In a recent post on The Hardball Times, a Mets fan author discusses whether Moneyball really has changed, as many have claimed. While that would be a fun topic to discuss, what I'm more interested in talking out loud about is his assessment of Josh Donaldson.
Donaldson obviously has been important to the Athletics' offense in the first six weeks of this season, hitting .299/.374/.500, even improving on his much-improved second half from last year (.290/.356/.489). The author says he's Billy Beane's wildest dreams coming true - a former first-round pick finally reaching his potential a bit older than expected.
But then a commenter asks what's so great about Donaldson, since his batting average on balls in play is unsustainably high. It's just a hot streak right now and the projections have him cooling off and putting up more pedestrian numbers for the full season (ZIPS has him falling to .260/.328/.430).
To be fair, that's a common thought. But is it just a hot streak, or might his BABIP be sustainable?
Donaldson's BABIP is .333 right now (.323 in the second half last year), so it's better than league average (~.295) and better than his major-league career before this season (.272 through 328 plate appearances).
Certain hitters do sustain BABIPs that high, though. Looking quickly at the past 10 seasons, guys like David Wright (.340), Howard (is it Howie?) Kendrick (.339), Shin-Soo Choo (.354), even A's favorite Jack Cust (.338) have maintained a BABIP better than Donaldson's through 2,500-plus plate appearances.
So my question is, if we're trying to guess what Josh Donaldson rest-of-year looks like, do we simply regress his BABIP to the mean and say, "hot start, but Céspedes and his .215 BABIP better take his place" or is Josh Donaldson actually David Wright?