Disclaimer: This post uses lots of fancy stats. If fancy stats hurt your eyes, you may want to go look at a list of league leaders in ribbies or dubyas, which, as we all know, are not stats so much as truth.

First, let’s start with a fun little exercise. I am going to give you two batting orders. One is a standard Reds lineup. The other is for a mystery team.

[table id=29 /]

So which lineup do you take? You have to take the second one right? I mean, their masher isn’t quite as good as Votto’s been this year, but it’s much stronger top to bottom. There’s just no way you can justify taking Votto’s production when basically every other spot is significantly better.

Now comes the fun surprise: It’s the same lineup.

Okay, it’s not the same “Mystery 8” is Devin Mesoraco. Otherwise, yeah, totally the same.

What’s the difference? Luck.

I tripped over a recent Fangraphs article that allows you to calculate what a player’s BABIP should be. Basically, it looks at how many line drives a player hits, how many groundballs, etc. It looks at how this player has done on those type of hits in the past, and at how the league does on them and then it figures out what BABIP should be if luck had not factored into that player’s season.

I took those numbers and figured out what each of the 11 players who will see most of the at bats for the rest of the season should be hitting and, well, there you go. Let’s take a look at the full data set now:

[table id=30 /]

Let me take a moment to explain. The first four columns are self explanatory. You get the OBP, SLG, and OPS of each player as they stood Tuesday afternoon. Then, in the middle, you get the difference between the players xBABIP (expected batting average on balls in play) and their current BABIP (again, as of Tuesday afternoon). A negative number means they’ve been unlucky, a positive number means they’ve been lucky. As you can see, only two Reds (Votto and Frazier) have been lucky and only two (Heisey and Hanigan) are more or less where they should be. Everyone else has been unlucky. Often, very unlucky.

After that, you see the adjustments I made. Adjusting the OBP to where it should be is relatively simple. For the slugging, I had to make judgement calls on how to add or subtract hits. Generally, I did this as evenly as possible. If, for instance, a player “should” have 6 more hits and 2/3 of his in-play hits were singles and 1/3 were doubles, I gave him 4 additional singles and 2 additional doubles.

Also, we are, basically, talking about adding singles and doubles here (I took a triple away from Frazier). Triples are rare and homers are almost always NOT in play.

Of course, this is not a perfect analysis. It doesn’t take into account outlandish home run rates (I don’t buy Ludwick with a .900 OPS). It doesn’t look at how likely a player is to sustain his current walk rate. So no, this is not perfect. It’s pretty interesting though, isn’t it?

The Reds have been overwhelmingly unlucky this year. Sure Stubbs and Rolen have still not been good, but they haven’t been so terrible. And boy, Cozart and Mesoraco sure look a lot better, don’t they?

When I started doing this, I didn’t know what I’d find. I figured Stubbs and Rolen had been unlucky while Votto and Frazier had been lucky, but other than that, I didn’t have any idea. I figured it would probably all balance out.

But it didn’t. And what that tells us is that this team is better than we’ve seen. They really should hit better going forward, especially given the light schedule they have for the remainder of the year. Hopefully, what should happen is what actually happens.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 81 Comments

  1. Neat! I am still digesting this. Do you think actual skill might be a factor affectig luck? I believe we all agree that JVotto’s at bats are tactically/strategically ne plus ultra , therefore increaing his luck.

    And perhaps a player like SRolen,making the effort to hit behind the runner or just get the ball to the outfield, including a fly which advances a runner to third (which is not a sacrifice), lowers his luck?

  2. Really interesting post, Jason (as always). Excuse my ignorance, but does the ballpark effect BABIP? Is the unluckiness of the Reds possibly a reflection of hitting in a small park? (More homeruns, but less area for the fielders to cover, and thus less hits on balls in play?)

  3. “Disclaimer: This post uses lots of fancy stats. If fancy stats hurt your eyes, you may want to go look at a list of league leaders in ribbies or dubyas, which, as we all know, are not stats so much as truth”

    I understand the point made, but this is a bit condenscending. Pardon my spelling, but you know how some of us are…..

  4. Interesting analysis. Of course, it should bring out the crowd that thinks that luck doesn’t exist; that is, “good hitters know how to hit ground balls in the hole”.

