Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Deeper Look at 2009 Batting Splits: By Context

What do I mean by context? Well, I'm glad you've asked.

The baseball media tends to think of runs batted in (RBIs) as a good way to judge a batters' ability, but RBIs have consistently proven to be subject to happenstance, or context. In other words, big RBI guys are usually in front of good OBP guys. Otherwise, their homers are solo shots and their doubles may do nothing. In turn, we (sabermetricians) try to strip away that context so we can see the real player underneath; however, it is important (for scoring runs and in turn winning) to hit well in those contexts (when runners are on base).

In order to dive into this, we'll again be using our batting average of balls in play (BABIP), which gauges luck, and Tom Tango's weighted on-base average (wOBA), which gauges overall offensive production. So let's take one last look at 2009, this time examining the "Runners on Base" context.


RISP stands for "Runners in Scoring Position." This means they are on second or third base -- where typically any hit (even a single) can drive them home. As we can see, our BABIP appears very low in the RISP column, but how does that compare to the rest of the league?


So it would seem that we were unlucky in 2009 when it came to finishing the good innings -- rather than having those "seeing-eye ground balls," our balls in play ended up in gloves at an unlucky rate (our BABIP was almost .015 below NL average). Other than that, our wOBA is actually pretty close to league average. Given our bad luck, that's a good sign. Of course, I have to wonder how much an effect Soriano had on this stat.

Outside RISP, we seemed to have below average luck across the board, yet ended up with near NL average wOBA. Again, I'll take this as a good sign.

Let's take a look at the specific contexts and how we hit:


Whoa! Were we unlucky with a guy on second (-2-), or what? When I first saw this chart, I immediately assumed the BABIP with a guy on second must be low for the whole league -- perhaps the result of infield positioning or something. But, alas, it looks like lady luck just abandoned us:


Side note: the (-12) should be (12-).

There's pretty much no explanation for the (-2-) split beyond bad luck. Of course, luck doesn't explain our atrocious hitting with guys on second and third (-23)! Maybe this really does lend credence to the managers' mantra "we need better situational hitting." I don't know how hitters would actually change their approach in a (-23) situation compared to a (--3) or (1-3) situation because they seem pretty similar. So, I'm suspicious this may have just been a product of small sample sizes (even though we encountered this situation an above average amount of times; 1.88 plate appearances per game, compared to NL average 1.68; but overall, only 156 PAs).

But what are you doing here?! The Cubs game starts at 2pm! Here's the link to the Gameday:

Cubs vs. Oakland, at HoHoKam Park

Note: During Spring Training, they typically update the Gameday only after the inning has finished and don't record the individual pitches/swings; they just include the results.

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