Aesthetically Pleasing Triple-Slashes — And Other Hitting Lines

There are a couple dynamics at play here. For one, we’re merely days from pitchers and catchers reporting; as a result, things to file a column on are bone dry. We have innings eaters swapping locales, a summary of the offseason’s best deals,  wishing happy trails to an underappreciated 43-year-old, and the dispelling of various rumors, most of which are asinine and drummed up for content. See the irony?

But today, I’d like to get romantic about statistics. Ever get lost inside the stats? I do. So join me in pushing up our nerd glasses today as I take a look at some of the hitting stat lines that pique my interest when I’m checking out a hitter’s stat sheet. In the interest of full disclosure, this post was in part inspired by a NotGraphs piece penned by Patrick Newman.

The .3xx/.4xx/.5xx triple-slash.

For me, this slash is probably the most pleasing to behold. It’s not the most productive of the stat lines that we’ll examine today, but there’s something — at least to me — about the consistency. The 3-4-5 suggests first of all, pretty good contact. How many everyday — albeit, dated — adages suggest hitting .300 is pretty dang good? The .4xx suggests a few things; for one, getting on base 40 percent of the time is elite, pretty much no matter how you slice it. Secondly, it shows a discerning eye at the plate. Assuming the hitter wasn’t .380/.405/.500, he’ll have to have good discipline to go with his contact to fulfill the first pair in this triple slash.

Finally, the .5xx. It suggests a .500 or better slugging average, which at least to me is the bar for a borderline-elite power hitter. In conjunction with the .3xx and .4xx, it shows a mix of power, discipline, and contact. Pretty much everything one would want out of a modern-day hitter (speed be damned!). For purposes of today’s ‘study’, we’ll call upon only hitters with 300-plus plate appearances (arbitrary perhaps, but effective at least in my view). Big leaguers who qualified under this wonderful triple-slash include the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Lance Berkman, and Joey Votto. Matt Kemp, the NL MVP runner-up, just missed the cut, while Mike Napoli actually exceeded the demands by triple-slashing .320/.414/.631.

The .2xx/.4xx/.6xx triple-slash.

Much like the previous grouping, this triple-slash indicates an elite player. Oftentimes, the hitter’s batting average is just inside the .2xx, perhaps missing .300 by an eyelash, while his discipline and power rates are completely off the charts. The 2-4-6 is pleasing to my eye simply because it’s even numbers simply jumping by two, like we learned in kindergarten; simple, if a bit nerdy, to be honest. As one might expect, this is a more exclusive grouping than the last.

Also like the last grouping, Mr. Napoli went and outdid himself by being a .3xx/.4xx/.6xx guy. But what’s interesting — at least to me — is the type of player this 2-4-6 guy is. Since nobody achieved this mark in ‘11, take a look at the list of guys from 2000 on who’ve done so (in descending order):

Hitter – Year
Jim Thome – ‘10 (and ‘01)
Prince Fielder – ‘09
Carlos Pena – ‘07
David Ortiz – ‘06
Brian Giles – ‘02
Troy Glaus – ‘00

So basically what we have is a bunch of plodders who played corners, and not particularly well with the possible exception of Pena. Random side note: Holy smut was Giles good. In ‘02, he hit .298/.450/.622. In fact, his five-year run from ‘99-’03 was pretty legendary: .307/.426/.588. If he wasn’t living in Barry Bonds’ shadow — both figuratively in Pirates’ LF and because the dude was slugging .800 each year — he would have been a legit MVP case. Instead, he finished 13th that season.

The exactly even OPS (.800/.900/1.000/etc.)

What’s not to like about a completely even OPS? But I digress, because I think this opens up a whole new line of questioning. What’s the best way to squeeze the most effectiveness out of an .800 OPS? Probably a .400/.400 OBP/SLG split? My personal favorite is the .350/.450; just enough OBP to keep a guy interested, but enough power to do just the same. I told you I was going to get romantic about statistics. I think the lowest I can get too excited about is the .800, to be honest.

Taking a glance at the leaderboard from this season, the contenders are pretty sparse. Even if we make .050s permissible — still a well-rounded digit — there are only a few leaders in the clubhouse. Todd Helton, Evan Longoria, and the microfractured Victor Martinez all finished ‘11 with an .850 OPS. Newly-inked Indian and groundball wizard Casey Kotchman checked in at exactly .800. Random side note (by now you should know I’m full of these): the last exactly 1.000 OPS hitter was Gary Sheffield in 2001. In fact, there have only been two in the last 40 years. The other? Juan Gonzalez in 1993.

The 1:1 or lower K/BB rate

Here we take a break from the more exclusive lists while jumping into the realm of counting stats. I don’t really love counting stats, but I think it’s an excellent measure of skill to see a hitter have more free passes than whiffs.

This list is a bit more diverse, as it includes players from all different walks of their career.

Hitter – BB/K rate
Ian Kinsler 1.25
Miguel Cabrera 1.21
Alberto Callaspo 1.21
Jose Bautista 1.19
Ryan Hanigan 1.09
Marco Scutaro 1.06
Albert Pujols 1.05
Jose Reyes 1.05
Juan Pierre 1.05
Dustin Pedroia 1.01
Prince Fielder 1.01
Carlos Ruiz 1.00

As you can see, there are former MVPs, solid if unspectacular regulars, and well, Juan Pierre. As a result, it’s not a skill that’s predestined to make a player ultra-successful — although Pierre did well to juice as much WAR out of his talent for quite a stretch there — but it’s one that more often than not results in a desirable player to have on one’s club.

