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It’s the start of June, and it’s the time of the year when you hear so called fantasy experts (intentionally lower case) talk about players that have gotten lucky or unlucky with BABIP.

More often than not, players that have wildly over-performed or under-performed their career BABIP will regress to the mean.

However there are instances when players change their approaches, make adjustments to their swings, and are able to improve their BABIPs.

These instances are few and far between, and, up until now, it’s been difficult to tell when these BABIP variations are a change in true talent or random variation.

This post will look at Pull% (i.e. the percentage of the time a player pulls a ball in play) and why you should want to pay attention to it:

  1. Pull percentage has an inverse correlation to BABIP
  2. Pull% has a strong year-to-year correlation, and, as a result, when you see changes in Pull% this may suggest a change in a player’s BABIP ability.

Research

It has long been speculated that players that use the whole field to hit and go the opposite way have better BABIPs, but there hasn’t been any empirical evidence to confirm or deny that this is true.

FanGraphs recently started to publish data provided by Baseball Info Solutions on batted ball location—whether a batted ball was pulled, hit up the middle, or hit to the opposite field—and batted ball strength—classifies batted balls as being hit hard, medium, or soft.

While the data on batted ball strength may provide additional information to explain why some players hit for higher BABIPs than others (the new Statcast data provides a more definitive and exact answer to batted ball strength (it can calculate velocity)), we will focus on batted ball location for now.

To start, we want to see if Pull% has any relationship to BABIP.

I looked at all qualified hitter seasons from 2002 (this is the first year that batted ball location data is available) to 2014 and looked at the correlation between BABIP and Pull%. What I found was a -.259r. This means that there is an inverse relationship between BABIP and Pull% (i.e. as a generalization, the more a player pulls the ball, the lower his BABIP will be).

The graph below groups the same population of players as above into groups by their pull percentage and shows the average BABIP of each group.

Pull% as it relates to BABIP

After the 54% group, the sample size of players in each Pull% group gets to be an issue—59% and after has no more than two players in each group—but, as long as the sample issue is disclosed, I thought it would be good to leave those groups in for the overall visual.

To build off of the previous graph, the graph below, like the former graph, groups players by their Pull%, but in order to increase the sample size of each population/group, I clustered the players by the percentile rank that their Pull% would put them in (e.g. Aramis Ramirez had a Pull% of 44.1% in 2014, which would put him in the 30th percentile of players for Pull%) and averaged all of the Pull%s for the players in each group.

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 2.57.07 PM

We can see that there is a clear relationship between BABIP and Pull%, but the fact that there is a .53r year-to-year correlation on Pull% shows that a players batted ball placement is actually a skill and not random variation (i.e. based on their approach, players are more or less likely to pull the ball (e.g. Jose Bautista is a player who completely overhauled his approach (and his career) through the conscious decision to pull the ball and sell out for more power, which can be seen in the numbers as he went from a 35.9 Pull% in 2009 to a 51.2 Pull% in 2010; he also went from 13 to 54 home runs in those same years).

Application

The chart below contains all players that had 100 plate appearances in 2014 and have had 100 plate appearances in 2015. The last two columns (Pull % Diff and BABIP Diff) allow you to sort by the players that have had the largest differences in their BABIP and Pull% from 2014 to 2015. The default sort shows players that have had the biggest increase in their Pull%.

