Breaking Down Josh Sale's Batted Ball Profile

Unlike most toolsy draft choices by the Rays, 2010 1st round pick Josh Sale was selected out of a Seattle high school with the 17th player taken as a pure power bat. His 2011 debut on the surface has been largely an underwhelming mixed bag with a line of .209/.284/.366 as a 19 year-old in the Appalachian League. On the plus side, Sale is making contact, striking out just 16.2% of the time while walking 9.5%. However he has not blown through Princeton the way many were hoping for the top prep bat of 2010. While 13 of his 28 hits have gone for extra bases, his ISO  is just .157.

Many fans have pointed to the end-all-be-all that is BABIP (.234) as evidence that Sale has simply been the victim of bad luck. It's worth a dive beneath the surface to examine just what comprises Sale's batted ball profile. Component data isn't readily available for rookie ballers so I dove into milb.com's game recaps to create the following breakdown of Sale's first 147 plate appearances.


LD

FB

GB

IFFB%

HR/FB

Total

11.0%

38.5%

50.5%

16.7%

7.1%

to right

41.7%

34.3%

67.3%

0%

100.0%

middle

25.0%

40.0%

10.9%

0%

0.0%

to left

33.3%

25.7%

16.4%

100%

0.0%

The top line does not paint a rosy picture. 50+% ground balls, only 11% line drives, and more than twice as many infield pops as home runs are indicative of poor contact. Nearly 80% of ground balls going to the right and up the middle will ultimately lead to easy shift decisions for opposing managers and low BABIP. Speaking of BABIP, here are Sale's BABIP splits by batted ball type and direction:


BABIP

LD

0.667

OFFB

0.344

IFFB

0

GB

0.109

right

0.128

middle

0.435

left

0.156

A few points worth mentioning:

  • There have been reports Sale has dealt with a wrist injury this season which could lead to struggles.
  • I defined to the right as being fielded by 1B, 2B, or RF.  Up the middle were fielded by the pitcher or CF, and to the left by the SS, 3B, or LF. This likely leads to a small understating of GBs up the middle.
  • To say Sale has been BABIP'd to-date is a bit reckless given the profile. However, its just 147 plate appearances.
  • Sale is just a puppy. These represent his first professional at-bats. We are just a year removed from Jeff Malm's .283 wOBA season in Princeton. This season he is sitting tight at .442 at Hudson Valley. Please refrain from blasting Sale's future prospects. He is not Justin O'Connor who is striking out north of 41% of the time. The point of this exercise was simply to get a better idea of how Sale has hit this season beyond BABIP, not to gauge his future chance of success.
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