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Introducing the Bat Flip Barometer

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Using science to assess how well the Indians are flipping bats

Toronto Blue Jays v Cleveland Indians Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

Baseball is fun and bat flips are good. If you think there’s an argument to be had about this, I can’t help you. Go cheer for the Cardinals.

When you see a particularly great bat flip, you know it. It’s instantaneously memorable and it makes whatever preceded it (mostly home runs, unless you’re Yasiel Puig) better by a factor of 10. But how do you pick the best bat flips? Hard, objective (i.e., totally subjective) numbers.

Thanks to Matt Lyons, we know where some of the Indians stand on the flipping of bats, but how good are they at actually flipping said bats?

I’ve got six criteria for scoring bat flips to determine what is the best possible bat flip. Each criteria has a set point amount, and they all add up to 100. On my bat flip barometer there are several zones, each representing a specific type of flip, based on cumulative score.

  • Height (15 points): This one is simple, how high off the ground did the bat flip? The higher, the more points. For example, José Bautista’s flip in game 5 of the 2015 ALDS gets a perfect height score here. Anything near or above the height Bautista achieved will also receive a score of 15.
  • Location (15 points): Here I use Cespedes Family BBQ’s Bat Flip Landing Acceptability Heatmap as a guide. Basically, toward your dugout = always preferred; toward the pitcher = never. The score is scientifically derived from how cool the landing is.
  • Outcome (15 points): If you hit a homerun, you should absolutely celebrate. If you think you hit a homerun and actually hit a fly out to the warning track, well you may get negative points. However, grand slams and game winners or go-ahead shots push toward the maximum.
  • Commonality (15 points): Who is doing the bat flipping here? Is it Yoenis Cespedes’ 405th bat flip or is it a pitcher finally getting in on the fun? As much as I love dudes having fun as often as possible, if it happens too commonly it loses some of its fun. Max points to novel flippers or novel ways of flipping.
  • History (15 points): What’s going on between these teams or this batter and pitcher? Do they have beef? Baseball beef makes any bat flip instantly more valuable. The flip side, however, is a bat flip that comes in a meaningless spot in a game between two mostly friendly teams. It might be a good bat flip, but history ain’t helping it.
  • Respectfulness (25 points): This is a kind of inverse scale, derived from Shea Serrano’s Disrespectful Dunk Index, where being respectful is going to earn you nothing. There’s plenty of place for respect on the diamond, but when you’re celebrating a home run, who cares? This scale is definitely parallel with History, but worthy of it’s own rating because it can add to or instantly create history between teams. There’s also the added wrinkle on this scale where an anti-bat flip, say laying your bat down gently on home plate, scores highly.

0-19: BFIB’s preference

20-30: Ho-hum

31-50: Nice effort

51-65: Very good bat flips

66-80: KBO swag

81-95: Best bat flips

96-100: GOAT

With that in mind, let’s rank this year’s home runs.

3/30, Hanley Ramirez

Unfortunately, cameras cut away from Hanley before he dropped the bat, so I didn’t get a good look at any flip, but you can see him hold on to the bat and then watch the ball absolutely disappear into the stratosphere, so even without flip evidence we can judge this one to fall into the “Nice effort,” 31-50 range. RIP Hanley’s Indians career.

4/3, Hanley Ramirez

Height: 0, Location: 5, Outcome: 1, Commonality: 1, History: 5, Respectfulness: 10

Total = 17

This was a lot less impressive of a shot than Hanley’s other in a Tribe uniform and the flip is minimal, but it came after an 0-3 showing with two strikeouts and rounded the bases slow as hell, which is pretty disrespectful in a blowout when the other team just wants to GTFO.

4/5, Kevin Plawecki

Height: 0, Location: 0, Outcome: 10, Commonality: 10, History: 10, Respectfulness: 1

Total = 31

I don’t think Plawecki thought he was hitting this out of the park, because he busted out of the box and dropped the bat in a hurry. He gets points for his first blast as an Indian, the first run of the game, and because he even surprised himself with the blast.

4/5, Carlos Santana

Height: 2, Location: 5, Outcome: 15, Commonality: 15, History: 10, Respectfulness: 15

Total = 62

Your leader in the clubhouse, Santana’s walk-off blast gets max points for outcome and commonality, but because Santana wasn’t chucking up a José Bautista or Tim Anderson flip, he doesn’t max out the style points. Ten points for history, because we’ll probably remember this one at least for the rest of this year.

