Hitting ‘Em Where They Are (Invited)

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In 1999, Voros McCracken rocked the world of baseball analysis with a stunning argument: major league pitchers have no control over the outcomes of balls hit into play against them.  His controversial and counterintuitive paper has since become perhaps the single most-studied topic in baseball.  Although subsequent writers have been able to determine some exceptions to the rule, predicting batting average on balls in play (BABIP) has remained an exceedingly difficult task, and the most frequently used measures of pitchers’ skill do not bother to try.  This presentation will identify two components of pitchers’ performance that are strongly correlated with BABIP, and show how they can be used to forecast this statistic with surprising accuracy.  It will also explore which types of players possess these abilities, and how teams might use this information to improve their pitchers’ performance.

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