The 100-plus point differential between batting average and on-base average

This one really ties into the last grouping, though they aren’t mutually exclusive. Ostensibly, one could whiff a ton and still keep that 100-point gap in isolated OBP. Heck, Adam Dunn has made a career out of it.

It’s also a bit tougher to search. As a result, I limited my options to guys who took more than 50 free passes last season. The following table is descending in order of walks taken:

Hitter – Isolated OBP
Jose Bautista .145
Joey Votto .107
Miguel Cabrera .104
Prince Fielder .116
Carlos Pena .132
Carlos Santana .112
Nick Swisher .114
Lance Berkman .111
Ian Kinsler .100
Andrew McCutchen .105
Curtis Granderson .102
Evan Longoria .111
Bobby Abreu .100
Mark Reynolds .102
Adam Dunn .133
Chris Iannetta .132
Kevin Youkilis .115

Again, another interesting group. There are plenty of non-surprises in the mix, including the top four who are perennial MVP candidates. A pair who surprised me, though, were Adam Dunn and Chris Iannetta. The surprise regarding Dunn was solely in the idea that he was just so, so bad last season (.159/.292/.277). I think that goes to show that a discerning eye is one of the last things to slump, especially considering where Bobby Abreu is in his career too. Iannetta, on the other hand, is just so unheralded due to perhaps in large part his handling by the Rockies. Despite an .808 big league OPS over the past four seasons, he’s only averaged 92 games played and under 300 at bats per campaign. He may not fare well in the sunshine state (.869/.707 home-away OPS splits), but I find his iso OBP interesting nonetheless.

The 35 point or less differential between batting average and on-base average

One final group, just to suggest that I’m not biased towards players with beneficial skill sets. I also find myself fascinated with hitters who completely and totally object to taking a walk. Take a peek (sorted in order of fewest ? most free passes up to 25 walks):

Hitter – Isolated OBP
Jeff Keppinger .023
Miguel Tejada .031
Mike Aviles .034
Rajai Davis .035
Yuniesky Betancourt .019
Vladimir Guerrero .027
Corey Patterson .034
Orlando Cabrera .029
Yorvit Torrealba .033
Vernon Wells .030
Miguel Olivo .029
Carl Crawford .034
Delmon Young .034
Adrian Beltre .035

Like the over-.100 crowd, the sub-.035 crowd was also difficult to cultivate. After first trying under .020 and .040, I found that .035 gave me a pretty good, but not overwhelmingly large table of results to peek at. See any surprises on the list? Crawford seems like a shock at first gasp, even in spite of his Dunn-esque 2011 campaign, but to be truthful, his career ISO OBP is .040. He just isn’t an ideal fit at the top of the order. The rest of the list are a bunch of hacktastic hombres which should surprise nobody, but to me, it’s still interesting.

So, these are my favorite stat lines to peer at. What are yours?

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In addition to Rotographs, Warne writes about the Minnesota Twins for The Athletic and is a sportswriter for Sportradar U.S. in downtown Minneapolis. Follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Warne, or feel free to email him to do podcasts or for any old reason at brandon.r.warne@gmail-dot-com

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If you’re going to do aesthetically pleasing statistics, then you should have tackled those that achieved the golden ratio :-)


I couldn’t resist checking this out. At first, I thought it simply couldn’t be done. Sure some players could have a ~1.6 ratio of OBP/BA or SLG/OBP. (Golden ratio = 1.618). However, having both in the same season would be an incredible feat! Yet it has been done exactly once in the history of baseball (considering all batting-title qualified seasons), if you’ll allow me to round to the nearest tenth decimal point.

1998 Mark McGwire: .299/.470/.752

The ratio of SLG/OBP is exactly 1.6 and the ratio of OBP/BA is 1.572. Other notable seasons include:

1999 Mark McGwire: .278/.424/.697, (OBP/BA = 1.525, SLG/OBP = 1.644)
2001 Barry Bonds: .328/.515/.863, (OBP/BA = 1.570, SLG/OBP = 1.676)

So it seems that one needs to put up historic numbers to achieve a “golden ratio” season, perhaps making them impossible in the post-steroid era. However, hope springs anew in Jose Bautista:

2010 Jose Bautista: .260/.378/.617, (OBP/BA = 1.454, SLG/OBP = 1.632)

Or, perhaps a Carlos Pena/Mark Reynolds type will achieve one in a less historic manner.

2009 Carlos Pena: .227/.356/.537, (OBP/BA = 1.568, SLG/OBP = 1.508)
2010 Mark Reynolds: .198/.320/.433, (OBP/BA = 1.616, SLG/OBP = 1.353)

The above seasons pretty much run the gamut of possible “golden ratio” lines, from historic to barely maintaining a starting role.

In case you’re interested (and if you’ve read this much you must be), the OBP/BA ratio closest to the golden ratio (1.618) is a tie between 2010 Mark Reynolds (above) and
1945 Eddie Stanky: .258/.417/.333, (OBP/BA = 1.616)
1943 Eddie Joost: .185/.299/.252, (OBP/BA = 1.616)
1988 Darrell Evans: .208/.337/.380, (OBP/BA = 1.620)

And the SLG/OBP ratio closest to the golden ratio was right on the nose (to three decimal places)
1962 Frank Howard: .296/.346/.560, (SLG/OBP = 1.618)