Examining Huff with FIO
A couple of weeks ago Bradley Woodrum released a series of articles (Part 1, Part 2) on a statistic called Fielding Independent Offense (FIO). He created a system to project a batter’s offensive skill independent of the random variations of BABIP, basing it on BB%, K%, HR%, and Stolen Bases, which can better determine a player’s true offensive skill than other stats like wRC+ because those largely incorporate luck.
FIO is calculated as such:
FIO = -51.57 + 275.21(BB%) – 180.52(K%) + 1184.34(HR%) + 151.75(SB/PA) + 422.14(BABIP)
This is a graph of Aubrey Huff’s wRC+, FIO, and Career BABIP FIO. Notice how his FIO almost matches his wRC+ even though FIO includes stats that wRC doesn’t count, like strikeout rate and BABIP. That is a testament to how key the 5 components of BABIP, BB%, K%, HR%, and Stolen Bases are to offensive production.
As you probably already know, BABIP is a large determinant of offensive production and can vary a lot more wildly than the other 4 components. It is also the only one of the 5 stats where a large part of the outcome is out the batter’s control. That’s where FIO comes in; it gives us a players wRC+ as a function of his BABIP. So If Huff’s BABIP is X his offensive production is Y.
The green line is Huff’s Career BABIP FIO (CaBFIO), where we are plug in Huff’s career BABIP instead of his BABIP for that year. His career BABIP is probably more indicative of his skill to make batted balls fall for hits; thus CaBFIO is also probably more indicative of his true luck independent performance for that season, and we can use this to see if random variation favored Huff or not.
You can see that in 2005 Huff’s CaBFIO outperformed a his wRC+ by 35 points which probably indicates that he suffered from some bad luck that year. He likely suffered from some bad luck in 2009 as well, as his CaBFIO slightly out performed both his wRC+ by 25 points. In 2010, Huff’s wRC+ outperformed his CabFIO by 14 points suggesting that he might have gotten a little lucky. Even on further inspection, you can see in at Huff’s career numbers that his CaBFIO outperforms his wRC+ by 7 points so his 2010 excellence might have been due to a significant amount of luck involved in Huff’s 2010.
2011 was a disaster for Huff, (I probably realized that after the 100th time he grounded out to second) as you can see all the lines dropped downwards and his CaBFIO was only 7 points better than wRC+. His CabFIO was only 91 and his wRC+ was 84 well below average and unacceptable for any 1st baseman. If you look closer, every one of Huff’s components trended in the wrong direction: his SO% increased 1.9%, BB% dropped 4.3%, and his HR% almost halved from 4.8% in 2010 to 2.5% in 2011.
Huff did suffer from a bad BABIP of .271—20 points lower than his .291 career average—but the way he put balls in play (grounding out to second) indicates it wasn’t just random variation hurting Huff. Breaking it down further, Huff in 2011 had a 15.9% Line Drive rate, the second lowest of his career and significantly lower than his 17.9% average. Line drives are the hard hit balls that most likely to fall for hits, so such a dramatic drop in LD% indicates that he was not hitting the ball as hard. Most disturbing of all was his dramatic drop in HR/FB rate. His career average was 13.2% and in 2011 he had a career low 7.3%, further showing that he lost the ability to make hard contact with the ball.
All these trends can show us that Huff’s 2011 was not significantly affected by luck and that he just stunk at the plate. From this, we can probably draw to the obvious conclusion that Huff needs to change his approach for him to become a useful player again. The other possible and more depressing conclusion is that Huff could have hit the wall of aging (he is 34 years old) and simply cannot be a useful major leaguer for much longer.
Stats from Fangraphs and Baseball-Refrence
Big thanks to Bradley for releasing his tools and spreadsheets. Also the diagrams on the components on FIO and wRC+ are taken from Part 2 of his series.