Team Ball-in-Play Analysis: An Overview

Over the last few weeks we have taken a position-by-position look at granular ball-in-play data for both hitters and pitchers, assessing their respective contact quality/management ability. Next up: a macro-type evaluation of overall team performance in those areas.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a division-by-division look at each team’s granular data through the All-Star break, ultimately comparing their actual won-lost records to projected ones based on exit speed/angle of every ball in play hit and allowed by each club. About 90 games’ worth of balls in play is a fairly substantial sample size, one that enables us to make fairly educated guesses about the true talent level of each team. Today, we’ll focus on a brief overview of general BIP data estimating the overall hitting, pitching and defensive abilities of all 30 clubs; we’ll drill deeper into the data in the subsequent divisional articles.

First up, the American League:

Team Contact Quality – AL
ASB HIT
Team Avg MPH FLY MPH LD MPH GB MPH POP% FLY% LD% GB% ADJ C K% BB% wRC+ ADJ PR Pull%
Orioles 90.5 91.0 95.1 88.6 4.9% 33.2% 19.9% 42.0% 121 22.4% 7.9% 110 109 41.4%
Tigers 89.2 90.6 93.0 86.2 2.9% 33.1% 22.4% 41.6% 120 22.2% 7.9% 102 108 39.4%
Red Sox 90.3 91.0 94.4 88.7 3.8% 29.6% 20.5% 46.1% 102 17.9% 8.9% 117 107 39.8%
Blue Jays 90.5 92.1 95.1 87.3 4.7% 33.4% 20.1% 41.8% 111 21.5% 9.8% 105 107 42.4%
Mariners 90.3 91.5 93.3 88.9 3.2% 30.3% 19.4% 47.1% 106 20.1% 8.0% 109 103 39.0%
Astros 89.4 90.8 94.6 86.1 3.1% 31.3% 21.5% 44.1% 110 24.0% 9.9% 96 100 44.7%
Indians 89.2 90.2 91.5 87.8 3.4% 32.9% 21.5% 42.2% 101 20.9% 8.2% 101 99 41.5%
Angels 88.6 88.5 92.5 86.8 3.2% 30.8% 20.9% 45.1% 90 15.5% 7.8% 101 99 37.7%
Rangers 88.8 89.1 93.2 87.1 3.4% 31.2% 20.5% 44.9% 100 19.7% 7.0% 94 97 40.9%
Twins 89.6 91.2 93.0 86.9 3.5% 33.0% 21.1% 42.4% 103 22.0% 8.3% 95 96 40.2%
Athletics 87.8 88.8 92.5 85.3 3.3% 32.4% 20.6% 43.7% 93 18.0% 6.7% 88 94 37.7%
Rays 90.5 91.1 95.5 88.1 5.0% 34.2% 19.4% 41.4% 105 24.8% 7.7% 95 90 43.0%
Royals 88.7 88.0 91.5 88.4 3.5% 28.7% 20.5% 47.4% 92 19.5% 6.0% 93 89 37.7%
White Sox 89.1 88.3 93.5 87.8 4.0% 29.1% 20.5% 46.4% 94 21.5% 8.0% 89 89 39.2%
Yankees 88.6 88.9 92.9 87.0 3.3% 28.9% 20.5% 47.4% 87 18.6% 7.7% 88 89 41.2%
AVERAGE 89.4 90.1 93.4 87.4 3.7% 31.5% 20.6% 44.2% 102 20.6% 8.0% 99 98 40.4%

 

