Game 34, Mariners at Blue Jays – BABIP Woes

marc w · May 8, 2018 at 3:37 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

James Paxton vs. Marcus Stroman, 4:05pm

The M’s head to Toronto to take on the surprisingly decent Blue Jays, who used a solid off-season to retool and are hanging around at 19-16. The Jays offense has some pop, but not much else; they’re hitting .237/.315/.427, which works out to dead-on league average. Unfortunately for Toronto, they’ve paired that with poor defense, and thus their position players rank 21st by Fangraphs’ WAR.

If you think it’s a bit early for defensive stats like UZR, well, right. But just using defensive efficiency, they’ve been among the league’s worst teams at turning batted balls into outs. One of the noticeable trends in baseball the past few years has been an increase in league-wide BABIP, a finding that’s hard to square with the fact that more and more teams are using data to shift their defense into better/newfangled arrangements. But this year, it’s dropped quite a bit, back to the heady days of 2010-11, when offense was scarce and pitchers ruled baseball’s landscape. It’s in that context that the Jays’ team BABIP of .309 looks like a real problem. Their offense is leading the league in HRs, and while their staff has given up a bunch (46), the real problem is that they’re still giving up old fashioned runs – runs that are the product of walks and base hits.

Of course, the M’s are only one rank ahead of the Jays in BABIP. Their .307 mark ranks 5th highest in MLB, and is a massive decline from where it’s been in recent years. So is it the defenders’ fault that James Paxton’s BABIP is sky high? Among the 114 pitchers who’ve logged at least 30 IP this year, Paxton’s .349 BABIP is 6th worst. And tonight’s opponent, Marcus Stroman, is in 13th place, at .330. (They’re all trailing the guy with the worst BABIP in baseball, Marco Gonzales). Well, maybe not.

Stroman has been one of the worst pitchers by the new Statcast measures of batted ball quality. Among pitchers who’ve given up at least 50 batted balls, Stroman’s percentage of balls struck at 95 MPH or more is 3rd worst, and it’s the worst among pitchers w/ at least 100 batted balls, just ahead of Mike Leake. Well over half of the balls hit off of him have been 95+ MPH, which is why he’s given up plenty of “barrels” and has an above average exit velocity in every batted ball type. Marcus Stroman isn’t stranding any runners and has a sky high BABIP, but these numbers show us that he’s not just a hard luck case – he’s pitched extraordinarily poorly.

James Paxton has a low average exit velocity, and it’s very low for fly balls/line drives, so his BABIP is purely luck, right? Well, the distribution of those batted balls is kind of strange. Paxton’s given up a lot of 95 MPH+ contact, and that’s saying something given the fact that he hasn’t allowed much contact at all. So with Stroman, you have batters who are fairly consistently hitting him hard. With Paxton, they’re either striking out, hitting absurdly poor contact, or driving the ball.

It’s odd, as Paxton’s extreme fly ball tendencies should help him produce a low BABIP. Indeed, most pitchers near him at the bottom of the league GB% table have very low BABIPs. I wonder if Paxton’s velocity and fly ball tendencies may be producing more balls hit down the lines, particularly to the opposite field? It’s also true that when he slows things down by throwing his curve, batters have tended to punish it – think of Miguel Sano’s long HR. In any event, we’ll see how much of these BABIP woes were just the product of his old fastball usage, where he’d throw his fastball low in the zone and watch batters drive it. Against the A’s 5 days ago, he showed us a very different game plan, and one that might suppress his BABIP.

1: Gordon, CF
2: Segura, SS
3: CanĂ³, 2B
4: Cruz, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Haniger, RF
7: Healy, 1B
8: Zunino, C
9: Gamel, LF
SP: Paxton!

The big news ahead of today’s game has nothing to do with the game, but it’s become all too familiar. Jays closer Robert Osuna was arrested last night for assaulting a woman, and he’s been put on “administrative leave” by the league. Screw you, Robert Osuna. MLB is played by people, and people are imperfect at best and sociopathic at worst, so at some level, we’ll always see stories of baseball players committing heinous acts. But it’s pretty clear there’s a problem in this area specifically, and it’s one the MLB, the MLBPA, teams, etc., would do well to focus on. They’ve imposed punishments, so the deterrence side is better than it used to be, but I hope there’s work going on behind the scenes on changing hearts and minds, on deescalation, on not being predatory and/or violent with partners.

Roenis Elias solid start led the Rainiers to a 3-1 win in Reno, which is a terrifying pitching environment. They’ll kick off a series in El Paso against the Padre-affiliated Chihuahuas tonight with Ariel Miranda on the mound.

NW Arkansas beat good ol’ fashioned, everyone’s included Arkansas 5-2 last night. Nathan Bannister kept the Travs in the game despite going 6 IP with 0 strikeouts and 2 walks and 10 hits allowed. Uh…nice..job, I guess? Joey Curletta had 2 hits, and is slashing .286/.437/.527 on the year. Anthony Misiewicz starts for Arkansas tonight.

Modesto was off last night, but start a series against the San Jose Giants tonight with Ljay Newsome taking the hill for the Nuts. The righty has an awesome 34:3 K:BB ratio, but unfortunately, he’s also given up 44 hits and 24 earned runs in 31 2/3 IP, good for an ERA of 6.82. The zone-controlling is right on track, but now it’s time to limit contact.

Clinton beat the West Michigan White Caps 8-7 in 10 IP last night, as Joe Rosa and Dimas Ojeda homered. Tommy Romero was solid for 4 IP, but walked 5 over that span, so his night was cut short. After some ugly middle relief, Kyle Wilcox K’d 5 in 2 1/3 for the win. Raymond Kerr starts for the Lumberkings tonight.

Comments

8 Responses to “Game 34, Mariners at Blue Jays – BABIP Woes”

  1. WTF_Ms on May 8th, 2018 5:00 pm

    BTW, the home plate ump is horrible. On BOTH sides. Really bad.

  2. Mike Snow on May 8th, 2018 6:11 pm

    I take it nobody is commenting because they don’t want to jinx it.

  3. Mike Snow on May 8th, 2018 6:27 pm

    As a Canadian, the worst start of James Paxton’s career also came in Toronto – Sept. 22, 2014: 2.2 IP, 7 H, 9 R (8 ER), 6 BB, 1 K.

  4. Mike Snow on May 8th, 2018 6:30 pm

    And there you have it – regression to the mean (and beyond) for BABIP.

  5. Grayfox3d on May 8th, 2018 6:31 pm

    Nice Job Paxton! I was cleaning house, and felt like i needed to keep cleaning to keep it going!

  6. mrakbaseball on May 8th, 2018 6:33 pm

    6th no-hitter in Mariners history

  7. The_Waco_Kid on May 8th, 2018 8:35 pm

    Awesome!

  8. Westside guy on May 8th, 2018 11:56 pm

    Darn necessary job which I need to pay the bills… it kept me from something IMPORTANT today!

    Way to go, Big Maple! What an awesome couple of starts he’s had!

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