Baseball’s 10 Most Unusual Hitters

Baseball, more than any other major team sport, has the reputation for having the least athletic athletes. Jose Molina is obligated to, at times, sprint. Jorge de la Rosa must swing a baseball bat. David Ortiz sometimes has to play in the field. Having skills like catcher defense, pitching, and hitting with power will earn you playing time, and many players have such elite strengths that it’s worth it just to deal with those weaknesses. So many of baseball’s skills are unrelated that players have to spend a lot of time doing things they aren’t good at, at least relative to other MLB talent. A good way to make anyone look unathletic is to make them perform a long list of skills that have little to do with one another and compare them to the best in the world at those tasks.

I wanted to assemble a list of players who experienced something like this phenomenon the most frequently. Essentially, I wanted to see what players’ strengths and weaknesses were the farthest apart. To determine those players whose skills varied the most between themselves, I gathered what I consider to be the six stats that best describe what a player’s strengths and weaknesses are. BABIP and K% for contact, BB% for discipline, ISO for power, and Fielding and Baserunning values. I then gathered stats from 2011-2014 to better control for less reliable fielding metrics, assigned each player’s stats a percentile rank, and calculated the standard deviation of those six stats for each player.

For instance, Mike Trout’s attributes look like this:

Mike Trout

His strikeout rate has been higher than MLB average, but he is otherwise an exceptionally well rounded player, as we know.

The most evenly talented player in baseball has been Kyle Seager, who is almost in the middle third at every stat.

Kyle Seager

Many players have much more severe strengths and weaknesses. Here are the 10 players whose stats show the greatest variation from one another.

10. Dexter Fowler

Dexter Fowler

9. Ichiro Suzuki

Ichiro Suzuki

8. Jose Altuve

Jose Altuve

7. Curtis Granderson

Curtis Granderson

6. Mark Reynolds

Mark Reynolds

5. Giancarlo Stanton

Giancarlo Stanton

4. Miguel Cabrera

Miguel Cabrera

3. Darwin Barney

Darwin Barney

2. Adam Dunn

Adam Dunn

1. Ben Revere

Ben Revere

The whole list is fun to look through and play around with, so feel free to click here and look through all the qualifying players.



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Well-Beered Englishman
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Well-Beered Englishman

If Adam Dunn and Mark Reynolds rank so highly, I can’t wait to see what the new generation of HR/K guys will do, especially Zach Walters, who has homered or K’d in 42.5% of all plate appearances this year.

GeorgeFred
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GeorgeFred

I demand a sequel. “Baseballs 10 most usual hitters”. This will be very bland and usual.

KK-Swizzle
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KK-Swizzle

Great work! It’s always fun to dissect how exactly players are providing value for their teams. I love the contrast between Miguel Cabrera’s absolute dominance at anything related to hitting, coupled with his general sluggish-ness on the bases and in the field.

Now, for the real interesting question…could we revise the traditional scouting scale with this type of thinking in mind? In the spirit of Moneyball, shouldn’t we be evaluating, you know, actual baseball skills as well as overall athletic talent and “projectability”? It doesn’t have to be exactly these categories. For example, fielding could be broken up into some combination of range, glove, and arm. I’ve always wanted to split up the “hit” tool into contact ability and plate discipline…BABIP, K%, and BB% is perfect! The important thing is that each factor you measure should translate into a tangible, skill-derived portion of a prospect’s projected production. What say you, Kiley McD? What say you?!?!

tz
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tz

How about Ben Zobrist and David Wright as the only two players to be above average in all six categories? Zobrist was just above the 54th percentile in BABIP, while Wright was just below the 54th percentile in K%

(Donaldson, Cano and Braun all were between the 45th and 50th percentile in their worst categories, just missing the mark).

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