[Authors Note Added, 7:42 p.m. EST: Thanks to the commentators below who spotted the obvious error... You all are great. Fortunately (for me) the revised standings for the top five remain almost the same. It was a simple Excel mistake on my part, silly and embarrassing. Some good came out of it: there is now a bidding war between San Francisco, Houston, Kansas City, and New York (NYN) to hire me as Head of Research and Analysis.]
The so-called Three True Outcomes are the walk, the strikeout, and the home run. They are called “true” outcomes because they reflect the pitcher-hitter relationship without the mediation of defense, luck on balls in play, etc. The celebration of three true outcome (TTO) hitters is a classic staple of sabermetric writing on the internet. In that tradition, let’s take a look at the leaders in TTO rate from 2007-2009. The pool of players are those defined as qualified over the past three calendar years by the FanGraphs leaderboards. The definition of Three True Outcome rate I’ll use is (HR+K+BB-iBB)/(PA-iBB). I’ve excluded intentional walks since they are out of the hitter’s control.
In reverse order, your top five members of the Rob Deer Fan Club from 2007-2009:
5. Jim Thome
Although Thome is a sure DH-only at this point, I’m surprised his name hasn’t popped up more frequently this offseason in hot stove rumors. Thome still has something to offer, but teams seem to be more circumspect regarding the relative value of designated hitters than in the past. Moreover, it’s one thing to have old player skills, and another to simply be old.
4. Carlos Pena
It bears repeating: for all the (uninformed) talk of Tampa Bay’s rapid ascent being due to years of high draft picks, smart acquisitions like that of Pena have had as much or more to do with their recent success. I’ve heard that during the 2006-2007 offseason, one of his suitors was the Kansas City Royals, and that part of the reason he didn’t sign with the Royals was that they wanted him to complete with Ryan Shealy for a starting spot.
3. Adam Dunn
For all the (justified) talk of Dunn’s dreadful performance in the field, there is no doubting his offensive value. Dunn is arguably the most miscast player in baseball — he’s one of the few guys who could actually carry the DH spot, yet he’s stuck in the NL… Remember way back in 2008, when then-Blue Jays GM J. P. Ricciardi put down Dunn’s abilities, leading to general mockery and vilification of Ricciardi all over the internet? A fired up Adam Dunn responded by finishing 2008 with monstrous 1.2 WAR and following it up with an equally impressive 1.2 WAR in 2009. Interesting.
2. Mark Reynolds
Reynolds may not be much of a defender on the hot corner, but he’s Adrian Beltre compared to the rest of this group. Particularly interesting in this context is that Reynolds is the only member of this group not in his 30s, and as the youngest of the five, he reflects much what we generally known about player aging: he has the most defensive skill, the lowest walk rate, the highest three-year batting average (.257), the most steals, and the highest speed score.
1. Jack Cust
What, you were expecting Howie Kendrick? As has been said before, perhaps they should rename this category the “Three True OutCusts.” Cust outstrips even Dunn in his extremity. Cust is known for his old player skills, and his down year in 2009 did nothing to change that perception. However, CHONE projects Cust’s 2010 context-neutral runs above average per 150 games at +23, second-highest in this group to Pena’s +30. Oakland recently resigned Cust for $2.65 million guaranteed as part of their goal of fielding one Adam Dunn and eight Endy Chavezes, and if he’s anywhere close to +23 as a hitter, that will be a bargain.
Later this week: The 2007-2009 trailers
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