Defense, Pitching

Batting Average on Balls Put in Play

First, I’d like to give an obligatory hat tip to the San Francisco Giants for winning the World Series against the Texas Rangers, 4-1. Despite my inner-feelings to not root for you (due to my allegiance to the A’s), that was one of the best pitching performances of post-season history, probably since the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite losing, Texas has a lot to be proud of. They continued to play their type of baseball day in and day out.

The subject for tonight’s post is a metric not many casual baseball fans know of: batting average on balls put in play (or from hereon, BABIP). It essentially answers the question, out of all the balls a player hits that are field-able by the defense, what percentage of balls will fall for a hit? Note, this is different from a regular batting average, which includes strikeouts and home runs.

Baseball statisticians love this metric because, for obvious reasons, pitchers are not always in control of the amount of hits they allow in a game. There’s just too many factors that can affect the outcome of a hit: Hard line drives are caught by diving center fielders, a bloop single can fall between defenders, ground balls can barely get past the glove of an infielder. When these ‘are you serious?’-hits are allowed, we kind of assume tough luck has graced the pitcher. And when we see excellent defensive plays, we think the pitcher is lucky and fortunate to have player X in the outfield. How many times have you seen this happen in baseball games? Too often.

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Playoffs

Stop Praising Brian Sabean

Sorry but I’m a little tired of hearing how Cody Ross was a brilliant move by Brian Sabean, the General Manager of the Giants. I’d like to note the obvious before I ramble: no one expected half of the production that Ross has given the Giants while on his way to win the NLCS MVP award. I’m not doubting his production or anything.

What I am doubting is the good foresight by Sabean in acquiring Ross. If you don’t know, the Giants got Ross by claiming him off waivers from the Florida Marlins. Waivers works in a way that any team can claim the player, but the waiver is awarded to the team with the worst record, who is also in the same league. For example, if a winning-record team from the NL claims Ross and so does a losing-record team from the AL, the waiver is still awarded to the team from the NL. That’s just how the system works. At any rate, I find it hard to believe Sabean claimed Ross on the belief he was going to go on a rip in the playoffs. The Giants didn’t even need an outfielder, as they had a lot of depth at the position. So why do it?

For one Sabean had to know the San Diego Padres were interested in acquiring Ross. The simple fact is Sabean blocked the Padres from getting the guy (since the Padres at the time had a better record than the Giants).

I’ll admit this was a fantastic move if you’re playing chess, or you’re studying game theory. But please don’t praise Sabean for his foresight, as this required none of it. I think any businessman would have done the same thing: block your competitor from receiving the right supplies. Simple as that. Now I have little proof that the same thing occurred with Pat Burrell, but the Giants definitely lucked out with Burrell feeling allegiance to his hometown team (Burrell grew up in San Jose, CA).

This is another reason why I think the Giants are astonishingly lucky this postseason, offensively. While I admit they are on a tear right now pitching wise, and they look pretty good in the World Series, please don’t praise Brian Sabean for the great luck that has blessed the city by the bay.

Note: I covered instances where random role players have given their teams enough offense to win games in the postseason, but none as wild as Ross, who has only been with the Giants for 2 months, while those other random MVP-winners were with clubs the entire season.

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