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Thread: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

  1. #1
    Member kpresidente's Avatar
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    Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    When I look over the Reds roster, it amazes me that we have the winning % we do. Up and down the roster, I see quality players, but it hasn't translated into wins.

    Why?

    Well, one reason is because our hitters have been incredibly unlucky. The Reds team BABIP is an unbelievable .274. That is by far the worst in the major leagues (link: The Hardball Times). To give some perspective about how "unlucky" our hitters have been:

    - The league-average BABIP is .298.

    - The 29th ranked BABIP is a full 8 points higher than us at .282.

    - There are only 4 teams whose BABIP is under .290, and their average BABIP is .285, only 5 points under .290. We're a full 16 points under .290.

    - If the Reds team BABIP is adjusted to the league average, this would be our line (MLB rank in parenthesis):

    AVG --- .262 (17th)
    OBP --- .330 (17th)
    SLG --- .443 (9th)
    OPS --- .762 (12th) - (6th in the NL)

    Now, I didn't adjust every team according to their BABIP to come up with those ranks, just because it's more work than I care to put into it at the moment. But it shouldn't matter much, since we're adjusting toward a league-average BABIP, the rankings should come out more-or-less the same.

    The bottom line is that when luck is taken out of the equation, our offense has been a little above average.

    Things like this are why I'm not so down on 2009 as other people. The Reds have undeniably underachieved this season. Of course, those batting figures include Dunn and Griffey's numbers, who won't be around, but Patterson and Bako won't be around, either. I also think we can expect significantly better numbers from Jay Bruce. Add it all up and I think we'll just about break even with roster moves that are, or can be, taken as given.

    BTW - Those that want to blame Dusty's approach to hitting for our lame offense, note that the team ranks 12th in walks this season. Last season we ranked 11th, so Dusty hasn't had the negative effect on our plate discipline that people chastise him for. Of course, that doesn't say anything about the ridiculous line-ups or the fact that Corey Patterson is in the line-up every night. I'm no Dusty apologist, but we need to get the facts straight.



    Now, on to the pitching staff.

    Our starters ERA is a deplorable 5.10, good for 25th in baseball. But, as we all know, Harang and Arroyo have been way off. If you take their 3-year average ERAs and plug those into this seasons innings, the starters' ERA becomes 4.59, which would be good for 20th. Better, but still not great. Our 5th starters (Fogg, Bailey, Thompson, etc) have killed us.

    The biggest thing we need to do this offseason is add another starter. With all the money freed up from Dunn and Griffey, we should be able to get a good one. If Harang and Arroyo rebound (Arroyo already has, IMO), Cueto gets better, and we add a top-of-the-rotation starter, I don't see why our pitching staff shouldn't be one of the better one's around, given the good stuff we've gotten from the bullpen.



    NOTE: By adjusting the teams BABIP to .298, I come up with 81 extra hits. We have 1111 hits on the season, which gives a new total of 1192. Since I don't think it's right to assume all those hits would be singles, I adjusted both doubles and triples by 1.07 (1192/1111) to come up with the teams adjusted SLG%. The added XBHs amounts to .005 points.

    The formula I used for BABIP is (H-HR)/(AB-HR-K+SF).

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Nice work. I would add that the pitching will be better next year if the defense improves (it can't get any worse).

    As to the BABIP, I usually believe that when a player has a low one, it less because of luck and more because of the fact that he is not hitting the ball hard. But regardless, the Reds really had significantly low BABIP this year.

    If you go further and break it down by player, it is very obvious that the Reds had many players with abnormally low BABIP.

    Here are the main eight from this year.

    Code:
    Player       08  career
    
    Bako        .269  .301
    Votto       .328
    B Phillips  .280  .304
    EE          .261  .296
    Kepp        .271  .292
    Dunn        .261  .288
    Bruce       .303
    Griffey     .266  .291
    Obviously, Votto and Bruce don't have career numbers. but everyone else is 20-40 points lower than their career averages.
    I think it is safe to assume that EE and Phillips will go back to their mean next year, or at least close to it. Bruce will replace Jr. next year, which will be an improvement, and let's hope that whoever replaces Dunn will do better than he did in that area.

    Again, nice work and reason to be cautiously optimistic about next year.

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    Member kpresidente's Avatar
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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Quote Originally Posted by 757690 View Post
    As to the BABIP, I usually believe that when a player has a low one, it less because of luck and more because of the fact that he is not hitting the ball hard. But regardless, the Reds really had significantly low BABIP this year.
    My first reaction was to blame Dusty.

