The Last, Greatest Post About Austin Jackson & BABIP: Part 3: BABIP Projectability

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We have pretty much settled on the idea that Austin Jackson has one skill (in a statistical sense) and that skill is a high batting average on balls in play.  Not only did he lead the league in BABIP last year as a rookie, but his career minor league BABIP was about .365 – giving at least some indication that it was no fluke.  If we look at other modern BABIP magicians, their minor league and major league BABIP numbers match fairly closely.  Follow through to see the numbers.

Player MLB BABIP MiLB BABIP Age At Call Up
Derek Jeter 0.354 0.355853 21
Bobby Abreu 0.343 0.351925 23
Miguel Cabrera 0.343 0.334798 20
Joe Mauer 0.344 0.361197 21
Matt Holliday 0.35 0.317705 24
Wade Boggs 0.344 0.335052 24
Kirby Puckett 0.342 0.362135 24
Tony Gwynn 0.341 0.353774 22
David Wright 0.341 0.337699 21
Willie McGee 0.341 0.331445 23
John Kruk 0.341 0.3582 25
Hanley Ramirez 0.34 0.338006 22

Average BABIP for these guys was about .344 in the minors, and about .344 in the majors. However – even given this scant data- it does look like there might be some ‘regression to the mean’ at work. The two batters who had minor league BABIPs over .360, as Austin Jackson did, had major-league BABIPs in the .340s just like everyone else. Of course, there is some pretty serious sample selection bias going on if we look at ‘case studies’ like Derek Jeter for projectability. By and large, stars aren’t the guys who were the very best hitters in the minor leagues – though they almost always hit well in the minor leagues – they are the guys who continued to hit just as well in the majors as they did in the minors. Baseball is littered with guys who put up great numbers in the minor leagues but could not make the transition to hitting big league pitching. BABIP seems to work the same way, in that respect, as any other measure of baseball production.

To try to get a better answer to the question “What BABIP Can We Count On From Jackson”, it’s informative to look at some of the other guys who put up great BABIP numbers in AAA lately. Jackson himself has .391 AAA BABIP between 2008 & 2009, obviously very good but only good enough for 8th best in AAA over the past 5 years. Who’s been better? The Rangers Chris Davis, with a .406 AAA BABIP but only a .328 in the majors. Jay Bruce had a .397 BABIP in AAA which dropped by a full 100 points when he went up to the majors. Of course Bruce is quite a good hitter, but he has skills other than BABIP. He hasn’t had a whole heck of a lot of plate appearances, but Andy Dirks has a .403 BABIP in AAA.

Follow through to the next page to see the top-20 AAA BABIP hitters of the past 5 years, and how they have fared at the next level:

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Topics: Austin Jackson, BABIP, Sabermetrics

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  • James R. Chipman

    Chris,

    I really enjoyed reading this series on A-Jax.

    The strikeouts bother me but beyond that Jackson is a great player. If anything, his strikeouts are even more tolerable because of his high BABIP. His defense is impressive and he has been solid at the plate the last month and a half.

    Excellent work on the series, great stuff (as usual)!

  • Chris Hannum

    Glad you liked it and moreso that you managed to read it all the way through. The problem for Jackson is that he walks less than average, strikes out more than average and has less power than average. He needs a very high BABIP just to compensate for those weaknesses and make him an average center fielder overall.

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