Who Most Embodies the Three True Outcomes?

Baseball has been on a steady path toward being a “three true outcome” (home runs, walks, strikeouts) league the last few years. Hitters are becoming more and more centered around drawing walks or getting hard contact, but are allowing more swing and misses to achieve that. As Dave Cameron noted in this article earlier this year, in the first week of 2017, the strikeout and walk rates were record highs for a given week. The home-run rates remained relatively similar to the crazy-high ones of 2016. This article is the first in what will be a two-part segment, one with players and one with teams. So, which players have embodied the three true outcomes the most in 2017?

Only players with at least 80 plate appearances qualified for this. I took players in the 80th percentile for BB% (above 12.4%), ISO (above .239), and home-run rate (above 6.03%). Then, I filtered for players in the 20th percentile for K% (above 25.5%) and contact% (below 73.2%). I found six compatible players:

Name Team G AB HR% BB% K% ISO Contact%
Joey Gallo Rangers 28 90 8.89% 12.40% 38.10% 0.333 64.80%
Khris Davis Athletics 26 89 11.24% 15.00% 29.00% 0.36 70.50%
Aaron Judge Yankees 25 88 14.77% 14.40% 26.00% 0.489 70.80%
Miguel Sano Twins 25 86 9.30% 18.90% 33.00% 0.372 67.20%
Matt Holliday Yankees 24 78 6.41% 16.80% 25.30% 0.256 69.10%
Justin Upton Tigers 24 80 6.25% 14.70% 31.60% 0.25 72.50%

As a top prospect, the path of Joey Gallo has been monitored closely. The 23-year-old has shown tremendous natural power in his short stints in the bigs, but has also demonstrated poor plate discipline. Jeff Sullivan recently discussed whether Gallo was approaching the acceptable threshold of his swing-and-miss tendencies, but his overall numbers and 2017 have still been underwhelming (aside from the home runs). Gallo has the lowest BB% and contact% of the group, yet has the greatest K% by a large margin. The power is clearly there, as his HR% and ISO are solid among the others, but Gallo still has a long way to go to become an above-average hitter in the Rangers lineup.

Khris Davis has epitomized the continual growth of the league toward the three true outcomes, consistently increasing his HR%, BB%, and K% through his career in the majors. Davis has begun to establish himself as one of the better-hitting outfielders in the league, growing on his home-run-filled 2016 while greatly increasing his walks.

Simply put, Aaron Judge is mashing the ball for the Yankees in 2017. After a disappointing run in his late-season call-up in 2016, Judge has shown much-improved plate discipline, dramatically increasing and decreasing his BB% and K%, respectively. The 25-year-old leads the MLB in home runs, and is head and shoulders above even this group in ISO. He is achieving this all while posting the second-lowest K% of the group and highest contact%. His early start is clearly unsustainable, but Judge looks like a future star right now.

Miguel Sano is yet another young, former highly-touted prospect in this group. After a promising rookie season in 2016, a possible breakout was expected from Sano — and he has not disappointed. He leads this group in BB% and is second in ISO. Sano still has the swing-and-miss problems, as his K% and contact% are still very poor, but he has displayed the power and walk-drawing ability to become a leader of the league’s three true outcome trend.

Matt Holliday is a bit different from the previous four guys because of his MLB experience. The 37-year-old veteran has appeared in 1797 games in his career — the other four have appeared in 851 games combined. Holiday has changed his profile a little bit this season, following the three true outcome trend and posting HR%, BB%, and K% higher than his career norms. Whether Holliday is adjusting to the changing MLB with age or this is just a one-month statistical blip remains to be seen, but he has certainly played like a three true outcome guy in 2017.

Justin Upton, like Holliday, has a lot more experience than the first four guys on this list. Upton has continued in 2017 what he’s always done as a pro: strike out and hit home runs. However, he has displayed an improvement in his ability to draw walks this season, posting what would be an easy career high 14.7% in 2017. Upton is not quite the extreme power hitter in comparison to the others — he has the lowest HR% and ISO of the group — but he also has the highest contact%. He is not a league-leader-in-home-runs type of player, but Upton makes just enough contact and draws enough walks to mitigate his strikeout tendencies.

It is clear that the three true outcome trend has been dominated by the younger guys, but it is also evident that veterans are adjusting to league changes. Guys like Sano, Gallo, and Judge have made their way to the MLB by embracing the three true outcomes, while players like Holliday are possibly changing with the times. In the coming years, you will likely see the number of names in that table increase even more.

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You left out exhibit A for this type of player, Ryan Schimpf. 8.89% HR, 17.9% BB, 32.1% K, 278 ISO. Looks like you filtered him out because his contact rate is too high. He’s doing roughly the same as Gallo, just with better plate discipline, and less luck (6 hits out of 48 BIP for Schimpf, 11 out of 47 for Gallo)

Jake Lamb is the other one who misses due to contact rate, and his walks (11%) are slightly lower than the cutoff.


You also forgot Trevor Story, here are his rates: 5% HR, 13.3% BB, and 38.3% K

Davis & Judge are around 55% of the 3-true-outcomes in total, while Sano sits at just over 61% and Gallo is right in-between. Story isn’t quite in the Sano or Gallo range, but he’s just ahead of Davis & Judge due to his extremely high K rate. I wouldn’t be surprised to see his HRs go up in the next month or so either because he has definitely started the season cold. You disqualified him on the 6% HR rate cutoff, but I bet he’ll be above that at season’s end.


A great read, excellent.