    Seriously, I figured it was an effect of his new "aggressive" approach. The low BABIP being a result of guys getting weak hits off bad pitches. But a couple of things changed my mind:

    1. The K:BB ratio is essentially the same as 2007. If guys are just up there hacking, you would expect to see a significant difference there.

    2. We're seeing 3.76 pitches/PA. While that number is a little on the low side, it's by no means extreme, and so isn't significant enough to say poor plate discipline is causing the low BABIP.


    If you go further and break it down by player, it is very obvious that the Reds had many players with abnormally low BABIP.

    Here are the main eight from this year.
    Code:
    EE          .261  .296

    EE is the one I really noticed. If you normalize his BABIP, his line looks like this:

    .280/.352/.515/.867

    That's pretty impressive and changes my view of the season he's had. Before, I figured the extra home runs were coming at the cost of his batting average, and it bothered me. Now, I'm not so sure the two are related. We may just be seeing EE finally developing the power people projected from him earlier in his career, and could expect his batting average to rebound next year.

    If so, that's a major boon because it makes him a legitimate middle-of-the-order RH bat. His splits are still a little disturbing, though.


    Again, nice work and reason to be cautiously optimistic about next year.
    Cautious optimism is the most any Reds fan can hope for.
    Last edited by kpresidente; 08-31-2008 at 08:20 PM.

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Excellent post, kpresidente and 757690. I too am optimistic about 2009, but then I usually am. I tend to think that the improvement, however, will not be strictly due to luck evening out. There is reason to believe that pitching and defense will continue to improve. I think the team next year will require a different approach to generating runs. They cannot rely as much on power. The sample size is small, but it seems to me that we are already seeing a difference in hitting approach. More frequently, hitters are going the other way and laying off pitcher's pitches. If we are going to win the 3-2 games, we will need to manufacture runs as other good teams do.

    I tend to think that the Reds have not simply been unlucky. If variation in BABIP were due to chance alone, then we should be able to compute the probability that Reds' BABIP is that far from the ML mean. If the probability of that deviation from the mean is extremely small, then we would be inclined to reject chance and look for other factors to explain the Reds' variation. BABIP is obviously affected by the differences in pitching and defense a hitter experiences. The assumption, however, is that over the course of a season, these variations tend to cancel each other. Hitters tend to hit against the same mix of good and bad pitching/defense. When, however, the variation in BABIP is extreme, it suggests that other variables may be systematically affecting that sample.

    I have not done the statistical work. Let's assume for a moment, however, that we are inclined to look for other explanations besides chance that contribute to the Reds' low number. One possibility is that the Reds have collected a group of individuals with consistently low BABIP, players who do not hit the ball hard (757690's post). The players he lists do, however, hit the ball hard and their 2008's are well below their career averages. Thus, I would tend to reject as an explanation, the notion that the Reds assembled a team of unusually weak hitters. We are left, then, with the same problem. Was it chance that all these players, independently, were significantly below their career averages this year? Are there other explanations?

    One possible explanation is that hitters are attempting to pull balls that are outside in the strike zone. Their BB/K ratio might stay the same since judgment of the strike zone would not have changed. Perhaps it is what hitters are doing with pitches on the outside part of the strike zone that has changed. Pitches in the outside part of the strike zone would more likely be hit weakly if hitters were attempting to pull them. Admittedly, this is speculation on my part. I have no idea what Reds hitters are being taught. Further, it may be a reasonable strategy for a team of power hitters.

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    I suspect a different explanation, perhaps. Note that the three lowest BABIPs belong to Edwin, Dunn and Griffey. Skipping EE for the moment, it may be no coincidence that Dunn and Griffey were the two Reds hitters who regularly batted against a shift. Since neither made much of an effort to beat the shift, the fact is that they were hitting consistently into the teeth of the defense. Put another way, they were uncommonly easy to defend, which could naturally translate into a low BABIP. As far as Edwin, it certainly seems that he has been a heavy pull hitter this year. In his case, I'd suspect that the unwillingness (or inability) to use the entire field has contributed to his number. However, I'd also entertain the notion that he has been unlucky -- at least to a greater degree than Griffey and Dunn. And since those two are are no longer in the equation, the optimism inherent in the original post remains unaffected.

