Andruw Jones and BABIP

Andruw Jones is definitely having a comeback year relative to his 2008 campaign; however, his wOBA has dipped to .348 on the season, and for a player who is primarily a DH, a .348 wOBA isn’t all that impressive. However, because wOBA takes into account hits, it is influenced by the player’s BABIP, which could distort the numbers. For the year, Andruw Jones has a .218 BABIP, one of the worst marks in all of baseball, and it has begun to affect his production numbers in a big way.

However, what’s remarkable is that Jones has been plagued throughout his entire career with low BABIPs. His highest in any season is .313, and he’s been playing since 1996! He’s had a BABIP over .300 just three times in his whole career, bringing his career average to a .279 mark. That terrible a track record would lead one to believe that there must be something wrong with Andruw Jones’s balls in play, as it’s hard to be as good of a player as he’s been and consistently get that unlucky. But although Jones is pretty slow and lethargic in 2009, he used to be a slender and quick kid who sprayed line drives.

Using Chris Dutton and Peter Bendix’s xBABIP calculator, we can take a look at how Andruw Jones has faired since 2002, when batted ball data became available. I’ll use the Simple xBABIP (expected BABIP) calculator, which they say “uses a slightly simplified predictive model using more readily available statistics.” To get a gauge for how these xBABIPs will be computed, the formula uses the following categories: Team, AB, HR, Strikeouts, Stolen Bases, LD%, # of Fly Balls, # of Ground Balls, # of Popups. Here are Jones’s numbers from 2002-2009 using the calculator:

Year    BABIP      xBABIP   Difference
2002    0.29       0.323   -0.033
2003    0.297      0.318   -0.021
2004    0.305      0.324   -0.019
2005    0.243      0.315   -0.072
2006    0.27       0.314   -0.044
2007    0.248      0.314   -0.066
2008    0.231      0.32    -0.089
2009    0.218      0.299   -0.081
Total   0.263      0.316   -0.053

Man, it seems like Jones is seriously getting ripped off here. To lose an average of .053 BABIP points per year is absolutely huge. Let me point out that the calculator is definitely a more simplified way of doing this, and in some of Bendix and Dutton’s previous work, they have Jones’s BABIP lower than the calculator. In fact, I’ll include their numbers on Jones which range from 2002-2007:

Year    BABIP     xBABIP  Difference
2002   0.285     0.288     -0.003
2003   0.293     0.285      0.008
2004   0.303     0.3        0.003
2005   0.24      0.29      -0.05
2006   0.264     0.302     -0.038
2007   0.242     0.292     -0.05
Total  0.271     0.293     -0.022

(Side note: difference in actual BABIP numbers must be from data discrepancies)

In these totals, Jones isn’t getting as slighted as before, and even enjoys some fortuitous years. However, he is still losing an average of .022 BABIP points each year; also, in the years where he gets lucky he’s barely getting anything, whereas in the years he gets unlucky it’s basically screwing up his entire season. Maybe some Braves fans can enlighten me as to why they think Andruw gets constantly unlucky almost every year, but I wouldn’t expect Andruw to be catching breaks any time soon.

Big thanks to fellow Tufts Jumbos Peter Bendix and Chris Dutton for their awesome work.

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Comments

  1. ChuckO said...

    I live in Atlanta and I’m a Braves fan, so I’ve seen a lot of Andruw Jones. This is purely subjective but I believe that his BABIP declined like that because he stubbornly insisted on pulling everything. Whenever he struggled here in Atlanta, the local media would run reports featuring remarks from Braves’ coaches and players talking about how he was trying to pull everything and needed to learn to go the other way. Near the end of his run here in Atlanta, Jones even admitted to a media guy that he was inclined to pull the ball. He said that he’d always hit like that and that he couldn’t change in the middle of his career. If this is all true, it would explain things. When he was younger and quicker, he could probably get away with pulling the ball. There is a way to test this hypothesis. One could look at where his batted balls go and what types of hits they are. If the balls that go up the middle and to the right are mostly grounders, it would suggest that this interpretation is correct. I don’t know whether or not such data is available though.

  2. BobbyRoberto said...

    I don’t think you can say he’s been unlucky.  When he’s had low BABIPs his entire career, then you have to accept that it’s part of his skill set.  If we really believe that he’s been unlucky to the tune of .053 of BABIP on average over his career, then we should expect that somehow the bad luck will go away and he should have a .300+ BABIP next year.  I don’t think anyone would or should expect taht. 

    Have you looked at Ichiro’s xBABIP over his career?  If his actual BABIPs are higher than his xBABIPs, would you say he’s “lucky” or that it’s part of who he is as a hitter?

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