“Out of Left Field” is an occasional post that covers topics that may not need 1,200 words of analysis, but would be cool to touch on briefly. In no particular order…
If you’ve read my stuff before then you know I despise batting average as a statistic – it just doesn’t tell you a whole heck of a lot. Singles are just as good as extra-base hits and walks don’t do anything positive according to batting average, among several other problematic issues.
DJ LeMahieu, who is having a monster season and that should be acknowledged more often, is a perfect case study for BA.
In 2016, DJ batted .348, winning the NL batting title. Currently in 2022 DJ is batting .279, which seems “OK” on the surface, and is 47th best in MLB among hitters with at least 200 PA. (I did the math – it’s 69 points lower than he hit in 2016.)
But here’s the thing. When the factors we already discussed are accounted for, then we also account for park factors and the run-scoring environment of the era (i.e., Coors Field is much easier to hit in than YS III, and it was much easier to hit in 2016 than it is in 2022) DJ is just as good – probably better – now than he was when he hit .348 in 2016.
Here are LeMahieu’s wRC+, DRC+, and OPS+ (all account for all of the aforementioned. 100 is league average so 121 is 21 percent better than a league average hitter):
2016 – 121
2022 – 129
2016 – 130
2022 – 132
2016 – 128
2022 – 128
Don’t misunderstand – I get that batting average is tied in an enormous manner to the history of the game, and that’s not a bad thing. Cool topics of trivia and baseball conversation are always good. But it’s just that – a conversation piece and trivia – it tells us very little about a player’s performance or value.
(*Author’s note: If you’re like me and you’re aware I’m not saying anything new as some folks around the time of WW I said all of this, I get it – but most people still don’t and I like banging my head against a wall.)
This is also why when Paul O’Neill and Michael Kay regularly and repeatedly cite players’ batting averages as an evaluation tool, I feel the beginning of my origin story being written.
I’ll be accepting your apologies for throwing Hicks under the bus all season when I warned you not to.
After an awful start, Hicks has his wRC+ up to 110 and is on pace for between 2.5 and three WAR on all WAR measuring systems. For a guy who only played in 145 games over the previous three seasons due to numerous injuries, and is coming off wrist surgery, that’s a pretty good season. And I think we’d agree, as far as players who hadn’t played regularly due to health issues go, Hicks was not afforded nearly as much patience and goodwill as Miguel Andújar has been.
And why should you apologize to me? Because I told you not to sleep on Hicks this past off-season.
I was going back and forth between my couch and the patio yesterday so I watched some of the game on TV and listened to other parts on the radio. More than once Matt Carpenter’s ludicrous OBP was mentioned – he finished play yesterday with a .469 OBP on the season.
Do you know what’s even more ridiculous? Carpenter has a .469 OBP in 97 PA. Ted Williams had a .482 OBP after 9,700 PAs. He wasn’t to bad…
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