Triple Slash Line Anomalies

Statistical anomalies in baseball are fun to monitor. I stumbled across one this morning while checking to see how Bobby Abreu had fared this season. In 120 plate appearances, Abreu is slashing .271/.417/.375. The season is still young, but out-OBPing a slugging percentage after 80-100 PAs is strange to the eye. Unorthodox slash lines like Abreu’s stick out for their rarity and invite the questions of why and often they occur.

By analyzing the three rates in the “slash” fashion, fans and analysts have come to expect each successive rate to exceed its predecessor. Outlying that norm is difficult given the inputs fueling the rates. Even Willie Bloomquist can luck himself into an extra-base hit.

It’s extremely rare to post a batting average higher than an OBP, as it would entail never walking or getting hit by a pitch, but recording a few sacrifice flies. And players infrequently post OBPs in excess of their SLG while simultaneously having a decent season. More commonly, these players would fail to record many, or any, extra base hits. It makes more sense to see Reid Brignac‘s .212/.257/.212 than Abreu’s line.

But Abreu’s wOBA is currently .365, meaning he is having a solid season at the plate in spite of his slash line cosmetics. There are currently six qualifying players with a wOBA of .325 or higher who boast unorthodox slash lines.

- Jonathan Herrera: .300/.430/.400 in 88 PA, .380 wOBA
- Bobby Abreu: .271/.417/.375 in 120 PA, .365 wOBA
- Ichiro Suzuki: .317/.368/.366 in 133 PA, .345 wOBA
- Dustin Pedroia: .265/.377/.363 in 122 PA, .338 wOBA
- Jimmy Rollins: .271/.361/.346 in 122 PA, .327 wOBA
- Ryan Theriot: .303/.355/.343 in 109 PA, .325 wOBA

Their stats got me curious: which players in the wild card era produced the highest wOBAs with slash line anomalies like this? With a 500 PA minimum, here are the leaders:

- Luis Castillo (2000): .334/.418/.388, .374 wOBA
- Nick Johnson (2009): .291/.426/.405, .373 wOBA
- Rickey Henderson (1997): .248/.400/.342, .362 wOBA
- Tony Phillips (1996): .277/.404/.399, .360 wOBA
- Rafael Furcal (2000): .295/.394/.382, .359 wOBA

What initially stood out about this leaderboard is the small gap in the OBP and SLG. What are the highest gaps for a player with at least a .330 wOBA in a season?

- Walt Weiss (1995): .259/.403/.321, 0.082 OBP-SLG, .344 wOBA
- Rickey Henderson (1996): .241/.410/.344, 0.066 OBP-SLG, .357 wOBA
- Rickey Henderson (1997): .248/.400/.342, 0.057 OBP-SLG, .362 wOBA
- Otis Nixon (1996): .286/.377/.327, 0.050 OBP-SLG, .338 wOBA
- Reggie Willits (2007): .293/.391/.344, 0.047 OBP-SLG, .341 wOBA

So far the numbers have all involved single seasons for specific players. What happens when the scope is extended to a player’s career? Does anyone with a solid career wOBA have a higher OBP than SLG? With the focus shifted to careers, the wild card era filter is obviously removed. Only 68 players with at least 2,000 PAs accomplished this rare feat. Here are the highest wOBAs of the bunch:

- Billy Hamilton: .344/.455/.432, .447 wOBA
- John McGraw: .334/.466/.410, .442 wOBA
- Frank Chance: .296/.394/.394, .396 wOBA
- Cupid Childs: .306/.416/.389, .394 wOBA
- Ferris Fain: .289/.424/.396, .390 wOBA

Does any of this ultimately matter? No, but early in the season it can sometimes be more fun to play with inane numbers than attempt to parse meaning out of small samples. A higher OBP than SLG in a slash line can be rationalized, but it will still look strange as we are conditioned to expect a higher slugging percentage.

Luckily for teams, players with these unorthodox slash lines can still be productive. A .370 wOBA is a .370 wOBA regardless of what the slash line components look like when stacked up against each other.

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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

20 Responses to “Triple Slash Line Anomalies”

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  1. Mish says:

    Not a “triple slash” anomaly per say, but Alfonso Soriano has an ISO > OBP.

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  2. Will says:

    One thing you see very early (or w/ limited PAs) is a an OBP lower than BA. I know Jonhy Peralta had one w/in his first 20 or 30 PAs this year.

