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Getting The Most Out Of Batted-Ball Data
Big Grin 
The modern baseball statistical analysis revolution has largely been about something; removing the noise, and getting to the root of a players true talent. DIPS theory, which posited that the only stuff that pitchers truly ought to be attributed for were strikeouts, walks and homers allowed, represented a significant advance, and brought terms like BABIP and FIP in to the games lexicon. What those new metrics a sumed, however, was that other batted balls were pretty much created equal. Now, using the advent of StatCast, we all know, publicly, that isn't the situation.
Granular batted ball data is making its distance to the general public domain, bringing by using it the clarity that may overcome the constraints of numerous of the games newly accepted metrics. This information is the very first of a short series that aims to prep you for the ongoing batted-ball revolution.
First, a very brief general history. The 30 individual clubs have been receiving detailed data regarding every pitch added too the main leagues since 2008. Most of you're acquainted with Pitch f(x), that has been publicly available since that time. The batted-ball data hit f(x) has not been freely available. This year, MLB began utilizing a new data provider for StatCast, and has made the information readily available for MLB At Bat Premium subscribers. From my experience working with the data produced by both providers, the brand new StatCast data runs faster by a few MPH. Any specifics I refer to in this piece are based on the pre-StatCast data; it ought to just be utilized as an item of reference continuing to move forward.
Before we can arrive at the fun stuff, we have to struggle through some of the relatively mundane, if perhaps to put some parameters in place. Lets first define the major batted-ball types by vertical exit angle. At what point will a pop up become a fly ball, a fly ball become a line drive, and a line drive be a ground ball? I attempted to reconcile the detailed batted-ball data with official game accounts, and developed the following breakdown:
Popups = > 50 degree vertical angle Fly Ball = 20-50 Line Drive = 5-20 Ground Ball = below 5
Now that weve got the basic categories separated, lets see how major league batters performed on each batted-ball type during the 2014 season.
Popup = .015 AVG-.019 SLG ( Robert McClain Jersey 7.7%) Fly Ball = .275 AVG-.703 SLG (28.0%) Line Drive = .661 AVG-.869 SLG (20.9%) Ground Ball = .245 AVG-.267 SLG (43.4%) All = .323 AVG-.496 SLG (100.0%)
The above production figures cover about 95% of batted balls struck in the 2014 season. The other 5% did not sign in on the recording equipment; many of them were weakly hit. The particular MLB production on all BIP in 2014 was .318 AVG-.489 SLG. Its not perfect, but Ill have a 95% sample of batted balls any day when setting out to do valuable research.
Theres some very valuable base-level information for the reason that simple table above, and it yields strings that whenever pulled result in even more eye-opening data.
First, the standard popup. Its almost every bit a computerized out because the strikeout. It's a true, repeatable skill, for a pitcher, and flaw, for any hitter. Chris Young had an absolutely ludicrous 21.3% popup rate last season. The FIP calculation basically ignored this, giving him a 5.02 mark. Based on granular batted-ball data, I calculated a tru ERA for those 2014 ERA qualifiers; Youngs mark was a more modest 4.37, which credited him for his popup prowe s, while docking him for that illusory benefits of his friendly Safeco home park.
Most power hitters have greater than average popup rates; their additional power justifies the additional automatic outs. More interestingly, a minimal popup rate, along with a high contact rate, is paramount to becoming a .300+ hitter. Now, everyone knows Derek Jeter was toast last year, a shell of his former self. Still, though he couldnt hit the ball nearly as hard as he once did, you can still see the basic outline of his exceptional offensive game. He struck out only 13.7% of the time, and had a popup rate of only 1.7%. Combined with league average frequency and authority marks within the other batted-ball categories, Jeter might have batted .300 again. Along with Jeter, the 3 other AL regulars with the lowest popup rates were Joe Mauer, Howie Kendrick and Michael Brantley, three other batting average-centric players.
