FanPost

Pronk vs. Proon: The Fight for the [Baseball] Soul of Travis Hafner

During the years 2004-2006, Travis Hafner hit like an MVP candidate. That version of Pronk disappeared in 2007. Instead, we were treated to Proon. Proon hit fewer line drives (17%), sent fewer fly balls out of the park (15%) and hit a lot more ground bals (48%). Not surprisingly, Proon wasn't an MVP candidate.

With Hafner's slow start beginning to worry people, we find his 2008 numbers to be a confirmation of our worst fears - further decline. However, I beg to differ. Strongly. What were are witnessing is not a deterioration, but a fight between Proon and Pronk for the baseball soul of Travis Hafner, like in Superman III.

Batted Ball Numbers:

Line Drive Rate
2008 - 25%
2007 - 17%
2006 - 21%
2005 - 20%

GB Rate
2008 - 41%
2007 - 48%
2006 - 39%
2005 - 43%

With the small sample size we have thus far, we are seeing signs of Pronk winning the battle. However, there are a couple of points where his numbers are off.....

Infield Fly per Fly Ball
2008 - 6%
2007 - 4%
2006 - 7%
2005 - 14%


Home Runs per Fly Ball

2008 - 27%
2007 - 31%
2006 - 16%
2005 - 14%

As bad as that looks, there is some good news here. First off, EVERYONE is popping up the ball at alarming amounts early in the season. Secondly, since Hafner's fly ball rate is back to pre-Proon levels, once he gets his timing in order a lot of those infield flies should (hopefully) turn into outfield flies (and hopefully a higher HR rate).

So why aren't those line drives and outfield flies turning into more hits? Believe it, or not, Travis Hafner is suffering from bad luck this season. His BABIP thus far is 0.267. Now, some players have a terrible BABIP because they hit very few line drives and a ton more grounders and fly balls, both of which are more easily converted into outs. 2008 Hafner isn't one of those players.

Using THT's 2007 Batted Ball Data (subscription only), I used a simple linear regression to find a correlation between LD%, GB%, IF%, HR%, non-HR OF% with a player's BABIP. The results weren't great, but they were good enough to give us an idea if a player is getting completely screwed by luck.

BABIP by Batted Ball Type (2007)
GB = 0.200
LD = 0.730
IF = 0.000
HR = 1.000
non-HR Outfield Fly = 15%

BABIP - expected BABIP Results
Mean Difference = 9.29%
Median Difference = 7.55%
Std. Dev. of Difference = 7.32%

Clearly the standard deviation isn't what one would hope for. Still, if a player's BABIP is off by his expected BABIP by more than 15% (mean + deviation), we can say, with confidence, that he has been the recipient of luck (good or bad).

From the results below, we can see that Pronk, Gutierrez and Dellucci have BABIPs much lower than you'd expect from their batted ball distribution. Look for their numbers to rebound. The opposite may be true for Garko......

BABIP_Hafner

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