The Seattle Mariners Should Hit Better

The Seattle Mariners are enduring a pretty miserable season. After last year’s stinker, the Mariners have followed it up with a .438 winning percentage and a pace-worthy of a scant 71 wins. Well, buck up West Coasters, because the Seattle Mariners should hit better through the season’s end!

In fact, the Mariners should be hitting a whopping 29% better.

For several weeks now, I’ve been playing with fielding-independent-hitting tools, specifically the aptly-named Should Hit metric.

Should Hit (ShH, for short) has a variety of uses, though its best used as a BABIP regressor. For your perusal, I created ShHAP!, a Google Doc that’s free for the world to download and allows anyone to regress a player’s present season (or any stretch of statistics), according to a different BABIP.

Well, today, let’s put this tool to use and look at the Mariners.

The following table shows us a comparison of each player’s hitting (as per wRC+, weighted runs created plus) and their ShHAP! (what their wRC+ should be, given their career BABIP).

The dark blue segment of each line is their ShHAP!; the light blue is their present wRC+. For Dustin Ackley and Carlos Peguero, I used their rest-o-season ZiPS projections for their BABIP — because they have so few career PAs, their ShHAP! and wRC+ would otherwise be identical.

Also, the size of a player’s 2011 PAs determines the thickness of the bars (I used a minimum of 150 plate appearances). The thicker the bar, the more reliable the ShHAP! projection.

NOTE: You might need to refresh the page to see the Tableau document. If you continue to have trouble seeing it, try going here.


  • Chone Figgins, according ShHAP!, should be hitting much, much better. The problem is his BABIP has been crazy-low since moving to Seattle. Maybe he’s just too old. Maybe he’s struggling with some crazy injury. He’s actually hitting better at Safeco than away from it this year, so it’s hard to say exactly why his BABIP has cratered. If it does return, though, ShHAP! still sees a sub-par performance in his future.


  • –I wrote a few weeks ago about Ichiro Suzuki and how I expected him to recover his former BABIP and then start hitting better. Well, now I have a number I can put to that expectation: 109 wRC+. Of course, I could just as easily anticipate he’d not┬árecover his former BABIP (maybe he’ll drop to .310 or .300), but using ShHAP!, I can get that solid number for which I’m looking.


  • –If Dustin Ackley maintains his balance of walks, strikeouts, and homers, then he could still┬ábe a top tier second baseman if and when his BABIP cools off. That’s impressive. Of course, we expect the league will start to figure him out and eventually those numbers will sparkle a little less. Still, there’s plenty to be excited about.


  • –Only Jack Wilson and Brendan Ryan have a BABIPs better than their career numbers, which makes me ask: “What’s in the water in Seattle, and why is everyone else drinking it?”

I’ve also included an HTML table below, detailing the Mariners’ statistics. For some reason, a bit of the formatting refuses to cooperate, but the numbers are in good order:

Brendan Ryan 406 2 8 6.4% 16.5% .313 .297 90 83 -8%
Dustin Ackley 207 5 2 11.6% 15.5% .329 .283 142 121 -15%
269 1 11 4.8% 16.7% .261 .307 49 70 44%
Adam Kennedy 346 7 7 5.8% 14.5% .264 .306 83 103 24%
Miguel Olivo 385 15 5 4.7% 28.1% .259 .297 68 86 26%
Justin Smoak 410 12 0 12.2% 20.7% .253 .254 97 97 0%
Jack Wilson 184 0 5 4.3% 14.1% .293 .291 63 62 -1%
Jack Cust 270 3 0 16.3% 32.2% .333 .337 96 98 2%
Carlos Peguero 155 6 0 5.2% 34.8% .262 .310 66 88 34%
Ichiro Suzuki 536 2 30 5.6% 8.4% .286 .352 78 109 39%
152 2 4 6.6% 29.6% .231 .268 29 46 59%
Chone Figgins 313 1 11 6.7% 13.4% .215 .329 35 88 151%
Weighted Avg 29.3%

Stats through 8/16/2011.

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Bradley writes for FanGraphs and The Hardball Times. Follow him on Twitter @BradleyWoodrum.

42 Responses to “The Seattle Mariners Should Hit Better”

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  1. Telo says:

    Great graph, conceptually. Didn’t really dig into SHHAP or SHIP or whatever it is the first time around, so I won’t comment on the results. But just a very appealing end result to look at. Nice.

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  2. MikeS says:

    This reminds me of an old joke that I think was made about the Giants when they were still at Candlestick. One year they played on astroturf, the next year they pulled up the turf and put in grass. Both years they underperformed which prompted one sportswriter to write that the next year they should tear up the grass and put down paper because the Giants always look good on paper.

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  3. Thompson says:

    “Should Hit (ShH, for short)” – that’s not the abbreviation I would use after the watching the Mariners all year.

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  4. juan pierre's mustache says:

    how depressing would it be if this had ended up showing that they should be worse? also, is it even possible for any algorithm to project a position player to hit as poorly as chone figgins is?

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  5. David says:

    BABIPs do not always normalize. Sometimes they are indicators that a player just doesn’t have it anymore. Maybe they lost a step, or some bat speed. Maybe they just don’t make good contact for whatever reason.

    Ichiro is geting old. Figgins isn’t, unless maybe he is. Some guys just flame out early. Peguero isn’t old, and while he’s got terrific BABIPs in the minors his K% is and has always been unconscionable. It’s entirely possible that Major League pitchers are simply too much for him. Gutierrez has had exactly one good year, and it may have been a career peak. Saunders has about 600 career PA. He might regress up, but ZIPS still doesnt give a whole lot of hope.

