Monday, May 14, 2012
Leaderboard of week: Groundball average
By Mark Simon
With all that defenses are doing to stop hitters these days by way of shifts and smart positioning, who are the hitters that are still finding ways to get hits?
Not surprisingly, the player atop the list relies heavily on his speed. Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson has the highest batting average on groundballs at .436 (17-for-39). Since 2010, Jackson is a .320 hitter when hitting a groundball. That’s the second-best batting average in baseball in that span, trailing only Drew Stubbs (.325).
A typical major leaguer gets hits on about 23 percent of his groundballs, meaning that on 39 groundballs, they would net a total of nine hits. Jackson has nearly doubled that. Though Jackson is typically someone who gets a decent number of infield hits (he’s had 46 non-bunt infield hits -- tied for 12th-most in MLB), he’s found holes in the defense in the first month of the season. He has 10 hits on 19 grounders in May, with three apiece against the Royals, White Sox and Mariners. Of Jackson’s 17 groundball hits this season, 15 have reached the outfield. He had 11 bunt hits in the past two seasons, but has none yet in 2012.
Below is a spray chart showing the grounders that Jackson has hit this season.
This is a key component in steering Jackson’s batting average on balls in play (BABIP) to well-above average levels. Jackson has a .370 career batting average on balls in play (all balls in play -- not just groundballs). The major league average BABIP typically hovers between .290 and .300
In the end, a team’s best defense against Jackson is to strike him out. Jackson’s 378 strikeouts since 2010 are the fourth-most in the majors.