Popups would be the one batted-ball type in which exit speed makes no difference one whit; its all about frequency. As you may imagine, authority is really a much bigger deal with regard to fly balls, while there is a comparatively fine line between your ultimate upside, a house run, and a garden variety out. If you take one piece of information using this article, let it be the following one:
Fly Balls > 92.5 MPH = .560 AVG-1.884 SLG (7.6% of all batted balls) Fly Balls 75-90 MPH = .077 AVG-.148 SLG (11.9%)
Thats pretty staggering. The upper boundary from the second group is just 2.5 MPH shy from the lower boundary from the first. I call the 2nd group the Donut Hole. It is where lots of careers visit die. Attrition due to injury, age, or any number of factors gradually drives hitters out of the first and into the second group.
Production on fly balls varies greatly from field sector to field sector, and from ballpark to ballpark. Inside a future article, well drill down and check out the magnitude of some of those variables. For now, lets put those aside and simply focus on some important Chase Rettig Jersey areas of fly ball frequency and authority.
Youll notice from one from the earlier tables there were much more grounders (43.4%) than fly balls (28.0%) in the majors last season. This disparity has increased in recent seasons as clubs have centered on ground ball pitchers. Obviously, then, it is extremely unusual for a player hitting more fly balls than grounders. Only 9 of 77 2014 AL batting title qualifiers did so, together with 5 of 65 NL qualifiers. In recent seasons, virtually all hitters meeting this criteria declined in performance the next season, many precipitously. It Younghoe Koo Jersey s not natural for any major league hitter to hit more fly balls than grounders within the long haul, and much le s fly balls obviously leads to le s longball power.
For each 2014 MLB batting title qualifier, I created a contact score for every BIP type, with 100 representing MLB average. Take every batted ball, place it inside a neutral context, apply run values, etc.. As one might expect, the fly ball contact scores vary much more widely than those a sociated with a other BIP type. Three qualifiers actually cracked a 300 fly ball contact score last season; Giancarlo Stanton (407), Chris Carter (329) and Chris Davis (321).
How hard did they hit the ball in the air? Remember, it is at 92.5 MPH where fly balls begin to do real damage. 27.2% of all fly balls were that hard in 2014. Stanton hit 101 fly balls, and fully 54 of these (53.5%) were hit at least very difficult. Hold on; 33 of these 54 were hit at 100 MPH or harder, and 14 of these were hit at 105 MPH or more. Only 0.59% of fly balls were hit at 105 MPH or harder last season; 13.9% of Stantons were. A level higher percentage of Carters fly balls (55 of 102, 53.9%) were hit at 92.5 MPH of upper, though he reached 105 MPH only 7 times. Davis reached the 92.5 MPH threshold on 53.5 of his fly balls (47 of 88), though he reached the 105 MPH mark only four times.
Of the 3 players, Stanton has got the most room to develop his fly ball rate, as his 28.1% mark basically matches the MLB average. Carter, however, is among the nine 2014 AL batting title qualifiers to hit more fly balls than grounders, marking him like a candidate for 2015 decline, which seems a pretty safe bet based on the early returns. And Davis? Well, he hit way more fly balls than grounders in the 2013 career year, and experienced his predictable decline last season despite his prolific fly ball contact score. Similar damage per fly ball, only a lot fewer fly balls.
Next, on to line drives. On the surface, theyre type of boring, though very productive. Hit a line drive, you probably get a hit, and it rarely covers the fence. Its probably the most random from the batted ball types, most abundant in variation from year to year. Two lowest line drive rates in the AL last year belonged to Alex Gordon and Josh Donaldson, both at 17.3%. Ditto Andrew McCutchen (17.6%) and Hunter Pence (17.5%) in the NL. Ill take those guys on my squad whenever, and wait for the positive regre sion of their liner rates.
Still, some players skillfully post high liner rates on an ongoing basis; Miguel Cabrera, Michael Brantley, Robinson Cano, Joe Mauer, Buster Posey, Matt Carpenter, Freddie Freeman and Adrian Gonzalez are a few very unsurprising types of this, but can you think that James Loney and David Freese annually rank among league leaders in liner rate?
Only 176 line Max Tuerk Jersey drive homers were hit in 2014. If you wish to hit one, you need to hit a liner a minimum of 97.5 MPH, as well as the chances are you to need to hit it down the road in a single of a quantity of relatively line drive friendly ballparks. Once you get below 97.5 MPH, you actually po se s the best po sibility of obtaining a hit between 75-80 MPH then at every other velocity interval. Batters hit .739 AVG-.820 SLG on 75-80 MPH liners last season, while batting only .637 AVG-.825 SLG on 87.5-90 MPH liners. I sue is, greater hit ones carry towards the outfielders more often. Still, youre batting a minimum of .635 on liners down to 70 MPH, and youre still at .547 AVG-.579 SLG from 65-70 MPH.
