Just thinking out loud here, does he maybe change his approach with men on base to try to induce his groundballs? His HR/FB% drops with runners on. Maybe knowing he has a good infield defense behind him, he tries to induce more groundballs and this results in the drop in BABIP with runners on. Of course, if this is actually the result of a change in process, he would maybe be doing it all the time and not just with runners on.
Wade has been decent, not great, and not as good as his ERA suggests, as you point out. But he’s young, in his first full (or close to it) MLB season. I think he’s got some room for growth and improvement.
If I look at LeBlanc’s splits on baseball-reference, it says LeBlanc has a .288 BABIP with men on and a .318 BABIP with the bases empty. Weird. The raw numbers at each site agree, and doing the calculation (assuming I’m doing it correctly) seems to indicate b-ref is correct here. It also seems like there is a more drastic change in walk rate with men on base than indicated here: 21 in 251 PA with the bases empty (8.4%) and 18 in 169 PA with men on (10.7%) – a 27% increase.
Anyway, looking at the change with runners on base looks like he’s doing the lefty nibbling thing – throwing lots of pitches off the plate looking for weak contact at the cost of more walks. He has a slugging percentage against of .354 with runners on base and .483 with the bases empty (according to b-ref). The magnitude of this split isn’t going to hold up – even the master nibbler Tom Glavine only had a .015 reduction in slg % with runners on base.
He definitely seems Glavine-esque in his approach (and he has a similar repertoire). Glavine’s strategy was to be aggressive against hitters when the bases were empty, but then nibble with men on base so as to avoid a multi-run homer even at the expense of a walk.
I’ve been to about 9 games at Petco already this year and interesting enough I think I’ve seen LeBlanc as the starter in 6 of those games.