Hittability Jamie One More Time!!! (Part 1)

A lot of talk around these parts revolves around James Shields and hittability. Freezo took his agenda to Shields when he looked at Shields through the eyes of players with similar peripherals (K/9, BB/9) and how he stacked up as far as HR% and BABIP. That was an interesting look because it showed just how good Shields' peripherals have been, but just how bad the other two numbers have been comparatively. Here, I'm going to reverse engineer what Freezo did. I'm going to take a look at how Shields stacks up against other "hittable" major league pitchers and try to get some context for his insane year this year.

To start, Shields .344 BABIP is one of the worst BABIPs in a  season for a pitcher that pitched more than 162 IP. In fact it's the 12th worst season in the expansion era. Below the jump, we'll take a quick look at the 15 worst BABIP seasons since 1961 among qualifiers.

Player

BAbip

IP

Year

Age

Tm

nBABIP

Diff.

Kevin Millwood

0.358

168.2

2008

33

TEX

0.275

0.08

Kevin Brown

0.357

170

1994

29

TEX

0.28

0.08

Ian Snell

0.355

164.1

2008

26

PIT

0.295

0.06

Glendon Rusch

0.355

179

2001

26

NYM

0.293

0.06

Aaron Sele

0.354

205

1999

29

TEX

0.304

0.05

Darryl Kile

0.352

219

1996

27

HOU

0.266

0.09

Scott Olsen

0.349

176.2

2007

23

FLA

0.261

0.09

Chris Holt

0.349

164

1999

27

HOU

0.338

0.01

John Burkett

0.349

189.1

1997

32

TEX

0.328

0.02

Livan Hernandez

0.347

180

2008

33

TOT

0.333

0.01

Jack Lamabe

0.345

177.1

1964

27

BOS

0.275

0.07

James Shields

0.344

203.1

2010

28

TBR

???

???

Javier Vazquez

0.344

217.2

2000

24

MON

0.284

0.06

Nate Robertson

0.343

168.2

2008

30

DET

0.337

0.01

Jeff Francis

0.343

183.2

2005

24

COL

0.273

0.07

Average

0.35

 

 

 

 

0.2959

0.05

Here we have the details of the player's awful BABIP year, their BABIP the following season, and the difference between the two. As you can see, most every player saw a tremendous drop-off in BABIP the next year. The average player's BABIP decreased by .05 which isn't surprising because it puts the sample in the "normal BABIP" range. This appears to be one example of how Shields might be expected to rebound next year. Of the pitchers who didn't see a big rebound, Shields is a much better pitcher (or has been rather). Chris Holt wasn't much of a big leaguer, Nate Robertson has never had a K/BB over 2, and Livan Hernandez was pretty cooked at that point and had nothing. John Burkett might be a similar type player to Shields, but he strikes out a few less and gives up a few less dingers. This list starts to give me hope about next year.

So lets do some more data manipulation on these top BABIP seasons. Looking at the top 200 BABIP seasons that qualify (once again and for the last time  more than 162 IP and since 1961), Shields had the fifth highest HR%. This makes since intuitively because very rarely does a player give up a ton of HRs without giving up a lot of fly balls, and as we know fly ball pitchers generally have lower BABIPs because fly balls have a much lower BABIP than groundballs. Putting HR/BF% in to the equation really makes you take a pause at just how weird Shields' season was last year. Only two other times has a player had a BABIP above .340 and HR/BF over 3.5% (Scott Olsen in 2007 and LaTroy Hawkins in 1999), and both of those guys had FIPs well over 5. Here's a quick breakdown of the 3 of their's awful years:

Player

Year

Age

Tm

BAbip

HR/BF

IP

ERA

 FIP

K%

BB%

James Shields

2010

28

TBR

0.344

3.78%

203.1

5.18

   4.33

20.80%

5.45%

LaTroy Hawkins

1999

26

MIN

0.343

3.61%

174.1

6.66

   5.20

12.83%

7.22%

Scott Olsen

2007

23

FLA

0.349

3.51%

176.2

5.81

   5.23

16.10%

9.81%

Both Hawkins and Olsen were much worse at the other things a pitcher does to help himself (not walking guys and striking guys out). In fact Shields K/BB more than doubled their output. Similarly, Shields stacks up excellently against every one of our awful BABIP and HR/FB pitchers. In the second part we'll take a look at just how well he stacks up...

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