Who Hit What?

2004 was a banner year for major league hitters. Single-season records were set for walks, strikeouts and hits (Bonds, Dunn and Ichiro!) and you can’t get more fundamental than that. The 2004 Hardball Times Baseball Annual will include a review of these records as well as many other articles and statistics. Included among the stats will be each major league batter’s plate appearance outcomes, similar to the Pitcher Outcomes by Plate Appearance stats.

For instance, the average major league hitter struck out in 17% of his plate appearances. Adam Dunn struck out in 28% of his. That’s a big difference. But Dunn ranked only 14th in the majors in most strikeouts per plate appearance, if you include all batters with at least 100 plate appearances. Here’s a list of the Top Sixteen:

Player         Team    PA       K%
Branyan R.     MIL     182     37%
Ross D.        LAD     190     33%
Clark T.       NYY     283     33%
Pellow K.      COL     133     32%
Olivo M.       SEA     173     32%
Buck J.        KC      258     31%
Terrero L.     ARI     255     31%
Cash K.        TOR     197     30%
Pena W.        CIN     364     30%
Pickering C.   KC      142     30%
Kearns A.      CIN     246     29%
Hawpe B.       COL     118     29%
Hall B.        MIL     419     29%
Dunn A.        CIN     681     29%
Bellhorn M.    BOS     626     28%
Nix L.         TEX     404     28%

Not sure why I picked sixteen. Oh well. Anyway, Number Five is the same Miguel Olivo who struck out only 19% of the time while playing for the White Sox. Go figure.

But the point is that Adam Dunn didn’t set the MLB record for most strikeouts because he struck out at the highest rate; the point is that he strikes out a lot — but he’s also good enough to deserve 681 plate appearances. Following Dunn on the list is another good hitter who was given lots of opportunities to strike out, World Series star, Mark Bellhorn.

Ten percent of plate appearances resulted in a walk last year and, of course, Barry Bonds blew that rate away. Here were the top fifteen walkers in 2004:

Player         Team     PA     BB%
Bonds B.       SFG     617     39%
Thomas F.      CHW     311     23%
Walker L.      COL     138     21%
Berkman L.     HOU     687     20%
Drew J.        ATL     645     19%
Helton T.      COL     683     19%
Abreu B.       PHI     713     19%
Garcia D.      NYM     174     18%
Posada J.      NYY     547     18%
Edmonds J.     STL     612     17%
Thome J.       PHI     618     17%
Giambi J.      NYY     322     17%
Chavez E.      OAK     577     17%
Mohr D.        SFG     324     17%
Dunn A.        CIN     681     17%

I have nothing more to say about Barry Bonds, except that if it weren’t for Bonds, we’d all be raving about Frank Thomas’s great walk rate, which is about 60% of Bonds’.

Yes, Larry Walker didn’t walk as much once he got to St. Louis, but he was pretty close (16%). And yes, I included fifteen batters in the list because I wanted to show that Adam Dunn’s walk rate was fifteenth-best in the majors. Between the strikeouts and walks, Dunn actually hit the ball in only 54% of his plate appearances.

In addition to strikeouts and walks, the 2004 THT Baseball Annual will include the distribution of batted ball types for each batter with at least 100 plate appearances. We’ll specifically list his percent of PA’s that resulted in strikeouts, walks, groundballs, flyballs, line drives and other (e.g., bunts). As an example, let’s look at Ichiro!’s line, compared to the major league average:

Player        PA      K      BB      GB      FB      LD     Oth
Average             17%     10%     32%     27%     13%      2%
Ichiro!      762     8%      7%     53%     15%     15%      2%

Ichiro! achieved his success by hitting a huge proportion of groundballs (at 53%, the highest rate in the majors) and legging them out. It’s also worth noting that he hit more than his share of line drives, and eschewed the flyball and strikeout.

Similar to the pitching article, I developed a “similarity score” for each batter. The similarity score calculates how close each batter was to the major league-average distribution, by subtracting his percentage from the league average for each type of plate outcome, squaring the difference, and adding them all up. So, here, ta da da da, was the most typical batter in the major leagues in 2004:

Player    Team    PA     K    BB    GB    FB    LD    Oth
Average          ---    17%   10%   32%   27%   13%    2%
Hinske E   TOR   634    17%    9%   32%   29%   13%    0%

Eric Hinske had a terrible year last year, with 28 Runs Created Below Average (according to Lee Sinins) and a .231 :GPA:, compared to the league average of .261. So what gives?

Well, hmm. I don’t know. National League pitchers are included in the batting totals, so that is part of the explanation. Also, his Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) was .280, compared to the league average of .303. This indicates that some of his hits just weren’t falling in. However, these two factors don’t account for the total difference.

Here are the other most typical batters and their GPAs (minimum 400 plate appearances): Brandon Inge (.273), Aaron Rowand (.298), Termel Sledge (.265) and Wes Helms (.241). It certainly seems to me that Eric Hinske should have a better year next year; maybe a much better year.

So who were the most dissimilar hitters last year? Here’s the top ten:

Player       Team     PA     K     BB    GB    FB    LD   Oth
Average              ---    17%   10%   32%   27%   13%    2%
Bonds B.     SFG      617    7%   39%   19%   25%   10%    0%
Branyan R.   MIL      182   37%   12%   15%   26%    8%    1%
Suzuki I.    SEA      762    8%    7%   53%   15%   15%    2%
Amezaga A.   ANA      105   23%    6%   36%   13%    5%   17%
Sanchez A.   DET      352   14%    2%   35%   15%   15%   19%
Castillo L.  FLO      649   10%   12%   49%   14%   12%    2%
Ross D.      LAD      190   33%   11%   18%   28%    8%    3%
Pierre J.    FLO      748    5%    7%   45%   19%   17%    8%
Barajas R.   TEX      393   16%    4%   23%   44%   10%    3%
Thomas F.    CHW      311   18%   23%   17%   32%   11%    0%

There are a lot of interesting hitters on this list, including guys who strike out a lot (Branyan and Ross), walk a lot (Bonds and Thomas), hit groundballs (Ichiro and Castillo), hit flyballs (Barajas) and even some crazy bunters (Sanchez and Amezaga).

The only types of batters missing from this list are the top line drive batters: Frank Catalanotto (22%), Brent Mayne (21% in Arizona) and Mr. Nomar Garciaparra (21% in Boston).

May I Have Your Autograph, Please?
The payoff of being polite.

This has been another sample of the statistics you’ll see in the 2004 Hardball Times Baseball Annual. Hopefully, we got your attention.

imageThe Hardball Times 2004 Baseball Annual will be available for purchase next week. The book will include a dozen new articles summarizing the major events of the 2004 season, as well as a number of “best of…” articles from the website.

And we’ve included over 150 pages of baseball stats and graphs. These aren’t just reproductions of the stats on our site; they’re new stat tables, including comprehensive batting, pitching and fielding stats for all major league players, and stats you typically can’t find anywhere else.

You’ll be able to purchase the book online. The cost will be approximately $16 plus shipping, and you should allow about a week for printing and shipping. If that’s too long to wait, we’ll also have an e-book available for approximately $6, which you’ll be able to download right away. Keep in mind, however, that this book will be about 300 pages long. Which will make it kind of hard to read on a computer monitor.

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