Few players are having a tougher season at the plate than Brendan Ryan. The lovable and sometimes mustachioed shortstop is still making Wizard-like plays in the field, but he also is now the shameful owner of a .257 wOBA. That’s 12 runs below the average hitter and we’re only at the midpoint of the season. Ryan isn’t the only Cardinal hitting that’s experiencing a slump. Yadier Molina and Skip Schumaker both are hitting for a wOBA under .300. Just when we thought Yadi was over his all-glove, no-hit ways, we see him struggling this season, although that didn’t hinder him from being named to the All-Star team.
These hitters have enjoyed better days, to be sure. Is some sort of regression due? Can bad luck be blamed for their slumps, or are these struggles a genuine backsliding?
To find out, I tinkered around with The Hardball Times’ xBABIP calculator. Often times in sabermetric analysis we see writers cite a low or high batting average of balls in play as a reason player A will regress to the mean. If a player has a high BABIP (.330 or higher) then they’re expected to come back to earth. If a player has a low BABIP (.280 or below, usually, we’d call them unlucky. (See here for further explanation)
xBABIP takes it a step further by looking at batted ball times and other components in a regression model to give us a luck-neutral BABIP. In other words, this is what a player’s hit rate would be sans the flukiness. Sure enough, Ryan, Skip and Yadi have been the victims of some tough luck. Freese and Rasmus have particularly benefited from some good luck.
As much as I think Tyler Greene could surprise some people, I wouldn’t write Boog off just yet. Teasing out the luck, and he should be hitting around .270, not below the Mendoza line.