2015 Positional Ball-in-Play Retrospective – 2B

As we count down the days until spring-training games begin, let’s continue to take a position-by-position look back at the ball-in-play (BIP) profiles of 2015 semi-regulars and regulars to see if we can find any clues as to their projected performance moving forward. Last time, we reviewed first basemen and designated hitters; today, let’s take a look at second basemen.

First, some ground rules. To come up with an overall player population roughly equal to one player per team per position, the minimum number of batted balls with Statcast readings was set at 164. Players were listed at the position at which they played the most games. There is more than one player per team at some positions and less at others, like catcher and DH. Players are listed in descending OPS+ order. Without further ado, let’s kick it off with AL second sackers.

BIP Overview – AL Second Basemen
Name Avg MPH FB/LD MPH GB MPH POP% FLY% LD% GB% CON K% BB% OPS+ Pull% Cent% Opp%
Forsythe 89.22 92.10 87.23 3.2% 37.4% 19.8% 39.6% 115 18.0% 8.9% 123 39.1% 36.3% 24.6%
Altuve 86.29 90.26 83.92 3.0% 32.2% 18.1% 46.7% 104 9.7% 4.8% 122 45.3% 35.5% 19.1%
Kipnis 89.88 92.58 87.37 1.9% 26.2% 26.8% 45.0% 119 16.7% 8.9% 121 35.3% 36.1% 28.6%
Zobrist 89.05 92.22 86.89 3.6% 28.8% 18.6% 49.0% 93 10.5% 11.6% 120 45.7% 31.7% 22.6%
Cano 90.88 94.74 88.06 1.1% 24.2% 24.2% 50.5% 110 15.9% 6.4% 118 36.3% 41.1% 22.7%
Kinsler 86.38 88.29 84.69 5.2% 35.5% 25.4% 33.9% 98 11.9% 6.4% 113 41.9% 34.1% 24.0%
Pedroia 88.47 91.77 86.27 4.5% 27.3% 17.7% 50.5% 100 12.0% 8.9% 113 40.1% 38.6% 21.3%
Schoop 90.79 94.36 88.89 5.3% 32.4% 19.3% 43.0% 142 24.6% 2.8% 110 43.2% 31.0% 25.8%
Odor 88.44 92.93 86.35 7.6% 32.1% 14.6% 45.8% 105 16.8% 4.9% 107 46.9% 31.6% 21.5%
Dozier 87.51 92.32 80.34 8.7% 35.4% 22.6% 33.3% 104 21.0% 8.7% 101 60.2% 24.2% 15.6%
Holt 86.65 88.85 85.46 1.1% 22.4% 23.8% 52.7% 100 19.1% 9.0% 96 33.4% 40.1% 26.5%
Giavotella 85.62 87.87 83.78 3.0% 27.5% 23.7% 45.8% 75 11.8% 6.4% 96 36.7% 38.6% 24.7%
Goins 87.36 89.16 86.62 3.1% 24.8% 18.0% 54.1% 81 19.4% 9.1% 86 34.1% 36.4% 29.5%
Drew 86.53 88.56 84.51 6.1% 40.5% 15.7% 37.7% 66 16.6% 8.6% 78 47.0% 33.2% 19.8%
Sanchez 86.07 89.15 84.31 2.0% 21.1% 22.8% 54.1% 67 19.3% 4.5% 66 30.8% 36.5% 32.7%
Sogard 84.52 86.71 84.17 3.1% 30.5% 22.0% 44.3% 60 12.5% 5.7% 66 35.6% 39.9% 24.5%
Infante 84.41 86.88 83.75 3.8% 33.9% 21.0% 41.2% 57 15.2% 2.0% 49 43.5% 34.5% 22.0%
AVG 87.53 90.51 85.45 3.9% 30.1% 20.8% 45.1% 94 15.9% 6.9% 99 40.9% 35.3% 23.9%

Most of the column headers are self explanatory, including average BIP speed (overall and by BIP type), BIP type frequency, K and BB rates, and BIP by field sector (pull, central, opposite). Each player’s OPS and Unadjusted Contact Score (CON) is also listed. For those of you who have not read my articles on the topic, Contact Score is derived by removing Ks and BBs from hitters’ batting lines, assigning run values to all other events, and comparing them to a league average of 100.

