Outs Generated Per Plate Appearance Since 1950

During Monday’s Baseball Today Podcast, Eric Karabell and Mark Simon were discussing a listener’s question regarding who has made the most outs per plate appearance in a single season. The idea here being you want to not only look at hitters with low on-base averages (OBA/OBP), but also include the extra outs generated by grounding into double plays*.

It is an interesting trivia question. And since I am pretty well jammed up this week working on multiple projects and deadlines I thought this would be a nice, quick topic to tackle.

To calculate this I looked at all players with >= 300 plate appearances in a season since 1950. I then calculated the outs they generated–((AB+BB+HBP+SF)-(H+BB+HBP))–which is really just reverse OBP, and added in the total number of double plays that they grounded into for the season (GDP). I then took this number and divided it by their plate appearances for the season to get their Total Outs Generated per PA.

Here are your top 10 and bottom 10 since 1950:

It will come as a shock to no one to learn that Barry Bonds not only holds four of the top 10 seasons since 1950 in terms of the fewest outs generated per plate appearance, but actually holds the top four spots all by his lonesome. In 2004, Bonds posted an all-time great OBP of .609 and only grounded into five double plays all year, leading to another all-time number–fewest outs generated per plate appearance.

The next five spots after Bonds are peppered with the great Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. Even with double-digit GDPs in 1954 and 1957, Williams still managed to avoid outs at a fantastic rate. Rounding out the top 10 is Mark McGwire during his 2000 season, where he posted a .483 OBP and only grounded into five double plays.

What about the worst seasons?

The worst season goes to the Phillies’ Mike Ryan in 1968. In 314 plate appearances that year, Ryan posted a dismal .218 OBP and tacked on twelve double plays. Playing for the Mariners in 1979, Mario Mendoza (yes, that Mendoza) posted a Mendoza-like batting average of .198 and an OBP of .216. ’79 would prove to be his worst as a player, as he posted a fWAR of -1.1 over the course of 148 games and 401 plate appearances. (Yes, someone thought it made sense to give Mendoza 401 plate appearances over the course of a season.) Combining his .216 OBP with twelve GDPs, Mendoza finished the season generating .814 outs per plate appearance. It would have been wonderful symmetry had Mendoza had the worst out generating rate, but we can’t always get what we want.

The player with the most plate appearances in the top 10? Andres Thomas of the 1989 Braves. Thomas went to the plate 571 times that year, posting a .228 OBP and grounding into 17 double plays. Thomas was a one-man rally killer that year, earning a Clutch score of -.63 to go along with his out generating rate of .802.

When it comes to cummulative seasons with >= 3000 plate appearances, Ted Williams takes the title as the best hitter to avoid making outs since 1950 with an out generating rate of .550 for his career. Williams is followed by Barry Bonds at .569, Mickey Mantle at .590, Joe Cunningham at .596, and Jackie Robinson at .597. Todd Helton comes in at 6th (.598), followed by Edgar Martinez (.600).

The worst hitter in this category? Hal Lanier, who generated .766 outs per plate appearance over the course of 3516 PAs. Doug Flynn (.753), Bobby Wine (.752), Joe DeMaestri (.743), and Aurelio Rodriguez (.741) round out the bottom five.

So there you have it. The best and worst hitters since 1950 at generating outs. For those that want to play around more with the data, here is a link to the individual and cumulative seasons.


*Ideally, you would also include triple plays, but I believe only five occur per season, so focusing just on double plays is close enough for now.

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Bill works as a consultant by day. In his free time, he writes for The Hardball Times, speaks about baseball research and analytics, consults for a Major League Baseball team, and has appeared on MLB Network's Clubhouse Confidential as well as several MLB-produced documentaries. Along with Jeff Zimmerman, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Tumblr or Twitter @BillPetti.

27 Responses to “Outs Generated Per Plate Appearance Since 1950”

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  1. Steve the Pirate says:

    Awesome work. I’d love to see data with baserunning outs included. I know the detailed data would be tough to come by, but adding CS and picked off might not bee too though, no?

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  2. Derek in Little Rock says:

    Somebody change the fangraphs iPhone app walk and strikeout rates to per plate appearances instead of at bats.

