Let’s Talk About Mike Zunino

Dave · September 10, 2012 at 11:40 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

When the Mariners drafted Mike Zunino back in June, it was considered to be the right pick mostly because it was the safe pick. Zunino was touted as a high floor prospect with minimal risks – he projected as a legitimate catcher with some power, and his work ethic suggested he might be able to get to the Majors pretty quickly. There were questions about his offensive upside, though. Would he hit for average? Was the power going to be more than just good for the position? The lack of any one prominent tool kept scouts from being too effusive in their praise, and so he ended up being cast as a good, safe, low-risk selection.

Then he signed his pro contract and was assigned to Everett, where he showed himself to be the best hitter in the Northwest League by a mile, posting a ridiculous 235 wRC+ in his time there. But, it was short season ball for a guy who had three years of SEC experience, and Everett’s a pretty nice place to hit, and his overall line was inflated by a .413 BABIP, and it was just 133 plate appearances. It was a great performance, but there were enough caveats there to keep the enthusiasm in check.

Then, the Mariners promoted him to Double-A Jackson to finish the season. Including the first four games of the playoffs, he’s put up a 204 wRC+ in 75 trips to the plate – the only other player to hit better in the Southern League this year was a 24-year-old outfielder who was repeating the level, and needed a .471 BABIP to do it. Now, it’s getting harder to come up with caveats. At 21-years-old, he’s actually younger than most of his competition at this level, and very few college players can go straight to Double-A and dominate within months of being drafted. Jackson’s not a huge hitter’s park. His BABIP has mostly normalized, and now sits at a not-totally-crazy .336. Compared to his Everett numbers, his strikeout rate is actually down and his power is up, meaning that while the wRC+ might not be quite as high, he’s probably hit better in Jackson than he did in Everett.

There’s still the sample size issue, as Zunino’s professional career still spans just 200 plate appearances, but there’s some evidence now to suggest that Zunino was just underrated in the draft. And with every passing day where he destroys quality pitching in Double-A, the talk about whether Zunino could actually break camp with the Mariners next year gets a little bit louder.

That’s still a longshot at best. For one, the Mariners don’t really need to rush Zunino, given that John Jaso has shown enough this year to justify a larger role in 2013, and the team could use the start of next year to evaluate whether Jaso can be the everyday catcher against right-handed pitching. If he can, that’s a pretty nice asset to have, even with Zunino is breathing down his neck. This isn’t a scenario where the Mariners have a huge gaping hole that needs to be patched. Jaso has earned an extended look behind the plate, and gathering more information about his abilities as a regular catcher is in the organization’s best interests.

Beyond that, there’s also the fact that putting Zunino on the opening day roster next spring would essentially be unprecedented. If we give Zunino credit for approximately 100 plate appearances in the Arizona Fall League, he’ll go into next spring with about 300 professional PAs under his belt. For reference, Buster Posey, Matt Wieters, and Yasmani Grandal — the three best college catching prospects to come out of the draft in recent years — all got ~700 minor league plate appearances before they were called up.

To find a catcher who was drafted out of college and got to the Majors with essentially a half season of pro experience, you have to go back to Thurman Munson in 1969. The Yankees took him with the fourth overall pick out of Kent State in 1968, then had him finish the season in Double-A, where he was the league’s best hitter. Due to military commitments related to the Vietnam War, he only got 115 plate appearances in Triple-A during the first four month of the season before the Yankees called him up in August. He played sparingly and eventually was sent back down to rejoin Triple-A Syracuse for their playoff run and didn’t grab a regular job with New York until 1970, when he posted a +5.4 WAR season and was the Rookie of the Year.

In terms of pro experience, Munson didn’t have much more than Zunino will have next spring when he was named the Yankees starting catcher, but we’re talking one example from 40 years ago, and Munson didn’t even grab the job the spring after getting drafted. Guys just don’t go from catching in the College World Series one summer to starting in the big leagues the next spring.

In reality, it makes sense for Zunino to begin the 2013 season in Tacoma. The organization can give him more time to develop, let him face another level of advanced pitching, delay his free agency by a year, and give John Jaso a real shot to show what he can do as a regular catcher simply by not pushing Zunino in a historically unique way. If he destroys the PCL for the first few months of 2013, then the team can start to make plans to open up the catching job for him. Besides, as we saw with Danny Hultzen this year, a high draft position and supposed polish from playing college ball doesn’t mean that a guy has nothing to learn in Triple-A. A few months in Tacoma for Zunino is in everyone’s best interests.

But, the reality is that Zunino has forced himself into the team’s 2013 plans. Rather than spending money on a better Miguel Olivo replacement to share time with Jaso behind the plate, the team is probably better off getting a more traditional back-up catcher who can be easily discarded if Zunino forces his way onto the roster by next summer. Zunino’s ascent has basically ended any need to continue with the “Jesus Montero is a catcher” charade, and the club can move forward with him as either a first baseman or designated hitter next year. And, while Montero, Dustin Ackley, and Justin Smoak are reminders that prospect status and offensive performance in the minors doesn’t always translate to immediate big league success, the bar for quality offense from a catcher isn’t all that high, and Zunino’s overall package of skills suggests that he’s probably going to be a pretty good Major League player pretty soon.

Zunino is worth getting excited about. If I had to bet, I would put money on him taking the team’s starting catching job at some point next year, and being an above average Major League catcher by 2014. For me, Zunino is the organization’s best prospect, a better blend of risk and reward than any of the pitching prospects and easily projecting as the best position player on the farm. He’s a better prospect than Justin Smoak ever was, and he’s destroying anything Dustin Ackley ever did in the minors. It’s still early, and more exposure to higher level pitching could shine a spotlight on issues we’re not currently aware of, but it’s hard to find too many flaws with Zunino right now. The defensive skills to stay behind the plate are there. The work ethic is there. The power is there. The plate discipline and contact skills appear to be better than advertised.

Don’t count on Mike Zunino breaking camp with the Mariners next spring. That’s likely too aggressive, and the organization doesn’t have to push him. But given what he’s done in Everett and is doing in Jackson, don’t be surprised if Zunino turns out to be better than that high floor/moderate ceiling “safe pick” we were told the team was getting back in June. Right now, Zunino looks like a potential star in the making.

Comments

106 Responses to “Let’s Talk About Mike Zunino”

  1. bavasiisgarbage on September 11th, 2012 12:35 am

    this is incredibly exciting to read.

    As a side note, the comment about zunino being a better prospect than smoak…as a former smoak-optimist, does this mean that Smoak was not really projected as a prospect to be the offensive savior we all thought he would be (we got too excited about him when we got him in the trade as a prospect based on the info at the time), or that zunino could be incredible (when compared to how smoak was projected) or some combination?

  2. The_Waco_Kid on September 11th, 2012 1:06 am

    I think many of us were eagerly awaiting this post. Yay!

  3. Westside guy on September 11th, 2012 1:41 am

    I am going to continue hoping – despite the long odds – that Zunino basically forces the team to give him the Thurman Monson treatment out of spring training. Maybe I’ll write him a fan letter suggesting he grow a big mustache as well – draw on those old memories…

    I don’t care if it’s unrealistic. We’ve watched so many catching prospects wash out… I prefer to revel in unrealistic-yet-partially-realistic hope for the next six months. I can reevaluate and adjust my thinking next spring…

  4. Kazinski on September 11th, 2012 2:38 am

    Wow, even mentioning Zunino in the same paragraph as Posey gives me chills, A three headed C/1b/DJ combo with Zunino each of them hitting 20+HR, .375obp, and Slugging. .450 – 500 would make this team a playoff contender if one or two of the young pitchers can pan out.

    I’m on vacation in Vietnam now, the beer here is horrible its like a Budweiser or Miller, but the only other thing available is Heineken, and its much better than that.

  5. maqman on September 11th, 2012 2:40 am

    I agree with Dave completely, Zunino is the best prospect the M’s have, or have had in many years. As he rightly points out prospects do have a high failure rate and the sample size is small but the guy just looks like the complete package. Not mentioned but very valuable is his natural leadership personality. He purportedly became The Man within an hour of joining Jackson. Jason Varitek 2.0 anyone?

  6. Kazinski on September 11th, 2012 2:49 am

    OT, but Dave that was a great call tapping Jeff for fangraphs, I was skeptical on how he’d translate there, especially considering how bitchy the comments can be there, but he is doing quite well.

  7. Brantid on September 11th, 2012 4:00 am

    While I am enjoying what Zunino is doing and get a little more excited each time I read Jackson’s box scores (not to mention what Romero/Miller are doing and to a lesser extent Tenbrink/Poythress). But I am still concerned about the small sample size. Overall, love the plan of starting him in Tacoma. If he forces the issue with 3 months of hitting like he has, then call him up at the all-star break. If not, hopefully a September call up.

