Terrible Hitters Who Help Their Teams

If you want a quick glimpse of some players who probably shouldn’t qualify for the batting title, go to the leader boards, click on Advanced, and then click on wOBA. There you will see a list of players whose wOBAs range from pretty damn bad, Will Venable at .285, to downright putrid, Miguel Tejada at .224. Some of these players figure to rise from their unworthy starts and earn their spots in the lineup. Others will find spots on the bench, or, in some cases, the waiver wire. Such is life in baseball.

Despite their horrible overall production, some of these players have managed to get their scant few hits in a timely manner. A few of the bottom dwellers have racked up a decent number of runs and RBI in their travels. While it’s not at all indicative of their talent, it has helped their team in some small way. I’d like to highlight a couple of these instances today.

Gets Hits in Timely Situations

After a quality showing during his rookie campaign, Danny Valencia has taken quite a stumble in his follow-up effort. He’s already halfway to his PA total from last year, but has just a third the number of hits. His power is down, his BABIP is way down, and, well, basically everything he’s done has been worse. The only thing he’s done better is draw more walks (he’s just four away from his total from last year). That only adds up to a .272 wOBA. Still, his hits have come at the right time, as he already has 19 RBI.

To put that RBI total into context, it’s as many as David Ortiz (.374 wOBA) and two more than Howie Kendrick (.389 wOBA). (There are others in similar ranges, but many of them are leadoff hitters.) It is also the second most on his team, one behind Jason Kubel. This actually goes a long way in explaining the team’s offensive woes. So does the fact that his wOBA is fifth highest among his teammates with 100 or more PA. It’s a bit lucky, then, that nine of his 31 hits have come with men in scoring position.

Teammates Have a Knack

While it’s better to time your hits so they come with men in scoring position, it’s still beneficial when your teammates knock you in once you’ve gotten on base. The most prolific at this in 2011 has been Alex Rios. He’s at a .266 OBP and .255 wOBA — just 41 times he has reached via non-HR hit or a walk. Yet in 22 instances his teammates have driven him in. True, some of those have undoubtedly come after he’s reached on a fielder’s choice or on an error. But it’s still quite impressive that a player can get on base so infrequently and still score so many runs.

In the search for context, we can see that he’s scored as many runs as Placido Polanco (.374 OBP) and more runs than Carlos Beltran (.377 OBP). Jhonny Peralta has a .360 OBP this season, yet has scored four fewer runs than Rios. Here’s another: despite having the seventh-highest OBP among the White Sox with more than 100 PA, he has scored 13 percent of the team’s runs on the season. What makes this even more remarkable is that for the past few weeks he’s been hitting seventh, which means that he has Gordon Beckham and Brent Morel hitting behind him.

The Unproductive One

Not everyone can be as lucky as Rios and Valencia, getting hits in timely spots and coming around to score in the few instances that they do reach base. The goat here is James Loney. He has only seven runs scored and 13 RBI to go with his .240 wOBA. That’s more in line with expectations. Loney does have a few handicaps, in that he usually hits eighth and so doesn’t come around to score often, because the pitcher hits behind him. He also hits in the Dodgers lineup, which doesn’t feature many guys getting on base ahead of him.

Of course, James Loney’s biggest handicap of all is that he’s James Loney and doesn’t hit baseballs particularly well. But that’s a story for another post.

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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.

23 Responses to “Terrible Hitters Who Help Their Teams”

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  1. Mattsd says:

    “Loney does have a few handicaps, in that he usually hits eighth”

    The huge majority of Loney’s PAs have come hitting 6th. He hasn’t hit 8th all year.

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    • James says:

      Yeah – he’s not unproductive because he hits eighth; he hits eighth because he was/is unproductive. An utter lack of offensive improvement in the last few years when he should be in his prime.

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      • Mattsd says:

        He DOESN’T hit 8th is my point.

        Other than a few games hitting 2nd or 7th, he has hit 5th/6th all year.

        The article takes a questionable approach and doesn’t make any particularly coherent points, but that can be forgiven. Making things up like Loney being handicapped by hitting 8th is inexcusable though.

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  2. The Ancient Mariner says:

    From the title, I thought this would be a piece on NL starting pitchers . . .

