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Choo’s BABIP

Question: Which of the following players had the highest wRAA last season?

A) Todd Helton
B) Matt Holliday
C) Shin-Soo Choo
D) Evan Longoria
E) Alex Rodriguez

Now, a question like this would only be posed if the answer was surprising, right? Which makes C the obvious (and correct) pick. Acquired in a July 2006 trade from the Seattle Mariners (for Ben Broussard) Choo has blossomed into a fine player, earning 5.1 WAR last season alone. The 27-year-old posted a .389 park-unadjusted wOBA and played essentially average defense in a corner outfield position.

A driving force behind his offensive outburst was a BABIP north of .375. Often that would be labeled a fluke and a confluence of a series of very fortuitous events. With Choo, it’s becoming a pattern. Throughout his 1,275 Major League plate appearances his BABIP is .373. Go to the career leaderboards and set a minimum amount of plate appearances to 1,000. From there sort BABIP descending and Choo’s BABIP ranks tops amongst active players and fifth historically. The next closest active players include Matt Diaz, Matt Kemp, Fred Lewis, and Derek Jeter. It’s a select club to say the least.

Of course you should still regress towards the league average before penciling Choo in for another .370+ BABIP next year even in extreme cases like this. Take a look at Choo’s career BABIP by batted ball type compared to the 2009 American League average and a trend becomes evident:

BB	Choo	AL
Grnd	0.284	0.24
Fly	0.226	0.134
Line	0.732	0.729

At moments like this, HitFx data would come in handy. Choo sees each of his types go for more hits than the average American Leaguer, especially fly balls. Best I can tell, there are only a few possible explanations for this:

1) Scorer inaccurately calling a line drive a fly ball.
2) Choo hitting the ball harder than most.
3) Choo possessing mental telekinesis powers and is extremely selfish.

Perhaps it’s a combination of the three.