    Also, if you now rank him about Hultzen/Walker, who were in many Top 10/20 lists, do the Mariners now have 3 of the Top 10/20 prospects in baseball?

  8. stevemotivateir on September 11th, 2012 6:35 am

    I had just read about his performance leading Jackson to the championship series, so the timing of this post was good for me!

    Zunino was the guy I wanted the M’s to draft, though I admittedly did very little research on prospects. Obviously, I was quite pleased when I saw they had drafted him. My hopes at that time, were that we could see him in 2014. I never would have imagined that he would destroy minor league pitching the way he has and force the issue of a 2013 debut.

    It will be interesting to see what he does in the fall league, but spring training can’t come soon enough for me!

  9. PackBob on September 11th, 2012 7:31 am

    And there’s a chance that he has a leg up on adapting to being a ML catcher with his dad a ML scout. Even if he turns out to be a league-average batter, that’s a huge upgrade over Smoak in the line-up. That he would also make Olivo obsolete is a double upgrade. He can’t come soon enough, but I hope they don’t rush him unless he leaves them no option.

    Even this year, if the M’s had two players who could hit in place of Smoak and Olivo, with their pitching they might have been in the play-off hunt, or at least a lot closer.

  10. Mid80sRighty on September 11th, 2012 7:38 am

    Have you all forgot who makes out the lineup card? There’s no way in hell Wedgie lets this kid be the starting catcher next year. It took Jaso half a season to gain Wedgies trust.

  11. bookbook on September 11th, 2012 8:22 am

    Most pundits will continue to rank Walker higher than Zunino (top ten). Zunino and Hultzen may both be just outside the top 20, looking in…

  12. robbbbbb on September 11th, 2012 8:52 am

    This is a very optimistic assessment. I’d like to re-emphasize something Dave notes in passing: Small Sample Size Theater. Mike Zunino is, no doubt, a very exciting prospect and is someone the Mariners are counting on to make a big impact in the near future. But let’s see how he does over an extended trial before we start getting too excited.

    Zunino should start next year in Tacoma and earn his way to a big league spot. And doing so means that he won’t come in before late May at the earliest, so as to keep his arbitration clock from starting too soon.

    Let’s float a radical notion out there, though:

    Brendan Ryan is still a capable shortstop, and will be as long as he’s an elite defender. Kyle Seager is a fine third baseman. Nick Franklin hasn’t forced his way onto the big club, yet, but he did have a decent year in AAA. The M’s have a huge hole at first base, and Franklin looks more like a second baseman than a shortstop anyway.

    How about we move Ackley over to first, maybe in a platoon-ish arrangement with Jesus Montero. I know there are a lot of arguments against it: Ackley’s a good defender at second, and he loses a lot of value going from 2B to 1B. However! Sometimes you’re looking to maximize the talent you have on hand, and not try to maximize the value of individual players. Aside from going outside the organization, this might be the best move to get the best players on the field.

    Of course, if the M’s swing a trade for 1B or OF talent, Franklin might be part of that package.

  13. diderot on September 11th, 2012 8:55 am

    Unstated is how Jesus Montero turns into a first baseman. What’s the winter plan for that?

  14. Klatz on September 11th, 2012 9:26 am

    I’m cautiously optimistic. It could be an extended hot-streak, but nevertheless it’s a great sign to have. An All-Star caliber catcher would go a long way to addressing offensive and defensive issues.

    If the draft were redone would Zunino have gone ahead of Correa, Buxton, or Appel (based a talent alone)? If his current level of offense is his true talent I would have to say yes or at least he’d be #2 behind Buxton.

  15. rsrobinson on September 11th, 2012 9:28 am

    So far they’ve shown little indication that they are preparing Montero for 1B, at least not that I’m aware of. They should have been giving him time there over the past month. Smoak needs to start the season in AAA next year to see if he can be fixed.

    I’m okay with Jaso as our starting catcher until Zunino is ready, hopefully by mid-season.

  16. Paul B on September 11th, 2012 9:40 am

    How about we move Ackley over to first, maybe in a platoon-ish arrangement with Jesus Montero.

    If Ackley isn’t good enough to be your best second baseman, no way is he a good enough hitter to play first. Can you say Miguel Cairo?

    If the M’s end up with two second basemen, better to trade one for a better hitting first baseman if that is what they need then.

  17. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 9:57 am

    …and his overall line was inflated by a .413 BABIP…

    Dave -

    Why is that considered to be inflated? To me, BABIP is a fairly useless statistic. It completely leaves out the most important context of the game… how hard the ball was hit. If he was tearing the cover off the ball, a .413 BABIP makes sense.

    I’ve mentioned it on LL before, but have never gotten a response. Since there is a measurement in the speed of the ball leaving the bat, wouldn’t that be a much better indicator of luck?

  18. ripperlv on September 11th, 2012 9:59 am

    Zunino should start next year in Tacoma and earn his way to a big league spot. And doing so means that he won’t come in before late May at the earliest, so as to keep his arbitration clock from starting too soon.

    I’m no expert by any means, but I do believe that if he is in the majors less than 172 days (1 years service time) next year that his Free Agent clock won’t start until 2014 (6 years service time). That would put him sometime around an April 10th call-up. So free agency in 2020 vice 2019 by waiting until roughly April 10th or so.

    However his Super 2 Arbitration Clock is different -”if a team wants to keep a player in the minors until after the Super Two cutoff, they will have to keep that player in the minors for even longer than before. Considering that the cutoff used to fall sometime in June — it varied from year to year, as the 17% (now 22%) cutoff isn’t tied to a specific date — it will likely end up being in July going forward.(FG)”.

    Super Two allows a player to go to arbitration 4 times prior to free agency vice 3 times, and he obviously gets much more expensive. So a May callup would almost guarantee a start to his Super Two abitration clock, but would still satisfy 2020 free agency clock.

    The only Mariner I can remember being called up in time to earn Super Two is Michael Pineda. I don’t know if Super Two would affect Zunino’s callup, but I do know that Pineda was traded to the rich Yankees. Will Super Two factor in Zunino’s making the roster? Heck if I know.

  19. thurston24 on September 11th, 2012 10:10 am

    To hear Dave say that Zunino is a better prospect than Smoak ever was is pretty exciting since he used to talk very highly about him before Smoak face planted I’m the majors. I love hearing that the Mariners have a great power hitting prospect is fantastic, the fact that he’s a catcher whose in the same conversation with Posey is just awesome.

    Comparing Zunino’s readiness strictly to other catchers though I think is a mistake. The reason is that as I understand it that he is ready to catch now. His bat was the only part that needed development. With that, shouldn’t we compare him to other position players?

  20. Dave on September 11th, 2012 10:35 am

    does this mean that Smoak was not really projected as a prospect to be the offensive savior we all thought he would be

    Smoak didn’t hit for much power in the minors, and his success was mostly based on drawing a lot of walks and not striking out. Yes, we should have been more concerned about the lack of power, and we were too eager to give credence to the “power comes later” cliche, which isn’t always true.

    A three headed C/1B/DH combo

    No thanks. Zunino is a catcher, and he should spend a great majority of his time behind the plate. Move Montero to first base, have Jaso split time between C, DH, and pinch hitting, and everyone’s better off.

    Also, if you now rank him about Hultzen/Walker, who were in many Top 10/20 lists, do the Mariners now have 3 of the Top 10/20 prospects in baseball?

    I think Hultzen and Walker are getting overrated on these lists. Both have serious work to do before they’re good big league pitchers, and the attrition rate of pitching prospects is still very high. But, yeah, the top end of the M’s farm system is very, very good.

    How about we move Ackley over to first, maybe in a platoon-ish arrangement with Jesus Montero.

    No thanks. The glove is good enough at second, the bat isn’t anywhere close to good enough at first.

    Unstated is how Jesus Montero turns into a first baseman. What’s the winter plan for that?

    Really, they should just tell him to turn in his gear and work on his lateral movement all winter, with the knowledge that he’ll show up to spring training as a first baseman next year. There’s just no need to have Montero keep dedicating time and energy into trying to become something he’s not, especially when he’s probably looking at a couple dozen starts behind the plate before Zunino arrives and just shoves him to first base anyway.

    If the draft were redone would Zunino have gone ahead of Correa, Buxton, or Appel (based a talent alone)? If his current level of offense is his true talent I would have to say yes or at least he’d be #2 behind Buxton.

    If his current level of offense was his true talent, he’d be the greatest player in Major League history. My guess is that he’d still go #3, as Correa and Buxton are far more toolsy, but he’s definitely showing better offensive skills than he was given credit for. For things like power and contact rates, sample sizes don’t have to as large as other skills, and he’s showing far better power and contact skills than was advertised.

    Why is that considered to be inflated? To me, BABIP is a fairly useless statistic. It completely leaves out the most important context of the game… how hard the ball was hit. If he was tearing the cover off the ball, a .413 BABIP makes sense.

