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.