    I know its possible, but can’t figure out how.?! Thrown out trying to stretch a single into double (or double into triple)??

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    • Eric Seidman says:

      I described it in the article — you would have no walks or HBPs, but sac flies, since sac flies are included in the denominator for OBP. Or, just more sac flies than BB+HBP combined.

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    • Jeremy says:

      This can only happen if a player hasn’t reached base by walk or hbp and has several PA’s that aren’t counted as AB’s, such as a sac fly or bunt. Hard to pull off, but I feel like Willie Bloomquist has to have pulled it off at some point…

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        Sac bunts aren’t included in OBP, AVG, or SLG, so that doesn’t affect it at all. Thrown out trying to stretch a single wouldn’t affect any triple slash numbers either.

        It’s basically having more SF’s than OBP+HBP. Though it’s a bit more complicated than that, because you’re working with two different denominators. The SF’s need to outweigh the BB+HBP by a significant amount. Say, in 30 PA’s, you’re 3-for-12 with 7 BB’s, and 11 SF’s, that works out to a perfectly normal .250/.333 despite having *four* more SF’s than walks… But, in 30 PA’s, if you’re 9-for-29 with 0 BB’s and 1 SF, that works out to a funky .310/.300, even though you only have *one* more SF than BB.

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      • david says:

        Yirmi – incorrect about sacrifice bunts. Plate appearances include every trip to the plate (ball in play; AB; BB; SF; SH; HBP) and PA is the denominator for OBP.

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      • Eric Seidman says:

        David — PA is not the denominator for OBP. The denominator is (AB+BB+HBP+SF). A sac bunt is a true sacrifice — it doesn’t hurt your OBP.

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      • Yirmiyahu says:

        On a related note: why the hell are SF’s not counted as AB’s? I know it’s a productive out, and it might be a stat worth keeping track of. But unlike a SH, it’s not the manager’s call and the hitter doesn’t set out in the at-bat with the intention of *not* getting on base. And why isn’t there a “sacrifice groundout” ?

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      • Eric Seidman says:

        Dude, don’t even get me started on that one…

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  3. Eric R says:

    Wouldn’t it, more simply, be just HBP+BB0 HBP+BB with enough SF to produce an OBP<AVG is Mariano Duncan's 201 PA stint with the Phillies in 1995, with a .286 AVG and .285 OBP.

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  4. Jason B says:

    Not surprised to see Luis Castillo show up on the list – he was the first guy I thought of since he very often had reasonable OBPs and anemic SLGs. His OBP > SLG in every year from 1996-2002, covering 704 games and 3,117 PA. Had some decent years in that time, particularly 2000 (as cited in your story), with a triple slash of 334/418/388, good for a .374 wOBA and 122 wRC+.

    2003 and 2006 are in fact the only years in his 15-year career in which his SLG > OBP. For his career he now stands at a .368 OBP and .351 SLG over nearly 7500 PA, good for a .328 wOBA, 98 wRC+, and 29.9 cumulative WAR.

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  5. Paul says:

    Jack Cust’s line amuses me.


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    • joser says:

      It’s even more amusing when you know that his OBP is contributing more to driving in runs than his SLG is, thanks to bases-loaded walks.

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  6. Dragon Lance says:

    “Luckily for teams, players with these unorthodox slash lines can still be productive. A .370 wOBA is a .370 wOBA regardless of what the slash line components look like when stacked up against each other.”

    Please tell this to the Rockies manager, who for some reason bats Iannetta and his .373 wOBA 8th in the batting order while crappier hitters get the juicier lineup spots. The manager also gets frustrated with Iannetta for walking too many times with an inept pitcher on deck, and so he plays the backup C more than he should.

    Hey idiot manager, if you want someone who hacks at everything batting in front of the pitcher…why the hell are you batting Iannetta 8th? He’s never been a hacker. So why do you expect him to turn into one all of a sudden?

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  7. Alan says:

    Not sure exactly how long it lasted, but Yadier Molina was somewhere above 100 PAs in 2009 with a BA > OBP. I want to say he carried it to around 120 PAs.

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    • Alan says:

      Correction. Bengie Molina. It was 119 PAs, all the way through May 11th of 09. That’s the longest I know of such an anomaly happening to start the season. Has anyone gone longer? I love that scenario.

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  8. Sophist says:

    If Dayan Viciedo gets called up, he’d be a good candidate.

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