    Go find a list of players who have sustained career BABIPs anywhere near .400. No one in baseball hits the ball harder than Joey Votto on a consistent basis, and his career BABIP is .358. It doesn’t really matter if you think it’s useless or not – the reality is that any BABIP over .350 or so is almost certainly inflated.

    Comparing Zunino’s readiness strictly to other catchers though I think is a mistake. The reason is that as I understand it that he is ready to catch now. His bat was the only part that needed development. With that, shouldn’t we compare him to other position players?

    It’s silly to think that Zunino has absolutely nothing to work on defensively.

  21. tylerv on September 11th, 2012 10:45 am

    I got to see him one night in Eugene against the Emeralds. I think it was his only 0-fer of the season. Beat a couple balls into the dirt. Had to heckle him for the fun of it “Hey Zunino, stop staying out all night!” He returned an awesome glare. We’re rootin for you Mike!

  22. diderot on September 11th, 2012 10:59 am

    “Really, they should just tell him to turn in his gear and work on his lateral movement all winter, with the knowledge that he’ll show up to spring training as a first baseman next year.”

    I can’t think of a more important offseason move for the team. With Montero at first, the offensive focus can simply be what to do with the outfield.
    But is the transition really this easy? Hasn’t he said he’s never played anywhere on the field at any time in his life other than catcher?
    He doesn’t have to be Adrian Gonzalez out there. But he at least has to do enough to prevent from embarrassing himself…and thus taking away from his hitting.
    Doesn’t it make more sense for him to have 75-100 days of workouts/game play before spring training even begins? Can’t we assign a coach to be his personal trainer all winter?

  23. Jordan on September 11th, 2012 11:13 am

    I saw Zunino one time in Everett and it was one of his other O-fers…except he still tore the cover off the ball and you could probably hear it in the parking lot. Also, behind the plate he looked like a man amongst boys. Several times he’d even throw down to first just to remind the other team he has an accurate, fast arm. The infield future looks very nice.

    Re: Montero and 1b
    Does it really matter if he is mostly useless and barely passable? Couldn’t another player (i.e. Jaso) make the same switch if the Mariners have a surplus somewhere else? With the eye test, it just seems Monty is not an athlete (can’t run, throw or move), just a person that swings a bat better than most people.

  24. Jordan on September 11th, 2012 11:18 am

    Jaso seems to be a durable on-base machine/gap hitter with decent power. Couldn’t he become Nick Johnson w/o the injuries? Why is Montero the one moving to 1b? Wouldn’t it be in the team’s better interests to workout BOTH Monty and Jaso there? If Jaso’s splits are a concern they could platoon him w/ Monty. Then, DH is free to rotate players that otherwise sit and need a day off.

  25. MKT on September 11th, 2012 11:23 am

    Nice article, especially how Dave went back through 40 years of young catchers playing in the majors. I agree with starting Zunino in AAA. The part that I worry about is Montero. As a catcher, his hitting stats this year have been decent. As a first basemen, they’re bad, and I don’t expect great things from his defense at first base either. Granted, we expect/hope his hitting stats improve, SSS of just one season, etc., but I hope he doesn’t continue the string of crummy hitters the Ms have been trotting out at first base. Thankfully, anybody will be an improvement over Smoak. But I’m hoping that the Mariners’ 2013 first baseman hits better than Montero has done in 2012.

  26. maqman on September 11th, 2012 11:24 am

    Wedgie has stated that Montero will be given a work schedule that includes first base practice for the off-season. If they stuck him there now he would just look hopeless and be discouraged. Hopefully he can show up for spring training with an improved understanding of what the position requires.

  27. diderot on September 11th, 2012 11:29 am

    “Why is Montero the one moving to 1b? Wouldn’t it be in the team’s better interests to workout BOTH Monty and Jaso there?”

    I’m guessing the conclusion would be that since Jaso is at least acceptable as a catcher, why put a sub-standard defender at both positions?
    Looking forward to Zunino taking over behind the plate, that relegates Montero and Jaso to a 1B/DH share, which means some time for Monty at first base no matter how you slice it.
    I just don’t believe it’s as easy a transition as some people think. There’s a difference between ‘bad’ and ‘unacceptable’.
    I’m assuming the team has been thinking about this for a while. I would just hate to see Montero turned into a full time DH so early in his career when a shift to 1B for him could solve several problems.

  28. bavasiisgarbage on September 11th, 2012 11:34 am

    yeah, they are working on montero’s running form too hahahaha…..seriously though, they are getting on him to fix that.

    No more montero trot:(

  29. groundzero55 on September 11th, 2012 11:39 am

    “If the draft were redone would Zunino have gone ahead of Correa, Buxton, or Appel (based a talent alone)?”

    Zunino DID go ahead of Appel. Five picks ahead of him, actually.

  30. The Ancient Mariner on September 11th, 2012 11:44 am

    Please, for the love of Dave Niehaus, DO NOT start calling him “Monty” . . . good grief.

  31. Westside guy on September 11th, 2012 11:45 am

    I know that Jaso took a few reps in spring over at first base, and something was said along the lines of “that experiment quickly ended” (Drayer?). It sounded like people didn’t like what they saw and didn’t think he’d be able to make the move successfully – but I don’t know how they could make that call from just a few tries. Of course Monty is a big wild card in that regard too. We just don’t know if either guy can adapt to first. But Jaso offers more value as a backup catcher – Montero you’d really only want back there as your emergency guy.

  32. 9inningknowitall on September 11th, 2012 12:44 pm

    I got to watch Zunino in a three game set in Salem (I have photos to prove it). The first game included his first home run of the season and the second game included one of the most amazing home runs I’ve ever seen a minor league hitter hit.

    The second home run that was so impressive was a dead line drive to left center field that hit the scoreboard. That by itself is a shot but the ball had enough spin on it that it started to rise at the very end. The video guy for the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes confirmed that the ball was still rising when it hit the scoreboard.

    I agree that AAA is a good starting point for Zunino next season but it wont break my heart if the M’s put him on the opening day roster. He is a great player and was really cool with the fans.

  33. Westside guy on September 11th, 2012 12:59 pm

    I find it kind of cool that Zunino also seems to be one of those “good character” types that the Mariners like to talk about.

    Don’t get me wrong – if a guy doesn’t have talent, I don’t want him on the roster – but it makes me happy when a genuinely nice guy makes the big leagues. The Carl Everett / Milton Bradley types wear on you, even if they’re playing well.

  34. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 1:20 pm

    Go find a list of players who have sustained career BABIPs anywhere near .400. No one in baseball hits the ball harder than Joey Votto on a consistent basis, and his career BABIP is .358. It doesn’t really matter if you think it’s useless or not – the reality is that any BABIP over .350 or so is almost certainly inflated.

    Oh come on Dave. Go find a list of players with a career OPS above 1.210. Zunino was absolutely smoking the ball in low-A. With your reasoning anybody who’s hitting north of .330 is having a fluke season (considering BABIP is typically far higher than BA). Yet a BA of .350 has been hit 400+ times.

    Joey Votto might not have been the best example to use… considering half of his six pro seasons have seen BABIP’s above .360… including this year which currently stands at .399. In addition, his career ISO is .239… Zunino had an ISO of .364!!!

    It’s pretty simple logic. The harder the ball is struck the easier it falls in. When you combine that with a K-rate of nearly 20%, and a HR-rate of 25%, you get a really high BABIP. If you normalize his K-rate to Babe Ruth’s career rate (12.5%), his BABIP drops to .369.

    No offense Dave, but you’re wrong on this one.

    But thank you for telling me that it doesn’t really matter what I think though… a page right out of Dale Carnegie if I’ve ever seen one.

  35. Dave on September 11th, 2012 1:24 pm

    Yeah, you just don’t really have any idea what you’re talking about. Learn something about random variation in statistics and get back to me when you’ve figured things out.

  36. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 2:03 pm

    Dave. You just can’t handle anybody who has a different opinion than yours. For somebody who has been wrong as often as you have (as has anybody associated with predicting sport) the arrogance you display is mind blowing. It always has been. Why you attempt to belittle and bully in an online forum is beyond me. You’re really overvaluing your effect on people.

    I have two degrees in accounting and finance and a CPA. I understand numbers. I also understand random variation… AKA luck. What you’re failing to recognize is the potential for someone to perform well outside of a normal curve. You’re also failing to recognize the inherent lack of context with a statistic like BABIP. When someone is hitting a bunch of slow rollers, his BABIP is lower than he!!. That doesn’t mean he’s been unlucky… it means he can’t hit the d@mn ball. Therefore the opposite is true.

    I will say I was wrong on the BABIP drop. If you normalize all statistics to a 12.5% k-rate, his BABIP goes to .390. Which isn’t too crazy considering he slugged .736.

    Judging from past posts that call you out, I’m sure this won’t last long on here.