  5. @BenL: Answered my own question: GABP was just slightly below average in BABIP in 2011. Upon very very rough eyeball inspection, it looks not to be enough to account for the Reds bad luck this year.

  6. “Disclaimer: This post uses lots of fancy stats. If fancy stats hurt your eyes, you may want to go look at a list of league leaders in ribbies or dubyas, which, as we all know, are not stats so much as truth.”

    Preemptive snark and condescension toward your audience doesn’t seem like an effective way to begin your article.

  7. @Jason1972: Here’s the thing: 1. That was a joke. 2. There are people who have conniption every time you pull out a stat that didn’t exist in 1897. 3. This post is not for those people. Shouting about RBIs or whatever other nonsense is not going to contribute to the discussion.

    I’m not interested in stats as religion, which is what some of the older stats have become for many people. I’m interested in stats that do the best job of telling us how good players are. If you decided what those stats were in 1984 and are unwilling to change your views, I’m not going to try. However, this is some really interesting stuff if you’re open to it, so I wanted to put it out there.

  8. So the Pirates go out and make the big trade for…Wandy Rodriguez? Huh. Well I’m suddenly feeling much more confident.

  9. @BenL: And so far this year, it has slightly favored base hits. So yeah, it seems to be pro-home run and neutral in-play hits (though it does seem to suppress doubles and triples slightly.

  10. @seat101: I think it’s fair to say there are plenty of things not measured in this. As I mentioned, I’m skeptical of Ludwick’s numbers. I also wouldn’t be surprised if Votto were really that good. Overall, though, those factors should balance out across the team.

  11. Interesting research, Jason.

    When you compare the unlucky past with the luck-neutral numbers using Baseball Musings lineup analyzer (link), you get a rough idea of the size of what we might expect in the future. Assuming the lineup of Stubbs, Cozart, Votto, Phillips, Bruce, Frazier, Ludwick, Mesoraco and Pitcher, the unlucky lineup scores 4.532 runs per game (RPG). The same lineup assuming luck neutrality produces 4.888 RPG, a difference of .35 RPG.

    Multiplied by the 66 remaining games and you could expect about 23 more runs.

    Lineup choices matter, though. For example, substituting Scott Rolen for Todd Frazier reduces the expected RPG to 4.746, a gain of .19 RPG from the unlucky lineup. Even taking into account that Rolen has been unlucky and Frazier has been lucky, playing Rolen instead of Frazier “undoes” about half the coming offensive explosion.

    Also, adding Hanigan and our catcher time-split into the equation reduces the increment further. Hanigan hasn’t been unlucky and Mesoraco is better than Hanigan once bad luck is removed. Playing Hanigan 60 percent of the time knocks the RPG down to 4.733.

    • Interesting research, Jason.

      When you compare the unlucky past with the luck-neutral numbers using Baseball Musings lineup analyzer (link), you get a rough idea of the size of what we might expect in the future. Assuming the lineup of Stubbs, Cozart, Votto, Phillips, Bruce, Frazier, Ludwick, Mesoraco and Pitcher, the unlucky lineup scores 4.532 runs per game (RPG). The same lineup assuming luck neutrality produces 4.888 RPG, a difference of .35 RPG.

      Multiplied by the 66 remaining games and you could expect about 23 more runs.

      Lineup choices matter, though. For example, substituting Scott Rolen for Todd Frazier reduces the expected RPG to 4.746, a gain of .19 RPG from the unlucky lineup. Even taking into account that Rolen has been unlucky and Frazier has been lucky, playing Rolen instead of Frazier “undoes” about half the coming offensive explosion.

      Also, adding Hanigan and our catcher time-split into the equation reduces the increment further. Hanigan hasn’t been unlucky and Mesoraco is better than Hanigan once bad luck is removed. Playing Hanigan 60 percent of the time knocks the RPG down to 4.733.

      Ok… Mayby Jason’s disclaimer was for me afterall.

  12. @Jason Linden:

    Thanks. I agree with you on Votto. He is Incredible. I remember the mid- 80’s Cardinals having a fair number of players who treated their AB’s like Votto does.

  13. @Steve Mancuso: Yeah, a lot of this is predicated on the Reds making smart lineup choices. Some they won’t make. However, if you figure that even the less-smart choices like playing Rolen would have been made either way, they still figure to score more runs.

