The Luck Loserboard: Jorge Posada Leads The Way

“Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.”

-ye olde Bill Shakespeare (Friar Laurence from Rome and Juliet)

After waiting many hard winter months without any baseball, it seems unfair to ask us sabermagicians to wait even longer to saberize our favorite teams and players. Unfortunately, that is what we must do. One of the core principles of sabermetric thought is the value of sample size.

We cannot do as our detractors think we do: We cannot resort to looking for greater truths from lesser findings.

So, this early part of the year features a lot of articles about players’ plate discipline numbers and pitchers’ pitch f/x changes — small slivers of reality that give us clues to how the big reality will start to look.

One such thing we can look at early in the season: batting average on balls in play (BABIP). Why? BABIP stabilizes slowly, but tends to stay in a particular range for hitters (somewhere between .250 and .350, with most hitters being quite near to .300). So, early in the season, we can usually take a gander at the Luck Loserboard (those hitters with BABIPs at or beneath .200) and get a good idea about which players are poised to rebound.

As we can easily see, Jorge Posada has had some interesting results early in the season. When my wife says “interesting,” she usually means: “No, of course I didn’t like that war movie,” but here, I say “interesting” to mean: “He has a laughably terrible BABIP (.097), one far beneath his career rate (.317), yet he has swatted a respected 105 wRC+ — meaning the gentleman DHer has performed 5% above league average.”

BABIP doesn’t include HRs — and Jorge has clobbered 5 of them — but still, the work of Mr. Posada and the other Green Men (Jacoby Ellsbury, Jason Heyward, Mark Teixeira, and Ian Kinsler ) is undeniably impressive. Despite Luck Beasts gobbling up their ground balls, fly balls, and line drives alike, they have all managed to hit for above league average — no small feat.

Meanwhile, we also have the Red Army — specifically, Carl Crawford, Brett Gardner, Will Venable, and James Loney. These gents have a combined 1 home run in over 200 plate appearances, courtesy of Lonely. None of them have a wOBA over .200 and are likely disowned from their families. Fear not gentlemen! There comes this time every year — a time when it seems like the BABIP tide will not rise again — but in truth, history has taught us time and again they stumble that run fast to judgment!

Take Off-Season Darling Carl Crawford, for example. He owns a career BABIP in the .326 neighborhood. His 2011 season will almost undoubtedly not end the way it began. Others, like James Lonely, should regress, though not necessarily very much.

Other notes of interest:

  • The batsmen of the AL East represent 44% of the Luck Loserboard. Go figure.
  • Saber-fan favorite Kila Ka’aihue is now sporting a .230 career BABIP. He really needs need to see that improve — and quickly — for the batting-average-loving Royals to keep him employed.
  • Also of note: Carl Crawford‘s presently -4.2 UZR has helped to make him into a most putrid -1.1 WAR player thus far. Expect neither circumstance to continue.
  • This group averages 2 steals per person. Not bad for a .250 OBP.



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

    35 Responses to “The Luck Loserboard: Jorge Posada Leads The Way”

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    1. Dscott says:

      Heyward will have a monster year. 285+ average!!!!!!

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    2. Yirmiyahu says:

      Except a lot of those guys have been hitting the ball terribly.

      Ryan Ludwick, for instance, has had 4 line-drives, 8 groundballs, 22 outfield flies, and 3 popups. The expected BABIP for that is something like .220

      There’s obviously some bad luck involved, and its not universally true, but the “luck loserboard” is full of guys who have a LD% of 10%-13%. It ain’t all bad luck.

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      • Small Sample Goodness says:

        It could be bad luck that caused an outfield fly rather than a line drive, not necessarily due to some kind of terrible hitting.

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        • Yirmiyahu says:

          I don’t think I would call that “luck,” exactly, but its definitely a SSS issue. Baseball performance is non-linear. Guys have hot streaks and slumps.

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        • @Yirmiyahu: Precisely. Players go through cold streaks, wherein they’re constantly making little adjustments.

          Yeah, CC may not be hitting a lot of liners, but his ground balls aren’t slipping through either. More importantly, however, he will eventually get it together and start hitting some liners — unless he’s truly asplode.

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    3. Michael says:

      Did you consider looking at each player’s xBABIP as well to determine whether it was more likely bad luck or possibly more based on how they were making contact? I would imagine even if their xBABIP was low as well that that value would regress similarly, but it would be “interesting” nonetheless.

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      • Good point. I’ll take a look at this Loserboard in a few weeks, throwing in some xBABIPs.

        Several of these guys might have sub-.200 xBABIPs, but I imagine most do not cross below .250.

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      • Barkey Walker says:

        Specifically, Posada’s plight might be because he is swinging for the fences. Fly balls (not including homers) are VERY unproductive. Including homers they are better (for wOBA) than ground balls.

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    4. Deadpool says:

      I wish I could get the panicking Braves fans to see this.

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      • Yeah, the Red Sox, Yankees, and Braves have all been hit pretty hard by BABIP right now.