Team Contact Management/Defense – AL
Team AVG MPH FB MPH LD MPH GB MPH POP % FLY % LD% GB% ADJ C K% BB% ERA- FIP- TRU – DEF
Astros 88.4 88.8 93.4 85.9 3.5% 28.6% 21.4% 46.5% 95 21.7% 7.1% 90 87 92 106.5
White Sox 89.1 89.2 92.9 87.6 3.7% 31.4% 21.0% 43.9% 90 20.3% 8.8% 93 95 95 103.5
Yankees 89.8 91.0 93.8 87.5 3.6% 28.2% 20.1% 48.0% 106 23.8% 6.5% 102 91 95 103.0
Indians 89.5 90.2 92.6 88.0 3.0% 30.7% 19.8% 46.5% 101 22.7% 7.7% 85 91 96 94.8
Mariners 88.9 89.9 91.7 87.5 4.0% 31.9% 20.1% 44.1% 101 21.9% 7.7% 96 102 98 102.4
Blue Jays 89.8 90.5 94.8 87.9 4.0% 28.6% 20.1% 47.3% 102 20.7% 7.4% 86 94 101 95.9
Tigers 89.4 90.1 93.4 87.9 4.5% 30.3% 19.8% 45.5% 98 19.2% 7.9% 105 97 102 106.7
Rays 90.1 90.5 94.6 88.0 3.6% 33.8% 20.7% 41.9% 106 22.1% 8.1% 110 103 102 98.3
Orioles 89.4 88.9 93.1 88.6 3.3% 30.8% 21.8% 44.1% 98 19.5% 9.0% 99 99 104 102.2
Royals 89.7 90.6 93.2 87.9 3.8% 33.5% 18.6% 44.1% 106 21.9% 8.5% 96 105 104 92.8
Red Sox 88.9 89.9 93.5 86.2 3.4% 33.5% 21.2% 41.9% 108 22.4% 8.4% 98 101 104 86.6
Athletics 89.1 90.4 93.3 86.5 3.5% 30.0% 20.3% 46.3% 102 19.5% 8.2% 113 104 105 108.0
Angels 89.3 90.6 93.2 86.8 4.4% 33.9% 20.8% 40.9% 102 18.7% 8.4% 111 113 108 105.3
Twins 90.2 90.8 94.4 87.6 2.9% 32.9% 21.7% 42.5% 111 19.5% 7.1% 115 104 111 104.6
Rangers 89.0 90.1 92.5 86.8 2.9% 31.9% 20.3% 44.9% 101 16.9% 8.8% 97 110 112 95.0
AVERAGE 89.4 90.1 93.4 87.4 3.6% 31.3% 20.5% 44.6% 102 20.7% 8.0% 100 100 102 100.4

Most of the column headers are self-explanatory, including average BIP speed (overall and by BIP type), BIP type frequency, K and BB rates, wRC+ and Adjusted Production for hitters and traditional ERA-, FIP-, and “tru” ERA- for pitchers, both of which incorporate the exit speed/angle data. Each team’s offensive and defensive Adjusted Contact Score (ADJ C) is also listed. Adjusted Contact Score applies league-average production to each team’s actual offensive and defensive BIP type and velocity mix, and compares it to league average of 100.

I’d like to call special attention to the “DEF” column in the team contact-management table. It measures each team defense’s inflationary or deflationary impact on run-scoring vis-à-vis its opposition. This is done by comparing both clubs’ actual vs. projected runs scored and allowed to the projected run-scoring environment based on exit speed/angle of all BIP in those games. It encompasses not only individual player defense, but the impact of extra bases taken on batted balls, the impact of overshifting for and against, and, alas, random chance. A number under 100 is good, over 100, not so good.

Cells are also color coded. If a team’s value is two standard deviations or more higher than average, 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.

Now for a few words about defining characteristics of some AL clubs. What makes some of the premier AL teams tick? For the Orioles, it’s all about offensive BIP velocity. They hit all BIP types very hard, enabling them to post an AL-best 121 team Adjusted Contact Score, despite a fairly low team liner rate. Their team Adjusted Production drops to 109 thanks to a mediocre-at-best K-BB profile. In a sense, their team offense has taken on the personality of Mark Trumbo having a career year, and is carrying their nondescript pitching and defense.

The Red Sox are an interesting case. Their 117 wRC+ is inflated by their run-inflating home park. They hit the ball almost as hard as the Orioles, but their Adjusted Contact Score sits at a mere 102 thanks in large part to a high team grounder rate. Their team Adjusted Production jumps to 107 thanks to a strong offensive K-BB profile. They seem to have taken on the personality of Xander Bogaerts. Their pitching line is worse than that of the Orioles, but look at that MLB-best 86.6 team defense factor. They have taken advantage of Fenway and the Monster to a much greater extent than their opposition.