  14. Interesting article, especially when you take into account you wrote this earlier in the year:

    http://redlegnation.com/2012/05/23/bad-luck-and-trouble-the-reds-offensive-woes/

    So you have gone from saying it was a mistake to think of the Reds as an elite offensive team to suddenly saying they are due for an “offensive explosion”? What, you mean just like I said in your old article back in May, without using any “fancy stats”?

    I see how that works.

    • Interesting article, especially when you take into account you wrote this earlier in the year:

      http://redlegnation.com/2012/05/23/bad-luck-and-trouble-the-reds-offensive-woes/

      So you have gone from saying it was a mistake to think of the Reds as an elite offensive team to suddenly saying they are due for an “offensive explosion”? What, you mean just like I said in your old article back in May, without using any “fancy stats”?

      I see how that works.

      Let’s see. You said, in the link posted, that the Reds would finish in the top 5 in the NL in offense. The Reds are currently 9th, playing in a hitters’ park.

      There is no way they are going to finish in the top 5 in offense.

      • Let’s see.You said, in the link posted, that the Reds would finish in the top 5 in the NL in offense.The Reds are currently 9th, playing in a hitters’ park.

        There is no way they are going to finish in the top 5 in offense.

        We’ll see. They are going to make up a lot of ground as teams stop playing for something. During this stretch they are in, even without Votto, I expect them to move up about 2 or 3 places to about 7. By September, I expect them to be knocking on the door of the top 5.

        When you consider they are only nine runs out of the 7th spot, you can see how they can make up ground pretty quickly, especially since other teams will be playing tougher schedules than we are.

        I do agree with Jason on the coming offensive explosion (hyperbole and all), but I think it’s more that the Reds just haven’t hit as well as they should have up to this point. “Non-fancy” stats back it up, and if “fancy” stats confirm it, well, all the better.

  15. @Jason Linden: @Steve Mancuso: Yeah, it always seems to come back to lineup choices. The CF HAS to hit in the top of the order. The SS has to hit in the top of the order, even though he is a rookie and Mr. Baker doesn’t want to put any pressure on a rookie (see Frazier hitting 7th). With these factors as given (that’s sad) in Mr. Baker’s lineup, then we have to look at options within those limitations. For the past three years (2010-2012), Heisey and Stubbs have maintained a significant split against RH & LH pitching. Stubbs has averaged .840 OPS vs LH pitching and .671 OPS vs RH pitching. Heisey has averaged .602 OPS vs LH pitching and .830 OPS vs RH pitching. For both players, they each had one of the three years with a neutral split (2010 for Stubbs & 2012 for Heisey), but even in those years, the split favors Stubbs against LH pitching and Heisey against RH pitching. I agree that we have probably not yet seen the best hitting results for the team, but any improvement for the 2nd half can still be maximized, even within Mr. Baker’s world. And to address their respective defensive differences, Stubbs has been a better CF historically (2.42 RF & .990 fpct vs a 1.84 RF & .991 fpct for Heisey), but not this year (1.94 RF & .987 fpct for Stubbs and 2.05 RF & 1.000 fpct for Heisey). I also do not think Ludwick will produce a .900 OPS, but I do think both he and Bruce will produce better than the .820 OPS they manage right now.

  16. ^I can’t tell if you’re offended or smug.

    Regardless, it is just a quantitative explanation of what I felt. There is no reason to expect drops in production from a relatively young group with a few massively underrated highly talented guys like Votto and Phillips. The numbers have to normalize from the April From Hell (TM), and the team is still clearly winning baseball games so I really don’t have a right to complain about a problem that might as well not have ever been discussed.

  17. @CI3J: Today’s title is a bit of hyperbole. They aren’t a great offensive team. Just better than they’ve shown.

    However, it is interesting to note the the Reds are much closer to league average in walks and strikeouts than they were when I wrote that initial piece. The K rate has come down quite a bit and, while the walk rate is exactly the same, the league has walked less. Also, the Reds ISO is up since then.