Cells are also color coded. If a hitter’s value is two standard deviations or more higher than average (the average of all players in the league, not just at the player’s position), the field is shaded red. If it’s one to two STD higher than average, it’s shaded orange. If it’s one-half to one STD higher than average, it’s shaded dark yellow. If it’s one-half to one STD less than average, it’s shaded blue. If it’s over one STD less than average, it’s shaded black. Ran out of colors at that point. On the rare occasions that a value is over two STD lower than average, we’ll mention it if necessary in the text. Compared to the first base and DH tables, there’s a lot less red, orange and yellow, and much more blue and black in the second-base tables. On to some random player comments.

Logan Forsythe was our surprise AL second-base OPS+ leader in 2015. He did so by being… not below average at anything. He pushed his fly-ball rate about as high as possible before bad things start to happen, and maintained K, BB and BIP authority rates right around major league average. At second base, this renders you a well above-average offensive player. His upside, however, isn’t much better than his 2015 level, and slight negative regression should be expected.

One might be surprised to see that Jose Altuve’s average BIP authority is so much lower than average. By far, his foremost attribute is his ability to put the ball in play; that low K rate is no fluke, and gives him significant margin for error with regard to BIP authority. So does his exceptional speed. On the positive side, we should expect Altuve’s unusually low liner rate to regress positively moving forward, though on the negative side, his pull tendency makes him susceptible to the weak, roll-over ground ball.

Unlike other BIP types, liner rates tend to fluctuate quite a bit from year to year… for most players. Not so Jason Kipnis. His 26.8% liner rate was off the charts high last season, the best in the AL. However, he is no stranger to high liner rates, posting percentile ranks of 78 or higher in each of his four seasons as a regular. If he can nudge his fly-ball rates closer to league average, there are star-caliber offensive seasons in his near future.

Much was written (some of it by me) regarding Robinson Cano’s 2015 struggles. As you can see, there’s still a lot to like about the Mariner second sacker: he hits the ball harder in the air than any of his AL positional peers, and like Kipnis, routinely runs liner rates well above league average. There are clear signs of decline, however. His K rate is trending up, his walk rate down, he cannot elevate the baseball with any regularity, and his BIP authority, while still good, isn’t what it used to be. His floor remains high, but his ceiling is nowhere near where it once was. 2015 is his new normal.

There are clear warning signs, and the life raft of a very low K rate, within Ian Kinsler’s profile. Kinsler no longer hits the ball hard with any degree of regularity, and his very high 2015 liner rate is way out of whack with career norms. Even with all of those liners, he had a below average (98) contact score. Many of those liners are going away, likely dragging his OPS+ below 100 in 2016 and beyond.

Dustin Pedroia will be 32 in 2016, but I actually am expecting improvement from him. His BIP authority is right where it’s always been, in the league-average range, while his overall 2015 results were limited by an unusually low liner rate. His liner rate was league average or better the previous three seasons; there’s no reason it shouldn’t be in that range moving forward.

Couple youngsters are next on tap. Jonathan Schoop’s BIP authority spiked in 2015, and that isn’t going away. He’s the only AL second baseman besides Cano to hit the ball so hard with any regularity. His 142 contact score was by far the highest among his peers last season; some of that was good fortune, but not all of it. The big problem is his awful K and BB rates. He was one of only four AL regulars (along with Yan Gomes, Jake Marisnick and Eddie Rosario) to have both K and BB rates over a full standard deviation worse than league average. That’s not exactly a who’s who of long-term offensive studs. Despite this, Schoop was a better-than-average offensive performer in 2015; if he can push his K and/or BB rate into the average range, he’s a potential star, at an up-the-middle position. Plenty of risk, but tons of potential reward.

Then there’s Rougned Odor, two years younger than Schoop. On the negative side, his pop-up rate is ridiculously high for a non-masher. His pull rate is also a bit extreme, and invites infield overshifts. On the other hand, that liner rate has nowhere to go but up. Remember, his full-season 2015 numbers are contaminated by his early-season ineptitude that resulted in a demotion to Triple-A. He’s already better than these numbers, and has posted league-average authority as a 21-year-old. There are areas to work on, but Odor is a star in the making, with similar upside but a much higher floor than Schoop.

