Expanded Four Factors: Austin Jackson’s BABIP

Expanded Four Factors links:
Aaron Hill
Ryan Howard
Average Player

Yesterday afternoon, I took a look at Aaron Hill and his abnormally low BABIP. Naturally, today we will be taking a look at Austin Jackson, who leads all qualified hitters with a .422 BABIP. That’s 29 points above the second highest BABIP, Josh Hamilton‘s .393, and 123 points above the MLB average of .299.

As with Hill, Jackson’s profile does suggest that he should have an above average BABIP. He has a line drive rate of 25.8% and a ground ball rate above 50%, and both serve his speed quite well. As such, an above average BABIP should be expected.

But there are limits. First of all, Jackson’s high line drive rate is second in the league and ripe for some amount of regression to the mean. Second of all, Jackson’s BABIP on ground balls in particular is .333, and bound to come down. Jackson’s excellent 10.1% infield hit rate is about 4% above the league average, meaning that he accrues an extra 5.5 hits among his 148 ground balls, which only accounts for about 30 points of BABIP on grounders – that .333 GB BABIP is over 100 points above the league average rate, and can’t simply be explained by speed.

His BABIP on fly balls is also above the league average, by just under 70 points, and I don’t think the abnormality on fly ball BABIP can be explained as simply as his speed. Simply put, Jackson’s BABIP is going to come down. He has a .342 wOBA this season, which, after taking out the SB/CS component (16 SB, 4 CS), comes closer to his Four Factors-projected .335 wOBA. Right now, Jackson is below average in the other three non-BABIP components, with a 6.2% BB%, a 26.1% K% (K/PA), and a .334 POWH (XB/H) to go along with that .422 BABIP. Let’s take a look at what happens when that BABIP starts moving down toward the mean.

To account for the fact that Jackson is 23 and could easily improve, I have included a forecast for a 4% decrease in K% (in blue), along with a forecast for the same K% as this season (red). In the optimistic projection, a drop to a more realistic .350 BABIP (think Ichiro level) has Jackson as a .300 wOBA player – as well as Aaron Hill has hit with his .199 BABIP. In the pessimistic projection, that same drop would make Jackson a .287 wOBA player – think Carlos Gomez. In fact, given both players’ fantastic defensive abilities, they make decent comps. The depressing part here is that any BABIP below .380 – something I think is a mortal lock for the future – leaves Jackson as a below average hitter in either scenario, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Even if Jackson isn’t a terrific, or average, or even competent hitter, he has fantastic defense in center field to fall back on, which could easily make him a league average player. His minor league numbers don’t particularly suggest an incoming increase in contact skills, walk rates, or power, however, so Tigers fans will likely have to be content with a light hitting, slick fielding center fielder under team control for a long time. And really, that’s not so bad.

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12 Responses to “Expanded Four Factors: Austin Jackson’s BABIP”

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  1. A great headline from mlive.com yesterday:

    Tigers rookie Austin Jackson’s lack of infield singles surprises manager Jim Leyland

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    • Leyland is correct says:

      He does not get out of the batters box very quickly and does not beat out soft hit balls to the SS that someone like Ichiro would beat out (being left handed and probably faster than Jackson.)

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  2. Nik says:

    Slick fielding? His UZR this year has been -1.1 overall. Maybe he will make less errors in the future and improve his error runs from -1 to above average, but his arm is not great (currently -1.8) and his range is not extraordinary (1.6). I don’t think he will be that valuable as his hitting regresses unless his UZR this year has been an anomaly and his defense is actually much better than -1.1.

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    • the fume says:

      Watching the games, Jackson has incredible range defensively. Great jumps and he takes decent routes. He’s clearly better than Granderson was last year as a Tiger. Jackson had a 2 week stretch where he missed some balls coming in which must have killed his UZR, but unless the standard for CF defense is really high this year, that UZR is too low. Consider his +/- as well and you’ll get a better picture.

      Regarding his batting, he does have room to improve his contact and walk rates. He’s around league average with his swing% and contact%, so maybe it’s just a matter of refining his approach.

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      • Nik says:

        Total Zone Runs lists him at -6 runs, BIS lists him at +14, +/- lists him at +12. Maybe he has been good but inconsistent this year. His future fielding CF looks good, but not extraordinary.

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    • Tom says:

      Yeah, using UZR over a full season for infielders in iffy, using it for outfielders is just wrong.

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  3. David G says:

    Why is his BABIP on ground balls “bound to come down”? Not all ground balls are created equally. Expected BABIP values for particular types of BIPs are based on league average values for those, correct? That would not take into account certain peculiarities for how fast the ball comes off the bat, or where they are hit.

    Just a thought: from the 50+ Tigers games I’ve watched, Jackson seems to have an incredibly quick bat, and hits almost everything hard. Harder hit ground balls are more likely to result in hits. I know this only anecdotal evidence, but it may in part explain a seemingly high BABIP that for all we know (small sample size) is low for Jackson’s skills.

    Love the Four Factors, great series, keep it coming.

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  4. Mike Rogers says:

    Jackson’s defense is LEGIT plus in centerfield. He runs down everything from gap to gap — a great asset given he had Magglio and Boesch on either side of him.

    That said, his offense, once normalized for BABIP (his xbabip is around .350-ish) is about what I was expecting. He isn’t a power threat and he strikes out a lot. He does show a solid understanding of the strikezone, though it doesn’t show up in the BB% because he likes to swing the bat (though, this is more narrative, than anything else, I haven’t checked the numbers).

    He’s got upside and age on his side, but honestly, he really is striking me as a Carlos Gomez-like player (nice comp, Jack) or, at worse, an Endy Chavez-like defensive stalwart.

    By the by, his BABIP is high for his batted ball data, but I haven’t seen a Tigers player spray around line drive after line drive since Magglio’s 2006 monster season. So his line drive% is pretty spot on.

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    • The Dude says:

      Good stuff, Mike. Hate to nitpick… But, Maggslio(as I affectionately refer to him)’s monster year was 2007, when he hit .363. I watched him rake the whole year, he was friggin’ amazing! As for Ajax, there’s no reason to think he won’t develop 15-20 dong power as he matures and grows into some man muscle

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