  18. Is it possible that our starting pitching has been as “lucky” as the hitters have been “unlucky”? I think I’ve read several times that Cueto is getting much better results than he “should” be, and I’m guessing that might be true for some of the other starters as well. Even though the starting pitching has been very strong of late, I’m worried about what could happen in a short playoff series…

  19. To what degree is an “unlucky” BABIP affected by smart defensive alignment and the inability to hit to all fields? Does “the shift” explain Bruce’s bad luck?

    • To what degree is an “unlucky” BABIP affected by smart defensive alignment and the inability to hit to all fields?Does “the shift” explain Bruce’s bad luck?

      It certainly could. Using spray charts can definitely lower BABIP.

  20. @enlight: I’ve heard the same thing, and some of his peripheral numbers suggest that his ERA should probably be higher. But at the same time people have been saying that about him for the past 2 seasons and all he does is keep on chugging along with remarkably similar results. I think it comes down to the fact that he knows how to get himself out of trouble. One of the stats people look at for him that suggests he’s “lucky” is his stranded runner rate. It’s very high and if you were just watching the games on paper you might think that he can’ sustain that and it will eventually lead to more ER’s. But if you actually WATCH the guy pitch, you know that he’s at his best when the pressure’s on and he routinely adds 3-5 MPH to his fastball with RISP and seems to get most of his K’s in those spots. That’s just a confident pitcher who’s in control. Maybe he has had a bit of a lucky streak, but at some point when the streak gets to a certain length you have to give credit where credit’s due.

  21. Luck should NEVER be a factor. If you think about it, all hitting is luck. Unless you hit a home run where no fielder can possibly get it, any other hit is purely luck.

    If the defense somehow knew where a hitter would hit the ball, they would put a defender in that exact spot. I player gets 300 ABs and hits 100 balls that could be hits but a defender is always there, he would hit .000. Everyone of those could be a line drive. The guy is a great hitter except that every ball was hit right at someone.

    I think it all averages out over time (not necessarily a season) so projecting luck is fool-hearty at best.

    There are a ton of other factors that determine what a player might or might not due. Luck being only a small factor.

    What pitchers did they face?
    What park are they playing in?
    What is the weather?
    What mood was the hitter in that day?
    How healthy was the hitter?
    Was he hungover?
    etc.

    For a guy like Stubbs, he will probably end up around .240/.310/.390 because that is what he has done in the past. But it is only a projection as we know.

    He might go into another prolonged slump and end the year around .210/.270/.340.

    If a hitter hits a screamer right at the SS, is that unlucky? If the SS had been shorter, maybe he doesn’t catch it. Is that lucky?
    If the hitter gets jammed and hits a flair to left for a base hit, is he lucky? Maybe if the SS was playing a bit deeper or was a bit faster or a bit taller, maybe he catches it. Does that make the hitter unlucky?

    I’m not really a believer in luck.

    • I’m not really a believer in luck.

      I’m not either. I tend to look at it as too much of a cop-out excuse for why a player is performing either better or worse than expected. As I said, I believe if you were to look, there are underlying, verifiable reasons behind why player A is “lucky” and player B is “unlucky”.

      That’s why I find it interesting that the crowd who wants to quantify luck goes through all this number crunching and when I point out maybe there is a reason for the numbers being what they are, they come back and say “No! It’s completely random!” as though the skills of professional athletes never come into play at all.

      That said, it’s fun to think about, but I don’t think it’s something that can or needs to be quantified.

  22. All good points. I just don’t see the Reds being much better of a team than they’ve been thus far. If they’re 20 games over at the end of the season, I’d be shocked and delighted. The line-up is just not that good outside of Votto, the pitching is not dominant outside of Chapman and possibly Cueto, and Baker is not going to get you any extra wins with his managing. The only thing that might be close to outstanding is the bullpen and defense, and is that enough?

    • All good points.I just don’t see the Reds being much better of a team than they’ve been thus far.If they’re 20 games over at the end of the season, I’d be shocked and delighted.The line-up is just not that good outside of Votto, the pitching is not dominant outside of Chapman and possibly Cueto, and Baker is not going to get you any extra wins with his managing.The only thing that might be close to outstanding is the bullpen and defense, and is that enough?

      You don’t be shocked if they play basically .500 baseball for the next two months? Have you looked at the schedule?

  23. @enlight: Overall, Reds pitchers have actually been pretty luck-neutral this year. Especially when you take into account the Reds more-than-solid defense (that is, Reds pitchers SHOULD have better numbers than expected because the D is better than average).