Brian Dozier certainly has mined every ounce of production that could have possibly been expected of him. He’s an extreme pull hitter and pop-up generator — over two STD higher than average in both categories — and also hits his grounders over two STD weaker than league average. Virtually all of his offensive value is derived from homers pulled down the left-field line. To make matters worse, his liner rate was unusually high in 2015, and is primed to plunge this time around. On top of everything else, his fly-ball rate (excluding pop ups) was higher than his grounder rate; such hitters tend to decline the following year. Sell short on Dozier in 2016.

Overall, AL second basemen had an average 99 OPS+ and 94 Contact Score last season. They hit the ball relatively weakly, but on balance are near-average offensive performers thanks to their low K rates. Next, let’s look at their NL counterparts.

BIP Overview – NL Second Basemen
Name Avg MPH FB/LD MPH GB MPH POP% FLY% LD% GB% CON K% BB% OPS+ Pull% Cent% Opp%
Panik 86.94 89.58 84.83 2.6% 31.2% 23.0% 43.1% 106 9.7% 8.8% 131 33.7% 37.2% 29.1%
Gordon 83.89 86.99 82.89 0.6% 18.1% 21.5% 59.8% 115 13.9% 3.8% 114 30.1% 38.5% 31.4%
Murphy 90.59 93.07 88.48 3.6% 32.4% 21.2% 42.8% 88 7.1% 5.8% 113 40.7% 31.3% 28.1%
Kendrick 90.44 93.64 88.48 0.0% 16.7% 24.5% 58.7% 109 16.6% 5.5% 107 27.3% 40.6% 32.0%
Spangenberg 86.40 90.86 84.15 0.9% 23.6% 25.0% 50.5% 107 21.7% 8.1% 106 33.1% 33.1% 33.9%
Walker 88.93 92.81 85.65 1.8% 35.0% 21.4% 41.8% 106 18.2% 7.3% 106 40.8% 35.4% 23.8%
Phillips 86.99 87.57 86.76 3.1% 27.2% 24.9% 44.8% 90 10.9% 4.3% 97 34.9% 33.6% 31.5%
Gyorko 89.02 91.94 85.91 2.5% 34.2% 21.0% 42.3% 104 23.4% 5.9% 94 40.8% 37.6% 21.6%
Espinosa 85.00 89.82 83.29 5.6% 31.2% 18.4% 44.8% 113 25.7% 8.0% 92 43.5% 30.3% 26.2%
Wong 87.93 89.49 87.47 5.0% 27.8% 22.5% 44.7% 88 15.5% 5.9% 92 40.5% 36.0% 23.6%
Rendon 90.24 92.38 89.97 1.6% 31.7% 21.4% 45.3% 95 19.7% 10.1% 91 38.8% 32.2% 29.0%
LeMahieu 89.81 92.07 88.05 0.2% 19.3% 26.0% 54.5% 108 17.3% 8.1% 91 21.2% 39.8% 39.0%
Russell 86.97 91.05 83.72 5.9% 34.8% 18.2% 41.0% 120 28.5% 8.0% 90 42.6% 32.8% 24.6%
Hernandez 84.71 89.71 82.63 0.7% 21.2% 23.8% 54.3% 92 19.0% 8.8% 90 32.1% 37.0% 30.9%
Gennett 85.63 89.56 82.40 4.0% 25.8% 21.5% 48.7% 92 17.4% 3.1% 83 37.5% 30.9% 31.6%
Peterson 86.58 89.18 86.96 2.3% 29.5% 22.0% 46.3% 79 20.1% 9.4% 82 38.5% 33.7% 27.8%
Hill 88.86 91.32 86.41 2.3% 35.9% 19.9% 41.9% 67 15.3% 8.8% 73 45.3% 33.3% 21.4%
Utley 89.24 91.79 88.70 3.2% 33.1% 20.1% 43.6% 61 15.1% 7.6% 73 40.7% 39.1% 20.2%
Owings 87.04 88.90 85.96 3.0% 31.2% 26.2% 39.7% 82 26.1% 4.7% 58 38.3% 34.7% 27.0%
AVG 87.64 90.62 85.93 2.6% 28.4% 22.2% 46.8% 96 18.0% 6.9% 94 36.9% 35.1% 28.0%

First off, it’s quite noticeable that the five most productive NL second basemen had above-average opposite-field rates. Joe Panik led the way. Talk about a high floor. That very low K rate buys him margin for error with regard to BIP authority. He needs it, as there is minimal power upside here. There was some luck involved in his 131 OPS+, but his low-K, solid liner rate foundation cinches 100+ OPS+ figures in the intermediate term.

