Ian Stewart: Really Bad or Really Unlucky?

By Brandon Miller

Chicago Cubs 3B Ian Stewart has had quite the rough start to the season. Stewart, formerly of the Colorado Rockies, is currently hitting .196/.267/.315 for an OPS of .565. Among third basemen, Stewart is second to last in AVG and fourth to last in both OBP and SLG%. Those numbers aren’t pretty in the least. This guy is horrible, right? Shouldn’t the Cubs quickly cut their ties with Stewart and look elsewhere?

Not so fast.

Stewart is obviously not producing what the Cubs had hoped to this point. But as backwards as this may sound, we shouldn’t always look at a player’s results so early on in the season. Instead, using some advanced statistics is often a better view of how a player is actually hitting. To help show how much luck plays into hitting, especially early in the season, here is the walk rate, strikeout rate, and line drive percentage for three different third baseman.

Player X: 8.9 % BB Rate, 21.8% K Rate, 22.4% LD Rate

Player Y: 7.1% BB Rate, 23.5% K Rate, 21.2% LD Rate

Player Z: 5.2% BB Rate, 18.8% K Rate, 15.5% LD Rate

These are the three players in no particular order: David Freese – .322/.378/.567, Ian Stewart – .196/.267/.315, Mike Moustakas – .311/.361/.544.

Without looking it up, can you guess which player matches with which rate stats? If so, well done. Here are the matches along with the main contributing factor in the three players difference in average:

Ian Stewart: 8.9 % BB Rate, 21.8% K Rate, 22.4% LD Rate, .235 BABIP

David Freese: 7.1% BB Rate, 23.5% K Rate, 21.2% LD Rate, .377 BABIP

Mike Moustakas: 5.2% BB Rate, 18.8% K Rate, 15.5% LD Rate, .353 BABIP

In order to understand BABIP, you have to know what BABIP is and how it works.

Batting Average on Balls In Play, or BABIP, is exactly what it says. It is the batting average a player has on only the balls that are put in play. Walks, strikeouts, hit by pitches, and homeruns all don’t count towards it. The standard, or average, BABIP is right around .300. Normally things like LD% and speed are contributors to high BABIPs. Line drives have the best chance of going for a hit, followed by groundballs and flyballs respectively.

The idea with BABIP is that if a player’s BABIP is very high or very low, that he will eventually regress to the mean. In Ian Stewart’s case, we can safely assume that he will get a good bit better. So far this season Stewart has been very unlucky. Even simply watching the past 26 games will show you that the majority of his line drives have went for outs.

So if there is one thing I can promise you, it is this: Ian Stewart will improve drastically from his current pedestrian slash lines.

Patience is a virtue my friends. Especially in baseball.

Brandon Miller is a Chicago Cubs Beat Writer for RantSports.com. You can contact and follow Brandon on Twitter under the username @BrandonDMilla

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