The Blue Jay offense is right in there with the O’s and the Sox, stylistically much more like the former, but with lesser grounder authority and a K-BB profile somewhere between the two. On the mound, the Jays are a weird mix of a very strong grounder tendency but much harder-than-average authority allowed. They look like the most balanced of the three Eastern contenders, if not the best.

There are five AL clubs hitting the ball much harder than the norm: the three contenders above, the Mariners (whom we’ll discuss shortly), and… the Rays? The Rays hit the ball hard when they hit it, which is less often than any other AL club. They also allow the second-hardest average exit velocity in the AL, behind only the Twins.

The Indians are a pretty average ball club in most departments, lacking weaknesses, but their pitching staff’s exceptional K-BB spread and their third-best-in-the-AL team defense manages to set them apart. Their staff also induces grounders at the third-highest rate in the league.

The Tigers’ offense remains one of the best, thanks to a high liner rate driven by the great Miguel Cabrera. Their team Adjusted Contact Score of 120 trails only the O’s, a team whose team K and BB rates are almost identical to their own. On the mound, they induce the most pop ups of any AL club, while simultaneously limiting fly balls. They reflect the traits of late-career Justin Verlander, right down to the reduced K rate. The Tigers’ biggest problem is their team defense, second worst in the AL using my method.

The Rangers aren’t very good. Only a low K rate keeps their relatively light-hitting offense in the middle of the AL pack. Their first-half pitching performance was arguably the worst in the league: their K rate was over two full STD below league average, and their BB rate over one STD above. They need more than the return of Yu Darvish to keep them afloat. A solid team defense has been a welcome mitigating factor.

There are two AL West clubs better than the Rangers. The Astros offense is of the all-or-nothing variety, hitting the ball hard in the air but softly on the ground, with a high K rate. Thankfully, Jose Altuve himself props up their liner rate, while otherwise their pull-happy offense takes on the characteristics of Colby Rasmus. Their pitching staff is quietly exceptional, managing contact extremely well, suffocating average exit speed at over two full STD below league average. Their high-grounder, solid K/BB staff takes on the persona of Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh, though their defense leaves much to be desired.

The Mariners are also legit contenders. Their offense matches up with the AL East Big Three, and is most comparable to Boston’s, with its lower fly-ball rate. It reflects the personality of Robinson Cano. On the mound, they’re quite good at limiting hard contact, and have maintained a solid K/BB ratio despite limited contribution to date from Felix Hernandez. Their defense isn’t good, but it’s not the disaster area it’s been in the recent past. Watch out for these guys.

Now, for the NL.

Team Contact Quality – NL
Name Avg MPH FLY MPH LD MPH GB MPH POP% FLY% LD% GB% ADJ C K% BB% wRC+ ADJ PR Pull%
Cardinals 89.6 91.0 92.7 87.2 2.8% 33.7% 19.0% 44.5% 107 19.8% 9.0% 108 106 41.2%
Nationals 90.3 90.5 95.2 88.3 3.1% 33.6% 19.0% 44.4% 104 19.8% 9.3% 98 105 41.8%
Cubs 89.4 90.5 92.7 86.8 3.1% 33.1% 21.5% 42.3% 106 21.9% 10.8% 109 104 41.6%
Giants 88.1 88.6 92.0 85.9 2.7% 29.5% 22.6% 45.3% 93 17.1% 9.3% 104 102 36.7%
Rockies 89.4 89.4 93.3 88.0 2.6% 31.2% 21.2% 45.0% 106 21.1% 8.0% 93 101 38.2%
Dodgers 89.9 90.2 94.4 88.1 3.1% 28.9% 20.7% 47.4% 99 20.5% 8.9% 92 97 37.2%
Pirates 88.7 90.1 92.6 85.7 2.5% 28.4% 21.5% 47.5% 102 21.6% 8.5% 103 96 39.6%
Mets 89.4 90.7 93.5 86.3 3.7% 35.2% 21.5% 39.6% 103 23.1% 8.7% 97 95 41.7%
D’backs 90.1 90.9 94.0 87.7 2.4% 27.1% 21.4% 49.1% 103 23.0% 7.3% 96 92 37.9%
Marlins 89.9 87.9 93.4 89.9 2.8% 27.2% 20.8% 49.2% 94 20.1% 7.4% 97 91 34.9%
Brewers 89.1 89.5 93.3 87.1 2.8% 28.7% 21.3% 47.2% 100 25.6% 9.8% 86 88 37.1%
Padres 88.1 89.8 91.6 85.5 3.0% 30.3% 20.6% 46.2% 97 24.3% 7.3% 89 85 39.3%
Phillies 89.2 89.7 92.8 87.8 3.6% 29.8% 20.0% 46.6% 91 21.6% 6.4% 80 84 37.9%
Reds 87.2 88.9 90.2 84.6 2.6% 31.8% 22.0% 43.6% 89 22.7% 7.1% 79 82 39.6%
Braves 89.0 88.4 92.9 87.7 2.6% 28.6% 20.8% 48.0% 83 20.3% 7.3% 72 82 34.0%
AVERAGE 89.2 89.7 93.0 87.1 2.9% 30.5% 20.9% 45.7% 98 21.5% 8.3% 94 94 38.6%

