BABIP Gets Everyone in the End: No Exceptions

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Brandon Webb bunting, originally uploaded by SD Dirk.

From the files of questions I meant to answer, but am stupid and forgot to:

Would one expect Masterson’s BABIP to be lower since he’s a sinkerballer? Have you taken a look at other pitchers whose repertoire resembles that of Masterson and Buchholz?

Thx, ahl, for the reminder.

Your answer: I would expect it to be lower because he’s a sinkerballer. But, as admitted above, I am stupid and this expectation is wrong. Or so say the numbers.

If you’re following along at home, this discussion dates back to my claim that a portion of Masterson’s success is due to his unusually low BABIP numbers. After Saturday’s start, that sits at an even .220, where .290 or so is the expected average on balls put in play.

Some of this, I believed while writing the piece, had to be attributable to his heavy, groundball inducing two seam fastball. It seemed logical, after all, that the allowed average for a pitcher that generates little but groundouts would be lower than a similar flyball pitcher.

However logical it might seem, however, there’s no evidence that this is true. Looking close to home, I checked DLowe’s career BABIP and guess what? It’s almost exactly what you’d expect at .297. This from a pitcher that has, for his career, generated 64.5% of his outs on the ground (Beckett’s at 44.2% for comparison’s sake).

How about Brandon Webb, another extreme groundball pitcher? His career BABIP is actually higher than average, at .317. The lowest it’s been for a full season for him? .275 in ’03.

All of which tells me two things, neither of which is good for us. First, that groundball pitchers are not exceptions to the average on balls put in play, however counterintuitive this may seem. And two, given that fact, it should be expected that Masterson’s exceptional luck on balls put in play to date will correct itself. Probably with negative results on his performance.

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4 thoughts on “BABIP Gets Everyone in the End: No Exceptions

  1. Aren't you still cherry-picking here, Steve? Seems to me that the answer is to correlate pitcher type and BABIP rate, if possible. I'd expect that PitchF/X data can be used here.

    Not that I'm suggesting that you do this, of course.

  2. No. Or at least: I don't think so. I think the point that I'm actually making is that there is no observable correlation, at least in the samples that I've seen.

    Take Derek Lowe and Beckett: two pitchers that are stylistically very different. Their respective career BABIPs? .297 and .297.

    How about a soft tosser like Tom Glavine? .286.

    Knuckleballer? Wakefield's at .281.

    One pitch closers? Rivera's at .278.

    If there's a discernible correlation between BABIP and pitcher type, I haven't seen it yet in the data. As far as I can tell, BABIP gets everyone in the end. No exceptions.

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