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      • Undocorkscrew says:

        Oh man, I just posted this on Talking Chop and 2 other Braves blogs that has a large crowd of ‘Uggla signing was terrible’ and/or ‘Heyward needs more time in AAA’ peeps.

        All great blogs, but jeez. Hopefully it’ll make an impact, doubtful….

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    5. Sam says:

      So if a few of Posada’s HRs had instead bounced off the wall as doubles, he’d be less unlucky?

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      • Well played, Sam.

        Mathematically, yes, Posada would be more “lucky” if his homers went for doubles — or even singles — instead.

        Obviously and logically, no. Posada, as we observe, has been unlucky on his balls in play (i.e. not in fans’ hands), but he has still been fortunate enough to be product despite that.

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        • Six says:

          How can that be when logic is part of the foundation of mathematics?

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        • Sam says:

          “BABIP = LUCK” is not mathematics; it’s just an oversimplification.

          There’s nothing unlucky (for the batter) about hard hit balls going over the fence rather than off the fence.

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        • RC says:

          “There’s nothing unlucky (for the batter) about hard hit balls going over the fence rather than off the fence.”

          You mean, its not lucky that a player hits a ball hard on a day when the wind isn’t blowing in? Its not luck that he hits a 330 foot fly ball to left in Fenway instead of Safeco?

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        • Sam says:

          You seem to be confusing “lucky” with “unlucky.”

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    6. cs3 says:

      Not sure where the appropriate place to put this is (which, ironically, is part of the reason i have to make this post in the first place, but the layout of this website’s main page is really really poor.

      1) you cant even read the full titles of most articles because the space allotted to the “recent article” heading is way too small.

      2a) there is no place where you can easily see all articles sorted by day. if you click on “recent articles” you get a page full of previews. which is completely useless because you have to scroll around looking for what you want.and anyone who starts reading the preview of an article must then click on the link for the full writeup anyway – makes no sense.

      2b) there should be a page where ALL articles (for a given day, or week or whatever) are listed in the same place. No previews. Just titles, dates, and author listed so we can see all of them without having to scroll around and wed through the dumb previews.

      3) maybe its just a compatibility issue with Firefox, but when after posting a comment, you are sent to a blank page and you cant do anything from there. you cant even refresh the page – you get an error message. So to see your comment you have to post it, wait for the blank page to load, go back a couple times, refresh the page then scroll back down to see if you post went through.
      Why???

      4) Comments section is not user friendly at all.
      there needs to either be threaded replies that are easier to use/read, or a quote function. Its almost impossible to follow the comments in high traffic articles because nobody can tell which comment another comment is replying to.

      5) sorry to post this here but there is no place i can find where it will be seen by the people who run the site.

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      • Jay says:

        I’d suggest emailing your ideas. When you do it publicly like you did, it shows up the guys at the site and makes you look bad for doing so. Plus, your “suggestions” sound more like demands, which probably isn’t appropriate considering the site content is free!

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      • phiFiFoFum says:

        2b) Click “Blogs” in the top bar.

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    7. fredsbank says:

      when is fangraphs going to develop an xBABIP so we can understand these kinds of things better…?

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        xBABIP is complicated (it’s not just LD, GB, OF FB, IF FB). Speed is a big variable. So is tendency to pull the ball or go the other way. There are soft liners and hard grounders. Some guys (Jeter, Ichiro) just have an innate ability to “hit em where they aint”.

        Having said that, it couldn’t hurt for fangraphs to include *some* version of xBABIP.

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        • I rather like Chris Dutton’s xBABIP, but yeah, there’s definitely no end-all, be-all xBABIP out there. Each different way to calculate it relies on the creator to decide which variables to use and which ones not to use.

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    8. EDogg1438 says:

      Wow is Teixeira beasting right now….a 160 RC+ despite a sub-.200 BABIP?

      And is it just me or is Dan Johnson’s career BABIP in the range of about .150?

      I keep expecting him to rebound with some good fortune, but it never happens…

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      • It sure seems that way. In truth, though, he’s got .245 BABIP (and a .300 BABIP in the minors). Unless he’s radically changed his approach since getting called up last year, one has to imagine those numbers will return to earth.

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    9. B N says:

      “Wisely and slow; they stumble that run fast.”

      When I saw that, combined with the title, I thought you were going to say that Posada had some sort of elite baserunning skills despite his incredible sluggishness. Now I’m just disappointed. ;)

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    10. RobMer says:

      Hmmm, the Yankees have three guys on that list. Sounds like there’s even more pain ahead for opposing pitchers.

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    11. Kazinski says:

      There is more to accessing good or bad luck for hitters than BABIP. If Posada has been unlucky with his BABIP, then he has made up for it with his 26.3% HR/FB rate, his career average is 15.6%.

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      • Frank says:

        Of course. But the point of this post is the “luck” of balls “in play.” Home runs are not in play. I’m sure we all expect Posada’s HR/FB rate to come down, but we also expect his BABIP, and therefor his AVG, to come up.

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