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Austin Jackson, Alex Avila lead Tigers' over- and -underperformers at the plate

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Johnny Damon got a shaving-pie face after his walkoff home run on Saturday. Should he expect many more?
Johnny Damon got a shaving-pie face after his walkoff home run on Saturday. Should he expect many more?

Monday I looked at what pitchers may be getting results a bit better or worse than you should expect them to get over the course of the season.

As with pitchers, what happens is that luck plays into results a lot more in the short term. Over the course of a season, good luck and bad luck average out a lot closer. In a month, anything can happen. So numbers can be really skewed.

Case in point: Austin Jackson.

Jackson's BABIP was .521 entering Monday's game. His line drive percentage was nearly 40 percent. If he were able to keep up those numbers, he'd have a historically great season. But it's quite unlikely, almost impossibly so.

Using his line drive%, ground ball% and fly ball% to normalize things a bit, his batted-ball type should translate to about a .352 BABIP. And if we take that a step further and adjust his stats -- entering play Tuesday -- with that his slashline becomes 249/.312/.377/.689 ops (hat-tip to Mike Rogers for calculating that).

And remember: That isn't meant as a criticism on his first month. He had a productive one and did a lot of things right. But when trying to make a prediction about what to expect going forward you need to work to eliminate luck.

A few of the Tigers' hitters fall to one extreme or another, so we should expect some correction to occur.

The stats I went with are BABIP, xBABIP (as calculated using a spreadsheet from The Hardball Times) and career BABIP to help tease out the luck factor a bit. In the case of rookies, I went with their minor league career numbers. For the quick-summation stat, I went with wOBA. If you need a reminder about this stat, check out our Saber 101 on it.

Who's going to improve?

Underperformers so far

Player BABIP xBABIP Career BABIP wOBA Translated wOBA Difference
Alex Avila .192 .361 .336 .250 .346 -.096
Gerald Laird .186 .300 .289 .252 .313 -.061
Adam Everett .189 .270 .275 .186 .246 -.060
Magglio Ordonez .291 .308 .318 .384 .391 -.007
Brandon Inge .301 .303 .282 .333 .334 -.001

It's amazing to see what a bad start the catchers both got off to. Of course, catcher is one position you seldom look at batting statistics too closely for. Their primary responsibility is handling the pitcher and throwing out runners. But even when you discount that you don't expect much the Detroiters still fell flat out of the gate. A closer inspections hows both had some struggles with luck and should start to see better results at the plate.

Adam Everett's numbers would not be very good no matter how you slice the pie; his numbers are even worse than they should be.

After Magglio Ordonez's hot start, it's kind of funny to picture him as a guy who could improve. But he's actually cooled off substantially -- and struggled with a sore abdomen.

And Inge is just thrown in because I was trying to include all the regulars in the lineup. As you can see, he's doing as could be expected.

[Note from Mike: The wOBA is using the generic weights and include stolen bases and caught stealing. The wOBA's here won't match the ones on Fangraphs because they are using weights specific to this particular season.]

Who's going to step back a bit?

Overperformers so far

Players BABIP
xBABIP

Career
BABIP

wOBA
Translated
wOBA

Difference
Austin Jackson 0.527 0.353 0.361 .411 .311 .100
Ryan Raburn 0.380 0.291 0.331 .353 .302 .051
Ramon Santiago 0.372 0.311 0.285 .338 .298 .040
Johnny Damon 0.380 0.324 0.308 .402 .365 .037
Scott Sizemore 0.327 0.310 0.339 .323 .296 .027
Miguel Cabrera 0.353 0.314 0.346 .426 .408 .018

As I type this, Austin Jackson had yet another hit that somehow fell in. This one went off the glove of an outfielder who just about got to it but didn't. Jackson's incredible run of luck must slow down at some point, but who is to say when. As you can see though, he is far above what should reasonably be expected.

Ryan Raburn, Ramon Santiago and Johnny Damon are all benefitting from BABIPs quite a bit above what could be expected given their career norms and the makeup of their hits. They should all cool off a bit, too. Scott Sizemore is closer to where he should be.

If there was one player in the above who I thought could defy expectations, it's Miguel Cabrera. Still, his incredible start might wilt slightly. Not much, but a bit.

Conclusion

Ideally, you have a nice mix of players performing better or worse than expectations so it kind of cancels each other out when the luck swings around. However, the Tigers seem to all be playing better than could be hoped in the long run. So that does concern me a bit. I won't be surprised if they hit a bit of a run-scoring slump, and you probably shouldn't be, either.