PlayerTeamBABIP (2015)Pull% (2015)BABIP (2014)Pull% (2014)Pull% DiffBABIP Diff
Conor GillaspieWhite Sox0.29354.80%0.32539.3%15.50%-0.032
Todd FrazierReds0.2548.20%0.30937.7%10.50%-0.059
Starling MartePirates0.32849.20%0.37339.0%10.20%-0.045
Kevin PillarBlue Jays0.26550.60%0.33340.5%10.10%-0.068
David FreeseAngels0.2544.30%0.3334.4%9.90%-0.08
Adam LindBrewers0.32141.00%0.36931.4%9.60%-0.048
Shin-Soo ChooRangers0.28448.00%0.30838.7%9.30%-0.024
A.J. PierzynskiBraves0.25546.40%0.28337.7%8.70%-0.028
Jon JayCardinals0.28636.30%0.36327.8%8.50%-0.077
Ben ReverePhillies0.29238.00%0.3329.6%8.40%-0.038
Giancarlo StantonMarlins0.26750.90%0.35342.6%8.30%-0.086
Justin TurnerDodgers0.30737.50%0.40429.3%8.20%-0.097
Joe MauerTwins0.32930.60%0.34222.4%8.20%-0.013
Jose RamirezIndians0.21146.20%0.29738.3%7.90%-0.086
Dustin AckleyMariners0.18445.20%0.27337.4%7.80%-0.089
Kolten WongCardinals0.34946.10%0.27538.6%7.50%0.074
Joey VottoReds0.31543.20%0.29935.8%7.40%0.016
Stephen VogtAthletics0.32746.70%0.29739.4%7.30%0.03
Rougned OdorRangers0.18846.20%0.29438.9%7.30%-0.106
Daniel MurphyMets0.28841.10%0.32233.8%7.30%-0.034
Gregory PolancoPirates0.30946.40%0.27239.2%7.20%0.037
Gregor BlancoGiants0.34744.70%0.31137.5%7.20%0.036
Bryce HarperNationals0.36146.10%0.35238.9%7.20%0.009
Elvis AndrusRangers0.27239.00%0.30531.9%7.10%-0.033
Chris CoghlanCubs0.22146.60%0.33739.5%7.10%-0.116
Eric CampbellMets0.21244.80%0.34837.7%7.10%-0.136
Starlin CastroCubs0.31847.10%0.33740.2%6.90%-0.019
Brian McCannYankees0.25450.80%0.23144.1%6.70%0.023
Brian DozierTwins0.27360.30%0.26953.8%6.50%0.004
Brandon PhillipsReds0.32838.20%0.29831.8%6.40%0.03
Yadier MolinaCardinals0.32441.30%0.30734.9%6.40%0.017
Colby RasmusAstros0.32958.30%0.29452.3%6.00%0.035
Mookie BettsRed Sox0.26240.20%0.32734.6%5.60%-0.065
Adrian GonzalezDodgers0.36443.20%0.29437.6%5.60%0.07
Austin JacksonMariners0.28938.40%0.32532.8%5.60%-0.036
Casey McGeheeGiants0.23834.90%0.33529.6%5.30%-0.097
Ryan HowardPhillies0.29250.00%0.28844.8%5.20%0.004
Chris DavisOrioles0.28456.00%0.24250.9%5.10%0.042
Mike ZuninoMariners0.24754.30%0.24849.3%5.00%-0.001
Pedro AlvarezPirates0.27341.70%0.27736.8%4.90%-0.004
Dexter FowlerCubs0.28742.30%0.35137.8%4.50%-0.064
Michael CuddyerMets0.32541.60%0.35137.3%4.30%-0.026
Marwin GonzalezAstros0.29144.60%0.3340.7%3.90%-0.039
Didi GregoriusYankees0.24336.80%0.25732.9%3.90%-0.014
Adam LaRocheWhite Sox0.33346.90%0.27743.2%3.70%0.056
Robinson ChirinosRangers0.22746.60%0.26543.2%3.40%-0.038
Joe PanikGiants0.32935.80%0.34332.4%3.40%-0.014
Zack CozartReds0.27650.80%0.25547.5%3.30%0.021
Robinson CanoMariners0.29737.80%0.33534.5%3.30%-0.038
Martin MaldonadoBrewers0.1945.10%0.29341.8%3.30%-0.103
Yoenis CespedesTigers0.33848.30%0.29345.1%3.20%0.045
Brandon MossIndians0.25748.60%0.28345.4%3.20%-0.026
