Batted Ball Stuff, and More Felix Worship

Dave · January 13, 2006 at 8:13 am · Filed Under Mariners 

If you’ve been reading the blog for long, you know that I often express my love for two things; batted ball statistics and Felix Hernandez. It’s been awhile, so let’s do some catching up.

Studes has two articles, one a week old and one current, that are just full of awesome information using graphs of batted ball data. You really should read both articles, but in case you’re in the mood for a summary:

He shows that there’s a direct correlation between batter strikeouts and the value of their fly balls, displaying the trade off hitters must make when deciding what type of swing to employ.

He also relates this to pitching, showing that strikeout pitchers generally give up weaker fly balls than contact pitchers, thus having the overall effect of lessening the value of the outfield flies against them. Groundball pitchers are just the opposite though; usually, when they give up a flyball, it’s a mistake, so the run value of their outfield flies allowed is higher than the average.

There’s also stuff in there on relief pitchers and batting average on balls in play and a really neat new chart of displaying a pitcher’s performance. With a little bit of goading on my part, he put up this chart for King Felix, and it’s a perfect segue into more love for Felix.

Look at that chart. 67 percent of all batted balls against Felix in the majors last year were grounders. If someone got bat on ball, there was a 2 in 3 chance that it was a worm burner. The major league average is just 44 percent. In fact, if you look at outcomes as a percentage of batted balls, Felix is off the charts on all three of the main categories. He gave up outfield flies on just 17 percent of batted balls, compared to 31 percent for the league average. His LD% was 14 percent compared to a 21 percent league average.

I heart King Felix.


22 Responses to “Batted Ball Stuff, and More Felix Worship”

  1. FrankL on January 13th, 2006 8:20 am

    EXTREME GB pitcher and yet the net runs per fly or line drive are essentially league average.

    I love Felix, too.

  2. phildopip on January 13th, 2006 8:43 am

    How much of a regression toward the mean can we expect from Felix this year? Surely he can’t keep up such guaranteed tremendous numbers going forward.

  3. Russ on January 13th, 2006 8:50 am

    Here’s hoping Felix isn’t homophobic cause I love him too….

  4. mpbiggs on January 13th, 2006 8:54 am

    For Christmas, I got a game ball used in a game Felix pitched. I am hoping to catch him at an autograph session and get him to sign it for me… but then I think about how sad and strange (?) it is for a 35 year old man to be seeking the autograph of a 19 year old man-child… Is it even possible to ask without being creepy? Maybe I will drag my 6 year old son along as cover… He loves Felix too.

  5. Zack on January 13th, 2006 9:01 am


  6. terry on January 13th, 2006 9:47 am

    #2: He’s likely to become an even greater outlier…he’s young and only scratching the surface of his talent….

  7. Baseline on January 13th, 2006 9:50 am

    I think half the reason he’s getting so many groundballs, is that everything that he pitches is right around the knees. Unless your trying to golf it, most everything is going to be hit on the ground.

    #4- Don’t worry about it, I’m pretty much in the same boat. lol And you’ve got 2 years on me. lol

  8. marc w on January 13th, 2006 10:56 am

    The linked articles are amazing….thanks Dave.
    I’m fascinated by the correlation between NIP and total net runs. I hope Studes does do an article on that – he’s clearly intrigued by it as well. And what do we make of Colon? What a weird outlier.
    It’s going to be important to see just how much noise is in the percentage of each batted ball type, and how much consistency each pitcher has with run values. If it’s fairly consistent, wow…comparisons, projections, etc. all get a lot more interesting.

  9. Jim Thomsen on January 13th, 2006 12:35 pm

    On the flip side, this doesn’t speak well for Jarrod Washburn. The next Studes study I want to see is a breakdown of where I should be seated in the outfield so I can catch and throw back one of his yielded home runs.

  10. Mat on January 13th, 2006 12:41 pm

    I think it makes sense that relief pitchers would be better at controlling outfield flies than starting pitchers are on the whole.

