Howie Kendrick And Weird BABIP Splits

Earlier today, we examined the man who anchors the keystone for the Angels, Howie Kendrick. As an awfully liberal swinger, the 25 year-old is an interesting study. A reader brought up what I find to be a fascinating bit of information regarding Kendrick’s BABIP splits: he has a significantly higher BABIP on flyballs than the average hitter.

Ordinarily, BABIP tends to be higher on groundballs than it is for flyballs. Take a look at the American League batting splits over the past three seasons, via Baseball-Reference:

2006
Groundballs: .247/.247/.271
Flyballs: .232/.226/.618

2007
Groundballs: .246/.246/.266
Flyballs: .218/.212/.572

2008
Groundballs: .243/.243/.263
Flyballs: .218/.212/.565

Nothing is especially surprising here- BABIP is higher on grounders than it is for flyballs, but flyballs do a lot more damage (those grounders go for singles while the flyballs that aren’t caught are almost always a double or a triple).

Now, take a look at Kendrick’s career marks:

GB: .261/.261/.280
FB: .333/.323/.658

Granted, Kendrick has a total of 997 career plate appearances, so we’re dealing with a small amount of data here. But his flyball BABIP is way, way above that of the AL average. What could be causing that?

Perhaps the answer lies in how a ball put into play is classified. Fellow Fan Graphs author Brian Cartwright wrote a very interesting piece on line drive rates by stadium, noting that there is a wide disparity between parks in terms of how often a ball put in play is classified as a line drive. From Brian’s article, here’s the chart (ballpark name and line drive factor in bold):

PARK_NAME First Last PAw LDf
Veterans Stadium 2003 2003 4768 1.23
Ballpark Arlington 2003 2008 26850 1.18
Tokyo Dome 2004 2008 283 1.13
Great American 2003 2008 28827 1.11
Coors Field 2003 2008 29158 1.10
Busch Stadium III 2006 2008 13967 1.09
Kauffman Stadium 2003 2008 27530 1.09
Nationals Park 2008 2008 4790 1.09
Rogers Centre 2003 2008 27513 1.08
Phone Co Park 2003 2008 29439 1.07
Stade Olympique 2003 2004 7684 1.07
Busch Stadium II 2003 2005 14280 1.06
Tropicana Field 2003 2008 27830 1.06
Comerica Park 2003 2008 28008 1.06
Citizens Bank Park 2004 2008 24640 1.06
Miller Park 2003 2008 29354 1.06
RFK Stadium 2005 2007 14885 1.05
Oakland Coliseum 2003 2008 26719 1.03
Safeco Field 2003 2008 26683 1.01
Comiskey Park II 2003 2008 28644 1.00
Yankee Stadium 2003 2008 28722 1.00
Dolphin Stadium 2003 2008 29849 1.00
Jacobs Field 2003 2008 28136 0.99
Camden Yards 2003 2008 29103 0.99
P.N.C. Park 2003 2008 27652 0.98
Bank One Ballpark 2003 2008 28810 0.98
Hiram Bithorn 2003 2004 2598 0.98
Jack Murphy 2003 2003 4943 0.98
Dodger Stadium 2003 2008 29555 0.98
Wrigley Field 2003 2008 28663 0.96
PetCo Park 2004 2008 24432 0.95
Shea Stadium 2003 2008 29299 0.92
Fenway Park 2003 2008 28311 0.86
Turner Field 2003 2008 29016 0.86
Anaheim Stadium 2003 2008 26490 0.86
Minute Maid Park 2003 2008 28271 0.82
Metrodome 2003 2008 28048 0.80

As you can see, Anaheim has a Line Drive Factor of 0.86- a batted ball is 14% less likely to be coded as a line drive in Angel Stadium. Why that is, I can’t say with any degree of certainty. A confluence of factors, such as scoring bias, ballpark environment and talent level of the batter play a part.

Perhaps the reason why Kendrick has such a high BABIP on flyballs (and a relatively low line drive percentage) is that should-be line-drives are being classified as flyballs instead, thus inflating his flyball BABIP and depressing his line drive rate. Overall, Angels hitters posted a .226 BABIP on flyballs in 2008, above the aforementioned .218 AL average. This is not a one-year trend, either: LAA hitters had a .228 BABIP on flyballs in 2007 (.218 AL average) and a .253 BABIP on flyballs in 2006 (.232 AL average).

What does this all mean? Well, it could have an effect on how we evaluate Angels hitters, and hitters in ballparks where a significantly lower or higher amount of line drives are classified. It has become a rather common practice to estimate a player’s expected BABIP by using primarily his line drive rate. Intuitively, it makes sense: a line drive is by far the most likely batted ball to fall for a hit (.730 BABIP in the AL in 2008).

However, given the great fluctuations in how often line drives are coded, we have to ask ourselves how much predictive value that measure really has. Kendrick has a career 17 LD%- how much of that is due to his propensity to hit line drives, and how much of that is due to a decision made by the scorer (which, in the case of Angels hitters, would mean fewer line drives coded and a lower LD%)? Line drive percentage is certainly worth looking at, but at the end of the day, it’s a subjective measure determined by the official scorer.



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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.


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Big Gandhi
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Big Gandhi

Great follow up to the Kendrick article this morning, this just tickles the ivy on the amount of changes possible to predicting future BABIP…

Thanks again

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