Steve PearceOrioles0.256.80%0.32253.6%3.20%-0.122
Omar InfanteRoyals0.27146.60%0.27543.9%2.70%-0.004
Mark TeixeiraYankees0.19258.20%0.23355.5%2.70%-0.041
Gerardo ParraBrewers0.36338.70%0.30636.2%2.50%0.057
Adeiny HechavarriaMarlins0.35128.70%0.32326.3%2.40%0.028
Andrelton SimmonsBraves0.27440.70%0.26338.4%2.30%0.011
Corey DickersonRockies0.36334.10%0.35631.9%2.20%0.007
Asdrubal CabreraRays0.27450.40%0.27248.5%1.90%0.002
Mitch MorelandRangers0.33339.30%0.31537.5%1.80%0.018
Michael MorseMarlins0.28734.80%0.34833.0%1.80%-0.061
Brad MillerMariners0.26541.30%0.26839.6%1.70%-0.003
Dustin PedroiaRed Sox0.30944.10%0.30742.5%1.60%0.002
Miguel CabreraTigers0.36439.30%0.34637.8%1.50%0.018
Michael BournIndians0.31937.90%0.33736.4%1.50%-0.018
Logan ForsytheRays0.32638.70%0.26837.3%1.40%0.058
Justin UptonPadres0.35338.90%0.33237.5%1.40%0.021
Adam JonesOrioles0.32144.40%0.31143.1%1.30%0.01
Troy TulowitzkiRockies0.34250.00%0.35548.7%1.30%-0.013
Billy ButlerAthletics0.2938.00%0.3136.7%1.30%-0.02
Christian YelichMarlins0.28629.10%0.35627.8%1.30%-0.07
Charlie BlackmonRockies0.30642.40%0.31541.2%1.20%-0.009
Eduardo EscobarTwins0.30241.40%0.33640.2%1.20%-0.034
Yasmani GrandalDodgers0.33835.80%0.27734.7%1.10%0.061
Chris OwingsDiamondbacks0.30834.20%0.31433.2%1.00%-0.006
Sam FuldAthletics0.23145.90%0.2844.9%1.00%-0.049
Travis SniderOrioles0.3739.20%0.29838.3%0.90%0.072
Anthony RizzoCubs0.32445.50%0.31144.7%0.80%0.013
Michael BrantleyIndians0.30843.30%0.33342.5%0.80%-0.025
Chase UtleyPhillies0.19744.60%0.29543.9%0.70%-0.098
Marcus SemienAthletics0.33644.20%0.3143.6%0.60%0.026
Brandon GuyerRays0.32944.30%0.32243.7%0.60%0.007
Jacoby EllsburyYankees0.37938.40%0.29638.0%0.40%0.083
Justin MorneauRockies0.29932.20%0.3331.8%0.40%-0.031
Ichiro SuzukiMarlins0.3124.80%0.34624.4%0.40%-0.036
Alexi AmaristaPadres0.21930.60%0.27130.3%0.30%-0.052
Alex GordonRoyals0.30646.50%0.3146.3%0.20%-0.004
Alberto Callaspo- - -0.21238.00%0.24237.8%0.20%-0.03
Adam EatonWhite Sox0.2829.70%0.35929.5%0.20%-0.079
Grady SizemorePhillies0.3241.30%0.28541.2%0.10%0.035
David DeJesusRays0.36144.60%0.2844.6%0.00%0.081
Matt CarpenterCardinals0.35431.90%0.31831.9%0.00%0.036
Pablo SandovalRed Sox0.28632.80%0.332.8%0.00%-0.014
Nick MarkakisBraves0.36131.30%0.29931.4%-0.10%0.062
Jason CastroAstros0.26141.90%0.29442.1%-0.20%-0.033
Dee GordonMarlins0.43529.20%0.34629.5%-0.30%0.089
Kevin KiermaierRays0.24845.00%0.30645.3%-0.30%-0.058
Ian DesmondNationals0.34136.20%0.32636.6%-0.40%0.015
Mark TrumboDiamondbacks0.28833.60%0.27434.0%-0.40%0.014
Matt AdamsCardinals0.29242.70%0.33843.1%-0.40%-0.046
Jayson WerthNationals0.24435.00%0.34335.4%-0.40%-0.099
Freddie FreemanBraves0.35942.30%0.35142.8%-0.50%0.008
Trevor PlouffeTwins0.30639.10%0.29939.7%-0.60%0.007