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Quote Originally Posted by mace View Post
    I suspect a different explanation, perhaps. Note that the three lowest BABIPs belong to Edwin, Dunn and Griffey. Skipping EE for the moment, it may be no coincidence that Dunn and Griffey were the two Reds hitters who regularly batted against a shift. Since neither made much of an effort to beat the shift, the fact is that they were hitting consistently into the teeth of the defense.
    Good points. If defenses were confident enough in the Reds pull hitting strategy to put on a shift for certain players, no doubt opposing pitchers also took advantage of it. A pitcher with average stuff but good control might appear better when facing the Reds.

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Quote Originally Posted by RED VAN HOT View Post
    Excellent post, kpresidente and 757690. I too am optimistic about 2009, but then I usually am. I tend to think that the improvement, however, will not be strictly due to luck evening out. There is reason to believe that pitching and defense will continue to improve. I think the team next year will require a different approach to generating runs. They cannot rely as much on power. The sample size is small, but it seems to me that we are already seeing a difference in hitting approach. More frequently, hitters are going the other way and laying off pitcher's pitches. If we are going to win the 3-2 games, we will need to manufacture runs as other good teams do.

    I tend to think that the Reds have not simply been unlucky. If variation in BABIP were due to chance alone, then we should be able to compute the probability that Reds' BABIP is that far from the ML mean. If the probability of that deviation from the mean is extremely small, then we would be inclined to reject chance and look for other factors to explain the Reds' variation. BABIP is obviously affected by the differences in pitching and defense a hitter experiences. The assumption, however, is that over the course of a season, these variations tend to cancel each other. Hitters tend to hit against the same mix of good and bad pitching/defense. When, however, the variation in BABIP is extreme, it suggests that other variables may be systematically affecting that sample.

    I have not done the statistical work. Let's assume for a moment, however, that we are inclined to look for other explanations besides chance that contribute to the Reds' low number. One possibility is that the Reds have collected a group of individuals with consistently low BABIP, players who do not hit the ball hard (757690's post). The players he lists do, however, hit the ball hard and their 2008's are well below their career averages. Thus, I would tend to reject as an explanation, the notion that the Reds assembled a team of unusually weak hitters. We are left, then, with the same problem. Was it chance that all these players, independently, were significantly below their career averages this year? Are there other explanations?

    One possible explanation is that hitters are attempting to pull balls that are outside in the strike zone. Their BB/K ratio might stay the same since judgment of the strike zone would not have changed. Perhaps it is what hitters are doing with pitches on the outside part of the strike zone that has changed. Pitches in the outside part of the strike zone would more likely be hit weakly if hitters were attempting to pull them. Admittedly, this is speculation on my part. I have no idea what Reds hitters are being taught. Further, it may be a reasonable strategy for a team of power hitters.
    It's chance, don't doubt it.

    Stats don't have to cancel each other out to naturally become normalized. Although the probablility is low, there's nothing "wrong" with a team that has an abnormally low BABIP. **** happens, sometimes to the team you pay attention to.

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Quote Originally Posted by mace View Post
    I suspect a different explanation, perhaps. Note that the three lowest BABIPs belong to Edwin, Dunn and Griffey. Skipping EE for the moment, it may be no coincidence that Dunn and Griffey were the two Reds hitters who regularly batted against a shift. Since neither made much of an effort to beat the shift, the fact is that they were hitting consistently into the teeth of the defense. Put another way, they were uncommonly easy to defend, which could naturally translate into a low BABIP. As far as Edwin, it certainly seems that he has been a heavy pull hitter this year. In his case, I'd suspect that the unwillingness (or inability) to use the entire field has contributed to his number. However, I'd also entertain the notion that he has been unlucky -- at least to a greater degree than Griffey and Dunn. And since those two are are no longer in the equation, the optimism inherent in the original post remains unaffected.
    Dunn's BABIP the past few years:
    2004 CIN NL .321
    2005 CIN NL .279
    2006 CIN NL .276
    2007 CIN NL .305
    2008 CIN NL .243
    2008 ARI NL .342
    Griffey's:
    2004 CIN NL .260
    2005 CIN NL .305
    2006 CIN NL .248
    2007 CIN NL .284
    2008 CIN NL .258
    2008 CHA AL .293
    and EE's
    2005 CIN NL .282
    2006 CIN NL .307
    2007 CIN NL .322
    2008 CIN NL .262
    Expectedly, the numbers are all over the place. IOW, the constant shifting (which was going on in 2003 against Dunn and for longer against Griffey) didn't have much to do with the BABIP. Some years there was good luck bad luck in others.

