If one were to try to account for how lucky, or unlucky-, a player has been during the course of a season, a common statistic to look to is said player’s Batting Average on Balls in Play. The statistic measures how often a player got a hit when putting a ball in play, separating all other in-game factors from the equation. While the statistic can help to tell the story of luck, it’s not entirely accurate. If a player makes weak contact by rolling grounders out to a pitcher time-and-time again, their BABIP will naturally be lower than league average. However, if a player is keen to hitting line drives and is suffering from a low BABIP, he may be the victim of bad luck (or strategic defensive positioning). Therefore, it’s hard to exactly determine how lucky or unlucky a player has been, but rather one can suggest luck based on a number of factors.
Ike Davis struggled to the point of a demotion this year, but was he the victim of bad luck? The numbers tell an interesting story.
In 2012, Davis hit line drives 21.2% of the time he made contact, ground balls at a 38.9% clip, and produced a fly ball 40% of the time. He ultimately ended up with 32 home runs and a slugging percentage that was beginning to creep near .500. His BABIP was .246 compared to a league average .300, or a surprising 54 points lower.
In 2013, Davis has hit line drives 19% of the time, pounded ground balls at a 45% clip, and produced fly balls 35.5%% of the time. His BABIP prior to being demoted to Las Vegas rested at .216 compared to the .295 league average.
The one major issue with Davis this season has been strikeouts -he has struck out in 31.9% of his plate appearances versus 24.1% in 2013- but beyond that his peripherals are largely similar. While his fly ball percentage was higher this season, he was hitting line drives only 2% less of the time he made contact, which theoretically shouldn’t produce such abysmal results unless he was simply unlucky at the plate. It’s not trying to excuse Davis’ performance, but rather simply suggesting that over the course of his tenure in Flushing he may have been subject to bad luck.
Photo Credit: Michael Baron