 

Team Contact Management/Defense – NL
Team AVG MPH FB MPH LD MPH GB MPH POP % FLY % LD% GB% ADJ C K% BB% ERA- FIP- TRU – DEF
Nationals 88.8 89.6 91.9 87.2 3.4% 31.2% 20.8% 44.6% 88 25.7% 7.6% 79 85 78 107.4
Dodgers 87.8 89.1 91.8 85.0 4.6% 31.4% 20.6% 43.4% 88 26.0% 7.5% 86 84 78 106.4
Cubs 89.2 89.6 93.0 87.4 3.0% 30.8% 19.5% 46.7% 88 24.0% 8.4% 81 93 83 89.1
Mets 89.3 89.2 93.4 87.4 3.1% 30.1% 22.0% 44.8% 98 23.0% 6.9% 86 85 90 104.9
Giants 89.1 89.7 92.7 87.5 3.2% 30.8% 20.0% 46.0% 94 20.8% 6.8% 94 95 92 98.7
Cardinals 88.7 89.8 92.3 86.5 1.9% 26.4% 21.2% 50.5% 96 20.7% 7.5% 95 92 96 95.7
Phillies 89.6 90.4 93.4 87.5 3.7% 30.9% 22.2% 43.2% 107 22.4% 7.1% 104 98 100 103.2
Marlins 89.3 89.5 93.6 86.9 2.8% 32.8% 22.5% 41.9% 102 22.3% 9.4% 97 100 101 91.9
Padres 89.8 90.5 94.1 87.6 3.1% 29.8% 20.9% 46.2% 101 21.2% 9.5% 116 106 103 102.4
Pirates 89.0 89.2 92.8 87.4 2.7% 29.7% 21.3% 46.4% 95 18.3% 9.0% 110 112 104 98.8
Braves 90.0 89.8 93.6 88.8 3.3% 32.3% 19.6% 44.8% 102 20.1% 8.5% 105 105 105 100.6
D’backs 89.5 89.6 93.4 87.8 2.9% 29.1% 20.9% 47.1% 104 20.1% 9.1% 110 106 107 98.2
Brewers 89.2 89.7 92.7 87.8 2.4% 31.6% 21.3% 44.7% 101 18.9% 9.2% 105 110 108 101.8
Rockies 89.1 89.9 92.6 87.2 1.8% 26.9% 21.7% 49.6% 104 18.9% 7.9% 104 98 108 97.9
Reds 89.1 90.4 93.3 86.2 3.0% 34.5% 20.6% 42.0% 107 18.1% 10.8% 129 133 120 98.3
AVERAGE 89.2 89.7 93.0 87.2 3.0% 30.6% 21.0% 45.5% 98 21.4% 8.3% 100 100 98 99.7

The above tables show only seven clubs worthy of postseason consideration, with the Mets and Marlins clearly behind the other five. The Nationals hit the ball harder than any NL club, and combine such authority with a strong K-BB profile. Their pitching staff’s Adjusted Contact Score of 88 is tied with the Dodgers and Cubs for NL best, and is augmented by a very strong K-BB spread that is second only to the Dodgers. Their team defense rates as worst in the NL using my method, but like some Yankee championship teams of fairly recent vintage, they’re strong enough in other areas to carry it.

