Heading into the 2012 season Hunter Pence is coming off of his best season in the big leagues. He had 4.7 WAR, and a 141 wRC+. Both areas were career highs. Pence was also a key member during the Phillies run to make the playoffs. In August, Pence had a 173 wRC+ and during September/October he had a 151 wRC+. At first one may think it was a career year, but if you look a little closer at the numbers you will see that Pence was helped a lot by his high BABIP. For the season Pence’s BABIP was .361. That was his second highest total, in 2007 he had a .377 BABIP in 484 PAs.
There are four main factors that played a role in his unusually high BABIP this season. They are his GB/FB and his LD%. In this spreadsheet we can see how two of those statistics from this past season compare with his career statistics.
The first thing we notice is the 2% difference in his LD% for his career and 2011. Line drives tend to fall as hits much often than groundballs or flyballs. In 2011 alone line drives had a league-wide BABIP of .713. Pence also had a 2% drop in FB%, the drop in his flyballs tells us that he didn’t get as many outs, resulting in more hits. His GB% was relatively the same, so that doesn’t tell us much. Looking more in depth at his batted ball profile we can tell that Pence 2 groundballs and 8 flyballs into 10 extra line drives. If we do a little math we find out that Pence had roughly 6 more hits than 2010. Pence also has above average speed, so naturally he’s going to get more hits than someone who is slower.
All those factors put together we can come to the conclusion that Pence was really lucky last season. In reality Pence is probably closer to a .310-.320 BABIP player. With his average defense he’s probably closer to a 3-3.5 player than a 4.5-5 WAR player. Pence will still be a big part of the Phillies line-up the next couple of seasons but he may not be as good as his BABIP indicates.