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In the first post of this series, I referenced that Chris Davis's BABIP is not explained by that post alone, and that we would consider him again in the future. He was not considered in Part 2. He will be considered here. Davis managed an above average overall BABIP of .319 in 2015, despite the shift limiting his groundballs to just a .162 figure. He accomplished this primarily through his line drives, which enjoyed a BABIP of .733. That is still a few points shy of his career .738 mark, however. How was his overall BABIP so high?

To answer that question, lets first look at how all major leaguers fared on each of the major types of batted ball in 2015. Grounders generated a BABIP of .236. Flies were not as productive, posting a .129 figure. This makes sense, as popups almost never fall in, cans of corns to the outfield are only slightly better, and homers are considered out of play and do not count toward BABIP. Line drives turned into base hits far more frequently than either of the others, posting a .678 BABIP. The difference between liners and anything else is startling. Batters want line drives.

Davis got line drives more than most in 2015, enjoying a 24.7% line drive percentage. For comparison, the league average was 20.9%. Roughly 4% may not seem like much, but when the expected BABIP between liners and everything else is so high, it matters a lot. Davis managed a line drive rate of 24.6% in 2014 as well, perhaps suggesting that his elevated line drive rate is a repeatable skill, like Dee Gordon's BABIP increasing speed.

Sadly, it probably isn't. A player's LD% bounces around the league average figure with random spikes and drops, none of which offer much predictive value moving forward. Davis's own career rate ranges from a low of 20.6% in 2009 to a high of 25.5% in his short rookie season of 2008. Before his current run, he posted a 21.9% figure in 2013. Davis's above average LD% might lead to a slightly elevated projection, but allowing him full credit for a nearly 25% LD% is generally not a good idea. He's still plenty fantasy relevant, but expect a lower batting average than he provided in 2015. When BABIP is driven by luck, LD% is usually why.

Unlike LD%, both GB% and FB% are stickier--a player with an elevated rate in one is likely to repeat a similar rate moving forward. By BABIP alone, grounders are better. However, this changes significantly if slugging percentage is considered. In 2015, grounders offered a slugging percentage of .255, only slightly higher than the .236 BABIP they posted. Flies had a .666 slugging percentage, easily offsetting the lower BABIP for most fantasy players. This is why Giancarlo Stanton is so good, as his 40.1% career FB% is much higher than the 2015 average of 33.8%. As a result, he hits with much more power.

The ideal batted ball mix therefore varies with the player. Elite speedsters like Dee Gordon want more grounders than flies, as they generally do not produce a lot of power even when they do hit the ball in the air. Sluggers like Davis want flyballs, especially since the shift prevents them from realizing the larger BABIPs associated with grounders. Fantasy owners usually prefer players with power and speed potential to have a higher FB%, simply because the extra power is more beneficial than a few extra times on base. If Christian Yelich had a league average FB%, for example, he would be a threat to crack 20 or more bombs. That's worth a slightly lower BABIP. Incidentally, line drives averaged a ridiculous .886 slugging percentage to go with the .678 BABIP in 2015, so they are still the batted ball of choice.

To conclude, line drives are by far the most productive result for hitters. BABIP's luck driven fluctuations are driven by LD%, a largely random stat. GB% and FB% are more predictive, and which one is favored depends on the hitter in question. Grounders offer a higher BABIP, but almost zero power. Flies result in base hits less often, but generate much more power when they do. The intricacies of BABIP could be a never ending topic, but the information provided so far is generally enough for fantasy purposes. Next up, we'll look at the other major component of a player's batting average: plate discipline.

 

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