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    That's interesting, and a good point. Even so, I have to think that the teams implementing the shift had empirical reason to believe that by shifting they had a better chance to make a play on a batted ball -- effectively, to reduce the BABIP. I wonder if they somehow refined the shifts, or maybe this year there were more situations in which they COULD shift; i.e., Dunn and Griffey batting with the bases empty. Or maybe, as everyone seems to think, it's just luck.

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Quote Originally Posted by mace View Post
    That's interesting, and a good point. Even so, I have to think that the teams implementing the shift had empirical reason to believe that by shifting they had a better chance to make a play on a batted ball -- effectively, to reduce the BABIP. I wonder if they somehow refined the shifts, or maybe this year there were more situations in which they COULD shift; i.e., Dunn and Griffey batting with the bases empty. Or maybe, as everyone seems to think, it's just luck.
    It's probably just luck.

    I honestly don't understand the monster shifts put on. I've never seen any statistical studies done on them though, so I can't draw any conclusions about their effectiveness. From a purely logical standpoint, I imagine it may make more balls "easier" to field since more guys are around which would cut down on errors, but those aren't a component in BABIP anyway.

    As for "why", well, a lot of teams do stupid things that empirical research tell them is a bad idea (like drafting high school players over college players).

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Quote Originally Posted by redsbuckeye View Post
    It's chance, don't doubt it.

    Stats don't have to cancel each other out to naturally become normalized. Although the probablility is low, there's nothing "wrong" with a team that has an abnormally low BABIP. **** happens, sometimes to the team you pay attention to.
    My use of the term 'cancel' was not correct. I was attempting to justify comparing team BABIP. In order to compare them, the samples should be drawn from the same population. The population is the defensive environment teams face. Better defenses will turn more balls in play into outs. To illustrate, consider an extreme example. Team A plays all of its games against a team with speedy infielders and Tom Glavine on the mound. Team B plays against a team of stature-like infielders with Dave Williams on the mound. Team A should have a larger percentage of fair balls turned into outs. Could the team BABIPs be compared meaningfully? On the other hand, if each team played an equal number of games against Glavine and Williams, a comparison could be made. There are many subtle environmental variables likely to have small effects on BABIP. Over the course of a season teams face generally the same environments. Park factors, quality of pitchers faced, Texas leaguers and Baltimore chops, all tend to either average out or have a negligible effect. Thus, we can ignore them and compare team BABIP.

    That said, I compared the BABIP (kpresidente's formula) of NL teams this year, computed a sample mean and standard deviation and obtained the following.

    mean=.297, SD=.117

    Team BABIP SD's from Mean Runs Rank HR Rank
    Cubs .323 +2.22 1 4
    Cards .312 +1.28 3T 7
    Rockies .311 +1.2 6 9T
    Braves .303 within 1 9 13
    Giants .303 within 1 16 16
    Dodgers .299 within 1 13 14
    D-Backs .299 within 1 8 9T
    Mets .295 within 1 2 8
    Marlins .294 within 1 7 3
    Astros .294 within 1 10T 6
    Brewers .292 within 1 5 2
    Padres .292 within 1 15 12
    Pirates .289 within 1 10T 11
    Nationals .288 within 1 14 15
    Phils .281 -1.37 3T 1
    Reds .277 -1.7 12 5

    On the basis of the above, we could not rule out chance as an explanation for the Reds. Perhaps of more interest are the relationships of Runs to BABIP and HR's. From an inspection of the data it appears that HRs are more highly correlated with runs than BABIP. Thus, it would not be unreasonable to coach your power hitters to maximize their HRs. If the opposition is putting on a shift against you, is this still the case? Apparently, the Reds felt that hitting into the teeth of a beefed up right side of the infield and losing BABIP as a result, was worth the potential to accrue more HRs. I suspect that overall, the Reds coaches believed that the lineup had more power potential than it turned out to have. Note that the Phillies are first in HRs and third in runs scored, yet have a BABIP only slightly better than the Reds.

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    I tend to think "The Shift" has *some*thing to do with things, otherwise teams wouldn't employ it. Or more specifically: how players respond to a shift will dictate if an opposing team has documentable evidence for it being a useful ploy. [I gather both Griff and Dunn are getting less of it, now that they are in line-ups where they are batting "in position" and are surrounded by other dangerous hitters.]