    So yes. It’s possible that the luck dragon has a lair in the bowels of SafeCo Field. It’s also possible that these guys are just not very good hitters.

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    • Yeah, I used career rates because they tend to be where a player stays. But that’s tend, not are. Is Suzuki getting too old to keep his BABIP crazy high? Maybe — though his steals aren’t down. It’s hard to say.

      It sure does seem crazy that almost the entire team would be due a positive regression, but this season has been pretty crazy for the Mariners.

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      • RC says:

        The problem is, you’re assuming that BABIP isn’t influenced by park factors. I’d EXPECT a drastic drop in BABIP when a guy goes to Safeco.

        Its a tough field to hit in, and Figgins is particularly poorly suited to it.

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      • Problem is: Chone has a career BABIP of .300 at Safeco, no where near his present .215. Moreover, he’s 47 wRC+ at home and 23 away. Both are miserable, but that’s twice as good at Safeco than away.

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      • RC says:

        And by “Career” you mean “one season at”.

        There’s a very real possibility that his true babip at safeco is somewhere between that .300 and the .215 of this year, and neither one is really that much of an outlier.

        He’s 33 years old, playing in a terrible hitter’s park, has never had any power, and he’s regressed significantly at the one thing he was ever good at: taking a walk.

        I think assuming that his BABIP should improve isn’t an assumption thats really based in reality.

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      • False on two counts: That’s a career BABIP based on 700+ PAs, and Safeco is a pitcher’s park in reputation more than in reality.

        Safeco is closer to US Cellular Field than it is to Petco.

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      • Cody says:

        Safco is tough because it is really two parks. Depending on which side of the plate you hit from. Of Figgins hits from both so I don’t know what his problem is.

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      • RC says:

        700 PA’s (which is one season worth) isn’t really all that much when we talk about BABIP.

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      • RC says:

        And since when is 10% runs suppression NOT a pitchers park?Not to mention, the only thing that Safeco is positive in, are HRs and BBs, and Chone never hits homeruns.

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      • Nathaniel Dawson says:

        Cody, that’s not really complete. The only significant difference in how Safeco affects handedness is in home runs. Right-handed hitters have a difficult time hitting homers in Safeco, while left-handers have it easier than most other parks. But if you look at the other batting events, it plays about the same for either handedness. So the hitters that get hurt the most are right-handed power hitters, while the players that get hurt the least are left-handed power hitters. If you’re a real good power hitting lefty that likes to pull the ball a lot, you may even be helped by Safeco. So while it sort of plays like two different parks for power hitters, it is pretty much equally bad for non-power hitters, such as Figgins, regardless of handedness.

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    • David says:

      I don’t think you should regress using career BABIP for guys who have lost considerable power, i.e. they don’t hit the ball as hard anymore. Figgins can barely get the ball out of the infield right now.

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  6. Stuart says:

    Awesome! Thank you.

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  7. bjones says:

    Too bad the M’s released Jack Cust, that 2% improvement would have made all the difference…

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    • Yeah, I was surprised to see such little regression in his profile. He seemed perfectly capable these past few years, but apparently that was more mirage, less huzzah.

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    • DavidB says:

      Also Saunders and Peguero aren’t on the 25 man and in Saunders case hasn’t been for months. Would have been nice to see projections for the guys they’ve actually been playing like Wells and Carp.

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  8. futant462 says:

    Loves me some Tableau. Use it frequently myself and it’s great stuff.

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  9. steve says:

    watching that collection of garbage hopelessly flailing at brandon morrow’s fastball yesterday makes me seriously doubt they should be 29% better. in fact, i’m astonished they managed to score a run

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    • Gary York says:

      Maybe. Argument for the defense (offense?):

      A. Morrow can shut down anybody when he’s on and he looked good yesterday.

      B. The last couple of weeks the Mariners have been aggressively regressing to the mean. However, a lot of the hitting action has been Carp, the new guy Robinson, and the new guy Wells. Gutierrez resurgence has been fueled by a recrudescence of his BABIP, not sustainable, but he has been hitting the ball harder the last week or so.

      Their problem (unless a team filled with rookies should actually be said to be “in process”) is that the pitching has been regressing to the mean in the other direction.

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  10. Tyler says:

    I am protesting this article until I hear one good reason why it isn’t abbreviated SHit.

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  11. Colin says:

    I would be even more intrigued to see a split between home/away numbers for BABIP vs Should Hit

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  12. NOTE: I’ve tweaked the setting to make the middle graph more readable.

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  13. Cody says:

    I wonder how this practice stacks up to last years stats? Everyone was saying the Mariners were under-performing, and unlucky last year, but I see the same thing this year and I’m starting to think there is something that the statistics are missing. Can you do the same table for this date last year and then shadow the projected results with the actual results?
    Also showing us Figgins/Cust/Saunders/Peguero is irrelevant since none of them will get significant playing time for the rest of the year.

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  14. Avery says:

    It’s true that many of these players would be due for serious regression, but a lot of them aren’t playing any more. The Mariners have routinely filled their lineups with new players the last few weeks (Carp, Robinson, Wells, Seager, etc.), and I would only expect that to continue.

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  15. joe says:

    Still think ShH should be named FIB (fielding independent batting).

    Then you can talk about the FIB saying the Mariners should be better ;)

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  16. Yeah, I was thinking ShHit.

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  17. That graph is awesome. Loved the article.

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  18. Hejuk says:

    If Ackley gets a lot of his value from doubles and triples – which he has so far – shouldn’t a metric based on walks, strikeouts, and home runs naturally underrate him?

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  19. Some Dude says:

    Interesting stuff. Love the subtle Arrested Development reference.

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