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  3. Jim says:

    Was the first name that came to anyone else’s mind Jim rice?

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    • Bill Petti says:

      Rice came in at a cumulative .681. He had two seasons with over 30 GDPs, one and two in terms of the most in a single season since 1950. But his .323 and .349 OBP in those seasons helped him out in terms of the single season list.

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    • Detroit Michael says:

      There’s a big difference between being a marginally qualified (if that) Hall of Famer and belonging in the bottom 10 of a leaderboard like this one.

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  4. Jeremy says:

    The most important thing I learned from this article is that there was once a baseball player named Booby Wine.

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  5. mkd says:

    Joe Cunningham? Never heard of him until right now. Thanks. Looks like he was on his way to the Hall of Very Good until a collar bone injury derailed his career.

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  6. iorggarth says:

    I was surprised to see that of the top 10 seasons, all but Mantle’s (age 25 and 30) were in an age-35 season or later. Obviously late-model Bonds was sui generis, but Williams was 38, 35, and 36 during his best showings. I imagine his high DP totals were a result of losing a step or two, and that he put the ball in play at a far higher rate than Bonds or Mantle, about 70% of the time during those 3 seasons, compared to Bonds at just below 60% and Mantle at around 62.5%.

    And of course I must thank the author for giving me occasion to look at Teddy Ballgame’s bbr page, which is, as always, just holy #$(*%@in’ #@%^^@! And then you remember he missed almost 5 prime years due to military service.

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  7. Zarpa del Tigre says:

    Undoubtedly the sample would be rather small, but could you possibly figure out who had the most PA’s in a season in which his TOGpPA was greater than 1.0?

    Hypothetically, someone who went 1/17 with one walk and hit into three DP’s…

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  8. Chip Buck says:

    Great piece Bill. OC/PA always seems to be a bit underrated as a stat, which is odd considering that outs are baseball’s only true currency.

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  9. Greg says:

    I’m not sure why i hadn’t considered it before, but is GIDP data factored into WAR at all? Maybe in base running?

    I’m not sure how to best evaluate it, because it’s obviously context dependent with guys hitting behind high OBP players having more opportunities and even more it’s probably subject to significant variance. At the same time though, given equal opportunities, slower players who hit the ball hard and put the ball in play more often would likely hit into double plays much more often and not accounting for this effect would systematically overvalue such sluggers (even if only a little).

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  10. Phrozen says:

    I’d like to see this data reflect the additional outs garnered when someone is caught stealing or picked off; as well as other, non GIDP double plays.

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  11. adohaj says:

    Do line out and fly out double plays get put into GIDP? This difference probably wouldn’t effect the results much.

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    • DD says:

      Not much impact there I’d guess, plus those issues are more likely the fault of the baserunner than the hitter, compared to GIDP.

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  12. sc2gg says:

    What about hitters who try to extend their singles into doubles and get thrown out at second? That just counts as a single according to most stats, doesn’t it?

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  13. Jason says:

    It would be nice if you could divide out the number of opportunities to hit into a double play, since this is highly dependent upon where one hits in the lineup and the on base skills of the guys hitting in front of them.

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  14. Jon L. says:

    You keep saying “all time,” but your article is about “since 1950.”

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  15. Jon L. says:

    I’d be curious to see the differences between these lists and a list based on straight-up OBP. Even if the changes are minimal, this is a pretty cool figure – I don’t recall ever seeing a list of the top out-makers before.

    One of the things clearly illustrated here is that Bonds was not in the class of Williams and Mantle as a hitter pre-, you know.

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    • RC says:

      One of the things clearly illustrated here is that Bonds was not in the class of Williams and Mantle as a hitter pre-, you know.

      Bonds played in a very different time than Williams and Mantle. Against guys who were generally much better athletes than those of Mantle’s and Williams’ time.

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  16. supgreg says:

    You can’t hit into a double play when you walk. Also hitting into a double play when you hit a fly ball is difficult, also wouldn’t be the hitters fault. The “best” list is a no brainer.

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  17. Mendoza is just the greatest.

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  18. Dave Silverwood says:

    Great article a real help in my apba exprtience when generating my own deals thanks.

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