How do ground ball and fly ball rates impact hitters? Thanks to batted ball data, we can spot some trends in a player's approach that could give us clues to their performance moving forward.
Stat: Batted ball data (typically shown as GB%, LD% and FB%)
Where can I find it: Check FanGraphs. Baseball-Reference also carries similar stats.
What does it do: It tells you how often a player will hit a ground ball, line drive or fly ball.
I still don't understand: This is a fairly simple concept, but if you want more information about batted ball data, check the FanGraphs glossary. That link provides league averages for each type of batted ball, which is extremely helpful.
How can I use it: Batted ball data can tell you a couple of things. For one, it can help you get a better idea of a player's BABIP. Players who typically hit a ton of fly balls see their BABIPs drop. This is because it's harder to get a hit with a fly ball. Players who pound the ball on the ground see higher BABIPs, because those balls turn into outs less.
It can also give you a better idea of a hitter's skills at the plate. Are you wondering whether a player will start hitting for power? You can check their batted ball data to delve deeper into their approach. Are they hitting a ton of ground balls? Then it's not going to happen unless they start getting under the ball more.
Example: Worried about Billy Butler? You probably should be. His fly ball rates show that he's just not putting the ball in the air anymore. And while hitting grounders could boost batting average, Butler is not the type of player who can beat out infield hits.
What are the problems with this stat: You should wait until a player has about 200 plate appearances before trusting these rates. They also aren't terribly predictive. You can't just look at batted ball data and assume a player hitting more ground balls will hit for a higher average. It's better to use this to look at troublesome players. Is a guy experiencing a power surge hitting more fly balls? What about a guy with an elevated BABIP? Brett Lawrie has had some fly ball issues in the past, but he's been able to put the ball in the air more often this year. Use batted ball data for context, but don't overreact to what you're seeing. It can be used to help you form an opinion, but you shouldn't make major moves based solely on this data.
Anything else: Not at the moment.
Next post: Let's delve into PITCHf/x data. That should be fun.