As nerdy Cubs fans, we around here are often very quick to point out when the luck dragons of batting average on balls in play (“BABIP”) don’t go the Cubs’ way. Whether it’s a screaming liner hit by a Cub right at a defender, or well-induced bouncing grounder by an opponent that finds a hole, we’ve been trained to note, “Welp, BABIP got the Cubs that time.”
It’s only intellectually honest, then, to point out when it goes the other way.
So it was last night, in particular, for Addison Russell.
To be sure, the dude is clubbing the ball overall this year, and has earned almost all of the luck that’s come his way. So, last night, when he notched four hits for the first time in his career, I’m not going to call it unfair that those hits weren’t exactly rockets:
Hit it where they ain't. pic.twitter.com/dKv9VjeHWB
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 25, 2017
In order, the exit velocities on those hits were: 81.6mph, 68.3mph, 90.3mph*, and 88.1mph. You wouldn’t expect to see four hits on those, but sometimes, that’s baseball. That’s why it pays to put the ball in play!
And, of course, just to even things out: Russell’s two hardest-hit balls of the night – 94.3mph and 95.4mph – were both harmless fly outs.
*(That was the chopper to shortstop, and I know that last year, Statcast had trouble accurately getting exit velocity readings on balls hit at too steep of an angle down. So, I’m going to call that one a generous number.)
After the game, Russell’s batting line improved to .289/.341/.461 on the season (117 wRC+), which would be absolutely fantastic for a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop (especially one who just turned 23 in the offseason), and would make him one of the dozen or so most valuable players in the NL.
Even more impressively, his strikeout rate stands at just 15.9%, well below league average (21.8%) and well below his mark from last year (22.6%). If he keeps that up, the magic of BABIP will net him even more hits, as it did last night.