  37. Milendriel on September 11th, 2012 2:14 pm

    Personally, I’d say it’s much more arrogant to show up on the blog of a guy who analyzes and writes about baseball professionally and act like you know more about baseball than he does.

  38. nwade on September 11th, 2012 2:23 pm

    Milendriel (and others considering a response) – Eh, don’t feed the troll. Nothing you say will change his/her position or help them understand what they don’t want to understand/accept.

  39. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 2:27 pm

    I saw that coming. Typically how this works is somebody disagrees with Dave, then 10 people come on here and tell Dave how amazing he is.

    1) I asked a very straightforward and non-confrontational question. I disagreed with his argument (which is what happens sometime when you’re a professional), but instead of arguing his point like a professional he went with derision. He was out of line.

    2) Disagreeing with a point, and providing support for it, is in no way “acting like you know more about it”. It’s an opinion, and I supported it.

    3) There are many who agree with me. A quick search on Google will prove that.

  40. StatBoy on September 11th, 2012 2:28 pm

    Kazinski,

    I’m a fan of “33″ beer- I don’t know if thats just for export or if they offer it in Vietnam. But if you see it- check it out!

  41. msfanmike on September 11th, 2012 2:35 pm

    They weren’t arguing about “baseball.”

    They were debating (or attempting to) the merits of a statistic.

    There is a lot of merit in regard to how hard a ball is hit. It is not a point that can be dismissed.

    And no, I don’t believe the guy is a “troll” because he has a different opinion than Dave.

    Former star: I used to have a lot of questions in regard to BABIP. Once I understood that approx 30% of all batted balls fall for hits, the stat made more sense to me. It is a good barometer for gauging whether or not a player is hot or lucky or neither … but it is not a good tool for evaluating a hitter. It is not a stat without its own flaws, but it is a pretty useful stat/metric.

    Personally, I would have liked to see the dialogue between you and Dave continue, but it did seem to end rather abruptly.

  42. Mid80sRighty on September 11th, 2012 2:37 pm

    I don’t think this site is, or should be, about mindlessly following whatever Dave says. He does MUCH more research than 99% of us, so most kind of have to believe what he says. But, Formerstar is bringing up some valid points that could be discussed…I think. Perhaps how hard a ball is hit is fairly consistant accross baseball so it won’t throw off BABIP too terribly much. Or maybe it could. I’ve never heard anyone bring this up before.

    Just try to keep the “discussion” civil is all I would say.

  43. Mid80sRighty on September 11th, 2012 2:44 pm

    Mike, I think you said it a little better than I did. haha

    Milendriel and nwade, I could easily call you both sheep just as easily as you called Former a troll. Discussions like this are great at helping others to learn more about sabermetrics.

  44. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 2:52 pm

    I really intended my initial post to spark a conversation about an alternative to BABIP. LL had a post a few weeks ago that mentioned a measurement of the speed of the ball off of Montero’s bat. I’m sure teams already have it, but it would be nice for us peasants to have access to an average speed off of bat statistic. It seems to me that this would be a great tool in measuring luck.

  45. spankystout on September 11th, 2012 2:55 pm

    Barry Bonds’ career BABIP is .285. Vladimir Guerrero’s career BABIP is .316. Those are the two guys I watched who constantly tore the “cover off the ball” and they couldn’t even come close to .400BABIP.

    p.s. Babe Ruth’s career BABIP is .340

  46. Milendriel on September 11th, 2012 2:56 pm

    Discussions are definitely great when a person enters into it without already being entrenched in their opinion. Making some weak arguments and then immediately turning hostile upon being rebuffed = troll.

  47. Westside guy on September 11th, 2012 2:56 pm

    Good grief. Joey Votto was a PERFECT example to use. Dave said “here’s a guy who is about the best example ever to support an argument like yours – and his lifetime BABIP is only .358″. Then formerstarQB16 turns around and basically says “yeah but if you ignore all the times Votto’s BABIP was worse than that – his BABIP is better than that!” That’s not arguing facts, it’s the exact opposite; it’s textbook cherry picking.

    The whole point, based on thousands of careers, is a .413 BABIP is not sustainable over the long term. We’ve seen it time and time again. You are free to believe that, unlike the thousands of talented major leaguers before him, Zunino will find a way to do something none of them has ever been able to do – but it’s just not a smart bet.

  48. gwangung on September 11th, 2012 3:03 pm

    I really intended my initial post to spark a conversation about an alternative to BABIP.

    Well, that’s not what you said.

    But seriously, “tearing the cover off the ball” is also an inflated, qualitative measure—because Zunino is not going to be doing that all the time to major league pitching. BABIP is the more quantitative measure.

  49. spankystout on September 11th, 2012 3:04 pm

    Random players’ career BABIPs:
    Ted Williams .328
    Rickey Henderson .305
    Pete Rose .319
    Tony Gwynn .341!!
    Ken Griffey Jr .287
    Lou Brock .338
    Mike Piazza .314
    Johnny Bench .273

  50. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 3:11 pm

    BABIP is calculated by taking (H – HR)/ (AB – HR – K + SF)

    Bonds BABIP was so low because he hit so many HR’s… the prime of his career 1/3+ of his hits were HR’s. If you lower his HR total and replace it with in-the-ballpark hits, it significantly affects his BABIP. In addition, he only had 4 years in which he slugged more than Zunino’s .736 and in all 4 of those years his BABIP was significantly affected by the number of HR’s he was hitting.

    This is why context is so important with BABIP.

    I’m not arguing that Zunino will sustain that success. I’m saying his BABIP COULD have had more to do with him hitting like Hercules (without a couple of HR’s) and K’ing too much then luck.

  51. patnmic on September 11th, 2012 3:15 pm

    Just to clarify my understanding of statistics. I have an A in my MBA statistics and I am a six sigma black belt (16 8hr classes mostly on statistical analysis). I see both arguments. BABIP would be a more interesting statistic if it was combined or weighted with the average velocity of the hit. Dave is spot on when he says though that it should be expected for Zunino’s BABIP to drop. Unless he is a once in a thousand year player the likelihood of him being that far out of the population is next to zero.

  52. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 3:15 pm

    I really intended my initial post to spark a conversation about an alternative to BABIP.

    —– Well, that’s not what you said.

    That’s actually exactly what I said:

    I’ve mentioned it on LL before, but have never gotten a response. Since there is a measurement in the speed of the ball leaving the bat, wouldn’t that be a much better indicator of luck?

  53. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 3:19 pm

    I just want to clarify again… that I never said Zunino could sustain this. I said that his success had more to do with performance than luck…

    … and I implied that he was underwhelmed by his competition.

  54. ArrwCtchr on September 11th, 2012 3:24 pm

    Wouldn’t Joey Votto’s BABIP make a significant jump if you put in in the Northwest League?

    I’m not saying that Zunino can sustain Votto like performance, but how does an MLB BABIP really compare to a short season A BABIP?

    And really, in a perfect world, we’d have a “luck” stat that was a combination of batted ball speed and BABIP.

  55. Mid80sRighty on September 11th, 2012 3:25 pm

    Perhaps you could ask the question without sounding like you’re alredy entreanched in your own conclusions? I don’t know, just throwing that out there.

    One question I’ve always had is why HR are taken out of the BABIP equation? HRs are not outs, so why would they be taken out? Yeah, they “go out of play,” but they’re still a hit.

  56. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 3:35 pm

    Mid80sRighty -

    I am entrenched in my opinion/conclusion, until somebody moves me off of it. There’s nothing wrong with that. I haven’t been unreasonable, I simply have a different view of a very subjective statistic. I have spent time thinking about this, have formed an opinion, and have tried to support my opinion with facts.

  57. marcus_andrews on September 11th, 2012 4:16 pm

    Mid80s -

    To put it simply, home runs can’t be caught. The stat is designed to find what percentage of balls that could be caught, are. Basically it’s an attempt to determine, to some degree, how lucky people have been. It is by no means lucky for a batter to get a hit on a home run because it’s not like anyone could have caught it.

    Formerstar -

    I have more of a technical question, when you’re talking about normalizing his K% and getting a new babip are you turning K’s into normal batted ball outs to get that number? This is a question, not a contention. Just trying to figure out exactly what you were saying with that argument.

  58. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 4:38 pm

    Marcus -

    By moving the k-rate from 19.5% to 12.5% I created about 9 additional non-k plate appearances (133 PA’s x 7%). I then distributed those 9 across walks, hits, home runs, and outs according to his rates in the other 124 PA’s.

    It’s completely lacking context of course, as someone who would reduce their K% that amount would most likely see noticeable differences in quality of contact or walk rates… or a combo of both… but I was just trying to show that BABIP is too interdependent with a whole pile variables to be considered having much value.

    To take it to the extreme… somebody who is a line drive version of Adam Dunn would have a really high BABIP, but it would have nothing to do with luck and everything to do with an all or nothing approach as the denominator of the BABIP equation would be so heavily influenced by K’s.

