What is BABIP in Baseball, and what does it tell us?

How does one get a high/low BABIP? Is this statistic for hitters and/or pitchers? What does a high/low BABIP mean?

3 Answers

The BABIP calculation/metric can be used for both batters and pitchers. The formula/definition that you mention above is a good indicator of what it measures – the percentage of hits for balls that were hit into play. Per this excerpt from ESPN:

BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, was originally designed to
measure a pitcher’s ability to prevent hits on balls in play. Today
it’s widely used to evaluate both pitchers and hitters, and it’s a
calculation of a hitter’s batting average — or pitcher’s batting
average allowed — on batted balls put into the field of play. That
means walks and strikeouts don’t count; those aren’t batted balls. Nor
do home runs; those don’t land within the field of play.

For pitchers, some analysts view a low BABIP as an indicator that the pitcher has been “lucky,” since they believe that pitchers have little control over balls that are hit in play. In this type of analysis, pitchers that have lower BABIP that their historic averages are viewed as being likely to perform worse in the future, as their BABIP should revert to the mean/norms. However, pitchers might have consistently higher/lower BABIP due to their styles (e.g., percentage of ground balls vs flyballs) and the quality of their fielders.

Similarly, this metric can be used to measure the “luck” of hitters – a higher than normal BABIP may indicate that a hitter will “cool off” over the course of the season, while a hitter that has a low BABIP will tend “heat up” as the season progresses.

As the ESPN article notes, there are several additional factors that impact BABIP – speed of the hitter, quality of contact, and the quality of the defense. As an example, hitters will a good hitting eye may have better quality of contact and have better BABIP rates than their peers. Faster hitters might also be able to beat out throws to first, thus increasing their BABIP.

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