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Thread: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index...heck-on-babip/

    Dan Rosencheck has some interesting findings related to pitcher BABIP. He presented them at the Sloan Analytics Conference, but Fangraphs has some of it up on their site.

    I studied a bunch of variables I thought might have something to do with hit suppression on balls in play. I came up with two ó both FanGraphs stats ó that seem to have significant predictive power. The first is pop up rate. The second is z-contact, which is when batters swing at a strike ó balls in the strike zone ó thrown by a pitcher. What percent of those times does the batter make contact? It turns out that, just like inducing pop ups, it reduces BABIP and correlates consistently year to year. Getting batters to swing and miss at your strikes has strong predictive power on hit suppression.
    I feel like these are things we have generally understood some in the past. Better stuff makes it harder to square up the ball, thus leading to fewer harder hit balls, making them easier to field and turn into outs.

    Still, it is nice to see something actually back it up, even if the correlation is small, it does seem to be there.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    I attended his presentation of this paper at the Sloan Analytics Conference. It was funny watching him present with Voros McCracken in the audience (sitting next to MLBAM's Corey Schwartz).

    We had some interesting discussion afterwards regarding how he cut his samples regarding what kind of pitchers get pop ups and low z-contact rates. He hypothesized tall pitchers and guys with great change-ups. He didn't find anything predictive yet, but suggested that it merited further research.

    I'd like to see somebody look at tall pitchers and/or guys with great velocity that pitch up in the zone: Jered Weaver, Matt Cain, Justin Verlander, Chris Young, etc.

    This is one of those areas where I would LOVE to see a scout and a stat-head work together on a study. Let's not have analysts making the hypotheses when scouts could give you all kinds of things to test out. I'm sure there's a ton of scouting wisdom out there that could be put to the test in studies like this.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I attended his presentation of this paper at the Sloan Analytics Conference. It was funny watching him present with Voros McCracken in the audience (sitting next to MLBAM's Corey Schwartz).

    We had some interesting discussion afterwards regarding how he cut his samples regarding what kind of pitchers get pop ups and low z-contact rates. He hypothesized tall pitchers and guys with great change-ups. He didn't find anything predictive yet, but suggested that it merited further research.

    I'd like to see somebody look at tall pitchers and/or guys with great velocity that pitch up in the zone: Jered Weaver, Matt Cain, Justin Verlander, Chris Young, etc.

    This is one of those areas where I would LOVE to see a scout and a stat-head work together on a study. Let's not have analysts making the hypotheses when scouts could give you all kinds of things to test out. I'm sure there's a ton of scouting wisdom out there that could be put to the test in studies like this.
    Even reading the comments from him on the fangraphs articles brought up some other good things that people are wanting to look into.

    To quote Lou Brown in a hospital bed: I love this "stuff"!

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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post

    I feel like these are things we have generally understood some in the past. Better stuff makes it harder to square up the ball, thus leading to fewer harder hit balls, making them easier to field and turn into outs.

    Still, it is nice to see something actually back it up, even if the correlation is small, it does seem to be there.
    Nice article. I like the way he's trying to apply common sense reasoning to explain differences in BABIP. Even if his theories are later proven wrong, it's a great improvement over just shrugging off differences in BABIP to bad luck.
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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    Individual pitchers BABIP seem to be just as predictable year to year as any other stat. Does not vary as much as some seem to think. Had the least variation of the main stats amongst reds starters from 2011 to 2012.

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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I attended his presentation of this paper at the Sloan Analytics Conference. It was funny watching him present with Voros McCracken in the audience (sitting next to MLBAM's Corey Schwartz).
    For the record, McCracken has always welcomed more research on this topic. He never argued that pitchers can't control their BABIP, in fact, he cautioned people not come to that conclusion without further research. He merely presented data that showed that in his study, pitcher's BABIP were normally within a very small range. I imagine he's as excited to learn about this as anyone
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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    Quote Originally Posted by 757690 View Post
    For the record, McCracken has always welcomed more research on this topic. He never argued that pitchers can't control their BABIP, in fact, he cautioned people not come to that conclusion without further research. He merely presented data that showed that in his study, pitcher's BABIP were normally within a very small range. I imagine he's as excited to learn about this as anyone
    Voros was probably cheezing to see new stuff and its not like DIPs theory nolonger stands.
    Last edited by jojo; 03-08-2013 at 07:36 AM.
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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I attended his presentation of this paper at the Sloan Analytics Conference. It was funny watching him present with Voros McCracken in the audience (sitting next to MLBAM's Corey Schwartz).

    We had some interesting discussion afterwards regarding how he cut his samples regarding what kind of pitchers get pop ups and low z-contact rates. He hypothesized tall pitchers and guys with great change-ups. He didn't find anything predictive yet, but suggested that it merited further research.

    I'd like to see somebody look at tall pitchers and/or guys with great velocity that pitch up in the zone: Jered Weaver, Matt Cain, Justin Verlander, Chris Young, etc.

