Expanded Four Factors: Josh Hamilton’s BABIP

Expanded Four Factors links:
Austin Jackson
Aaron Hill
Ryan Howard
Average Player

Last time, we took a look at Austin Jackson, and in particular, his outlandish .422 BABIP. With the help of the Four Factors, we came to the conclusion without such fantastic success on balls in play, Jackson is not likely to be an impact hitter and, without his stellar center field defense, might have trouble reaching replacement level with his bat. Today, we’ll take a look at a hitter who is having similar success on balls in play, but is also succeeding in other aspects of the game as well.

That player would be Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers. Hamilton is putting together an utterly ridiculous .357/.405/.622 line this season, good for a .440 wOBA. After posting a meager 1.4 WAR up in an injury riddled season last season, Hamilton has already posted 6.0 WAR this season in only 470 plate appearances.

Unless you’re Barry Bonds, it’s difficult to put up a line like this without a giant BABIP, and Hamilton certainly has that. His .396 BABIP ranks second in the majors to only the aforementioned Jackson. However, Hamilton has also improved his contact this year, striking out in a career low 17.2% of plate appearances. Most important, however, is the fact that Hamilton is showing great power, with an ISO of .265 and a POWH (XB/H) of .742. It’s not like this power is anything particularly new, however – his career POWH is a nearly identical .743.

Hamilton is a line drive hitter (23% LD this year, 23% career) and avoids the fly ball (35% career), so a high BABIP is natural. However, we would expect something closer to his career BABIP of .343 as opposed to the near-.400 mark he is currently running. Let’s take a look at what would happen to Hamilton with a lower BABIP.

With a drop in BABIP back to .340, Hamilton’s looking like a .383 wOBA hitter, which is still quite good. Even if it drops all the way back to .300, Hamilton’s still a comfortably above average hitter, at .346. Any BABIP above .360 projects Hamilton as a .400+ wOBA hitter. To be exact, every 10 points of BABIP is worth just over 9 points of wOBA.

What does this tell us? Not much that we didn’t already know, really. First, Hamilton’s having an insanely good year, even though there’s very little chance that he maintains his .440 wOBA. Second, Hamilton’s power and contact skills make him an above average hitter regardless of his BABIP, and even with some regression he should remain on of the better hitting outfielders in the league. Third, it would take some very poor luck to push Hamilton to anywhere near or below average. Hamilton is a very good hitter having a tremendous season, and right now, he certainly looks like a candidate, if not the front runner, for the Most Valuable Player award in the American League.

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16 Responses to “Expanded Four Factors: Josh Hamilton’s BABIP”

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  1. AJS says:

    I really don’t understand the point of this series.

    Wow, a guy who has a really high BABIP will have an inflated wOBA. And reducing that BABIP reduces his wOBA. Shocking stuff.

    As even you wrote, Jack: “What does this tell us? Not much that we didn’t already know, really.”

    So why are we getting constant “Expanded Four Factors” updates? I believe Bill James said that if a new stat doesn’t surprise you, it’s worthless. I’d file EFF in that category.

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  2. John says:

    I’ve always found this stuff laughable, at best. You’re right AJS, this doesn’t tell us anything. Doesn’t take many statistics to know that Hamilton is a great hitter who’s having a phenomenal/lucky season. Guess you could say it doesn’t take a rocket scientist? Or a statistician with his own website?

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    • Travis L says:

      I didn’t know you were required to read this article. Is it by law, or is it some sort of situation from “Saw”?

      One might suggest the point of this article is to quantify the effect of a BABIP drop on wOBA. E.g.,
      AJ’s .422 BABIP = .342 ffwOBA. If his BABIP regressed to .350, he would have a .300 ffwOBA. .072 BABIP drop = .042 ffwOBA drop.
      JH’s .396 BABIP = .440 ffoWBA. If his BABIP regressed to .340, he would have a .383 ffwOBA. .056 BABIP drop = .057 ffwOBA drop.

      The graphs bear it out; the slope of Hamilton’s line is steeper than the slope of AJ’s. Re-reading the original article on AJ, though, it seems that a good part of his wOBA is from his SB component. They then adjust for that. I don’t see similar analyses here for Hamilton, so I’m going to ignore that, but it will go some of the way to explain the differences.