Eric HosmerRoyals0.34536.10%0.31236.8%-0.70%0.033
Martin PradoMarlins0.30532.10%0.3132.8%-0.70%-0.005
Mike TroutAngels0.33136.20%0.34936.9%-0.70%-0.018
Chris IannettaAngels0.21143.20%0.32944.1%-0.90%-0.118
Ryan GoinsBlue Jays0.29938.00%0.23739.0%-1.00%0.062
Carlos GomezBrewers0.29742.70%0.33943.7%-1.00%-0.042
Yangervis SolartePadres0.29344.40%0.27545.5%-1.10%0.018
Jose AltuveAstros0.31340.70%0.3641.8%-1.10%-0.047
Marcell OzunaMarlins0.32835.80%0.33737.0%-1.20%-0.009
Adrian BeltreRangers0.25937.80%0.34539.0%-1.20%-0.086
Chase HeadleyYankees0.28747.40%0.30148.7%-1.30%-0.014
Tuffy GosewischDiamondbacks0.24834.90%0.26936.2%-1.30%-0.021
David MurphyIndians0.31138.30%0.28539.7%-1.40%0.026
Jose AbreuWhite Sox0.31938.50%0.35639.9%-1.40%-0.037
Evan LongoriaRays0.32843.20%0.28544.7%-1.50%0.043
Prince FielderRangers0.3834.10%0.27435.7%-1.60%0.106
Nori AokiGiants0.33928.30%0.31429.9%-1.60%0.025
Kendrys MoralesRoyals0.33840.90%0.24442.6%-1.70%0.094
Erick AybarAngels0.32241.30%0.29743.0%-1.70%0.025
Lorenzo CainRoyals0.36435.60%0.3837.3%-1.70%-0.016
Nick CastellanosTigers0.29737.10%0.32638.8%-1.70%-0.029
Wil MyersPadres0.3347.20%0.28649.0%-1.80%0.044
Nolan ArenadoRockies0.27443.50%0.29445.3%-1.80%-0.02
Derek NorrisPadres0.34146.30%0.32448.2%-1.90%0.017
Cameron MaybinBraves0.30335.80%0.29737.8%-2.00%0.006
J.D. MartinezTigers0.32542.90%0.38944.9%-2.00%-0.064
Torii HunterTwins0.30537.70%0.31139.8%-2.10%-0.006
Jimmy RollinsDodgers0.22552.40%0.26954.5%-2.10%-0.044
James LoneyRays0.28633.00%0.31935.2%-2.20%-0.033
Ryan BraunBrewers0.27632.80%0.30435.1%-2.30%-0.028
Lonnie ChisenhallIndians0.22237.10%0.32839.4%-2.30%-0.106
Ender InciarteDiamondbacks0.32532.50%0.3135.0%-2.50%0.015
Billy HamiltonReds0.24827.80%0.30430.3%-2.50%-0.056
Leonys MartinRangers0.25439.80%0.33642.3%-2.50%-0.082
Andre EthierDodgers0.3336.90%0.30739.4%-2.50%0.023
Matt JoyceAngels0.21441.50%0.31644.0%-2.50%-0.102
Eric SogardAthletics0.3136.60%0.25139.2%-2.60%0.059
Jake MarisnickAstros0.33738.20%0.33840.9%-2.70%-0.001
Yunel EscobarNationals0.35437.60%0.28240.3%-2.70%0.072
Josh ReddickAthletics0.29936.80%0.28939.9%-3.10%0.01
Chris YoungYankees0.2551.20%0.24754.4%-3.20%0.003
Stephen DrewYankees0.16548.80%0.19452.0%-3.20%-0.029
Wilson RamosNationals0.30932.50%0.2935.9%-3.40%0.019
Jason HeywardCardinals0.27336.80%0.30840.2%-3.40%-0.035
Brandon CrawfordGiants0.35235.10%0.30738.8%-3.70%0.045
Will MiddlebrooksPadres0.27237.50%0.27341.4%-3.90%-0.001
Kyle SeagerMariners0.26945.50%0.29649.4%-3.90%-0.027
Hanley RamirezRed Sox0.24839.30%0.32343.2%-3.90%-0.075
Matt KempPadres0.31339.70%0.34543.8%-4.10%-0.032
Carlos GonzalezRockies0.24336.70%0.28340.8%-4.10%-0.04
Curtis GrandersonMets0.27950.80%0.26554.9%-4.10%0.014
Jay BruceReds0.26244.70%0.26948.9%-4.20%-0.007
