Let’s jump right in here, because there’s no use prolonging a rant with a silly introduction when everyone knows where this is going: Quintin Berry’s batting average on balls in play is a preposterous .473. According to the xBABIP (expected BABIP) formula found at FanGraphs, which employs batted ball data such as line drive rate, his BABIP for his brief major league time should be more than a full tenth of a point lower at .370. Given that only 30 qualified players over the last ten full seasons have finished with a BABIP at or above that mark, it’s fair to say .370 is an enormous and probably generous figure for Berry. It’s just below Austin Jackson’s career mark of .371, and I don’t think many would say Berry makes better contact than the 2010 American League Rookie of the Year runner-up.
If we apply that still-lofty .370 figure to Berry’s current batting line, he loses out on six of his 26 hits. Because of his nearly unconscionable strikeout rate of 25.8%, higher than Jackson’s career rate of 25.3%, (remember, strikeout rate stabilizes more quickly than do most stats for hitters), the loss of those mere six hits would bring his batting average of .333 down to .256, lower than the current .261 average of Delmon Young, who provides home run power and whose BABIP of 2012 is lower than that of his career. When you see that Berry’s career minor league average—at all levels—is .267, you realize that pegging his actual major league skill at .256 is probably still too benevolent—according to the Minor League Equivalency Calculator at ML Splits, even a .267 average posted in the Triple-A International League should translate to .240 in the majors.
In addition to his immense shortcomings at the plate being masked by luck and the excitement that comes with a young and “different” player, Berry’s fielding blemishes have been hidden (so far) by his tremendous speed. He’s made a few catches in center field which have appeared brilliant, but many could have been routine if not for his taking poor routes and poor reads, particularly on balls hit over his head. This isn’t to say he’s not an upgrade over outfield options like Delmon Young, Brennan Boesch, and maybe even Don Kelly, but he’s not Austin Jackson on defense and he may not be Andy Dirks either.
Quintin Berry essentially has one above average tool—speed—and, having stolen nine stolen bases without being caught, it’s evident he makes the most of it when he gets on base. Considering the Detroit Tigers’ roster makeup, this, combined with his prolonged professional experience, makes him a useful player on their team. But he’s not the next Willie Mays, he’s not an All-Star, he’s not a second baseman, he’s not an everyday starter, he’s not a good hitter, and he’s not a great fielder.
On a semi-related note, Berry has done enough to remain on the Tigers’ roster for the foreseeable future and could do so even after the team clears their 15-Day disabled list. Alex Avila will inevitably replace Bryan Holaday. Octavio Dotel should push Thad Weber or Luke Putkonen back to the minors. As the Tigers are currently carrying an eight-man bullpen, Drew Smyly—assuming he has a spot in Detroit after Jacob Turner’s upcoming start—will likely also replace one of the aforementioned relievers. And finally, Andy Dirks, who could be missing in action for quite awhile longer than expected, could eventually replace Don Kelly or Danny Worth, the latter of whom can still be optioned without having to pass through waivers. So Berry might be safe for awhile—enjoy him and his BABIP while they last.