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.
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: