## The Right Inch

*Michael Saunders drives the ball into the gap, down for extr- No! Mike Trout with the incredible diving catch, robbing Saunders of an extra base hit and stranding the tying run on third base. That ends the game - truly a game of inches, my friends!*

A sudden jolt wakes me up, and I find myself clenching my stuffed iguana. It's okay Louis... the Mariners didn't lose. That doesn't happen until later this afternoon.

As I roll out of bed and start my day, two thoughts from the "game" enter my mind. One, what an odd thing to dream about. I should go get some professional help. Two, come to think of it, Saunders DOES seem to have a fair amount of his line drives caught - hit well, but straight at players. I wonder if in a more formulaic world, would Saunders be hitting better than his paltry .219 average would suggest?

So what do you do when you have a question, kids? You Google it. And if that doesn't work, well... then you have to do some real work and research, which is what I ended up doing. By finding players' Line Drive Percentage (LD%), Ground Ball Percentage (GB%), Fly Ball Percentage (FB%) (courtesy of Fangraphs), and combining that with last year's MLB averages of BABIP (batting average on balls in play) on line drives (.707), ground balls (.223), and fly balls (.152), I was able to calculate what a player's BABIP should be. I kept LD%, GB%, and FB% in decimal form just to make calculations easier.

(.707 x LD%) + (.223 x GB%) + (.152 x FB%) = Generated BABIP

By applying the new BABIP to balls they put in play, I also found my generated average for each player.

((ABs - HRs - Ks + SFs)(Generated BABIP) + HRs) / ABs = Generated AVG

Clearly, this isn't perfect. Not all line drives are created equal, and there is no differentiation between sharp groundouts and weak dribblers. However, it'll give us a relatively good idea of which players have been lucky, unlucky, and what to expect.

C - Mike Zunino

 LD% GB% FB% K% BABIP Generated BABIP AVG Generated AVG .172 .448 .379 .232 .263 .284 .208 .223

I collected and calculated this data before yesterday's game, so even without Zunino's 3-hit game included, Zunino has not been quite as bad offensively as his average would suggest. What stands out here to me is his strikeout rate. Graduating from Tacoma, where he struck out 28.4% of the time, there were legitimate concerns that his K% would rise even further when introduced to major league pitching. Instead, he has adapted incredibly well, and if the 22-year-old continues progressing, we could be looking at something real special behind the plate.

1B - Justin Smoak

 LD% GB% FB% K% BABIP Generated BABIP AVG Generated AVG .229 .392 .380 .218 .327 .311 .266 .254

Numbers actually fare decently well for Justin Smoak. The generated-AVG is lower than his current average, but I'm not concerned, as he's posted a .337 generated BABIP since returning from the DL and looks poised at the plate.

2B - Nick Franklin

 LD% GB% FB% K% BABIP Generated BABIP AVG Generated AVG .246 .333 .421 .217 .324 .316 .275 .269

Franklin is hitting around where he should be right now. His steadily rising K% could be something to keep an eye on.

SS - Brad Miller

 LD% GB% FB% K% BABIP Generated BABIP AVG Generated AVG .250 .500 .250 .232 .389 .331 .286 .243

Extremely small sample size with Miller, but he's been lucky so far. Still, it's nice to see him hit a good amount of line drives, and if he can keep his strikeouts under control, he could become a very good leadoff hitter.

3B - Kyle Seager

 LD% GB% FB% K% BABIP Generated BABIP AVG Generated AVG .234 .359 .407 .159 .316 .311 .289 .286

What a boss.

LF - Raul Ibanez

 LD% GB% FB% K% BABIP Generated BABIP AVG Generated AVG .209 .362 .429 .243 .264 .297 .257 .278

Rauuuuul has been sensational this year, and yet, he's been unlucky? His BABIP is .033 points lower than it should be according to this methodology, meaning that he should be hitting for a very good average to go along with his 22 (now 24) home runs. He deserves some more u's: Rauuuuuuuul.

CF - Dustin Ackley

 LD% GB% FB% K% BABIP Generated BABIP AVG Generated AVG .172 .556 .272 .179 .252 .292 .206 .239

Ackley also seems a bit unlucky, but he simply isn't making great contact. His line drive rate is low, while he grounds out over half the time. The good news is that he doesn't strike out much, but that's pretty much the only positive about him so far.

RF - Michael Saunders

 LD% GB% FB% K% BABIP Generated BABIP AVG Generated AVG .224 .408 .368 .269 .285 .309 .219 .236

Aha! I knew my intuition was correct! Saunders has been striking out a ton, but he's making solid contact and is a bit unlucky on the balls he puts in play.

DH - Kendrys Morales

 LD% GB% FB% K% BABIP Generated BABIP AVG Generated AVG .187 .476 .337 .177 .312 .294 .278 .265

Doesn't strike out much, but also doesn't hit too many line drives. Don't put too much stress on the line drive rate though - Morales' career LD% is only .177, yet he has hit for a career .281 average.

Things could be looking different right now if a few balls had fallen an inch or two to either side, but this is a good-looking group of players, with most of them having shots at being integral parts of the Mariners' future. Enjoy the emergence of Franklin/Miller/Zunino, sit back and watch the Raul show, and be thankful for the one and only, Kyle Seager.

P.S. - This is my first blog post. Any constructive feedback would be awesome.

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