    Cueto is a really interesting question. There do seem to be a few pitchers who suppress BABIP and don’t allow many homers. There’s starting to be talk (even from Dave Cameron) that Cueto may be one of those guys. They’re hard to ID, though. I’d say is Cueto keeps this up for another season, you should start counting on it. Right now, he’s in “I don’t know” territory. Still love having him on the Reds, though.

  24. @RedForever: You’re missing the forest for the trees. The point of BABIP is that, for instance, a certain percentage of line drives tend to go for hits. If a player has a much lower percentage than that, especially if that percentage is also lower than his career rate, you expect that number to improve. That is, he’s hit the ball hard, but at people. Hitters have a fair amount of control over how hard they hit the ball (line drive, groundball, and flyball rates tend to be consistent for hitters), but they don’t have much control over where it goes. Thus, luck.

    There’s a ton of data to support this line of thinking. But if you don’t want to believe me, you don’t have to.

    • @RedForever: That is, he’s hit the ball hard, but at people. Hitters have a fair amount of control over how hard they hit the ball (line drive, groundball, and flyball rates tend to be consistent for hitters), but they don’t have much control over where it goes. Thus, luck.

      This is where I disagree with you completely. MLB hitters CAN direct where they want the ball to go if they time their swings properly. Swing late, and it’s an opposite field hit. Swing early, and it’s a pull hit.

      Believe it or not, MLB hitters DO go to the plate with a plan beyond “flail wildly and try to make contact”. This is where the pitcher comes into play trying to disrupt the hitter’s plan by changing speeds (to throw off their timing) to using different movements so when the ball arrives at the plate, it’s not where the hitter thinks it’s going to be and so they end up popping out or striking out.

      Good hitters are the ones who can make those minor tweaks mid-swing to compensate for the difference in where they expected the ball to be compared to where it actually is.

      I highly recommend you read Ted Williams “The Science Of Hitting”. It is fallacy to say hitters have no control over where the ball is going, and in a sense, this kind of negates some of the “luck” in favor of “skill”.

      • I highly recommend you read Ted Williams “The Science Of Hitting”. It is fallacy to say hitters have no control over where the ball is going, and in a sense, this kind of negates some of the “luck” in favor of “skill”.

        @CI3J: It is fairly obvious to me that Wade Boggs, Rod Carew, Tony Gwynn are some of the guys that held that skill and could hit the ball roughly where they wanted it, a great deal of the time. Granted there are not many, like this, but there are some. Clearly.

  25. “You don’t be shocked…”

    I’m really good at talking.

  26. @enlight: I’d echo what Eric says. Really easy schedule for the rest of the year. I believe it’s the easiest of all the teams currently contending for a playoff spot.

    The lineup isn’t great, but it is solid. I keep trying to stress that teams aren’t scoring as much as they were a few years ago, so we have to adjust our expectations.

    The major league average OPS right now is .726. The “bad luck” Reds in the post have five regulars/semi-regulars who are above that number, and thus above average hitters. The “luck neutral” team has 8 and can field an entire lineup of players who are above average.

  27. @Racine Red: This should tend to be a league-wide effect though (it may, in fact, account for some of the drop in offense over the last several years). And while certain players, such as Bruce, may suffer more from these tactics, it should be neutral across an entire team as some players will not be affected by the shift and should thus have a higher than average BABIP.

  28. @Jason Linden: Well that is good to know. I for one am generally more open to new ideas when they are presented in the most smug way possible. I think that the next time you should title your post “Idiots need not read”.

  29. @Jason1972: It has nothing to do with idiocy. It does have to do with close-mindedness and an unwillingness to examine new ideas because they conflict with what you already believe.

    Lots of very, very smart people get set in their ways and refuse to change. As I said, such people don’t contribute anything useful to the discussion. Variations of “I don’t believe this because it’s different from what I’m used to” aren’t helpful. Pointing out potential flaws in methodology and discussing things this assessment misses are helpful and many people have done just that.

    • @Jason1972: It has nothing to do with idiocy. It does have to do with close-mindedness and an unwillingness to examine new ideas because they conflict with what you already believe.