    But that notion of how a player reacts to certain situations got me thinking: doesn't BABiP tie into linedrive/flyball/groundball percentages pretty tightly. Or at least: doesn't each type of hit trajectory have it's own expected BABiP, and significant changes in the LD/FB/GB mix will have an effecton overall BABiP?

    So I checked...

    Sure enough, this season, Phillips is hitting his highest percentage of flyballs ever in his career (mostly to the detriment of linedrives)... it's WAY higher than his 2006 FB Pct, and a little higher than his 2007 FB Pct.; the difference being that last year, his Home Run Rate on flyballs was up at 14%, and this year is down to 11%. The notion (I know it was discussed here somewhere) that Phillips had a lot of "cheap" HRs last year that might not be replicated in the future seems to be coming to pass. If Phillips had 5 more HRs right now, that'd be 5 fewer FB outs, an increase back towards an "average" BABiP, and an increase in BA/SLG/Etc., too. Maybe 30/30 is the worst thing that could have happened to that guy, if he's going to keep finding more excuses to swing for the fences, despite having a tendancy more towards "warning track power."

    Encarnacion has also seen a decline in linedrives versus the past two years, but in his case, it seems he's hitting more groundballs. Edwin's power also seems less "forced," as he hits a significant number of his homeruns as linedrives, and not just flyballs. Of his 24 home runs this year, baseball-reference says 15 of them came on flyballs and 9 came on linedrives (that's as opposed to an 18/3 breakdown of FB/LD for Phillips 2008 HR tally). I mention it in hopes that its a sign that Edwin's doing nothing substantially differently this year, and might be more likely to see his BABiP "normalize" next than Phililps.

    Or maybe it's nothing. I dunno. There's a reason why I'm not a Stat Wanker....


    Rick

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Quote Originally Posted by RED VAN HOT View Post
    My use of the term 'cancel' was not correct.../clipped
    Ah I see what you're saying.

    What you need is a control, being the defenses' BABIP to ensure the majority of teams the Reds are facing equal defenses throughout the year (defensive efficiency would be better). Since the schedules aren't balanced, you have to be sure you can assume each team faces an average defense over the course of the year.

    Frankly, I don't feel like figuring it out. You could be right, I dunno.

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Quote Originally Posted by FlightRick View Post
    I tend to think "The Shift" has *some*thing to do with things, otherwise teams wouldn't employ it.
    Ok, so drafting high school players has some thing to do with things, otherwise a team wouldn't do it...oh, why do they do that again?

    Sorta bad comparison, but still, the obvious answer is there.

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    Re: Reds the unluckiest hitters in baseball?

    Quote Originally Posted by redsbuckeye View Post
    Ok, so drafting high school players has some thing to do with things, otherwise a team wouldn't do it...oh, why do they do that again?

    Sorta bad comparison, but still, the obvious answer is there.
    Yeah, drafting that Jay Bruce was a bad idea, as was drafting Adam Dunn and Austin Kearns.

    Here are just some of the other HS picks over the last decade that were clearly dumb and unexplainable.

    CC Sabathia
    Josh Hamilton
    Josh Beckett
    Brett Myers
    Adrian Gonzelaz
    Rocco Baldelli
    Adam Wainwright
    Joe Mauer
    Jeremy Bonderman
    David Wright
    BJ Upton
    Prince Fielder
    Jeremy Hermedia
    Scott Kazmir
    Cole Hamels
    James Loney
    Jeff Francoeur
    Matt Cain
    Delmon Young
    Lastings Milledge
    Chad Billingsly
    Jarod Saltalamacchia
    Adam Jones
    Phillip Hughes
    Justin Upton


    I have no idea what the numbers are in term the success of drafting HS compared to college players, but whatever they are, it doesn't mean that it is always a bad idea to draft HS players, just as it is not always a bad idea to use the shift against certain hitters.
    The shift can work without changing a player's BABIP. It can change a player's approach at the plate and overall hitting philosophy. The hitter might start trying to hit more homers, trying to avoid hitting grounders or line drives. This would not change the BABIP, but just reduce the overall number, as the batter would K more.
    I am not saying that this is the case for Dunn or anyone else for whom the shift is used, just saying it is a logical explanation, just as logical as saying it is all luck. I don't think either one is more obvious than the other.


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