Hitters only enter into trouble on liners underneath the 65 MPH mark, in which the liners are more from the broken bat variety, and can usually be hauled in through the infielders. Batters hit .218 AVG-.238 SLG on liners below 65 MPH last season.
Individual hitters line drive contact scores vary much le s than those of fly balls, as you may expect. The 2014 MLB leading liner contact scores belonged to Stanton (148), Ian Desmond (147) and Jose Bautista (137). To obtain a feel for just how hard Stanton hit his line drives, think about this: exactly 1.64% of MLB liners were hit at 105 MPH or more last season; 30.1% (22 of 73) of Stantons were.
Lastly, we've ground balls. When a ground ball was hit at 95 MPH or higher last season, batters hit .532 AVG-.583 SLG. When hit at 70 MPH or fewer, they hit .116 AVG-.123 SLG. Everywhere among, they hit .340 AVG-.375 SLG; it was all in the luck to find a hole within the infield.
When you are looking at ground ball performance, its just like vital that you avoid hitting an inadequate ground ball as it is hitting a tough one. To demonstrate this point, consider the two hitters with the best grounder contact scores last season, the unlikely pairing of Miguel Cabrera and Aramis Ramirez. 12.91% of MLB grounders were hit at 95 MPH or higher last season. Cabrera reached that mark on 32.1% (59 of 184) of his grounders, en route to compiling a grounder contact score of 203. Ramirez only reached that threshold on 20.3% (30 of 148) of his grounders, and posted a grounder contact score of 176.
Both were quite proficient at avoiding the weak, roll-over ground ball. Sean McGrath Jersey 53.53% of all MLB grounders were hit at 70 MPH or le s in 2014; only 43.2% of Ramirez, and an amazingly low 32.1% of Cabreras were. How big of the i sue will the roll-over grounder be? Ask Ryan Howard, who hit 61.9% of his grounders at 70 MPH, the vast majority to the dead pull side. Ground ball pulling and resulting infield overshifting is an extremely significant topic that will covered in more depth in another article. The contact scores referenced here for Cabrera and Ramirez do not take the effects of exce sive pulling into consideration. Cabrera doesn't pull exce sively on the ground, so his 203 contact score is legit. Ramirez, however, is an exce sive ground ball puller, and his contact score must be docked somewhat.
Pitchers don't control contact authority towards the extent that hitters do, obviously, but at the extremes there are clear installments of negative and positive contact management. With regard to grounder managing contacts, one name that must be discu sed is Dallas Keuchel. Those of you happen to be reading my articles realize that I have been a Keuchel guy hours, and heres why. First, dont walk people. Second, post the best grounder rate, undoubtedly, among MLB ERA qualifiers in 2014. Third, post the 5th lowest grounder contact score (77) among 2014 MLB ERA qualifiers. The skill set had been in position, and last season, Keuchel invest from the pieces together. Fully 62.3% (210 of the amazing 337) from the grounders allowed by Keuchel were hit at 70 MPH or le s.
One of the four pitchers who posted a lower grounder contact score than Keuchel last season was Johnny Cueto (75). While it's po sible to look at pitchers like Felix Hernandez and Clayton Kershaw immediately and identify multiple reasons why they are great, its a bit more difficult to achieve this with Cueto. He does all things in an above average fashion, however the one facet of pitching where he is able to be considered truly great is in limiting ground ball authority. 59.8% from the grounders allowed by Cueto last season were hit at 70 MPH or fewer.
Batted-ball data may be easily misinterpreted, but when you understand its nuances, it is an exceptional help with talent evaluation. Just looking in a players average exit speed on all BIP types can be quite misleading; hitting a lot of 90 MPH fly balls doesnt enable you to get a lot of anywhere. Being able to weave together the intricacies of frequency and authority, while considering pull tendencies, park effects, etc., enables one to combine such new-school information with older-school traditional scouting to create a more complete, valid portrait from the modern ballplayer.

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