      So please understand that there are some of us out here who do appreciate these articles, because it helps us understand the game and its players a little better. Perhaps you should spend more time on ESPN.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        Why aren’t people allowed to read articles and comment? Why do some always respond to these post with a “if you don’t like it, leave” or “you don’t have to read it” or “if you don’t like it, don’t read it” (my favorite). Don’t be a Fascist. That’s boring.


        I do agree, with a couple of the comments, (but maybe not the tone).

        The article stated:

        [1] Hamilton has a really high BABIP.
        [2] He’s lowered his K-Rate
        [3] Hitting for the same power as career average.
        [4] High LD hitter, avoids FBs.
        [5] .343 career BABIP.

        Saying that Hamilton won’t sustain the highest BABIP in history is obvioius. I think it should be assummed that the FG readership is, at least, educated enough to assume that. If not, we need to change the focus of the articles.

        What I would personally like to see is something more than just “current stat v. career stat = analysis” thinking. I mean, duh.

        I would like to see the authors use spray charts to look for differences in trends and results. Hamilton seems to be going oppo gap a lot. A spray chart comparison or spray breakdown from 2001 v. career might be revealing (might not).

        If he’s both [1] lowering his KRate, and [2] Going to oppo (with the pitch), he may very well be doing some things that could lead to an increased BABIP for the near future (No, not a sustainable .400 BABIP). That would be interesting to me.

        If we keep looking at the same old things we always look at, we’ll only know what we currently know, and come to the same conclusions we already come to.

        But, really, the article stated that Hamilton’s BABIP is unsustainable, but even if/when it lowers, he’s still a good hitter and really good player. I think someone could post a “no s—” type comment and everyone could have a chuckle.

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  3. Phantom Stranger says:

    Another monster game tonight from Hamilton, in all phases of the game. Yes, his BABIP is nearly .400, but this is no flukey 150-plate appearances sample. He is now around 475 PA on the season. Many all-time great seasons have been fueled by abnormal BABIP increases.

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    • TFINY says:

      I’m not sure if you’re saying that because he has that many plate appearances he won’t regress, or simply that he could continue to play this well because it’s been done before.

      In the first case I absolutely disagree; he will regress to his norm, and still be a phenomenal player. 450 PA is not enough to normalize BABIP. If I recall, there is no good number like there is for AVG, OBP, SLG, ect.

      Your second point (possibly) is mostly true. Insane BABIP have occurred over full seasons. However, the most likely occurrence is regression, and we should treat any projection with that in mind.

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  4. pft says:

    Put another way, when his hot streak is over and he goes into a slump, his numbers will drop.

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    • ACWNS09 says:

      I’m guessing it’s just intended to demonstrate where the increase in production is coming from and where we should expect him to end up when he comes back to Earth (which is still pretty good).

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        My problem with that is the default assumption by FG is “Hamilton is just getting really lucky on BABIP”, rather than “Hamilton is hitting the crap out of the ball” (or as the players say “Seeing the ball well”).

        Don;t get me wrong, he may be getting lucky … assuming that a player can get lucky all season long. I mean aw shucks, uh-uh uh-uh, I’m the best masher in the AL this season.

        But he might also be doing a lot of things very well, and some very small differences at the plate can result in big differences in results. A millimeter here, a millisecond there …

        Just bothers me that luck is referred to so quickly, without exploring all the aspects.

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  5. schmenkman says:

    Nobody’s mentioned his scoring from 2nd last night on ground ball to the second baseman.

    Hamilton also has quite a home-away split:
    H: .397/.442/.750, 1.192 OPS, .511 wOBA
    A: .325/.378/.509, .887 OPS, .380 wOBA

    So yes: Very good hitter + high BABIP + hitter’s park = monster season

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  9. Kyle says:

    He’s easily the MVP,,, neither the Yankees, nor the Red Sox can lay claim to that award this season. Lee could get the Cy Young Award, and oh yeah…. this article was basically stating the obvious. As long as Hamilton stays healthy without having a major slump, he’s the guy to beat.

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  10. Bill says:

    It has been such a treat getting to watch him every day this year.

    His baserunning and defense are amazing. The game he played Friday night may have been the single best all-around performance I’ve ever seen on an MLB field.

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