    On the pitching side, someone who is the most dominate groundball or flyball pitcher in the history of the game but didn’t miss many bats would have an artificially low BABIP… when in reality their low ERA would have nothing to do with luck and probably a lot to do with something like late life on pitches that allows players to make just enough… but not quite enough contact.

  59. Dave on September 11th, 2012 4:40 pm

    No one has “belittled” or “bullied” you. I said that on this topic, you don’t know what you’re talking about. That is demonstrably true. That you got so offended and decided to resort to ad hominem attacks is your problem. I could care less how many degrees you have – the statements you have made here make it clear that you simply lack an understanding of the necessary concepts being discussed. It is not arrogant to tell someone in a position of ignorance that they lack knowledge. You lack knowledge. If you can’t hear that without freaking out, perhaps you should listen more and speak less.

    Now, since I’d rather watch the game than spend too much of my time teaching you things that can be easily googled, here’s a brief response to a few points.

    What you’re failing to recognize is the potential for someone to perform well outside of a normal curve.

    Mike Zunino is nowhere near “outside of a normal curve”. If you understood variance around a mean, you would grasp this intuitively. If you want to actually calculate how many standard deviations away from the mean Zunino’s BABIP in Everett actually is, knock yourself out. Once you run the numbers, you will actually see that normal variance in BABIP over 130 PA is quite large, especially at lower levels, and that we’re nowhere close to a situation where Zunino’s numbers are outside of what we would expect given random variation over the given sample.

    When someone is hitting a bunch of slow rollers, his BABIP is lower than he!!. That doesn’t mean he’s been unlucky… it means he can’t hit the d@mn ball. Therefore the opposite is true.

    First, if you actually read the thread, you will notice that no one has used the term luck besides you. Second, your position that I “don’t understand” the point you’re trying to make is ridiculous, as is made obvious by the fact that I referenced Joey Votto, who has hit one infield fly in the last three years, and has an historically high rate of line drives. If your position held any water, Votto is exactly the guy who would prove your position, in that he hits the ball hard more often than anyone in baseball. The fact that you don’t understand that his career BABIP of .358 works against your position is kind of sad.

    Disagreeing with a point, and providing support for it, is in no way “acting like you know more about it”. It’s an opinion, and I supported it.

    If this is how you support your points at your job, I feel bad for the person writing your paychecks. You made a claim, then made some more claims, then got indignent. You haven’t done anything like supporting your claims. You’ve made a few summary conclusions and pretended like they’re new thoughts that no one else has ever had — or discarded, once they realized they were incorrect.

    Perhaps how hard a ball is hit is fairly consistant accross baseball so it won’t throw off BABIP too terribly much. Or maybe it could. I’ve never heard anyone bring this up before.

    This has been studied in great detail. The reality is that spread of talent in Major League hitter BABIP is about .270 to .360, and there simply aren’t hitters who exist outside of that spectrum over significant samples. The guys at the high end are generally fast and hit the ball on the ground a lot. There are a few guys (Votto and Cabrera, to name two) who sustain ~.350ish BABIPs through line drive hitting, but they’re pretty rare talents, and of course deciding that a guy who posts a high BABIP in 130 PAs in short season ball is comparable to Votto or Cabrera is simply foolishness.

    Discussions like this are great at helping others to learn more about sabermetrics.

    If someone wants to have a discussion about sabermetrics, throwing a hissy fit and acting like a five year old is not a “great” way to do it. It is a great way to convince people that you’re not mature enough to handle an adult conversation, though.

    Bonds BABIP was so low because he hit so many HR’s

    Wrong. Bonds BABIP was so low because he was one of the most extreme fly ball hitters in baseball. If you’re actually interested in learning, click on this link:

    http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=bat&lg=all&qual=y&type=2&season=2004&month=0&season1=2002&ind=0&team=0&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0&sort=6,d

    That’s a list of flyball rates from 2002-2004 – note where Bonds ranks, and the BABIPs of the hitters around him. Fly balls go for hits far less often than ground balls, so Bonds (like Jose Bautista does now) made the conscious decision to swing in a way that would lead to both more home runs and more fly ball outs. When you have that kind of power, it’s a worthwhile trade-off, but it is a trade-off. There are, of course, guys who hit home runs without this kind of extreme fly ball proclivities, and their BABIPs don’t suffer nearly the way that guys like Bonds and Bautista’s do. The BABIP isn’t low because of the home runs – it’s low because of the fly balls.

    I’ve mentioned it on LL before, but have never gotten a response. Since there is a measurement in the speed of the ball leaving the bat, wouldn’t that be a much better indicator of luck?

    Again, it’s hard for you to argue that you’re not speaking from a position of ignorance when you make statements like this. If you actually had been involved in these kinds of conversations and done research before jumping to an ill-informed conclusion, you would know that there is not speed off the bat data available in any kind of meaningful way. The two systems that provide speed off bat data are Sportvision’s HITF/x (currently installed in Major League ballparks and available only to MLB teams) and Trackman’s radar system, which is used by some Major League teams but does not have widespread adoption, and is not used at the minor league level in most cases.

    Of course, if we had speed off bat, angular velocity, and launch trajectory, we could do a better job of determining the expected outcomes of a batted ball. We don’t have that data. Neither do you. Making claims about a hitter’s BABIP because of assumptions about what his speed off bat might be is not useful, nor is “supporting evidence”.

    I said that his success had more to do with performance than luck…

    Hit Ctrl+f, then type luck in the search box, and see who the only person in this thread talking about luck is.

    One question I’ve always had is why HR are taken out of the BABIP equation? HRs are not outs, so why would they be taken out? Yeah, they “go out of play,” but they’re still a hit.

    BABIP measures balls that could be theoretically turned into an out based on defensive performance. It’s essentially looking at outcomes unrelated to fielders. You could alternately use something like batting average or slugging percentage on contact, depending on what you were trying to do.

    I simply have a different view of a very subjective statistic.

    There’s literally nothing subjective about BABIP. Your “different view” is based on ignorance, and you freaked out when that was pointed out to you. If you want to learn, do some googling, read, and learn some humility. If you don’t, good riddance.

    On the pitching side, someone who is the most dominate groundball or flyball pitcher in the history of the game but didn’t miss many bats would have an artificially low BABIP

    If you want to be taken seriously, you could start by spelling words like dominant correctly.

    And, again, this paragraph betrays your lack of knowledge of the situation. Extreme ground ball pitchers have HIGHER than average BABIPs because ground balls go for hits more often than fly ball pitchers. This is a very basic concept that you don’t understand, and it makes it difficult for you to argue that your opinions on anything else should hold any water, especially when your opinion of “supporting evidence” is making further claims without actually showing any data to support those claims.

  60. deflated on September 11th, 2012 5:04 pm

    formerstarQB16 –

    You may want to unpack your ideas a little more if you want a quality discussion on BABIP. Are you arguing that BABIP has no value in detecting ‘luck’ for a batter? Your first reply to the thread seemed to imply that, and I couldn’t agree with that position.

    I’d also view your statement that batted ball speed is a better indicator of ‘true average’ (or luck, talent, whatever you want to call it) as suspect on its own – Ichiro and Jeter don’t exactly make you think of someone ‘tearing the cover off the ball’ but that doesn’t seem to hurt their well-above average BA.

    Short version: I would need to see evidence that batted ball speed is a better indicator of luck than BABIP and I see no reason to discount BABIP as a useful (if imperfect) statistic.

  61. bookbook on September 11th, 2012 5:26 pm

    Well… as to Jeter and Ichiro, I think it is true that faster players (especially speedy lefthanded hitters who stand closer to first base) have a higher expected BABIP than slower footed catchers. That’s pretty well accepted, right?

  62. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 5:51 pm

    Dave -

    I think your definition of “belittled”, “bullied”, “arrogant”, “professional”, and class are significantly different than mine. Telling someone that they “don’t really have any idea what they’re talking about” falls on the wrong side of each of those descriptions in my view. I wouldn’t come close to making a statement like that to a random stranger… little lone a customer. And if you can’t realize that’s what we are, then you are significantly misunderstanding your profession.

    Beyond that.

    1) Once you run the numbers, you will actually see that normal variance in BABIP over 130 PA is quite large, especially at lower levels, and that we’re nowhere close to a situation where Zunino’s numbers are outside

    If you would slow down and attempt to understand my point, you would see that I never argued that Zunino’s BABIP lies inside or outside the normal curve. His BABIP wasn’t the measurement, his overall performance was. I was arguing that Zunino has been exceptional at a level that he’s so incredibly far ahead of the competition at. Now I obviously don’t have the ability to crunch the numbers, but I’m willing to bet that his OPS over 135 PA’s is north of 3 standard deviations. So he is absolutely outside of the normal curve of 1 standard deviation.

    2)First, if you actually read the thread, you will notice that no one has used the term luck besides you.

