I recently posed a question to 12 hitters. It was a question that doesn’t have an easy answer. Given the subjectivity involved, it doesn’t even have a right answer.
If you could lead the league in any offensive category, what would it be?
Their responses — some less serious than others — are listed below in alphabetical order.
Jason Castro, Houston Astros catcher: “Probably OPS. Just on-base plus slugging. That’s something hitters strive for: not only getting on base, but when you do get on base, get extra base hits. That probably leads to more runs than just singles, and not getting a lot of walks.”
Hank Conger, Los Angeles Angels catcher: “OPS, I guess? That’s because it’s a combination of everything. I think it shows that you’re well-rounded and not just about slugging. The importance of getting on base is more valued these days and batting average isn’t even really looked at.”
David DeJesus, Tampa Bay Rays outfielder: “Homers, just because I never hit them. I’ve always been like a leadoff hitter, so it would be pretty cool to see how it feels to hit a lot of them. When you hit home runs, you’re scoring a run, you’re driving guys in, and you’re also having fun out there. I think it would be pretty cool to lead in home runs.”
Jason Giambi, Cleveland Indians DH: “OPS. You’re a dynamic hitter: you’re taking your walks, on-base percentage, you’re slugging, so you’re doing damage. By taking walks and getting on base, I truly believe you’re helping your team out. Walks are just as important as driving guys in. You’re not only helping the guy behind you, but also the guy in front of you. I’ll take a guy that has a .380 on-base percentage and drives in 120. It wins games. It’s the Moneyball/A’s theory.”
Curtis Granderson, New York Yankees outfielder: “Wins. None of the others are all that important. If you win a title in this or that, it doesn’t really mean anything. Batting title, home run title, stolen base champ — they don’t matter. If you ask fans who won each of those titles in the last five years, I bet you’d stump most of them. I don’t know if any one is more important than other, but if anything, it would probably be runs or RBIs. That goes back to my original answer: those two help you win a ballgame.”
Adam Jones, Baltimore Orioles outfielder: “I think runs scored or RBIs, because that’s production. If you’re scoring a lot of runs, you’re doing something right for your team. If you’re driving in a lot of runs, you’re doing something right for your team. It’s not about individual glory; it’s about wins.”
Ryan Sweeney, Chicago Cubs outfielder: “I’ve kind of been an average guy my whole career, so I’d have to pick batting average. Winning a batting title would be pretty cool. It would be a real accomplishment to be able to say, ‘Hey, I hit the highest in the league for that year.’
“Individually, that would be the best, but as far as a stat that adds the most value, I’d think OPS. There are different ways to look at it. Are you looking at it as a purely individual thing, or as a stat that helps your team win?
Nick Swisher, Cleveland Indians outfielder: “Homers, bro. Chicks dig the long ball. Score ‘em all, bro. Just be the chauffeur, driving them home.”
Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels outfielder: “Homers. I have more walks this year, yeah. But you are what you are. Homers are cool.”
Will Venable, San Diego Padres outfielder: “ I take pride in doing everything well, and I don’t know what statistic actually embodies doing everything. I’m not a guy who’s ever going to lead the league in average or lead the league in steals, I take pride in doing everything well, so if there’s a statistic for that, I’ll take that one.
[After having WAR explained to him.] “Then that one!”
Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds first baseman: “There’s no better thing you can do in baseball than hit home runs, so I’d like to lead in that. That said, I don’t know if there’s a correlation between home runs and general offensive dominance. I don’t know if there is one number that does that.
“I’ve always felt like the top guys in OPS are usually the best hitters in the league. I’m probably biased, because I led the league in it, but I think it’s a big stat. So I guess my answer is OPS, if you’re talking purely offensive stats. If you’re talking overall, I’ll say WAR.”
Matt Wieters, Baltimore Orioles catcher: “I think it would be RBIs. Whether you’re driving in runs with singles, or driving them in with doubles or homers, that’s how you win games. For me, that category would be most important. In order to win you have to score runs, and if you don’t have somebody driving them in, you’re not going to score runs.”
OPS: Four votes (Castro, Conger, Giambi, Votto)
Home Runs: Three votes (DeJesus, Swisher, Trumbo)
RBIs: Two votes (Granderson 1/2, Jones 1/2 Wieters)
Batting Average: One vote (Sweeney)
Runs: One vote (Granderson 1/2, Jones 1/2)
No Definitive Answer: One vote (Venable)
[Note: Thanks to Eno Sarris for providing the responses from Castro, Conger, Giambi, Swisher, Trumbo and Venable.]
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