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    • chuckb says:

      I thought it would be a piece on good defenders who’ve helped their teams w/ the glove despite being poor hitters this year.

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      • Capt Obvious says:

        I thought it would be a piece on hitters who aren’t that good but have had timely hits this year.

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      • Dustin says:

        As a Brewer fan, I thought Carlos Gomez was going to be one of the poster boys for this piece.

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  3. D4P says:

    Loney has benefited for multiple years in a row now from being among the league leaders in PAs with runners on base and/or in scoring position, which has inflated his RBI totals and helped to foster the misconception that he’s a “run producer”. Even this year (with so many teammates who are unable to get on base) he’s 23rd in the MLB in ABs with runners on base and 27th in ABs with runners in scoring position.

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  4. ohidenny says:

    and the point of this article? that some players will get more rbi and runs than they should based on how well they’ve hit?

    yikes fangraphs…

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    • bender says:

      The fact that this doesn’t even reference WPA is deeply disappointing

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      • ohidenny says:

        exactly. if you’re going to write a bunch of paragraphs (can’t even call this an article) about “how much players help their teams win” at least do the legwork to list out exactly how much they are helping the team win.

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  5. Chris says:

    Why not look at WPA to see how much these guys are helping their teams win? Despite Valencia’s 19 RBIs, he has a WPA of -0.66. Meanwhile, Loney has a WPA of -0.11. From quickly scanning a scatter plot of wOBA vs. WPA, that’s actually the highest WPA of anyone with a wOBA below .273 – Cliff Pennington has a wOBA of .273 and a WPA of -0.07.

    And since he’s also mentioned in the article, I’ll point out that Venable has actually helped his team, with a WPA of 0.63 – that appears to be the highest WPA of anyone with a wOBA below .318.

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    • tom s. says:

      i feel this discussion would be incomplete without mention of daniel descalso, clutch “hitter” extraordinaire. wOBA thus far this season – .279. 14 RBIs. clutch index 1.11. he has a WPA of 0.92 so far this season. a combination of dumb luck, and hitting seventh and eighth after a disgustingly awesome late-middle of the cardinals lineup – holliday, berkman, freese (until he went on the DL). 41 of his 114 PAs in 2011 came with RISP.

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    • chuckb says:

      Rios’ WPA is 2nd worst in the big leagues. I guess it’s better than nothing that he’s scored a lot of runs but “helping his team”…I’m not so sure about that.

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  6. Yeesh says:

    My Goodness, people. Relax. I’m sick to death of these complaints about Fangraphs phoning it in. Sure, some of these posts are thin. Some lack substance. But know what? They’re free. Many are fantastic. There are several posts per day, every day. Awesome database of statistics. A sense of humor.

    What more do you want?

    Give it a rest.

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    • Bryz says:

      Agreed. Sometimes people complain that there’s a lack of stats involved. Some complain that the wrong stats were used. Some complain that the article just pointed out everything we could find on a player’s profile page.

      Honestly, just give it a rest. Like Yeesh said, this is free and there’s a high volume of articles. What’s wrong with a little variety once in a while? I get that FanGraphs is a stats-based website, but that doesn’t mean that EVERY article needs to contain statistics.

      Perhaps this article was titled incorrectly, but these outliers are still rather interesting to see. For instance, Valencia’s RBI is 2nd on the team, and actually led the team for a good chunk of the season. First currently is Jason Kubel, who has been the Twins’ best hitter.

      Oh, and WPA isn’t perfect either.

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    • MatManz says:

      I’d say minus the sense of humor. I think they for the most part take themselves far too seriously.

      Also Rios, Beckham and Morel aren’t terrible hitters, they’re in a slump. By that logic I guess Ubaldo Jimenez is a terrible pitcher too.

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    • Jim says:

      “Sure, some of these posts are thin. Some lack substance”

      Now who’s being negative? Those “thin” posts are free, don’t ya know??!11

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  7. James Loney's mom says:

    Even I think my little James is just dreadul at playing baseball. And I wish he’d call more often.

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  8. JoeS says:

    How about Orlando Cabrera? He seems like the perfect guy for this post.

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  9. Where is says:

    Francisco Cervelli?

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