    Yeah you did… when you said “random variation”.

    Second, your position that I “don’t understand” the point you’re trying to make is ridiculous, as is made obvious by the fact that I referenced Joey Votto, who has hit one infield fly in the last three years, and has an historically high rate of line drives. If your position held any water, Votto is exactly the guy who would prove your position, in that he hits the ball hard more often than anyone in baseball. The fact that you don’t understand that his career BABIP of .358 works against your position is kind of sad.

    I’ll say it again… because you obviously don’t understand my point… again. I’m saying that Zunino put up HUGE… MASSIVE… numbers in low-A. Numbers that Votto hasn’t put up in the bigs. Votto hasn’t had a slugging percentage in any year north of .600…. Yet he’s had a career BABIP of .358.

    I’m saying that Zunino, in small sample size, in a division he was demonstrably more talented than, put up Joey Votto numbers on steroids + HGH. I’m making the argument that Zunino hit the ball harder (relatively) than Joey Votto. I am also…. again… not making the argument in any way that Zunino can continue that pace. Just that it is POSSIBLE that his performance had more to do with actual performance… than luck. The fact that you can’t see that relatively simple argument… (in your words)… is kind of sad.

    3)If this is how you support your points at your job, I feel bad for the person writing your paychecks. You made a claim, then made some more claims, then got indignent. You haven’t done anything like supporting your claims. You’ve made a few summary conclusions and pretended like they’re new thoughts that no one else has ever had — or discarded, once they realized they were incorrect.

    That entire paragraph was just ignorant. You’re right… I provided absolutely no statistical support for my point of view.

    I don’t… nor have I ever stated or insinuated that my thoughts were new in any way… in fact, I stated the exact opposite when I said… “There are many who agree with me. A quick search on Google will prove that.”

    What shocks me, is that you honestly believe you have thought “new thoughts”. That’s the very definition of an ignorant man in my view.

    4) …throwing a hissy fit and acting like a five year old is not a “great” way to do it. It is a great way to convince people that you’re not mature enough to handle an adult conversation, though.

    Just dripping wet in irony.

    5)Bonds BABIP was so low because he hit so many HR’s —- Wrong. Bonds BABIP was so low because he was one of the most extreme fly ball hitters in baseball. If you’re actually interested in learning, click on this link:

    Good God Dave. Do the frickin’ math. Change his HR’s as a percentage of hits and his BABIP shoots through the roof. We’re both right on this. He was swinging for the fence and it killed his BABIP.

    6)I’ve mentioned it on LL before, but have never gotten a response. Since there is a measurement in the speed of the ball leaving the bat, wouldn’t that be a much better indicator of luck?
    ——
    Again, it’s hard for you to argue that you’re not speaking from a position of ignorance when you make statements like this. If you actually had been involved in these kinds of conversations…

    Just a classic example of your incredible arrogance. Your right… I didn’t know that. But it was a valid question… and obviously one at least a few others were curious about. But instead of answering the question you decided to take the ####### route. Just a quick piece of advice, Dave. You seem to mistake access to information for intelligence. Bad assumption to make. If you want to keep spouting off with how great you are every time somebody disagrees with you… go for it. But what a sad existence you lead.

    7) I said that his success had more to do with performance than luck…

    Hit Ctrl+f, then type luck in the search box, and see who the only person in this thread talking about luck is.

    See response #2.

    8)I simply have a different view of a very subjective statistic.

    There’s literally nothing subjective about BABIP.

    No… I stand corrected… this is an arrogant paragraph. You’re right Dave… nothing subjective about it….

    9)On the pitching side, someone who is the most dominate groundball… —-

    If you want to be taken seriously, you could start by spelling words like dominant correctly.

    You have got to be kidding me.

    And, again, this paragraph betrays your lack of knowledge of the situation. Extreme ground ball pitchers have HIGHER than average BABIPs because ground balls go for hits more often than fly ball pitchers.

    Re-read that again Dave. I wasn’t comparing ground ball pitchers to flyball pitchers. I was comparing both of them to High Strikeout pitchers.

    This entire diatribe confirms everything I ever thought of you Dave.

  63. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 6:00 pm

    Deflated -

    I’m not arguing that BABIP doesn’t have an ability to detect luck, I’m saying that it is too dependent on too many variables to have much use without context… and lots of it.

    You’re absolutely right about Ichiro, but my assertion is that batted ball speed provides better context than BABIP. I can’t prove it any more than I have without more data… but according to Dave my assertion show ZERO merit because I don’t have access to further data…. because that’s the way science works….

  64. Dave on September 11th, 2012 6:04 pm

    Yeah, you apparently are incapable of having a conversation with making ad hominem attacks, which means I have no interest in having any kind of conversation with you. Enjoy wallowing in your own ignorance. The door is to the right. See yourself out.

  65. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 6:07 pm

    Stay classy Dave.

    You write for the Wall St. Journal. Act like it.

  66. henryv on September 11th, 2012 7:01 pm

    Former, you really should take some statistics classes and have a basic understanding of variance and distributions before blathering as you have.

    And go away, for God’s sake. Go write your own blog. You can even make it about how awesome you were in middle school.

  67. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 7:34 pm

    [deleted, insufferable]

  68. stevemotivateir on September 11th, 2012 8:32 pm

    Does anyone else see the irony with complaints about arrogance coming from someone who refers to himself as a ‘former star QB’?

  69. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 8:35 pm

    …or it could be an ironic nickname…

    I’m sure this will be deleted as well… impressive.

  70. spuuky on September 11th, 2012 8:38 pm

    “Change his HR’s as a percentage of hits and his BABIP shoots through the roof.”

    But… HRs aren’t “BIP”… I might as well say “add foul balls to his outs and his BABIP goes down.”

  71. formerstarQB16 on September 11th, 2012 8:40 pm

    Spuuky -

    It affects both the numerator and denominator of the calculation. Try it yourself. If Bonds hit more balls on a line, he’d have a much higher BABIP… but that doesn’t mean his quality of contact would be any less and it doesn’t mean he was unlucky.

  72. Sowulo on September 11th, 2012 9:13 pm

    In other news…..Zunino was 2 for 3 with a 2b, 3b & bb in the opening game of the championship series today.

  73. darren_asu on September 11th, 2012 11:24 pm

    I really like this blog…I read it every day and have learned more about baseball, and the Mariners, than I ever thought possible.

    But Dave, you do seem particularly angry and derisive on this topic.

    Former QB was wrong on a couple of his assumptions…but escalating the debate to “I feel bad for the person writing your paychecks” seems petty and beneath someone of your obvious intelligence.

    Just my two cents…

    Thanks,
    dw

  74. nwade on September 11th, 2012 11:28 pm

    So I’ve come back to the thread a few hours later, and yup, it went about like I expected. Why do people bother? The Troll will make a mess, and Dave will be responsive-but-acerbic. However, nothing new will come out of it…

    Since people have been doing the feeding anyways, let me make one final point to Former, if he/she is still around: Look up “Sample Size” in your statistics textbooks – try reading instead of posting (don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath). You keep making arguments about a player based on an absurdly small sample (135 PAs, really???), and you want to compare them to year-long or career numbers of other players? As a corollary – let’s think about the stock market. Compare a few hours of the drop during the “flash crash” to the overall rate of gains over the entire history of the DJIA. Does the drop fall “several standard deviations” below the norm? Yes! Does that mean we should expect it to be a sustained or recurring phenomenon? No! Trying to extrapolate the health or future direction of the stock market based on such a small sample is ludicrous; and trying to make specific proclamations about a player or his results after such a small set of samples is equally futile. The main point of the article (as I read it) is that there are positive indicators that Zunino has performed better than draft predictions, and signs are encouraging. Trying to slice it all more thinly than that (like, down to batted ball speed when we don’t even have that data) is pointless.

  75. Mike Lien on September 11th, 2012 11:30 pm

    On the plus side for this discussion, it made me look up the single season BABIP leaders since 2002. All fast guys (including 3 Ichiro seasons in the top 15) except the leader, Jose Hernandez. Would have taken me a long time to get to that guess.

  76. spuuky on September 11th, 2012 11:36 pm

    Yes, it affects both the numerator and denominator. So does randomly adding 3 to each of them for no reason at all. They still are by the very definition of “BABIP” not part of it, because they aren’t BIP. That would be a different stat, I guess just batting average with the results of strikeouts subtracted, basically.

    (and by the way, adding strikeouts to the equation also “affects both the numerator and the denominator” – it just so happens that it is adding 0 to the numerator, because baseball players typically don’t get a hit when they’ve struck out).