Jordy MercerPirates0.21937.70%0.28541.9%-4.20%-0.066
Marlon ByrdReds0.2140.90%0.34145.2%-4.30%-0.131
Avisail GarciaWhite Sox0.41133.30%0.28537.7%-4.40%0.126
Russell MartinBlue Jays0.31539.10%0.33643.5%-4.40%-0.021
David OrtizRed Sox0.22741.80%0.25646.2%-4.40%-0.029
DJ LeMahieuRockies0.38723.60%0.32228.1%-4.50%0.065
Aaron HillDiamondbacks0.27638.90%0.27643.8%-4.90%0
Jose BautistaBlue Jays0.24545.10%0.28750.0%-4.90%-0.042
Brett LawrieAthletics0.35532.30%0.2637.3%-5.00%0.095
Neil WalkerPirates0.31237.60%0.28842.6%-5.00%0.024
Anthony GoseTigers0.45235.90%0.31741.2%-5.30%0.135
Manny MachadoOrioles0.30135.70%0.31741.1%-5.40%-0.016
Josh DonaldsonBlue Jays0.32634.60%0.27840.0%-5.40%0.048
Kole CalhounAngels0.33837.70%0.31343.3%-5.60%0.025
Melky CabreraWhite Sox0.25933.50%0.31639.2%-5.70%-0.057
Paul GoldschmidtDiamondbacks0.39333.30%0.36839.1%-5.80%0.025
Jean SeguraBrewers0.29627.90%0.27533.7%-5.80%0.021
Denard SpanNationals0.32532.50%0.3338.3%-5.80%-0.005
Juan LagaresMets0.31225.90%0.34131.7%-5.80%-0.029
Nelson CruzMariners0.38737.20%0.28843.1%-5.90%0.099
Alexei RamirezWhite Sox0.25842.50%0.29248.4%-5.90%-0.034
Jedd GyorkoPadres0.27635.90%0.25341.9%-6.00%0.023
Luis ValbuenaAstros0.18941.70%0.29447.7%-6.00%-0.105
Nick HundleyRockies0.37236.40%0.30942.5%-6.10%0.063
Angel PaganGiants0.36528.90%0.33935.0%-6.10%0.026
Logan MorrisonMariners0.2536.60%0.28743.0%-6.40%-0.037
Mark ReynoldsCardinals0.35941.80%0.21848.3%-6.50%0.141
Cody AschePhillies0.32942.30%0.31548.8%-6.50%0.014
Brett GardnerYankees0.34133.60%0.30540.2%-6.60%0.036
Alejandro De AzaOrioles0.28839.10%0.31746.2%-7.10%-0.029
Edwin EncarnacionBlue Jays0.22548.20%0.2655.3%-7.10%-0.035
Howie KendrickDodgers0.3424.80%0.34732.0%-7.20%-0.007
Danny SantanaTwins0.32233.90%0.40541.3%-7.40%-0.083
Matt HollidayCardinals0.38726.20%0.29833.6%-7.40%0.089
Tyler FlowersWhite Sox0.28139.40%0.35546.8%-7.40%-0.074
Jason KipnisIndians0.38232.00%0.28839.5%-7.50%0.094
Salvador PerezRoyals0.30438.90%0.27846.4%-7.50%0.026
Albert PujolsAngels0.23643.50%0.26551.0%-7.50%-0.029
Rene RiveraRays0.19638.50%0.30146.2%-7.70%-0.105
Ryan ZimmermanNationals0.24529.00%0.31337.0%-8.00%-0.068
Jhonny PeraltaCardinals0.3540.10%0.29248.2%-8.10%0.058
Lucas DudaMets0.36135.90%0.28344.1%-8.20%0.078
Francisco CervelliPirates0.40632.70%0.40841.0%-8.30%-0.002
Khris DavisBrewers0.31135.20%0.27543.6%-8.40%0.036
David PeraltaDiamondbacks0.28637.50%0.32846.3%-8.80%-0.042
Buster PoseyGiants0.29532.50%0.31941.4%-8.90%-0.024
Mike NapoliRed Sox0.22933.60%0.32142.5%-8.90%-0.092
Yonder AlonsoPadres0.37834.70%0.25144.0%-9.30%0.127
Andrew McCutchenPirates0.28134.90%0.35544.2%-9.30%-0.074
Aramis RamirezBrewers0.22634.80%0.3144.1%-9.30%-0.084
Chris CarterAstros0.25639.20%0.26748.6%-9.40%-0.011
Carlos BeltranYankees0.27642.10%0.25251.5%-9.40%0.024
