Advanced Stat Friday: Hunter Renfroe’s Woes and Ryan Schimpf’s BABIP

Source: Matt Hazlett/Getty Images North America

Source: Matt Hazlett/Getty Images North America

With baseball executives taking new steps to understand the game, and baseball writers and analysts developing new methods to analyze play on the field, the baseball sabermetric revolution is in full swing.

Although the process really started with Bill James and his Baseball Abstracts in the 1980s, the baseball stat revolution didn’t start to take off until the Moneyball days of the Oakland Athletics, where on-base percentage took the crown from batting average as the crown jewel of baseball stats.

Now 15 years later, all new stats abound, from wRC+ and wOBA, to FIP and SIERA, and all the way to the Statcast system, which has brought us exit velocity, launch angle, catch probability, and on and on.

Given the state of advanced stats in the game today, there has never been a better time to find new ways to understand the game we all love.

With that spirit in mind, this will be a new series from East Village Times in which a plethora of stats will be discussed as they pertain to the San Diego Padres.

Each week we will list five to 10 interesting stats about the current Padres team or specific players.

Then we will focus in on one specific stat and do a deep dive in order to better understand how it works, how it is used, and what purpose it can serve in evaluating players both in the present and in the future.

Without further ado, happy Stat-ing.

  • After bumping his near league-worst April walk rate from 1.9 percent all the way to 13.8 percent in May, Hunter Renfroe’s June walk rate has fallen even lower than his April rate at just 1.4 percent. In fact, in 72 June plate appearances, Renfroe has managed just one walk. One. Just when we thought Renfroe was developing as a hitter, he takes a giant step back in June. His ISO is at a similar place that it was last month, but his wRC+ has fallen by 60 points. Here’s hoping for a better July for the young slugger.
  • Speaking of walk rates, Wil Myers has had a much better month by that standard than he did in either of the first two months. After sporting a sub-two percent walk rate in his first month of the season, Myers bumped it up over 12 percent last month and now up over 16 percent this month. Myers now has a 9.2 percent walk rate on the season which puts him right in line with his career averages. After starting the season free-swinging, Myers has been able to draw more walks, although he is striking out more than he did in the first two months. At this point, Myers has become a bit of an enigma at the plate.
  • After an extremely hot start to his big league career, Franchy Cordero has cooled off tremendously in recent weeks. For the month of June, Cordero has the highest strikeout rate in all of baseball at 41.8 percent. Add to that a 21.3 percent swinging strike rate, which is second in baseball behind slugger Joey Gallo, and Cordero has not had the best month in terms of plate discipline. Despite those struggles, Cordero is still running a near league-average wRC+ (97) and is providing positive baserunning and fielding.
  • Phil Maton has gotten his big league career off to a very good start. After collecting both his first save and first big league win over the last week, Maton has now thrown in six games, pitching four and two-thirds innings and not giving up a single run in that time. Maton has struck out six of 15 batters faced and he has had his high spin rate fastball on full display so far, as he has averaged 2546 rpm on his pitches so far, which ranks 22nd in all of baseball so far.
  • Just when Yangervis Solarte was heating up, he ends up on the 10-day DL with an oblique strain. Over 71 plate appearances in June, Solarte slashed .317/.394/.667 with a 174 wRC+ which was good for 17th in baseball for the month of June. Solarte already had the 20th best wOBA at .435. June was good to Solarte, but now he might not be back until July. Let’s hope he stays hot after his 10 or so day break.
  • Despite having not played in the big leagues for about two weeks now, Ryan Schimpf still sports the lowest BABIP in all of baseball for players with at least 190 plate appearances at just .145. For what it’s worth, Schimpf has a BABIP almost 100 points higher so far in Triple-A, at .263, which is right in line with his 2016 BABIP of .260.

For this week, let’s continue with where we left off and talk about BABIP. For those who don’t know, BABIP stands for batting average on balls in play and measures a player’s batting average independent of balls that are not put in play, which mainly includes strikeouts. I should also clarify that BABIP is measured with all non-home run balls that are put in play, so any type of hit other than a home run as well as outs made in the field. So to make it more clear, “A ball is ‘in play’ when the plate appearance ends in something other than a strikeout, walk, hit batter, catcher’s interference, sacrifice bunt, or home run.”

BABIP is useful because it allows us to measure how lucky or unlucky a player has been during a given season or time period. If a player’s BABIP is 100 points higher than his career average, the player could either be experiencing a change in luck or a change in approach. BABIP takes longer to stabilize, so weird BABIP fluctuations must be taken with a grain of salt. The key here is that batters have more control over BABIP rates than pitchers do, so there is at least some level of talent that can be measured in BABIP, although defense and luck are also part of the equation.

So if a player is running a .400 BABIP after five seasons of a .330 BABIP we can assume that the player is experiencing a great deal of luck, or poor defensive play. However, if this BABIP increase comes in tandem with increases in exit velocity, perhaps the player has reached a new height for his BABIP. If a player experiences a great decline in BABIP, such as Ryan Schimpf, we can make the assumption that the player has been unlucky, or has experienced a change in batted ball profile. For Schimpf, it may lean towards the latter, as he has experienced an increase in his launch angle and has had a lot of pop outs and fly outs this season.

BABIP is probably one of the more simple advanced stat calculations, but it can tell a lot about a batter’s performance, and whether he has been lucky, unlucky, or perhaps just plain good or bad over a certain period of time.

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