    This is one of those areas where I would LOVE to see a scout and a stat-head work together on a study. Let's not have analysts making the hypotheses when scouts could give you all kinds of things to test out. I'm sure there's a ton of scouting wisdom out there that could be put to the test in studies like this.
    I've maintained for years that the one guy to really start analyzing and researching regarding BABIP is Mariano Rivera. Lifetime BABIP of .262, and outside a few outliers, his seasonal BABIPs are almost always consistently better than league average. Start analyzing every little piece of Rivera's history, and I'm pretty sure folks might be able to uncover some legitimate reasons why he seems to consistently put up those low BABIPs.

    I do think the theory of better stuff, especially better late movement, can make it more difficult for a hitter to square the ball. Rivera's not the only guy in the last 10 or 15 years, but he's a prime example with his nasty cutter. Al Leiter was another example, though to a lesser degree.
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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    I hope this doesnt come off as being holier than thou but I am of the opinion that when looking into BaBIP there are so many other factors that are involved such as the fella hitting the ball....I seen Drew Stubbs hit so many bleeders that wouldnt have made it to the grass if the they let it roll yet there he stood at first base with a single in the books.......or how many shots have we seen Frazier hit off the knuckles or a cue ball off the end of the bat only to see it drop in right over the SS for a single in the books.....

    I know those are not great examples but I was doing a report once in high school on Bert Blyleven's curve ball and how good it really was in terms of how far it broke.......I quoted him in my report and I cannot remember the exact quote or even where I got it(that was 20+ years ago) but it went something like this........."I tried not to throw the curveball as my out pitch because so many batters would miss hit the ball or bloop hit it and rarely did they ever hit it hard but it seemed they always got a hit".......

    now, back then I didnt have the plethora of info and saber stats like we do now or I would have researched that quote a little more and either proved it right or wrong but my point is this.........sometimes the best thing a pitcher can do is throw it down the middle and let the batter hit the piss out of the ball and just hope he doesnt get it up in the air.....let your defense catch the ball and throw him out.....Ichiro and Pete Rose are famous for slapping the ball and poking it over the infield and I would venture to say that 50% of those pokes are accidents....looking for a fastball and get an offspeed so they throw their hands at the ball and make contact and the ball finds a hole......makes the pitcher look like he just allowed a hit yet the pitcher fooled the batter so bad that all he could do was throw the bat at the ball.....

    I know my argument leaves tons of holes and assumptions and what ifs just like all stats do.....but 5-10 years ago when I really started falling in love with Bill James and it seemed like I spent more time on his website than I did with my kids I would have loved a theory like the one Doug presented......but these past few years I have been relying more on watching a youngster and using the old timer stats and trusting my eyes to tell me if a kid of going to be good or not.....

    again, I am not trying to come off as a hater of BABIP cause I follow it more times than not......but I also am truly leaning towards the theory that sabermetrics are not worth a whole lot......to many times I end of falling in love with a prospect or tossing him in the dumpster before I even see him play just because I have analyzed every stat known to man about said prospect and the stats tell me one thing...........recently I have geared myself to try and only use 2-3 stats before I see a kid play then as I watch him I might start digging up a few more stats but the human eyeball will tell you a whole lot..

    I know I got off topic there doug, I apologize for that....been a long week and I guess I am just venting from a stressful week at the shop and I giddy this time of year with so much baseball to watch yet no Reds to watch....

    Dide question for DougDirt.......if the Reds hired you as a scout and asked you to give them your opinion on a certain prospect and gave you a year to analyze the kid.....I understand you would use every tool you had at your hands but if you were on the fence about him and saber metric stats told you to pass on the kid yet your eyes and heart told you that you thought he would be a star, would you advise that they call him up to the big leagues or cut him? thats your 2 options...call up or cut? do you stake your rep on sabermetrics or your eyes?

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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    Quote Originally Posted by lidspinner View Post
    I hope this doesnt come off as being holier than thou but I am of the opinion that when looking into BaBIP there are so many other factors that are involved such as the fella hitting the ball....I seen Drew Stubbs hit so many bleeders that wouldnt have made it to the grass if the they let it roll yet there he stood at first base with a single in the books.......or how many shots have we seen Frazier hit off the knuckles or a cue ball off the end of the bat only to see it drop in right over the SS for a single in the books.....

    I know those are not great examples but I was doing a report once in high school on Bert Blyleven's curve ball and how good it really was in terms of how far it broke.......I quoted him in my report and I cannot remember the exact quote or even where I got it(that was 20+ years ago) but it went something like this........."I tried not to throw the curveball as my out pitch because so many batters would miss hit the ball or bloop hit it and rarely did they ever hit it hard but it seemed they always got a hit".......

    now, back then I didnt have the plethora of info and saber stats like we do now or I would have researched that quote a little more and either proved it right or wrong but my point is this.........sometimes the best thing a pitcher can do is throw it down the middle and let the batter hit the piss out of the ball and just hope he doesnt get it up in the air.....let your defense catch the ball and throw him out.....Ichiro and Pete Rose are famous for slapping the ball and poking it over the infield and I would venture to say that 50% of those pokes are accidents....looking for a fastball and get an offspeed so they throw their hands at the ball and make contact and the ball finds a hole......makes the pitcher look like he just allowed a hit yet the pitcher fooled the batter so bad that all he could do was throw the bat at the ball.....

