Exhibit A: Austin Jackson is a man of his era.
If you take a look at the career leaders in BABIP, at least among those guys who had at least 1000 career plate appearances to their names, you’ll see a lot of currently active players. Of course that includes Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter, who will likely make the hall of fame based in large part on their BABIP skills, but also a number of younger players: Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos Gonzalez, Joey Votto, Matt Holliday, Matt Kemp, etc… You’ll also find a fairly large number of guys who played ball in the roaring twenties – Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Bill Terry, George Sisler, Tris Speaker, etc… If we dig a little deeper, this shouldn’t actually seem strange. Take a look at average BABIP stats for the league as a whole decade-by-decade:
As you can see, average BABIP shoots up with the end of the dead ball era – not just homers – and stays high until WWII. Starting in the forties, BABIP plummets and stays low for decades. I wish I had a good explanation why, but it could be any number of things – the ball, the player mix, the mound, the umps, better defense, pitch development… Beginning in the seventies, BABIP begins a gradual climb until today, where we’re just about back to where we were when Babe Ruth was mashing the ball. Strikeout rates, on the other hand, have been on a near-continuous upward trajectory since the twenties until today when the average batter strikes out in almost a full twenty percent of his plate appearances. High strikeout, high BABIP? If you look at the path we’re on, that’s the 21st century batter.
Check back early tomorrow morning for part 2: ‘The BABIP Hall Of Fame’