  77. The Ancient Mariner on September 12th, 2012 3:48 am

    I’m bemused here . . . formerstarQB is accusing Dave of attacking him for calling him ignorant, when Dave didn’t even point out the single most ignorant thing he said: to wit, the idea that if you decrease someone’s K rate or increase his HR percentage, their BABIP will “shoot up.” No, all you would do is change the number of balls in play — which would then, all else being equal, fall in as hits at roughly the same percentage as the rest of his balls in play, changing BABIP not at all. The overall statistical line would change, but not because BABIP changed — just because BABIP is now a greater influence on the player’s offensive contribution.

    Ignorant? Yeah. I’m a humanities wonk, and even I can see it.

  78. BackRub on September 12th, 2012 4:16 am

    Dave, thanks for for that response. It’s always impressive to watch you shoot down logical fallacies and weak arguments while trying to educate the hopeless. That was actually one of the more informative things about baseball I’ve read recently, in its own strange kind of way. Keep doing what you do- there are a lot of us who appreciate, beyond words, the thought and care you put into your work.

  79. Sowulo on September 12th, 2012 4:50 am

    A struck ball that just barely clears the fence resulting in 1-4 runs scored (a VERY good thing) does not count as a “ball in play” but the same ball hit to the exact same place that is caught by a leaping fielder resulting in an out (a bad thing) does count. Things that make you go hmmmmm…..

  80. smb on September 12th, 2012 7:16 am

    1. I’ll never understand how someone with an internet moniker the likes of “formerstarQB” can be so sensitive to any kind of criticism.

    2. Caught Zunino in Everett vs. Boise, totally agree he looked like a man among boys. He smoked a ball off the wall that I’m surprised didn’t punch a hole right through it.

  81. Mid80sRighty on September 12th, 2012 7:55 am

    I doubt Dave is even still reading this thread (haha), but thanks for the breakdown. Maybe it’s not a great way for “you” to learn, but I’m certainly more informed about BABIP now. As BackRub said, in it’s own strange kind of way.

    Sowulo, robbed HRs are such a rare thing that I doubt they skew the stats in any meaningful way.

  82. formerstarQB16 on September 12th, 2012 8:26 am

    Ridiculous.

    1) I don’t know why it is so incredibly difficult for some of you to follow, because I said it several times… but I did not… am not… arguing that those stats in any way portray Zunino’s ability to hit either long-term or short-term at higher levels. I’m arguing against Dave’s assertion that if Zunino stayed in low-A, his stats would decrease significantly because of a regression to the mean in a BABIP that was north of .400. I’m arguing that he’s ignoring the context of BABIP with Zunino. The possibility of Zunino’s performance having more to do with outclassing low-A then having statistical variance in a small sample size.

    2) I understand small sample size. I understand random variation. I understand normal distribution. And I’m making the assumption that Zunino’s performance (most notably his slugging percentage) was higher than 3 standard deviations from the mean… which is a typical cutoff for a normal curve (as actually everything falls within a normal curve). I could be wrong on that assumption, but I’m saying he had a 1 in a 1,000 performance… which would make him an outlier.

    Is there some regression there… certainly… but my argument… again… was that him being an outlier had more to do with him being significantly more advanced as a hitter than his competition than it did with it being a small sample size. In addition, I argued that his K-rate of 20% greatly affected his BABIP and I provided support for why I thought this.

    3) Ancient Mariner. I don’t know why you are arguing something that can so easily be proven as fact. Go up about 2/3′s of the way down the page and you’ll see a post I wrote to Marcus explaining the math behind behind why K-% affects BABIP so much. Do the math and you’ll see what I mean. I assumed a pro-rata distribution of hits… just like you argued… and it dropped his BABIP by 20+ points. Strikeouts have a much greater affect on BABIP because it primarily affects the denominator (if you assume a pro-rata distribution of those addition PA’s gained)… but HR rate affects it as well. My assumption would be that a ball that is struck well enough to be a home run, if placed on a lower trajectory, would have a much higher probability of falling in for a hit than the average ball in play (BABIP).

  83. Rainiers_fan on September 12th, 2012 9:27 am

    Back to the topic at hand. Zunino is ours and you can’t have him!

    You know you have a good player when other blogs rosterbate about stealing him. I have seen some hilarious trade offers the past few days. Good reminder for us all to avoid “our crap for your star” trade posts.

  84. stevemotivateir on September 12th, 2012 9:28 am

    Dave wasn’t making the assertion that his numbers wouldn’t stay the same in Everett. Players who hit like that simply don’t stay in single-A ball. He was suggesting Zunino wouldn’t maintain those numbers throughout his professional career, hence, the Joey Votto reference.

  85. stevemotivateir on September 12th, 2012 9:32 am

    Funny, Rainiers Fan! Zunino’s performance last night probably poured some fuel on that fire!

    Really, the fact that he’s put up the kind of numbers that he has so quickly, regardless of limited PA’s, is amazing. I can’t think of a single Mariner who got off to a hotter start. If anyone else can, I’d be interested to know!

  86. SonOfZavaras on September 12th, 2012 10:06 am

    Since people have been doing the feeding anyways, let me make one final point to Former, if he/she is still around: Look up “Sample Size” in your statistics textbooks – try reading instead of posting (don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath). You keep making arguments about a player based on an absurdly small sample (135 PAs, really???), and you want to compare them to year-long or career numbers of other players? As a corollary – let’s think about the stock market. Compare a few hours of the drop during the “flash crash” to the overall rate of gains over the entire history of the DJIA. Does the drop fall “several standard deviations” below the norm? Yes! Does that mean we should expect it to be a sustained or recurring phenomenon? No! Trying to extrapolate the health or future direction of the stock market based on such a small sample is ludicrous; and trying to make specific proclamations about a player or his results after such a small set of samples is equally futile.

    I’m glad nwade said it, I’ve been wondering why exactly there’s a flame war over the numbers posted by a guy who has 135 PAs TOTAL in his fledgling career.

    The numbers aren’t enough to have stabilized, any conclusions we could possibly make are loaded with peril on being wrong.

    Sure, what Zunino is doing is nothing short of encouraging. And I’m hoping for the best-case scenario- that he’s the superstar that comes out of his draft class.

    I’m not particularly strong on BABIP calculation, and won’t even try to quantify luck. I think we should just be watching and collecting data, waiting for enough of it to draw a conclusion.

    For me, I’m going to hold off on figuring out and assigning any relevance to any numbers posted by Zunino thus far until I see something like 500 PAs.

    But while I’m waiting for Zunino’s numbers to tell us what they will, I’ll also be hoping that we do indeed have a first-rate talent on our hands in him.

  87. SonOfZavaras on September 12th, 2012 10:13 am

    Hmm. Made an error. Zunino has a touch over 200 PAs as a professional, not 135. Sorry. I plan on blaming the fact we forgot to buy coffee last night.

  88. Rainiers_fan on September 12th, 2012 10:36 am

    Thanks Steve, I am sure there is someone I am forgetting about, but in my decades following the team I can’t think of anyone with as good a start either.

    I very selfishly hope he is in Tacoma for a bit to give us a chance to see him up close and personal. I am excited about seeing some of the other prospects that might arrive in 2013 as well. It’s nice to see some good talent moving up through the system.

  89. Rainiers_fan on September 12th, 2012 10:40 am

    Lack of coffee is an acceptable excuse for just about anything.

    One thing I really like about the discussion between Dave and Former, it was prompted by a prospect doing very well and that’s something to celebrate.

  90. formerstarQB16 on September 12th, 2012 11:35 am

    Stevemotivateir -

    Yes he was.

    …and his overall line was inflated by a .413 BABIP

    That is the exact line I was disagreeing with.

    You all can continue to attack the one who goes against the current, I know it’s a favorite pastime of message boards, it’s no skin off my back. All I wanted, and continue to want, is a real conversation about BABIP and the possibility of someday having a stat that is a bit more objective… but apparently a few of you had a best friend’s brother die while creating the statistic, and therefore are too emotionally attached to critique it.

    I understand the sample size was small. I get the argument of regressing to the mean. I just feel we are far to onerous with BABIP. My argument is: Isn’t there a certain likelihood that Zunino’s abilities dictated the increased BABIP? That by striking the ball with more force he made it more difficult for the defensive players to arrive in time? That having an iso of .364 seems to indicate he was making fairly extreme contact? That the mediocre stuff being thrown at him might have been like BP to him coming from the SEC. That his BABIP might have been overinflated compared to others because of his relatively high strikeout rate? (for those of you who continue to argue against the k-rate/hr-rate effect… do the math). If you placed Joey Votto in Double A, wouldn’t you expect him to make unbelievable contact… and therefore an increase in his BABIP from the bigs? (no I’m not saying Zunino is as good as Joey Votto is now…) These are not complicated concepts… the exact opposite actually.

    Dave is a professional journalist, albeit in the form of a blogger most of the time. My questions were not out of line… his responses were. It’s not being overly sensitive, it’s being a bit shocked by the amount of vitriol being leveled at me by someone with the credentials Dave possesses. This is not the first time this has happened to someone on here… nor will it be the last. I don’t care if it’s online, in-person, on the phone, or through Morse code, someone who contributes to national publications has no business being so denigratory… and I’m sure those who are “writing his paychecks” would agree with me.