Oh boy, is Dee Gordon going to be an interesting one to watch. He is Vince Coleman; his entire offensive game is based upon his speed. His average overall BIP authority is actually over two STD lower than average. His low BB rate is also a hindrance. Gordon’s liner rates have been abysmally low at times in the past; a repeat would wreck his offensive game. There’s an awful lot of risk here, considering his increasing price tag; think Ozzie Smith without the walks moving forward.

Daniel Murphy is the NL’s version of Logan Forsythe; the best thing about his profile is his lack of weaknesses. He also made some adjustments that should pay dividends for the long term: he cut his K rate nearly in half, focused on selectively pulling pitches in his hot zone, and in the process showed above average BIP authority for the first time in his career. His contact score suggests that if anything, he was a bit unlucky in 2015. His new profile would appear to have staying power; don’t expect a traditional early-30s decline phase.

Talk about nice, smooth aging curves: how about Howie Kendrick? He hits the ball harder than average, with few fly balls but a high liner rate. This past season marked his eighth straight year with an above-average mark in that category. Kendrick is also one of the more extreme opposite-field hitters in the game. You don’t need an advanced projection system for this guy: until further notice, keep plugging in the .285 average, 30 double seasons.

Sell your Cory Spangenberg stock. The only positive item in his profile is a high liner rate. He doesn’t hit the ball hard, and strikes out way too much for someone with no juice. He’s basically Scooter Gennett with a more nuanced, opposite-field approach. Expect him to move toward the back of the second-base pack this season.

Met fans shouldn’t notice a material difference at second base this year. Neil Walker’s profile doesn’t differ that much from Murphy’s. No real plusses or, more importantly, minuses. He selectively pulls for distance, like Murphy, though he strikes out quite a bit more. Walker is what he is, a slightly above-average player whose floor and ceiling are much closer together than is typical.

Brandon Phillips‘ steep decline was masked by a spike in his liner rate last season. It was in the 85th percentile in 2015 after three straight years below average. His meager 90 contact score despite all those liners should give you an ide of how ugly it might get moving forward. He could be headed down Omar Infante Highway.

Kolten Wong’s inability to truly break through with the bat to this point has been a bit maddening, but I’d still bet on it happening. He played 2015 at age 24, his BIP authority is already in the average range — compared to all positions, not just second base — and he’s getting this done with a lower than average K rate. His 88 contact score suggests some bad luck. I’d guess that, moving forward, his OPS+ and contact scores will exceed 100 regularly.

Speaking of forward steps, look for the same from Anthony Rendon. His BIP authority, especially on the ground, is in the upper tier among this group, and his walk and pop-up rates are also better than average, though his K rate did spike a bit in 2015. There was some bad luck involved in his 95 contact score; he should be considered a better than average offensive second baseman. He is, however, moving to 3B, where the stakes get raised a bit. Health, as usual, remains the largest factor moving forward.

I’m not going to be the guy saying that Addison Russell lacks star potential, but he does have some things to work on. He hits the ball weakly on the ground, often to the pull side, inviting infield overshifts. He has the double whammy of very high K and pop-up rates, which won’t be easy to turn around. His low liner rate is less of a worry. There’s actually a bit of good luck baked into his 120 contact score; without shoring up his weaknesses, his performance could drift lower in the short term.

I wouldn’t write off Chase Utley just yet. There are no red flags in his profile: BIP authority, though not above average for the first time in the Hit f(x) era, is still solid, his K rate remains low, and his pull tendency is in check. In fact, what he needs to do is selectively pull in the air a bit more, as too many of his fly balls are now in the “donut hole” velocity-wise, and in the middle of the field.

Chris Owings had a 58 OPS+ — with a 26.2% liner rate — that just about sums up his lack of an offensive future. He and D-backs teammate Yasmany Tomas were the only two NL regulars to have K and BB rates over a full STD worse than average in 2015.

NL second basemen were a tad less productive than their AL peers, with an average 94 OPS+ and 96 Contact Score. They pulled the ball less, and hit more liners and fewer pop ups than their junior circuit counterparts.





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Caveman Jones
6 years ago

Looking at past events like this is very illuminating. Love your style, keep it coming.