    For the most part, relief pitchers have better velocity than starting pitchers. And a lot of them throw what’s called a “rising” fastball. The ball doesn’t actually rise, though, it just appears to rise because since it takes less time to reach the plate, it falls less far than a slower pitch would over the same distance. Nevertheless, it generally causes hitters to misjudge the pitch and swing a tad bit underneath the pitch. So, even for hitters who are strong enough to hit it into the outfield, they are hitting underneath the ball enough that their hits hang up in the air long enough that they don’t clear the fences and outfielders have more time to get underneath them. And after spending your first 2-4 plate appearances timing someone with a slower pitch speed, it’s that much easier to get fooled by the relievers.

  11. Dave on January 13th, 2006 12:50 pm

    I’m not even sure its that complex, Mat. I have a pet theory, unproved at this point, that velocity = lower BABIP. Relievers, as a group, throw significantly harder than starters, simply due to their roles. To me, its not a surprise that they have a lower BABIP.

    So, if we’re going with my theory that the velocity drives the dominance and not the role, than a starting pitcher who could sustain upper tier velocity through his starts would also be able to post a lower than expected BABIP.

    In order to prove this theory, we’d have to have batted ball data combined with accurate velocity readings for a significant sample for both starting and relief pitchers, and I don’t see us getting that information anytime soon. But I’m looking for a way to proxy the data and see if I can’t test my hypothesis without the specific information.

  12. DMZ on January 13th, 2006 12:56 pm

    Wouldn’t the other BIP research that shows knuckleballers and, depending on who you read, guys who change speeds more than throw really fast have lower BABIP contradict that? In particular, Jamie Moyer’s one of the few players to have any significant repeating dampening effect on hitters, but he doesn’t throw fast relative to the general group of relievers at all.

  13. Dave on January 13th, 2006 1:14 pm

    Yes, initially, it would seem that those two things would be contradictory. However, I think its possible that there are several potential ways to limit BABIP. Consistent high velocity could be one, while throwing an overwhelming amount of diving change-ups from the left side could be another. Both could co-exist as real causes of a lower than expected BABIP without causing a hole in the universe.

    Of course, we have actual data that shows that Moyer, some other lefties, and the knucklers have established lower than average BABIP trends, and I just have a theory, so if you’re putting money on something, put it on Derek’s skepticism.

  14. marc w on January 13th, 2006 1:33 pm

    Looking at Studeman’s list, it certainly looks like the role has a big hand in driving the run value. The correlation between velocity and runs per OF fly is certainly there (Nathan, F. Cordero, Wagner), but it’s not exactly overwhelming. There are a surprising number of guys in the 80s – Jamie Walker, Aaron Fultz, Shiggy, Foulke, Stanton, C. Cordero, etc. The correlation is almost perfect between relievers and strong negative values; it’s much stronger than it is for velocity (which is why guys like Santana, Colon and the Rocket don’t have amazing run prevention figures for fly balls).
    There are going to be outliers, and anecdotal evidence doesn’t do much for either of our theories, but why is Shiggy/Foulke better at keeping this value down than BJ Ryan, Gagne and Lidge? That hurts us both…
    Anyway, I’d still say that lowering BABIP is a function of keeping a hitter off balance, and maybe, MAYBE, a function of how these guys are used. Nathan’s had that freakish ‘ability’ to prevent home runs for a while now, but I can’t wrap my mind around the idea that Hasegawa, Fultz or Walker have some innate, heretofore unheard of talent at keeping guys ‘off balance’ with 88mph fastballs and so-so breaking stuff.

  15. Mat on January 13th, 2006 3:25 pm

    I guess I’m skeptical for a slightly different reason. It seems from watching that there are some pitchers who throw really hard, but don’t have any movement on their pitchers, or lack control to hit their spots, and the effect of their added velocity is just for the pitches to get hit that much harder. So, even though their velocity is high, their BABIP would be poor because the batted balls they are allowing are hit really hard.

