Continuing my little Four Factors obsession this week, I wanted to take a look at the season we’ve seen so far from Mike Stanton. The rookie sensation has been amazing so far this season, batting a fairly ridiculous .266/.342/.547 (.381 wOBA) in his first exposure to major league pitching. Of course, some of it is likely a little out of line of than what you would expect. Remember, when Stanton first came up to the majors, I attempted to project how he would do based on his crazy season in Double-A and a conglomeration of his preseason projections. It may be time to revisit and revise that projection and compare which aspects of his game seem a bit out of line.
Stanton before and after
Check out the four factors line from the preseason projection and his current line.
I am actually quite surprised at how well the projection nailed the early returns from Stanton in terms of the four factors. The strikeout and walk rates are almost exact; the walk rate is a bit higher than his current unintentional walk rate (8.8%), while the strikeout rate is right on. The POWH numbers are not terribly far off; based on the numbers for the past three seasons’ worth of players with at least 400 PA, the difference between those figures is the difference between the power of Prince Fielder and Ryan Howard.
The one thing that stands out pretty significantly seems to be the BABIP. Most of the projection systems expected Stanton to bat for a low average due to the extremely high strikeout rate that he was expected to have. Those strikeouts have proven to be correct, but his performance on balls in play has kept that average and slash line afloat. Looking at the BABIP splits based on batted ball type, it seems that Stanton has hit much better on grounders than the league, batting .310 on ground balls. He also seems to have a slightly higher BABIP on fly balls, though given his power, this does not surprise me terribly.
Let’s put Stanton’s current four factors line from this season and vary the BABIP from the projected .287 to the .341 line he’s posting now. Here are the graphical results:
Here you can clearly see the importance of BABIP in the performance of Stanton this season. Using a .287 BABIP, Stanton rates as about an average hitter (a bit better this season given the slightly lower run environment in 2010), but at a .341 BABIP, the ffwOBA has him at .375, a difference of approximately 20 runs in one season.
Can he keep it up?
The important question for which every Marlins fan would rather hear an answer is whether Stanton can maintain this type of performance. I approached this question with this method in mind. First off, I did an updated projection using Stanton’s up-to-date stats including this season’s numbers in the majors along with the translated minor league numbers. Without regressing to the mean, this leads to an updated BABIP of .294, which according to the four factors sheet would yield an ffwOBA OF .337 (pretty close to what the fans predicted with their guts based on my earlier survey).
However, we should consider regressing the whole thing to the mean. Though I am unsure how much regression BABIP should go through for hitters (it’s about 1500 BIP for pitchers, by the way), I figured we could come up with an estimate as to what mean to which we should regress. Taking a look at the players above 0.900 POWH and more than 400 PA in the last three seasons, I took a simple average of all those players to find their four factors lines and see if they generally fit with Stanton. Here are the four factors averages compared to the Stanton pre-majors projection:
The average seems to be the same as the projection we had initially gotten, so I think even after regression to the appropriate population mean we should expect a BABIP around the .290 range. Given that, going forward, Marlins fans should expect a hitter closer to a .330 wOBA, around league average, even with that power boost. It doesn’t mean that we can’t expect Stanton to get better in terms of BABIP (he does hit the ball very hard, regardless of where it goes or what batted ball type it is), but it does mean that we must again keep our expectations tempered, at least at this type of strikeout rate.