Caleb JosephOrioles0.30338.70%0.24648.4%-9.70%0.057
Carlos SantanaIndians0.23350.80%0.24960.5%-9.70%-0.016
Freddy GalvisPhillies0.3428.80%0.19838.9%-10.10%0.142
Evan GattisAstros0.23538.00%0.29848.2%-10.20%-0.063
Kennys VargasTwins0.31934.70%0.3444.9%-10.20%-0.021
Brandon BeltGiants0.39238.00%0.28848.3%-10.30%0.104
Alcides EscobarRoyals0.30131.50%0.32642.3%-10.80%-0.025
Danny EspinosaNationals0.29443.50%0.31954.3%-10.80%-0.025
Brayan PenaReds0.32730.40%0.27341.3%-10.90%0.054
A.J. PollockDiamondbacks0.36230.80%0.34441.8%-11.00%0.018
Miguel MonteroCubs0.328.20%0.27539.2%-11.00%0.025
Brock HoltRed Sox0.36832.10%0.34944.3%-12.20%0.019
George SpringerAstros0.28330.80%0.29443.2%-12.40%-0.011
Ian KinslerTigers0.31535.80%0.28848.3%-12.50%0.027
Kurt SuzukiTwins0.25731.90%0.3144.4%-12.50%-0.053
Rajai DavisTigers0.31826.70%0.3239.4%-12.70%-0.002
Victor MartinezTigers0.2337.60%0.31650.3%-12.70%-0.086
Josh HarrisonPirates0.2932.50%0.35345.4%-12.90%-0.063
Wilmer FloresMets0.23432.10%0.26545.2%-13.10%-0.031
Seth SmithMariners0.30932.30%0.30546.4%-14.10%0.004
Mike MoustakasRoyals0.34235.90%0.2250.5%-14.60%0.122
Carlos RuizPhillies0.30430.40%0.28145.9%-15.50%0.023
Xander BogaertsRed Sox0.29630.90%0.29646.9%-16.00%0
Ike DavisAthletics0.31421.60%0.26538.5%-16.90%0.049
Delmon YoungOrioles0.34429.20%0.35946.6%-17.40%-0.015
C.J. CronAngels0.25329.00%0.346.4%-17.40%-0.047

Out of the 20 players that have had the biggest increase in Pull%, 17 of those players have seen a loss in BABIP.

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 2.56.35 PM

What this means is that if you depended on any of these players for their AVG when you drafted them, there may be reason to believe that the decrease in their AVG may be more than random variation and is actually a sign that the batter has changed their approach, pitchers have started to throw to them differently, and/or has happened because of an occurrence unknown at the present time.

Pull% allows one to be able to explain a measurable affect in the variance of BABIP from player-to-player, but there are other variables that need to be controlled for in order to produce a more holistic number for an expected BABIP. Jeff Zimmerman came up with an expected BABIP last July, which is able to predict future BABIP better than present BABIP.

My instincts tell me that his research, coupled with the research in this article and new data provided by Statcast, may be able to drive an even higher level of success.

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Devin Jordan

Devin Jordan is obsessed with statistical analysis, non-fiction literature, and electronic music. If you enjoyed reading him, follow him on Twitter!
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