst MLB pitcher is a lot closer in ability to the best pitcher than he is to an Average Joe, but there still must be a spectrum amongst MLB pitchers relating to their BABIP, I figured. After crunching some numbers, I have to say that intuition hasn’t completely failed me.
This is going to be a long article, so if you want the main point right here, right now, it’s this: in the long run, about 40% or more of the difference in pitchers’ BABIPs can be explained by two factors that are independent of their team’s defense: how often batters hit infield fly balls and line drives off of them. It is more difficult to predict on a yearly basis, where I can only say that those factors can predict over 22% of the difference. Line drive rates are fairly inconsistent, but pop fly rates are among the more predictable pitching stats (about as much as K/BB). I’ll explain the formula at the very end of the article.