Originally posted on Fangraphs  |  Last updated 3/2/12

Dare to dream.

On Thursday, we looked at Fielding Independent Offense (FIO) — as well as the Should Hit formula — and decided to toss stolen bases into the equation. The result were, let’s say, brow-elevating.

Today, we are going to put that result — the FIO formula — into action.

In the timeless words of Sir Samuel Leroy Jackson: “Hold onto your butts!”

Let us begin by addressing the widely discussed — and rightly so — matter of BABIP’s inclusion in FIO. One of the first questions we have to confront is: Does the inclusion of BABIP make this defensive dependent?

Yes, most certainly. But our only point of including BABIP is to get rid of it. Moreover, a hitter’s BABIP (over the course of, say, a season or more) is not really an indication of the defense he has played against, but rather an indication — or the beginnings of an indication — of a player’s BABIP skill. Think about it, when was the last time we used BABIP to decide which defenses were best in the league? (Never?)

I have digressed. The chief purpose of FIO is to put a numerical value to the effect of a change in BABIP. That is why BABIP is in it’s formula, that is why its nearness to wRC+ is essential, and that is why we have gone through this delightful little exercise.

Because here’s the thing, wOBA and wRC+ do not have BABIP as an input. When a player’s BABIP goes down, we have no means of inserting an xBABIP or somesuch into the formula and say, “Well, lookey here! If his BABIP goes back to .300, then his wRC+ goes to 110!”

Enter FIO.

These are the guts of wRC+:

And this is FIO:

BABIP is not the only ball to touch a fielder’s glove in the FIO chart. Some of the great catcher research lately by the likes of Mike Fast and Max Marchi have clearly shown not even strikeouts and walks are defensive independent. I’m digressing again, I realize, but the truth of the matter is this: BABIP is only in there so that we can try to smelt the precious Luck element out of it and then promptly toss the remaining in-play **** aside.

Let’s look at some specific examples of players who had abnormal BABIPs in 2011. With FIO, we can better pin the source of their struggles. Let’s look at:

Adam Dunn
Ichiro Suzuki
Jayson Werth
Jeff Francoeur
Carl Crawford

Let’s start with Dunn:

We have three lines here: His career wRC+, his FIO, and his FIO using only his career BABIP (not his season BABIP). Notice how his CaB-FIO (Career BABIP-FIO) stays much smoother than the other lines. We are employing the assumption here (which is not always true!) that changes in Dunn’s BABIP are mere fluctuations, not changes in his talent level or BABIP abilities (again, this is not always the case with players).

Employing that assumption, we can actually numerically estimate the affect of when Dunn’s 2011 BABIP dropped to .240 in 2011 (from .329 in 2010). CaB-FIO tells us: If Dunn had hit is career-norm BABIP — .292 — then his wRC+ would have instead been 75. In other words,

FIO says Adam Dunn needs to change his approach. Bad BABIP luck cannot be not the only thing at play here.

Ichiro had a rough year too — but don’t go crazy just yet, Mr. Mariner!

Here we see the opposite of Adam Dunn. Ichiro’s CaB-FIO indicates almost all of his struggles in 2011 came from his BABIP!

Which confirms not only my previous ruminations, but also the recent Clubhouse Confidential segment in which they noted the only major change in Ichiro’s numbers was his infield singles — not even his steals or his speed score dropped.

(But now the Mariners are having him change his stance and hit third. I hope that doesn’t ruin everything.) :(

Jayson Werth also had a down year, but he kind of appears in between both Suzuki (all bad luck) and Dunn (all bad approach):

CaB-FIO says he should have hit above average, but still well beneath his career norms. Maybe a look at his near-miss homers might reveal more bad luck, but his walk rate was also down. If he matches last year’s total of 27 homers to go with a career average BABIP, then he’s still only in the 127 neighborhood — which is much less than the Nats paid for.

If Jeff Francoeur has truly changed his approach at the plate, then he needs to convince CaB-FIO:

FIO saw the same guy as last year despite the uptick in steals and BABIP. Maybe he can sustain this new BABIP? Stranger things… Presumably could theoretically happen.

Lastly, by request, Carl Crawford:

Crawford had a miserable 2011 campaign. CaB-FIO says parts were due to bad luck, but the rest may have been the big free agent acquisition pressing at the plate. He had a career-high K%, a pretty dang bad BB%, and his lowest home run total in three years.

FIO says a normalization of luck (presuming his knees can still manage a .328 BABIP) will only bring him near league average. Crawford must stop pressing (or whatever he’s doing to strikeout more) if he wants to rebound in 2012.

So, what now?

I present the FIO Fun! Tool:

Feel free to edit in the white cells! Your changes are not saved to the master copy, so get frisky with it!

And for those who prefer wOBA:

You can download this one if you want to see, like, EVERYTHING. Just click ^ there.

A final note on the FI wOBA: As per another request, I ran these regressions on wOBA as well — to even more brow-elevating results! An R-squard of .97 — which makes sense, given the absence of park factors — makes FI wOBA a more than worthy substitute for FIO. I personally prefer the more intuitive plus scale of FIO, but for accuracy, FI wOBA is bar-none the better choice.

Please enjoy these tools! If you know how to, feel free to embed these spreadsheets wherever — all I ask for in return is links leading people back here (in the faint, distant prayer that people would actually learn how to operate this heavy machinery before lopping off some player’s head).

Image source.

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