    I know my argument leaves tons of holes and assumptions and what ifs just like all stats do.....but 5-10 years ago when I really started falling in love with Bill James and it seemed like I spent more time on his website than I did with my kids I would have loved a theory like the one Doug presented......but these past few years I have been relying more on watching a youngster and using the old timer stats and trusting my eyes to tell me if a kid of going to be good or not.....

    again, I am not trying to come off as a hater of BABIP cause I follow it more times than not......but I also am truly leaning towards the theory that sabermetrics are not worth a whole lot......to many times I end of falling in love with a prospect or tossing him in the dumpster before I even see him play just because I have analyzed every stat known to man about said prospect and the stats tell me one thing...........recently I have geared myself to try and only use 2-3 stats before I see a kid play then as I watch him I might start digging up a few more stats but the human eyeball will tell you a whole lot..

    I know I got off topic there doug, I apologize for that....been a long week and I guess I am just venting from a stressful week at the shop and I giddy this time of year with so much baseball to watch yet no Reds to watch....

    Dide question for DougDirt.......if the Reds hired you as a scout and asked you to give them your opinion on a certain prospect and gave you a year to analyze the kid.....I understand you would use every tool you had at your hands but if you were on the fence about him and saber metric stats told you to pass on the kid yet your eyes and heart told you that you thought he would be a star, would you advise that they call him up to the big leagues or cut him? thats your 2 options...call up or cut? do you stake your rep on sabermetrics or your eyes?
    There really isn't the dilemma in reality that you're contemplating hypothetically.

    Sabermetrics are only as good as the stats used to estimate true talent. The efficacy of sabermetrics increases with increasing level-i.e. its a graded relationship. Evaluating a high school pitcher? Leave the slide room in your mother's basement. Arguing over the trueskill of a major league pitcher? Sabermetrics can be used extremely effectively.

    So a stathead pouring over high school stats is on thin ice. I'd also argue the eyes guys fawning over the weekend performance of a guy who told the beat writer that he tinkered with his swing Thursday afternoon are in thin ice too.

    In other words, I'm arguing both approaches are important, both offer powerful insight at different stages of the game, and one shouldn't be dogmatic about either. The best situation is when both approaches lead one to the same spot. What if there is disagreement? In the bigs, i'd weigh statistical analysis heavier than scouts. During player development, i'd make sure to keep my scouts happy. Overall, i'd try to blend both approaches as much as possible and i'd try to have a secret research team developing new statistical insights that I wouldn't publish.
    Last edited by jojo; 03-08-2013 at 09:23 AM.
    "This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner

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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    Quote Originally Posted by lidspinner View Post

    Dide question for DougDirt.......if the Reds hired you as a scout and asked you to give them your opinion on a certain prospect and gave you a year to analyze the kid.....I understand you would use every tool you had at your hands but if you were on the fence about him and saber metric stats told you to pass on the kid yet your eyes and heart told you that you thought he would be a star, would you advise that they call him up to the big leagues or cut him? thats your 2 options...call up or cut? do you stake your rep on sabermetrics or your eyes?

    There would never be a situation presented where there is a "call him up or cut him from the organization".

    With that said, when it comes to a minor leaguer, I am always going to trust my eyes over what the stats tell me because they are young and still developing their skills. Stats can help out, they can even help you figure out why a guy's raw skills aren't translating into the numbers. There really shouldn't ever be an either or approach. Both are helpful. The question being asked will help us decide which one to lean on a little bit more in a given situation.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Pitchers can control BABIP a very small amount?

    Let's not confuse what the data/stats are actually measuring versus how people may be choosing to interpret the data.

    The entire point of this analysis is that BABIP is still a fairly rough proxy of how skilled a pitcher is at inducing weak contact and that we still have a ways to go in understanding and measuring just what it is that a pitcher himself can do to affect the quality of batted balls.

    Vorok McCracken's keen observation was simply that pitcher's didn't have as much control over batted ball outcomes as we thought they did. Some sabermetric analysis came along and realized that we could better predict ERA by ignoring batted ball outcomes entirely -- that pretending like they had no influence gets us closer to estimating the pitcher's "true talent" than giving them full credit for what happens after the ball is hit.

    We never thought that pitchers, as a group, had no influence over batted ball outcomes; we just didn't have a better way to measure the influence they did have. And so when it came time to make projections, we went with the set of rules about what to given credit for that worked the best.

    Some people got their panties in a bunch that analysts were ignoring the realities scouts knew about. But some of what scouts supposedly "knew" to be true simply wasn't. Unless you either come up with a set of rules about how to give credit for certain things that actually improves the model, the various thoughts, guess, and supposed wisdom isn't helpful.

    So now we're now in the process of refining that understanding of how pitchers influence batted balls. I just hope that the scouting community has respect for the scientific method as build our collective knowledge and that the analyst community has respect for the fact that scouts are the best source of insights and hypotheses about what might really be going on.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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