Who Hit What?by Dave Studeman
November 03, 2004
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).
This has been another sample of the statistics you'll see in the 2004 Hardball Times Baseball Annual. Hopefully, we got your attention.
The 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.
Dave was called a "national treasure" by Rob Neyer. Seriously. Comments about this article can be sent to him through the miracle of e-mail.