      Lots of very, very smart people get set in their ways and refuse to change. As I said, such people don’t contribute anything useful to the discussion. Variations of “I don’t believe this because it’s different from what I’m used to” aren’t helpful. Pointing out potential flaws in methodology and discussing things this assessment misses are helpful and many people have done just that.

      This was meant to be in answer to something Dusty said right?

  30. Off topic a bit so I apologize but very interesting tidbit I saw here: The Cardinals haven’t won a series against a team with a current winning record since taking two of three from the White Sox June 12-14. Before that, you have to go all the way back to May 7-9 against the Diamondbacks, and they just barely crept above the .500 mark.

    Yes, the cardinals are in an extended slump, but to be honest, it seems more like a regression to the mean after their ridiculously hot start. Is it possible we should start worrying about the Pirates a whole lot more than the Cardinals? Not that we haven’t been already, but I’m starting to see the Pirates legitimately finishing in the top 2 in this division. Who would have thunk it?

  31. What is this, English class or something? Why can no thread go by without someone using the word “hyperbole” at least 500 times? (See what I did there?) Everyone else in the world says “exaggerate.”

    And now I’m just arguing semantics, but it would make a lot more sense to use the word “chance” or than “luck.” You can argue till you’re blue in the face whether “luck” exists (though I don’t see anyone doing it).

  32. @Jared: Sorry. An English teacher wrote the post and I’m sitting here planning for my AP class while keeping up with comments. Those words are going to slip in.

    Oh, I suppose you could say “chance,” but as far as modern usage is concerned, they are pretty much the same thing.

    I love semantic arguments though. I have a good friend with whom I constantly have arguments that amount to little more than “I love cake vs. Cake is delicious.”

  33. Wow… a lot of virulence has come out of that opening disclaimer…

    Jason L: I found it quite humorous and amusing. Also, a very well structured analysis and an intriguing conclusion.

    Jason1972: I think you took it too seriously. I mean, the internet is primarily a text-medium… for instance, what if I had taken your “I for one am generally more open to new ideas when they are presented in the most smug way possible.” line to be honesty? From here on out, I would present all ideas to you in the most smug way possible. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that it was sarcasm. Don’t hold others to the double standard that you might fall victim to… it’s the internet, interpretation is 9/10ths of the law.

    PS. My name’s Jason also… how many Jason’s do we have in the RLN?

  34. I’m not sure I understand.. cake IS delicious, so I love it.

  35. @Mwv: I think you just blew my mind.

  36. @Jason Linden: “Luck” has a connotation of some force behind it while chance is just chance. I’m definitely not saying there’s anything wrong with calling it luck, but some people can’t overlook that and think you’re crazy for believing in it. I’m looking out for you, buddy. 🙂 I just wish we would start saying onamonapia more.

  37. @CI3J: I’ve concluded that luck = chance + unknown factors

  38. @Jared:

    Brilliant!

  39. @CI3J: Perhaps, I over stated it. Yes, in a broad sense, major leaguers can direct the ball. However, it is to a broad region. They don’t, generally, have the power to hit it just out of the reach of the right fielder versus right at the right fielder. That’s the luck (or chance, if you like), I’m talking about.

    • @CI3J: Perhaps, I over stated it. Yes, in a broad sense, major leaguers can direct the ball. However, it is to a broad region. They don’t, generally, have the power to hit it just out of the reach of the right fielder versus right at the right fielder. That’s the luck (or chance, if you like), I’m talking about.

      I can buy that, but I really think you are underestimating the ability of MLB hitters to direct a ball. Yes, they can’t hit a ball so it falls just out of the reach of a diving centerfielder, but they sure can drive the balls into the gaps if they time their swings right.

      This is where I think “luck” (or chance, or voodoo hoodoo or whatever) can be overstated a bit. If a player’s swing is out of whack in a particular stretch of the season for whatever reason, their timing is going to be off and they are not going to be hitting the ball where they want it to go, thus their BABIP will be lower than it should be. Consequently, their confidence may go down and they may start “pressing”, which will only make things worse. It has very little to do with “luck” and more to do with the skill and mental condition of the batter.

      Don’t get me wrong, there are some plays that are entirely “luck”, but I think BABIP tends to overstate the influence of luck and understate the actual skill of the batter or the other factors involved.