  16. Mat on January 13th, 2006 3:27 pm

    “Nathan’s had that freakish ‘ability’ to prevent home runs for a while now…”

    He’s been able to do it for a while, but I’m still pretty skeptical of how well he’ll do it going forward. I watch the Twins quite a bit, and Nathan would seem to lead the league in warning track fly outs per plate appearance.

  17. marc w on January 13th, 2006 3:49 pm

    I totally agree with that Mat, but man, how many years does he have to do it before we relent? I can’t explain it, but he’s not exactly pitching in Comiskey/Minute Maid/the Kingdome. I don’t have a theory on Nathan, but I do like anomalous players, and he’s been one for 3+ years in a row.
    I agree with your movement theory as well, but again, it’s awfully hard to measure. And I can’t think of why relievers would have extra movement or something, not when people like Freddy Garcia and Pedro are starters. I wonder though, if you couldn’t detect which pitchers are adept at ‘hiding’ the ball (not the same thing as movement, but it might have similar effects) by which pitchers yield the most hits to the opposite field. I wonder if there’s some inverse correlation between BABIP and percentage of hits to the opposite field.

  18. unkrusty on January 13th, 2006 4:14 pm

    Saw the King at the UPS store in the basement of my building downtown. He was dressed in a rather ratty sweat suit ensemble, and had a gal and a small child with him (I was sensing family members rather than Sig Other). It was just before Christmas and was mailing a big package. I was a little taken aback, then congratulated him on a great season. I wasn’t sure if he completely caught what I said, but he was gracious and seemed generally tickeled to be recognized. I was rattled enough to NOT get his autograph. I worked in the film industry for years so I don’t tend to be starstruck, but this was the King…

  19. mandy bot on January 13th, 2006 6:16 pm

    Post number 9: On the flip side, this doesn’t speak well for Jarrod Washburn. The next Studes study I want to see is a breakdown of where I should be seated in the outfield so I can catch and throw back one of his yielded home runs.

    Speaking of love… I loved that one lol!!!!!!!!!!


  20. ray on January 13th, 2006 7:22 pm

    I’m not sure but wasn’t Atchison a good GB pitcher who got some good K’s now and then? And they DFA’d him!? I can’t understand this move, yet they keep Thornton.

  21. BelaXadux on January 13th, 2006 9:11 pm

    I appreciate the links to these two articles, Dave; plenty of meat to chew over, there.

    I suspect you are are right, Dave, that pitch velocity and BABIP are inversely correlated, and strongly so, but that said I suspect that the outcomes Studes’ studies show are more a function of movement on the pitch. Knuckleballers and guys with ++changeups obviously get that, obviously _don’t_ have velocity on the pitch, but still get anomalously low damage from flyballs. At the same time, guys with good velocity can still get good movement, not all pitchers, but some. Mariano Rivera clearly does. Anyone know if Nathan or Wagner’s heaters have exceptional movement as well as velocity?? Shiggy btw has historically gotten good movement on his breaking pitches down in the zone, especially in his outlier ’03 season. It would be interesting to see where Guardado is in this mix. He was burned by HRs off of hanging breaking pitches this year, so likely his totals don’t graph so great, but he’s an example of a guy who pounds the strikezone with pitches of average velocity but wriggly trajectory, and when he’s going good he gives up a lot of very catchable flyballs.

    To me, the most likely correlation between being a good reliever and having below average runs scored from flyballs is that a _good_ reliever is going to use a very limited pitch selection for the most part, two pitches at most, and at least one of them being ++; that’s why they get the role. So instead of serving up third- or fourth-best meatball pitches which get hammered significantly more often, good relivers are pounding the strikezone with a limited selection of well above average pitches. It may be Foulke’s change-up or Wagner’s hummer, but it’s a tough pitch to hit square either way.

  22. vj on January 14th, 2006 9:46 am

    About relievers vs. starters: Could the lower BABIP of relievers be caused by the fact that they usually don’t face batters more than once in a game? Seeing a pitcher more than once in a row might help in hitting his pitches better.

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