20 in '15: Batters

After Monday's game, the 20th of the season, I pulled a bunch of data about the club to compare what's happened so far with 2014 and the projections from ZiPS and Steamer (I've taken the means of these projections for convenience). In this post I'll focus on the batters, and do another post for the pitching staff. For comparison purposes, everyone is being compared to their full 2014 season except for Adam Lind, who's being compared with aggregate Brewer first basemen in 2014. I also calculated something I'm calling xBABIP, though it's different from the Fangraphs xBABIP. This is essentially what your BABIP would be given your batted ball type distribution (line drive, ground ball, fly ball) if your BABIP for each type was the league average for non-pitchers. My hope was that this would help in identifying some of the small sample size noise in the early 2015 rate stats.

15 points:

  1. Quite a few K rates are way up. Jonathan Lucroy is striking out at a 17.6% clip, up 6.8% from last year and 5.25% higher than projected. Scooter Gennett is up an astonishing 22.3%, to 36.4%. In actual percentage terms (that is, not percentage points), he's up 158%! Aramis Ramirez (4.4%), Khris Davis (3.4%, to 25.6% total), Ryan Braun (3.2%), Gerardo Parra (10.1%), and Martin Maldonado (10.1%) are also up.
  2. Jean Segura's K rate is down by 4%, and his walk rate is down by 2.5%, and both differences are similar to how his 2015 differs from the projections. He's putting the ball in play considerably more than he did in 2014, upping his line drive and ground ball rates.
  3. Carlos Gomez has also lowered both his K and walk rates, but he's done so at the expense of increasing his ground ball rate by nearly 20%. His ISO is actually up by .013 from last year, but the ground balls have his BABIP down to .259. He's done this swinging at pitches at a career high rate, which should certainly lower one's walk rate, but the strikeouts being lower is a surprise.
  4. This is due to both the batted ball distribution and regression. Last year, his BABIP of .339 was .066 higher his xBABIP. This year his xBABIP of .256 is pretty much right on.
  5. Lucroy is another who got some extra BABIP help last year, hitting at a premium of .045 over his xBABIP (.324 vs. .279). It's just the opposite this year -- his dreadful line drive drop, by 11.5%, has his xBABIP down to .229, but his actual BABIP is coming in even under that, at .162. .162!
  6. Segura's terrific start is also being buoyed a little bit, as he's .037 above his xBABIP. His .333 is also well above where he was last year and where he was projected this year.
  7. In the outfield, Davis and Braun are getting boosts -- .059 and .048, respectively. Braun's xBABIP of .235 is being driven by his 40.4% fly ball rate, and a 5% drop in his line drive rate.
  8. Davis has actually upped his line drive rate and lowered his fly ball rate, but both he and Braun are sitting on uncharacteristically HR/FB numbers. With only one homer between them in the first 20 games, Davis and Braun respectively hold ISOs of .086 and .048.
  9. Hey, did you know that in 2014, Gennett had a higher ISO and SLG than Ramirez? Crazy but true! Well, it's not true this year, and it's not because Rami's really turned on the power. Scooter has no extra-base hits, though his BABIP of .353 almost hits his xBABIP on the nose thanks to a major increase in line drives and decrease in fly balls. Well, a relative increase; he's given up over a third of his plate appearances to strikeouts, leaving his overall batting average at .207.
  10. Ramirez, for his part, has the same xBABIP as Braun, but he's not been able to work around it, putting up an actual BABIP of .231. Line drives down, fly balls way up, and an ISO nearly equal to Segura's.
  11. If you want a really robust ISO, you have to look for a slugger like Logan Schafer, who's at .120. But don't believe his lies! Logan's ridiculous line drive rate of just 4.8% drives his xBABIP down to .187, nearly 100 points below his actual number. He has been getting stupid lucky in the last week or so. Interestingly, the projections have his BABIP at .276, so something will have to give.
  12. Martin Maldonado gets a little boost of .030 on top of his .237 xBABIP, driven by his dramatic increase in ground balls -- fully half of his batted balls, up from 36.1% last year.
  13. Want to hear an argument that the Brewers have actually gotten lucky at the plate so far this year? On top of all those guys' modest BABIP boosts, you've got Adam Lind, with a BABIP of .370 towering over an xBABIP of .243. That latter number is actually very close to both the BABIP and xBABIP put up by Brewer first basemen last year.
  14. But also dingers, of course. Lind is homering on 14.3% of his fly balls, compared with 10.1% by last year's corps. He's also striking out considerably less often (-8.3%) and walking at about the same rate, good for a .106 improvement in OBP.
  15. In general, Brewer batters are probably getting more hits than they should when they put the ball in play; the year-to-year numbers vary enough that I don't suspect it's much more than luck. Overall batted ball distributions aren't much different now than they were in 2014 (all three categories within 2.6% change). But the home run rate has been nearly cut in half, the K rate in up 3.2%, and the walk rate is down 1.4%. Team ISO is down about 40 points, which is all good for a 25-point drop in wRC+. xBABIP for the team is .263, with actual BABIP up at .289. Even if the power outage ends (and these numbers were gathered Braun and Ramirez homered tonight), BABIP regression is likely at some point. Some K rate regression, especially for Scooter and Luc when they return, would be a very helpful counter to that.