      Baseball is not played in a vacuum.

      • I can buy that, but I really think you are underestimating the ability of MLB hitters to direct a ball. Yes, they can’t hit a ball so it falls just out of the reach of a diving centerfielder, but they sure can drive the balls into the gaps if they time their swings right.

        When we had this argument previously, you essentially said I had no idea what I was talking about because I said batters did not have precise control, consistently, over where they hit the ball. You claimed that hitters can place ground balls between fielders. What exactly is your position? No one denies that hitters can place the ball generally, as in go the other way versus pull.

        I’m trying to understand the point. Either hitters have general control, as I believe, or specific control—placing ground balls for hits, placing line drives directly in between outfielders to get doubles, etc. Which is it? As I’ve said,I think it’s the former.

        • When we had this argument previously, you essentially said I had no idea what I was talking about because I said batters did not have precise control, consistently, over where they hit the ball.You claimed that hitters can place ground balls between fielders.What exactly is your position?No one denies that hitters can place the ball generally, as in go the other way versus pull.

          I’m trying to understand the point.Either hitters have general control, as I believe, or specific control—placing ground balls for hits, placing line drives directly in between outfielders to get doubles, etc.Which is it?As I’ve said,I think it’s the former.

          My stance is the same: A hard hit liner to the gap, no matter if on the ground or in the air, is going to be a hit because the fielders don’t have enough time to react to field it.

          Hitting to the gaps is a pretty general area and doesn’t require precise control. The space between the fielders is quite large and all it takes is a well-timed swing to drive a ball into that range.

  40. General note: I haven’t had much chance to interact in the comments with you guys lately. I feel bad about that, but I’ve enjoyed doing it today (especially as it has provided a nice break from other, more strenuous work), but I have to head out now.

    Thanks, everyone, for the really interesting discussion. I’ll check back in tonight before the Reds sweep the Astros.

  41. I just don’t understand how anyone who watches baseball even semi regularly can say that chance is not a significant factor in the game.

    The difference betwen a hard liner just over the shortstop’s head and right into the shortstops glove involves so many little things that can’t be controlled. The height of the SS, the positioning due to the circumstance, the wind, a millemeter higher up the bat, or lower up the bat, and on and on.

    The point is that in baseball, you do things so many times that you actually have enough data to get a decent estimate of how many times a hard liner will fall in for a hit. Sometimes it will, sometimes it won’t, but over millions of liners you can get a pretty decent sense.

    Obviously, on any one given play, all of that goes out the window, that’s not the point. Some SS are more athletic, bigger, faster, better coordinated, some managers make better use of spray charts, and some hitters usually don’t square the ball up just right. put all those together and you’re likely to see a lot fewer hits.

  42. @eric nyc:

    That’s say for you to easy….

  43. XPaul’s first hit was a line drive with a wicked spin. Which part was chance?

  44. That was for Wally Mo, and was unfinished. He had no control over the spin, or the placement of the pitch……yet, as you say, after 500 AB’s,you have enough data to extrapolate…

    I’m with you.

  45. @seat101: agreed, and it hit the fielders glove too.

    the thing that i think sometimes gets missed in the BABIP discussions is that one of the main reasons people starter looking at BABIP was that defensive stats still aren’t very reliable, and this was a way of taking defense out of the equation.

    so really, when someone (Jason in this case) says that the reds have been unlucky so far, you could just as easily say that they’ve been playing against above average defenses, that turn more balls in play into outs, and be saying the same thing.

    BABIP and xBABIP basically treat all variations away from average in the ability to turn balls in play into outs as “luck.” some of it clearly is just the chance elements of the game, but some is also the skill of the defense.

    pauls hit last night was a good example. there were many factors going on with that ball, the speed, spin, location, etc. but in the end it hit the shortstops glove, and maybe a better fielder would have caugt it. so we can’t really say how much is luck, and how much was lack of defensive skill, and thus we lump it all together.

  46. @Jason Linden: If the old stats are good enough for Jesus, they are good enough for me. (Hope you catch the reference. A bit obscure.)

  47. One thing to keep in mind is that when stat geeks refer to luck, many times they’re referring to things that are utterly beyond a hitter’s control, not just the “coin flip” idea of luck. That’s why there’s so much disdain for RBIs as a stat.

