The Indians made their first major move of the offseason earlier this week when they signed outfielder David Murphy to a two-year deal with an option for a third. The left-handed Murphy will likely platoon in right field with returnee Ryan Raburn. Murphy played a full-time role in Texas last season, but he regressed from his relative consistent and proven track record, so why was that? Well, in his Sunday morning contribution, The Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto explains that BABIP (a favorite of sabermetric junkies like our own Jon and Jacob) has a big role in that.
“So they have guaranteed $12 million to a guy who batted .220. Why? The answer is BABIP, one of the new stats.
BABIP stands for Batting Average Ball In Play. In other words, what is a player’s batting average when he hits a fair ball? In 2012, Murphy’s BABIP was .333 (He batted .304). In 2011 it was .299 (he batted .275). In 2010 it was .324 (He batted .291).
What’s the point? The BABIP is supposed to measure luck. If a guy had a BABIP of .330 and his average is .318 — he had a lot of balls drop in for hits.
The Tribe believes part of Murphy’s problems in 2013 was rotten luck. His BABIP was .227 (He batted .220). His .227 BABIP ranked 167th out of 170 regular players in the American League.
The average range for BABIP is .290-.310, according to fangraphs.com. On the Tribe, the top BABIP’s: Jason Kipnis (.345), Yan Gomes (.342), Michael Bourn (.338), Drew Stubbs (.319). Players with speed (such as Bourn and Stubbs) tend to have higher BABIPs because they have more infield hits. “
It’s interesting to see how some luck (perhaps with Yan Gomes being that far above average) coupled with the ability to find holes when contact is actually made (Kipnis, Bourn, and even Stubbs) is displayed with this metric. Hopefully, Murphy’s BABIP regresses more toward the mean, and the Indians get a .270-.280ish hitter with a little pop.