  91. nwade on September 12th, 2012 12:11 pm

    Former –
    1) You assume that Dave *wants* this to be an interactive experience. Perhaps you misinterpret his blog. Many authors write their articles and put them out there for people to consume, and that is their goal (_not_ to hold debates). Being a blogger just means you write online; it doesn’t necessarily imply a desire to be interactive or “friendly” to everyone. Also, since you want to play the victim – note that until this point I haven’t agreed with Dave’s actual assertions (and I’m not playing the fanboy card right now). We don’t need to, in order to react to the contents of your comments.

    2) How is BABIP not objective? It uses quantitative numbers (not qualitative items), and is calculated the same for all hitters. So it _is_ “objective” (not subjective). If you don’t believe it provides a meaningful representation of a player’s skill or value, then I urge you to come up with a better formula (and supporting evidence showing that it has true statistical meaning/correlation to the skill or value which you are trying to measure).

  92. stevemotivateir on September 12th, 2012 12:33 pm

    No, he wasn’t. You don’t get it. You don’t have to quote him, I read the same thing you did, as did everyone else. I know that was the line you were disagreeing with. But, again, he’s suggesting that he wont maintain those numbers throughout his career. Zunino’s numbers are inflated because he’s more advanced than the competition (as you noted) he faced in Everett. At least that’s what I got from it. Professional hitters simply don’t maintain BABIP numbers that high.

    Look, I understand what you’re getting at. I actually don’t think of BABIP as the greatest stat to asses a player either, especially with roughly 200 PA’s (more so with just 133 in Everett), but it does serve a decent purpose. Mike explained why (in short) fairly well.

    Dave was right. And you took his first response way too personal. He wasn’t attacking you. Sorry you felt that way, but you should forget about it, and move forward. Hangin’ on this isn’t going to do you any good. It’s at the point now where everyone’s recycling the same statements over and over.

  93. formerstarQB16 on September 12th, 2012 12:45 pm

    nwade –

    1) If Dave doesn’t want this to be an “interactive experience” he shouldn’t comment on his own pieces. I’m not playing the victim. His comments haven’t harmed me in any way. But if he chooses to make replies to questions in the manner that he does, then he deserves to be called out on it. I don’t care what he said to me… it doesn’t affect my life in the least… I do have a problem with someone acting like a bully. It really affects the quality of discourse… as you can see by how this entire thread turned.

    2) BABIP is subjective in that in order to make it fully objective it requires additional items that we may not have the data yet to make quantitative… like quality of contact. To the extreme, as I said before, if someone is hitting nothing but slow rollers his BABIP will be significantly lower than Joey Votto’s. Advanced stats are not always that trustworthy in the minors… and in the majors the general public doesn’t have access to all the tools available. So if you just present a high BABIP without providing the context of, for example, Zunino’s coming from the SEC with significant experience against quality pitchers… and going to a league were he “shows himself to be the best hitter in the Northwest League by a mile”… then you’re wasting the stat. But by including such context, the stat suddenly because subjective in nature because you can’t quantify the affect the SEC and his ability had on his quality of contact… and therefore his BABIP.

    Dave’s argument is that anything over a .350 BABIP is nearly impossible to sustain for any hitter. I concede that that’s the case in the Majors, but what happens when a player is significantly better than his competition in the minors?… what if he’s an outlier?… What if because of his aptitude he’s leaps and bounds ahead of anybody in the league he’s playing in? As I’ve said, a regression to the mean is likely (he was obviously playing as close to perfect as you can as a professional)… but what’s his mean? Maybe because he’s so much better than the competition his mean is also an outlier? To the extreme… if Barry Bonds played in the Northwest League during his prime, he’d probably have an OBP north of .700. Random variation would dictate that he would regress… but what if the mean has been reset to a higher number because he’s just an outlier in every respect?

  94. stredarts on September 12th, 2012 12:59 pm

    BABIP is a result statistic. Arguing about its context when you have absolutely zero batted ball data is absurd. In a month of data. In low A ball. Against defenses you know nothing about.

    You have nothing backing your claims other than pure speculation and anecdote.

    Moreover you missed Dave’s point entirely, which wasn’t that Zunino didn’t deserve that high BABIP in Everette, but that he has been arguably more successful even without a high BABIP in Jackson.

    That is awesome. We should be talking about that, not your pet theories on BABIP and how badly you have been treated.

  95. formerstarQB16 on September 12th, 2012 1:03 pm

    Steve –

    I do get it… I just disagree with you. I could be wrong about Dave’s intentions… but so could you. His initial response to my questions said that Votto hits the ball harder than anybody and his career BABIP is only .358, therefore anything north of .350 is almost certainly going to regress.

    To me, he’s not speaking about levels in any way. He’s saying regardless of what level you play in, the BABIP has to regress to a mean that falls within the .270 to .360 spread Dave mentioned in his diatribe. But that spread is constructed (as Dave says) from major league at bats, where the quality of competition has a ceiling (and most of the time a floor). Nobody is going to be twice as good as everybody else. I’m saying Zunino is that guy at low-A. Or that it is at least possible considering his performance.

    When I mentioned that Votto was a bad example, it was because Votto has half of his years with BABIP’s above .360 and currently has a .394. So it is at least possible to have those kinds of numbers in a single season over a smaller sample size. Now if you add on my assertion that Zunino’s performance curve is higher at his level than Votto’s at his… it stands to reason that the BABIP could be elevated but not inflated.

  96. formerstarQB16 on September 12th, 2012 1:07 pm

    Stredarts -

    Your first paragraph is exactly my argument.

    As to the rest… If you don’t like it. Don’t read it.

  97. Dave on September 12th, 2012 1:08 pm

    Now you’re just being a prick for being a prick’s sake. You’re no longer welcome here. Go post somewhere else.

  98. nwade on September 12th, 2012 1:43 pm

    Dave – Ahh, thank you! No one can accuse you of being “gentle” in these situations; but on the other hand you probably have plenty of fools to suffer, across your various media outlets.

  99. stredarts on September 12th, 2012 1:55 pm

    Dave Cameron for President!

  100. Rainiers_fan on September 12th, 2012 4:22 pm

    Dave made a great point in his post. Folks like Danny Hultzen dominated at lower levels at times this year and eventually struggled a bit and had to make adjustments as they advanced to AAA. I would love it if Zunino never struggled but at some point he most likely will. Getting him to the majors without some seasoning in AAA might not be the best thing for his long term development. I would much rather see him struggle in the minors then get rushed and try to adjust the way some of our prospects have in the majors.

  101. zackr on September 12th, 2012 5:13 pm

    There is often a problem when new commenters come here and question Dave. This is not a normal sports site where marginally informed questioning of the expert is taken well. It isn’t like a university a class where amateurs are free to take shots at complex theory. If you are going to question heavy number theory, you’d better ‘bring it to the dance’ with some serious knowledge yourself.

    Ive been a fan of ussmariner since year 1, and can say that Derek had a much softer edge than Dave has, but Dave has never been malicious. Dave is just a bit ‘Spock’ like in his responses, which if fine for all of us who have been here for awhile.

    Qb – just observe for a few years before commenting. You’ll get the vibe. I never comment – because I dont have time to learn the subject at a level that would contribute to the discussion. In other words, just because I’ve studied engineering doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for me to barge into to Boeing and lay down my law on how they should be building airplanes.

  102. greentunic on September 12th, 2012 5:32 pm

    Former,
    I actually agree with most of your questions (not necessarily your statements). But counting HR as a part of babip calculations would only work if fielders had a chance to catch them. Hitting a home run is “earned” and only between the pitcher and hitter. They have to be taken oit because there is no variance in the outcome.

  103. stevemotivateir on September 12th, 2012 8:35 pm

    So, moving along from the ‘former’ issue, Zunino was 0-3 tonight. But I’m pretty sure he did that on purpose. Tomorrow night, he’ll likely be calling his shot. Oh, the winning lottery numbers are 6 38 19 27 and 35.

  104. greentunic on September 13th, 2012 1:30 am

    Oh no, was FormerQB booted?

    I’m sad it came to that if he was, but the constructive questions he initially posted got swallowed up by a lot of melodrama.

  105. Rainiers_fan on September 14th, 2012 9:21 am

    Haha Steve. FYI I read the summary of Thursday nights game: Zunino was DHing and went 2 for 4 and Walker allowed no runs over 5 innings. But Mobile came back and finally won in extra innings.

  106. stevemotivateir on September 14th, 2012 10:33 am

    ^Yeah, I followed last night’s game. Walker had nine K’s, no BB, no runs in five and a third. Sad to see the team lose with such a great performance. Zunino and Martinez looked good last night as well. Miller had a critical error that allowed the tying runs to score late.

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