    But still, round bat, round ball, 90+mph – it’s getting close enough to quantum mechanics that I’m not comfortable wading into the argument over how much control a hitter has over where a ball goes (beyond pull/opposite field).

    But here’s one thing I do know – those European scientists wasted an awful lot of money building that giant supercollider, when a Higgs boson is clearly created every time Todd Frazier makes contact.

  48. Just a quick thing. The Reds have won 57 games. There are 66 remaining. 15 against good teams. If the Reds split (win 7) of the games against good teams and 70% of the games against the no-so-good teams the Reds will win 100 games.

  49. Are your good teams the Dodgers, Cards, and Pirates?

  50. @RC: I think that should be the new RN battlecry:

    “Todd Frazier is the reason particles have mass”

    • @RC: I think that should be the new RN battlecry:

      “Todd Frazier is the reason particles have mass”

      Todd Frazier IS the God particle incarnate? I KNEW some of those plays at first base looked divinely inspired, but wow…

  51. @RichmondRed: Probably. I don’t remember.

  52. Oops. Forgot to count the Mets. That’s 18 games against good teams.

  53. I would label the Mets “average”.

  54. @Jason Linden:

    I was in no way implying any kind of “Gotcha!” in my questions.

    I am an autodidact and love the ways words can change their meanings. Some, like moot, decimate,, and peruse have changed their meaning 180 degrees.

    Not, of course, to be confused with the hyperbolic use of bad, or sick.

  55. @vegastypo:

    But did you know that Mass has Newton?

  56. Can’t say I was ever a big Newton fan, I’m more of a rock and roll guy.

  57. Wow, I typed that last thing and the compute froze up solid. Who did I offend, God or Todd?? Whoever, please, I was just kiddin’. Really. Sort of. Newton, Mass. ??

  58. BP gets the day off

    Zack Cozart 6
    Drew Stubbs 8
    Jay Bruce 9
    Ryan Ludwick 7
    Scott Rolen 5
    Todd Frazier 3
    Wilson Valdez 4
    Devin Mesoraco 2
    Homer Bailey 1

  59. @Mwv:

    Danke schoen!

  60. The get-away game lineups are like little early Christmas presents Dusty leaves for us.

  61. @groujo: You can crunch all the numbers you want, but this offense would be much more effective just by doing the little things. When a guy hits a lead-off double, get him to third with a ground ball. If Dusty calls a bunt, get the freaking ball on the ground. Hit a sac fly every once in a while.

    Sure this team may be unlucky to a certain extent, but these are all things that are in the players control if they are just smart and willing to do them.

    The Reds are 17-16 in one run games. The Pirates are 21-16. The Pirates offense isn’t better than the Reds, but they make smart baseball plays.

  62. I think Paul McCartney can summarize this entire discussion for us:

    With a little luck, we can help it out.
    We can make this whole damn thing work out.

    Can’t you feel the (offense) exploding?

  63. @nelly33: I don’t suppose you want to hear about how all the evidence shows that one run games are almost entirely determined by luck/chance or that giving up outs almost always reduces you chances of scoring.

  64. @TC: I do get that reference, and it is awesome.

  65. Another general comment here: One of the things that I think is getting missed is that we are just talking about a handful or two of hits for each player. I’d have to rerun my data to say for sure, but as I recall, the most hits a player had added to his total was 9. At this point in the season, that equates to about one extra hit every two weeks. It doesn’t seem like much, but it really adds up.

  66. Reds have also knocked out a bunch of games with the really good pitching clubs like the Nationals, Braves, Giants, Dodgers etc. I think you are already seeing a bit of this difference in the hitting in this last good run.

  67. First, I have to say that I love the fact that the words “Higgs” and “boson” appeared here today.

    Second, Jason: How much of these BABIP numbers can be attributed to the fact that the Reds have played the toughest part of their schedule already? Better teams have better pitchers who produce more ground balls to better defensive infielders? Or am I missing something?

  68. @Richard Fitch: No, I think you’re onto something. I’d thought about that and meant to mention it in the post but forgot.

    Though, now that I look at it, ESPN has their strength of schedule at .500, so that’ shouldn’t really do it. Playing in the Central will make for an easier schedule, it seems.

Comments are closed.

About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

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