About two weeks ago in discussing the BABIP leaders and trailers thus far this season I decided to say this:
…if Austin Jackson finishes the year with a BABIP > .490, I will eat a Curtis Granderson jersey live online
Although Austin Jackson has seen his BABIP rise to .500 to date, I’m still not too worried about what dressing I’ll be using just yet (although does Ranch go well with pinstripes?).
Jackson has certainly gotten off to a fantastic start, accumulating 1.7 WAR with solid defense in centerfield and a slash line of .360/.408/.493 for the season. However, ZiPS currently projects Jackson to hit just .263/.314/.364 with a BABIP of .337 the rest of the way (fantasy owners beware), well below his current rate. Jackson’s .500 BABIP is certainly unsustainable, but he did produce a .361 career BABIP in the minors in 2261 at-bats, including a .392 rate in Triple-A Scranton last season. Also, although Jackson’s IFH% (Infield hit percentage) is relatively high at 10.8%, it’s not the absurd number you would expect for a guy getting a hit once out of every two times he puts the ball in play (especially for someone with good speed like Jackson). Instead, Jackson has been mostly thriving due to his ability to hit line drives. He’s hitting liners at a spectacular rate of 38.3% and putting the ball in the air just 22.3% of the time. His strikeout rate of 28.7% is also a concern, as he’s only walked eleven times thus far this season.
If there’s one good thing about luck, it’s that you can’t take it back. Although Jackson has gotten particularly lucky on his balls in play, he isn’t “more likely” to get unlikely the rest of the season, and his overall numbers will benefit from the production he has already provided. He may take some collars sooner rather than later, but ZiPS still projects Jackson to finish the year with a .330 wOBA and .285 batting average. Coupled with his current pace for a 12.6 UZR/150, if the Tigers get that as the minimum out of their rookie center fielder for the season, they won’t be too disappointed.