Rollins’ Horrid BABIP

Jimmy Rollins is having a pretty bad year at the plate, with a wOBA of .316. Before this year, going back to 2004, he has had a wOBA of at least .341, and had four years above .350. That was very good offensive performance for a shortstop. Not a big walker, the offensive value came from contact skills, a good BABIP and solid power. Well, this year the second of those three fell out from under him. His BABIP dropped to 0.253 taking his batting average and on-base percentage (under .300) with it.

For a speedy switch hitter, often batting from the first base-side batting box, a BABIP of 0.253 is surprisingly low. In fact, it is the third lowest in the game, down with guys like Carlos Pena, Aubrey Huff, David Ortiz and Bengie Molina. His IFFB% is 13.7%, thirteen in the league, and that probably plays some role, but there has to be more to it. To look deeper I went to Baseball Reference which breaks up BABIP by hit type. Here they are for Rollins’ career, for Rollins in 2009 and the NL 2009 average.

|              |  Career |    2009 | Average |
| Ground Balls |   0.225 |   0.213 |   0.235 |
| Fly Balls    |   0.095 |   0.094 |   0.142 |
| Line Drives  |   0.725 |   0.629 |   0.718 | 

It looks like the big issue is with his line drives. They are falling for hits way less often than in his career or league average. He has 118 line drives this year. If he had his career average BABIP on those he would pick up about 10 extra hits, which would bring his BA up to .263 and his OBP .304. Better, but still off his career numbers.

To look at this a little closer I plotted the heavily smoothed frequency distributions of the angles in play of his line drives for 2009 versus 2005 to 2008 (the years the data are available from GameDay).


It does look quite different. He is hitting many more to right field; in addition, these are turning into outs much more frequently.

BABIP on Line Drives
|          |  Career |    2009 |
| Angle < 0|   0.707 |   0.650 |
| Angle > 0|   0.784 |   0.620 |

Usually the line drives he hits to right field fall in for hits at a very high rate. This year he is actually hitting more to right field, but they have a much lower BABIP.

Even breaking the data down this far it is still hard to say how much of this is bad luck and how much of it is something wrong with Rollins. As Jack talked about earlier today, this is a place where the HITf/x data would really come in handy.

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Dave Allen's other baseball work can be found at Baseball Analysts.

10 Responses to “Rollins’ Horrid BABIP”

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  1. scatterbrian says:

    Interesting breakdown Dave. Is there batted ball data available for platoon splits? He was pretty weak vs. LHP this season, more so than in the past. I guess I’m wondering if he was trying to go to right as a RH hitter more often. Then again, his first half was absolutely horrible.

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    • Dave Allen says:

      Good point about the handedness issue I should have mentioned it. Over his career he has a BABIP aginast RHP of .295 and against LHP of .286, not that much different. This past year it has been .265 against RHP and .213 against LHPs. Lower against both, but really bad against LHPs.

      To get the batted ball splits by platoon you have to pull it out of the GameDay data yourself, that I know of.

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  2. truth says:

    If you plug Rollins’ stats from this year into the xBABIP tool, it comes out to .317. Looks like he could be fairly undervalued heading into next season.

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  3. Bill says:

    Some of it was bad luck but a lot (especially in the first half of the year or so) was Rollins just getting under the ball a ton (from the left) or over it (from the right) and not hitting the ball particularly hard even when it was a line drive / ground ball.

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  4. AB says:

    His overall GB% was way down in favor of a lot of FBs, which is going to have a negative impact on BABIP. Watching him every day though he really struggled with his approach at the plate…..pressed for a lot of the season, got too pull happy, dropped back shoulder etc. He was trying to swing his way out of his extended slump. This hurt his walk rate too.He is usually a pull hitter but he got way too over-pull happy for a lot of the year

    To be honest watching him I don’t know what to make of it either. He still looks quick inside and his K rate is not up, which you’d think it would be if his swing just got way longer than it was. Hoping it was just a bizarre, bad year

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  5. Mike Green says:

    His career BABIP is actually poor, given his speed and pop. His IF hit % is very low (about 1/2 of Victorino’s). Is he particularly slow out of the box?

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  6. Barry says:

    Hi Dave,

    Awhile back, either on this site or on Baseball Analysts, you posted a line plot in which the 95% CI was indicated with shading (I think, if my memory serves, you were portraying the relationship between run value and the movement of pitches, but I could be wrong). In any case, I’m wondering how you did this in R. Was it with the polygon command? I’d like to produce something similar for an unrelated project, but I have no idea how.


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  7. Ron says:

    In the 1st chart you labeled BABIP, the numbers listed for Rollins are his BA numbers not his BABIP numbers from For example, Rollins has a career BABIP on Fly Balls of .095 while his BA is the .147 you listed.

    For the NL average you used BABIP not BA.

    Is there any reason you used BA and not BABIP for Rollins?

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  8. Ron says:

    So if you use BABIP vs BABIP, Rollins Fly Ball BABIP for 2009 of .094 was way below the league average of .142. I suspect he was hitting a lot of easy to catch fly balls, which matches what Bill said.

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  9. Ron says:

    Sorry for so many posts. But there seems to be a problem with Rollins’ Fly Ball numbers for his years 2000. 2001 & 2002 on B-Ref. So his career Fly Ball numbers are off.

    Actually all players’ Fly Ball numbers for the years 2000-2002 seem to be wrong.

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