4/9, Leonys Martin

Height: 5, Location: 1, Outcome: 9, Commonality: 5, History: 5, Respectfulness: 12

Total = 37

Extra points for being Leonys’ first leadoff home run of the year and kickstarting an eight-run effort, too. Plus he put a little English on the flip. Pretty nice.

4/9, Brad Miller

Height: 0, Location: 0, Outcome: 10, Commonality: 5, History: 0, Respectfulness: 5

Total = 20

Maybe if his bat flip was a little better he wouldn’t have been DFA’d.

4/9, Roberto Pérez

Height: 1, Location: 5, Outcome: 5, Commonality: 10, History: 0, Respectfulness: 8

Total = 29

Robo’s first of the year got some good distance toward the home dugout and kicked off a two-run inning.

4/9, Jake Bauers

Height: 1, Location: 5, Outcome: 3, Commonality: 1, History: 0, Respectfulness: 10

Total = 20

JB holds that bat for a while, admiring it while running to first, but that’s about all you get here. Pretty routine.

4/11, Leonys Martin

Height: 3, Location: 1, Outcome: 5, Commonality: 5, History: 0, Respectfulness: 10

Total = 24

A little effort on the flip boosts the (dis)respectfulness, and this one coming in a rebound game after the offense was shutdown the night before.

4/12, Tyler Naquin

Height: 0, Location: 0, Outcome: 5, History: 0, Commonality: 5, Respectfulness: 0

Total = 10

Like Plawecki, Naquin seems to have been surprised that this was carrying out of the park. But other than the fact this was the only run the Indians scored, this is a very boring homerun.

4/14, Leonys Martin

Height: 0, Location: 1, Outcome: 10, Commonality: 5, History: 5, Respectfulness: 0

Total = 21

A very routine setting down of the bat, but gets some points for being a leadoff homerun, avenging an 0-for-3 night the previous night.

4/15, José Ramírez

Height: 0, Location: 0, Outcome: 5, Commonality: 10, History: 5, Respectfulness: 0

Total = 20

Sadly this is not very celebratory, though it did come against the hottest team at the time. Points for history, as this was a bright spot to a gloomy start.

4/17, Jake Bauers

Height: 1, Location: 5, Outcome: 10, Commonality: 1, History: 0, Respectfulness: 10

Total = 27

Bauers’ shot was the difference in this pitcher’s duel, and he held on to the bat and dropped it down the line on the home side, but he could have (should have) flipped it with a little more authority.

4/20, Max Moroff

Height: 0, Location: 0, Outcome: 10, Commonality: 10, History: 10, Respectfulness: 0

Total = 30

The first for Moroff tied the game. It’s a rare sight, so it gets some points, but it wasn’t an exciting flip.

4/21, Roberto Pérez

ESPN didn’t really show the flip, so I don’t have a rating, but Alex Rodriguez called Robo “Robert Pérez” after the shot, which is probably a negative in the respectfulness section.

4/21, Francisco Lindor

Height: 0, Location: 5, Outcome: 10, Commonality: 15, History: 10, Respectfulness: 10

Total = 50

Our sweet boy is back and life is better when Frankie is dingin’ some dang dongs. The whole follow-through here is good stuff — how long he holds the bat, admiring the shot, standing the bat up about 15 feet up the line, the salute to Sandy Alomar — but mostly it’s just nice to have Lindor hitting in Cleveland again.

4/24, José Ramírez

Height: 0, Location: 0, Outcome: 10, Commonality: 10, History: 15, Respectfulness: 0

Total = 35

The flip itself was nonexistent, but it was a first-inning blast that kickstarted a 3-for-4, 4 RBI performance. We’ll see if it kickstarts any further hot hits for José.

That’s all the homers so far, and the flips have been...well, there were a couple that scored decently well. The pace for home runs in 2019 is up again by a tenth of a home run per game above the previous high, 2017. This year’s rate, 2.65 per game, pretty much guarantees we’ll have some more bat flips to evaluate. Here’s hoping the flips travel high, far, and frequently.