When the Chicago White Sox signed Jeff Keppinger to a multi-year deal this winter, they thought they were getting something they have been lacking since the days of Tadahito Iguchi: a two-hole hitter.
For the past few seasons, the two-spot has been a black hole of sorts in the White Sox lineup, which is why general manager Rick Hahn went after the veteran infielder during the offseason. Although many thought Keppinger was due to regress because he was coming off a season where he hit over .320 with the Tampa Bay Rays, no one could have possibly predicted the start he has had thus far in 2013.
Is Jeff Keppinger terrible right now? Yes, he’s pretty darn bad. However, there is–like most things in baseball–an explanation for this. I am going to get into some sabermetrics here, so look away if you are like the Hawkaroo. However, if you are smarter than that, please continue reading. To put it very simply: Jeff Keppinger is getting cold-clocked by the ever so scary BABIP monster.
I’m sure you are asking yourself what the BABIP monster could possible be. Well, in my opinion, the BABIP statistic is the baseball’s best statistic when you want to determine how lucky/unlucky a hitter or pitcher is during the season. The league average for BABIP is around .290 to .300. In regards to a hitter, a higher BABIP generally means they are pretty lucky, while a low BABIP means they are rather unlucky. Now, BABIP is different for every hitter. For example, Matt Kemp always has high BABIP because he hits line drives quite often, while fly ball hitters will have a lower BABIP.
Well, in the case of Jeff Keppinger, his BABIP is at .205, which is a full .90 points from his career average. Also, his line drive percentage is standing at 26 percent, meaning that he isn’t hitting the ball weakly. So, what does this mean for Keppinger going forward? Well, it means that there will be a lot of 12-for-30 stretches in the not so distant future, seeing as Keppinger consistently makes contact and his hitting the ball harder than normal.
Although the BABIP monster is a scary, scary thing for baseball players to deal with, it evens out over the course of the season. Most of the time.