David Wright has a batting average on balls in play of .467 through 300 plate appearances. That’s right, nearly half of the balls Wright puts into play are turning into hits. As such, Wright has a batting line of .349/.438/.502 because he is striking out more than normal. A lot of debate has raged on sites like Amazin’ Avenue over whether Wright can replicate this BABIP moving forward.
Short answer: no.
Observe Wright’s BABIP by batted ball type over the last few years, provided by Baseball-Reference:
2009 2008 2007 2006
GB 0.471 0.257 0.262 0.253
FB 0.234 0.129 0.184 0.180
LD 0.740 0.683 0.731 0.856
The glaring difference between this year and those of the past is Wright’s ability to turn ground balls into hits. Wright is a very good player, but we still must consider that he is a major league ballplayer. So far this season, major league hitters have a BABIP on ground balls of just above .230. Wright has usually hit above that, but not by some .200 points.
I ran a query through my database for the highest BABIP with 300+ at-bats, and the best I came up with is Reggie Jefferson’s 1996 (.408), Rod Carew’s 1977 (.408), and Jose Hernandez’ 2002 (.405). A couple of others topped .400, but the highest of highs is just shy of .410. Nobody comes near .420, or .450, or .470.
This isn’t to say Wright’s BABIP is going to regress to .350 this season. ZiPS projects Wright’s BABIP finishing at .405, a total that seems reasonable for both sides of the argument. Wright would have a historically high BABIP, but not overly so.
Yes, Wright is a fantastic hitter capable of finishing with an above average BABIP, as he has showed in the past, but no, his BABIP is ridiculously unsustainable. Major league hitters do not see nearly 50% of their batted balls go for hits over the length of a season. They just don’t.