The Least Interesting Player of 2016

Baseball is great! We all love baseball. That’s why we’re here. We love everything about it, but we especially love the players who stick out. You know, the ones who’ve done something we’ve never seen before, or the ones that make us think, “Wow, I didn’t know that could happen.” It’s fun to look at players who are especially good — or, let’s face it, especially bad — at some aspect of this game. They’re the most interesting part of this game we love.

But not everyone can be interesting. Some players are just plain uninteresting! Like this guy.

OMG taking a pitch? That’s boring. You’re boring everybody. Quit boring everyone!

You caught a routine fly ball? YAWN! Wake me when something interesting happens.

But it’s hopeless; nothing interesting will ever happen with Stephen Piscotty. I’m sure the two GIFs above have convinced you that he was the least interesting player in baseball last year. But, on the off-chance that you have some lingering doubts, we can quantify it. I’ve made a custom leaderboard of various statistics for all qualified batters in 2016. For each of these statistics, I computed the z-score and the square of the z-score. In this way, we can boil down how interesting each player was to one number — the sum of the squared z-scores. The idea is that if a player was interesting in even one of these statistics, they’d have a high number there. Here are the results:

Click through for an interactive version

I don’t need to tell you who the guy on the far right is. On the flip side, though, there are two data points on the left that stick out. The slightly higher of the two is Marcell Ozuna, with an interest score of 1.627. The one on the very far left is Stephen Piscotty, with an interest score of 0.997. That’s right — if you sum the squares of his z-scores, you don’t even get to 1! This is as boring and average as baseball players get.

Where the real fun begins, though, is when you start making scatter plots of these statistics against each other. I’ve made an interactive version where you can play around with making these yourself, but here are a few highlights:

AVG vs. SLG

IFFB% vs. OPS

ISO vs. wRC+

Pretty boring, right? But wait, there’s more! Let’s investigate a little further what went into his interest score. Remember how we summed his squared z-scores and got a value below 1? Well, let’s look at the individual components that went into that sum.

The Most Boring Table Ever
Statistic Squared z-score
LD% 0.108
GB% 0.002
PA 0.296
G 0.220
OPS 0.001
BB% 0.057
SLG 4.888e-05
WAR 0.007
BABIP 0.141
K% 0.103
IFFB% 0.0004
ISO 5.313e-05
FB% 0.007
wOBA 0.022
AVG 1.69e-29
wRC+ 0.025
OBP 0.006

Yes, you’re reading that right — where he stood out the most was in games played and plate appearances. Yay, we got to see that much more boring! Also, I think it is especially apt that his AVG was EXACTLY league average.

All right, time to step back and be serious for a second. As Brian Kenny is always reminding us, there is great value in being a league-average hitter. Piscotty was worth 2.8 WAR last year, just his second year in the league. He’s already a very valuable contributor to a very good team. Maybe it’s time we started noticing guys who do everything just as well as everyone else, and value their contributions too?

(Nah, I’m going to go back and pore over Barry Bonds’s early-2000s stats for the next few hours.)

All the code used to generate the data and visualizations for this post can be found on my GitHub.

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The Kudzu Kid does not believe anyone actually reads these author bios.

Member

I did something similar attempting to find the most “average” season of all time. I came up with an early Ian Kinsler season. More evidence that being bad at nothing make you a pretty good player.

Member

You need to be hired. Love the Brian Kenny mention. Could age be taken into account in this?

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Member

Brian Kenny should be the only analyst on MLB Network. He’s got a book out, too, and its great

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Member

Fun read, really enjoyed it!

Though Trout is the obvious answer for most interesting, I would like to have seen the details of some of the leaderboard on that side. You can never have enough Trout gifs either…

I noticed that Buster Posey was really uninteresting. How do you account for that? High BB, low K, high WAR, low speed…

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Member

I liked this, especially since I’m teaching myself statistics (standard deviation, sample variance, etc) through Khan Academey, so your post was perfect timing.
But..
Using just qualified batters? Can you use a larger sample? Would he still be average?
Also, when referenceing UZR, RZR, OOZ, etc, he’s actually much better than qualified OF. I personally don’t put much stock in DEF but to each his own.
Nevertheless, I appricate this post for the research that went into it. Well done.

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Chase Hampton

Piscotty has a career UZR of 1.1 and DRS of -1. Even defensively, Piscotty is remarkably average.

This was a very enjoyable read! Good stuff!