The Mets have a feast-or-famine offense, with the highest fly-ball rate in MLB. Unfortunately, their pop-up rate is first, as well. Their offense reflects the profile of Curtis Granderson. Their pitching staff is obviously the Mets’ greatest strength. Their Adjusted Contact Score allowed of 98 is higher than the Nats/Dodgers/Cubs due to an elevated liner rate, but a very strong K-BB spread keeps them in the league’s upper echelon.

The Marlins offense is unremarkable in many areas. While they hit the most, they also hit the hardest, grounders in either league. That’s thanks to Christian Yelich, who possesses the same traits at the individual level. Despite the presence of Jose Fernandez, their team pitching line is basically league average. Their team defense, second best in the NL, has been a difference-maker that has kept them in the thick of the wild-card race.

Despite their recent struggles, the Cubs remain the best and most balanced team in either league. Their offense might be a bit understated, but they walk way more than anyone else, and hit enough fly balls to fully tap into their power. On the mound, they combine a high K rate with a high grounder rate, the combination for which you strive. On top of it all is an elite team defense, the big separator between them, the Nats and Dodgers.

Never write off he Cardinals. Yes, their farm system is a bit down, one reason that I was a bit down on their prospects in the spring. Then Aledmys Diaz showed up and, like Stephen Piscotty before him, outperformed his minor-league numbers by some margin. As always, the Cards are hitting the ball harder than most while posting a strong K-BB profile. Their pitching staff’s K-BB profile is ordinary, but they thwart authority and induce more grounders than anyone, taking on the personality of late-career Adam Wainwright. Plus, their defense is better than advertised; sure, they make errors, but so do their opponents. An official scorer bias, perhaps?

I picked the Giants to win the World Series in the spring, and I stand by that choice. On paper, however, the Dodgers are better. The Giants’ lone offensive strength is a big one: they strike out at a rate over two full STD below league average. They’re the only above-average offensive club in either league with lower than average exit speed. On the mound, they’re simply solid, without a weakness, while walking batters at a rate over one STD below league average. On balance, they’re a better than average defensive club, with Brandon Crawford carrying the load.

The Dodgers hit the ball very hard, but with a very high grounder rate, taking on the traits of a young Yasiel Puig. They shine on the mound, with Clayton Kershaw driving their MLB-best K-BB spread, and the troika of Kershaw, Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir enabling them to limit hitters to overall and grounder exit speed over two STD below league average. Like the Nats, the Dodgers have a subpar team defense that keeps them out of the Cubs’ class.

Some closing words on a couple weaker, but interesting clubs. So you thought the Reds’ MLB-worst-by-any-method pitching was their only problem? Their offensive overall and liner exit speed are both lowest in the majors, over two STD below league average. An 89 Adjusted Contact Score and 82 Adjusted Production, both second worst in the NL, despite the second-highest team liner rate? That’s pretty rough.

The Rockies offense is legitimately above NL average, even after adjustment for context. This is actually fairly big news. They don’t pop up or overly focus on pulling the baseball; they simply make contact and let the ballpark do the work. On the mound, the results aren’t great, but there are some underlying positives offering hope. Their walk rate is a tad below league average, and their grounder rate is second best in MLB. If they can get that K rate near MLB average, they’ll be heard from. One more Jon Gray could do the trick.





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raws
7 years ago

The information is really interesting, and the players named as representative of teams are amusing. I wonder about historical data and whether it is possible to construct institutional identities based on profiles. Would they be more reflective of General Manager acquisitions or coaches’ instruction and advice, or is a year to year correlation unlikely because so many factors are in play.

In any case, this series has been exceptional.

Big Daddy V
7 years ago
Reply to  raws

It’s been interesting to watch JD Martinez and Nick Castellanos, despite all their power, turn into hitters that spray line drives to all fields rather than just bomb the ball. Is that the organization’s coaching philosophy? Or did they just look at how Cabrera hits and follow his lead? I don’t know, but it sure is fun to watch.