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Entries in BABIP (7)


Top Hitters with Two Strikes

Most Hits with Two Strikes in 2012
T1Adam Jones8324303
T1Derek Jeter7724600
3Josh Reddick8423400
T4David Ortiz7322304
T4Martin Prado8122410
T6Joe Mauer8521414
T6Rafael Furcal7621301
T8Mark Ellis7920201
T8Emilio Bonifacio10020510
T10Daniel Murphy7219310
T10Ryan Braun8219011
T10Bryan LaHair7419400
T10Prince Fielder7619704
T10Elvis Andrus8119503
T10A. J. Ellis7219404
T10Dustin Pedroia8319522
T17Edwin Encarnacion8917702
T17Joey Votto7817403
T17Jayson Werth6917202
T17Brett Lawrie7617301
T17Michael Bourn9217501
T17Michael Cuddyer8117100
T17Curtis Granderson9217003
T17Ian Kinsler8717111
T17Nelson Cruz8017200

Adam Jones has been on fire for the Baltimore Orioles. He's batting .302 with a .591 slugging percentage. And his .397 wOBA is 67 points higher than his 2008-2011 average. Jones is apparently doing much better with two strikes as well, as he's tied with Derek Jeter for the league lead in hits when one pitch away from a strikeout.

In 2011, Jones had 51 hits in two strike counts, and with not even a quarter of the current season finished he's almost half way there. His wOBA with two strikes between 2008 and 2011 was .245. In 2012: .388.

One possible reason for his success this year is that Jones has become more selective when down in the count. Between 2008 and 2011, Jones chased 54.0% of pitches out of the zone with two strikes. This season that number is down to 49.4%. Jones is also making more contact in two strike counts as his miss rate is down to 19.1% from 22.8% between the 2008 and 2011 seasons.

Of course, there's always a little bit of luck involved with balls in play, and Jones is no exception. His BABIP with two strikes is a rather high .408, compared to .312 between 2008 and 2011, and a .298 League Average BABIP with two strikes in 2012.


Fastball Velocity and BABIP

On MLB Network's "Top 10 Right Now" series, Brian Kenny and company ranked reigning AL Cy Young and MVP Award winner Justin Verlander second among starting pitchers. The discussion soon turned to Verlander's batting average on balls in play, which was just .236 in 2011.

While noting that many different factors can influence a pitcher's BABIP -- batted ball profile, defensive quality and park dimensions being just a few -- Kenny posited that Verlander's BABIP might not regress to the mean as much as other pitchers because of his elite-level velocity. Verlander's heat, which averaged a MLB-best 97.4 mph last year, might allow him to induce weaker contact (when hitters do make contact) and thus result in a lower-than-average BABIP.

Does that theory ring true? To get a rough idea, I placed all fastballs thrown in the majors into four bins based on fastball velocity: those tossed under 90 MPH, 90-92 mph, 93-95 mph and finally 96+ mph. The Verlander-level fastballs did have a slightly lower BABIP than the lower-velocity fastballs from 2008-2010, but the difference was minimal:

Velocity08 BABIP09 BABIP10 BABIP
96+ mph 0.303 0.307 0.301
93-95 mph 0.304 0.302 0.311
90-92 mph 0.305 0.312 0.302
> 90 mph 0.307 0.308 0.305


Something seemed to change in 2011, however. Those popping the mitt at 96 mph or higher had a far lower BABIP:

Velocity11 BABIP
96+ mph 0.283
93-95 mph 0.303
90-92 mph 0.3
> 90 mph 0.301


While the spread in BABIP among higher and lower-velocity fastballs was just a few points from 2008-2010, there was a nearly a 20-point gap in 2011. Check out the in-play average by pitch location for 96+ mph fastballs from 2008-2010, compared to 2011.

In-play average by pitch location for 96+ mph fastballs, 2008-2010

In-play average by pitch location for 96+ mph fastballs, 2011

BABIP fell a little on 96+ mph fastballs thrown up in the zone, but the biggest dip by far came on pitches thrown in the middle third of the strike zone vertically. Middle-zone fastball BABIP fell by over 30 points:

Part of Zone2008-102011
Up 0.262 0.257
Middle 0.323 0.291
Down 0.32 0.309


Verlander himself was a big beneficiary of the high-velocity fastball BABIP decline: his fastball had a .231 BABIP in 2011, third-lowest among qualified starters. Despite his zip, he actually had a .315 BABIP with his fastball the previous three seasons.

So, what does this all mean? If I knew, I'd be high-tailing it for Vegas. What we do know is that in a sample of over 2,800 balls put in play in 2011, hitters had an awfully hard time making forceful contact and getting hits on fastballs with Verlander-like velocity. There seems to be something to the "more velocity equals lower BABIP" theory. But figuring out whether the huge split that we saw in 2011 will persist is, well, about as easy as trying to hit a Verlander fastball.


A Little Bit of Luck

There is always a certain degree of luck involved with balls put in play.  This was perhaps most evident last night when Miguel Cabrera hit a ball off the third base bag in the sixth inning, scoring a run and kicking off a four run inning for the Detroit Tigers.  Had the ball missed the bag, it is likely fielded by Adrian Beltre for at least one out.  Instead, Cabrera's ball, not particularly well-hit, bounced over Beltre and into left field for a double, and the Tigers went on to win Game 5 against the Texas Rangers.

Interestingly enough, Cabrera hit .301 on ground balls this season, which ranks him in the top 15 percent of batters.  Of course, for someone like Cabrera it's tough to say whether this is due to his ability to hit the ball hard or just good fortune.  He's not particularly fast, and speedy players tend to have higher batting averages on ground balls due to their ability to get down the line faster.  However, Cabrera has consistently hit ground balls above the league average line over the past four years.  Between 2008-2010, he hit .283 on ground balls, which was about 40 points above league average.

One last interesting note: Prior to last night's sixth inning, Cabrera had hit nine ground balls this postseason, all outs.  Whether you believe he is particularly skillfull at hitting ground balls for hits or not, it's hard to deny that his 10th ground ball was almost purely a product of luck.  And as a result, the Tigers are still alive.