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Weekend Chart: Dickey's BABIP

Peter Llewellyn-USA TODAY Sports

Editorial note: Weekend Chart is a new weekly feature for (at least) the remainder of the offseason, a short piece centred around a chart exploring some hopefully interesting data usually (though not always) Blue Jays related.

As Voros McCracken initially discovered 15 years ago, there's a strong tendencies for pitchers to have their batting average on balls in play (BABIP) end up around the league average of .290-.300. There are exceptions, such as pitchers with extreme batted ball profiles, especially fly-ball pitchers who can generate a lot of popups. Another is knuckleballers, which is why in 1,268 innings since 2010, R.A. Dickey has posted a .269 BABIP ranking 8th in baseball among qualified starters over that time.

But I was curious: how exactly has he done it? His batted ball mix over the period isn't that different from the league average, and he's not a popup machine. So I looked at the individual batted ball types (data from FanGraphs so the classification is from Baseball Info Solutions, all bunts excluded): 


Most of Dickey's overall BABIP outperformance has come from groundballs, as it's his most common batted ball type (46%), and he's 37 points ahead of league average. For every six hits given up on ground balls by other pitchers, Dickey has only given up five. On line drives, he's even further ahead at 44 points better than average, but they only make up 19% of his batted balls so it has roughly half the net impact to his overall BABIP.

Curiously, he's actually been worse than league average on fly balls. This is very surprising since Dickey gets about 2.5% more popups per fly ball (12.3% vs. 9.8% league average), which are basically automatic outs. That means on non-popups, he's actually about 4% (40 points) worse than league average. This could be a classification issue; however, what's interesting is that the difference is all in allowing singles, not more extra base hits. Most fly ball singles are bloopers falling between the infielders and outfielders, so maybe he's actually generating weak contact but it ends up to his detriment on fly balls.