David Wright is Bringing BABIP Into the Mainstream

2009 June 24
by CajoleJuice

Everyone knows David Wright has struck out a lot this year (70 times). Everyone pays attention to his now .356 batting average. A good amount are also aware of his .444 on-base percentage, now that the stat is displayed on most broadcasts and scoreboards. And of course, we all know his home run total is shockingly low (4). Combine all these and you have a high BABIP. What is BABIP, you ask? It is Batting Average on Balls in Play:

where H is hits, HR is home runs, AB is at bats, K is strikeouts, and SF is sacrifice flies. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

After tonight’s 4-4 performance — of which no hits were a HR — Wright’s BABIP has risen to .471. For the past week, there have been numerous articles about how Wright will eventually come back down to earth. Even this very morning, Fangraphs made sure to join in on the fun, putting forward the data that shows that for whatever reason, Wright’s groundballs are finding holes. Well, that’s what happened once again tonight. Maybe Wright will be the first man to defy the BABIP gods for an entire season. Extremely rare is the season where a player has a BABIP over .400, but Wright is currently destroying that barrier, with no sign of letting up. He has shown no sign of hitting any home runs anytime soon either, but I’ll let that slide.

The most interesting part about this phenomenon has to be the continuing penetration of sabermetrical analysis into the mainstream. Never was it more evident than when I heard Gary Cohen mention it on the SNY broadcast a few days back. People knew Wright was having a strange season — who strikes out more while hitting less home runs? — but BABIP provides an easy way to quantify it. It is almost “luckiness” in number form. I say almost because there might be something more to it than that, and no one has quite figured it out. Maybe it’s just INTANGIBLE, which would explain why Derek Jeter’s career BABIP is .360. That’s how you become the Yankee captain. See, it’s not LUCK, it’s CLUTCH. Ichiro is right behind him at .357, but you could have guessed that. The guy hits line drives off of bounced balls.

I can’t say that Wright will keep this up for the entire season, because he won’t, but I don’t think he’s going to strike out at this rate for the entire season either. Maybe he will be able to keep his average this high. Maybe he’ll end up with the line of a speedy second baseman: .350, 10 HR, 45 SB (let’s ignore the RBIs). And maybe another stat will be ingrained into the collective psyche of casual baseball fandom.

Related posts:

  1. The Tragedy of David Wright
  2. David Wright = 1,001 Hits
  3. This is Why I’ve Never Done Fantasy Baseball