Brian Dozier is another low average players the batting average purists love to hate. He hit .242, but the rest of his numbers were superior to most players at second. We complained about his average but nobody took into account that he walked 89 times and scored 112 runs. If you’re going to count all those extra runs he scored because of the walks you should count the walks as well, and that’s something batting average doesn’t do. While looking for a comparable player to Dozier, one interesting names came up. Look at these two batting lines.
This is where the magic happens. Players who are able to immediately accelerate the barrel and in turn get the barrel on plane “early” (in front of the catchers mitt) in the swing will continue to play for a long time. This is the phase of the swing that is barely seen by the naked eye in real time. Phase 1 happens so fast in most big league swing that all most people see is contact and the release, thus making it look “effortless”. In reality there was a lot of effort in the swing, it was just the right kind of effort.
Comparing a baseball or softball swing to a car engine is something that I do almost everyday. It’s an easy way to help kids and parents understand how the system inside the swing works. For someone who doesn’t look at hundreds of swings a day, it can be difficult to identify or help a player become a more efficient swinger of the bat. A lot of times coaches will see a result like a pop up or ground ball and associate the weak contact with lack of effort. Most of the time, this is simply not the case. In the following article I hope to help players understand the importance of not making “early mistakes” and also help coaches and parents break down the efficient swing. To do so, we will break the swing down into three phases. The three phases are 1. Acceleration/Angle Creation, 2. Maintain, 3. Release. They are illustrated in the picture below in a Playoff home run by Francisco Lindor.
OPS stands for on base plus slugging and is exactly what it sounds like. You take a player’s OBP and add it to their SLG to get OPS. This stat is often used to measure a player’s overall ability as a hitter, combining their skill at getting on base (OBP) with their aptitude to hit for power (SLG). Sometimes it will be included at the end of a typical slash line, so if you see a slash with four different numbers in it, then OPS is what the fourth one represents.
Why should we use OBP? What advantage does it possess over batting average? The primary benefit of OBP is that it measures a player's performance with regards to avoiding outs. Baseball does not have a clock like so many other sports. Rather, baseball teams operate under the constraint of 27 outs. Once a team has used all 27 of its outs, then the game is over.
Batters actually hold a decent level of influence on their BABIP, which is something that not a lot of people realize. Because there are different types of hitters (mainly speed, power, and contact hitters), not everyone should be expected to have the same “30% outcome” for balls in play. The main source of this influence comes from what is known as a player’s “batted ball profile,” which consists of the following stats:
Of course there’s some difficulty in identifying the best active hitting pitchers, foremost because hurlers are so often asked to just lay down a bunt or attempt to move a runner via sacrifice. And those are good skills to have. So we decided to use OPS (on base % + slugging %) as a measure because sacrifices are filtered out from at-bats and OPS indicates pitchers that can hit and hit for extra bases, and also draw a walk. Now take a look at this group of pitchers’ hitting credentials (minimum 40 at-bats). Also note that the MLB average OPS across all hitters in '16 was .739.
During the entire middle portion of the pitch, the batter must time the ball and decide where to swing. If the batter decides to swing, he must start when the ball is approximately 25 to 30 feet in front of the plate. The ball will arrive at the plate about 250 thousandths of a second later -- about the limit of human reaction time. The bat must make contact with the ball within an even smaller time range: A few thousandths of a second error in timing will result in a foul ball. Position is important, too. Hitting the ball only a few millimeters too high or too low results in a fly ball or a grounder.
In my opinion this must happen before acceleration so that the barrel can accelerate the appropriate direction. Depending on the the pitch height, the hitter will mirror that height with the angle of their shoulder rotation followed by the degree of the barrel. The higher the pitch, the flatter the rotation and barrel. The lower the pitch the higher the barrel will stay initially and the shoulders will the rotate more vertically. In a perfect world, the barrel level will match the shoulder level at contact.
Now that we’ve covered slash line statistics and plate discipline numbers, all that’s left to go over is batted ball data. The most common batted ball stat that is used is batting average on balls in play, or BABIP for short. While a typical batting average tells you how often a player gets a hit in general, this batting average determines how often a player ends up getting a hit when they hit the ball within the field of play. It is calculated by subtracting home runs from totals hits and dividing that by at bats minus strikeouts minus home runs plus sacrifice flies, which translates to the following formula:
Without a doubt, batting average is important. It shows a hitters ability to reach base on a swing, a vital part of baseball. However, let's compare the two statistics in a more logical manner. Every inning, there are three outs that the defense must make in order to end the inning. On base percentage shows the odds that a hitter does not make one of these three outs. It is calculated by counting walks as well as hits, so prolific walkers will often display a high differential between batting average and on base percentage.
Overall, BABIP is a stat that is largely out of the batters control, which makes sense because as a hitter, once you hit the ball onto the field, you can’t affect what happens next. The league average BABIP is usually right around .300, meaning balls in play typically land for a hit about 30% of the time. So in theory, if a player has a BABIP of .350, you might say he had a “lucky” season, and you could expect him to regress the following season, right? On the surface it makes sense, but the whole point of this article is to look beyond just the surface stats, and that is exactly what we will do.
The Hitters Power Drive teaches proper weight distribution and transfer of weight from the hitters load position with backside hip and leg drive referred to as positive move position. The training aid teaches by multisensory “CLICK” feedback with a combination of auditory sound and kinetic feel. The timing of hearing this “CLICK” trains hitters to initiate power with their back hip, leg and foot with their transfer which creates a power drive moving forward vs. spinning out, leaking, drifting or floating out front and not hearing the click at all or to late after ball contact. The metallic “CLICK” sound of the standing plate striking the ground plate allows this immediate real time feedback.
While we haven’t seen the sport’s top hitters blasting home runs at record pace, as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire did at the height of the steroid era, we are seeing a significant rise in the power numbers of players in the 20-home run range. The result is a plethora of players who are capable of providing a club with power at the plate, giving general managers more options to add home run hitters to their lineup than ever before.
Exactly how humans are able to estimate the expected position of a quickly moving ball is unknown. Obviously, this remarkable skill is learned through long practice. Eye-brain-body coordination is acquired only by going through the motions over and over; even so, the batter misses most of the time. Getting a hit three times out of ten at bat is considered an excellent average. It's interesting that George Schaller and other ethologists have observed that lions and cheetahs are also successful only about a third of the time in capturing their prey.
Leyland’s reference to "moneyball" when the topic of on base percentage came up (and he actually brought it up) might give us a sense of how one that is resistant to the "new way of thinking" looks at sabermetrics. To some, moneyball and sabermetrics are one in the same. Leyland did make reference to "the guys that make the money" when referring to sluggers. No doubt this is true. Players with big home run and RBI totals get paid more as free agents than players with only a high on base percentage or guys that play solid defense. The movie "Moneyball" features Oakland A’s GM Billy Beane, who tries to field a winner by assembling players that cost less money but have high on base percentages, run the bases well, and play solid defense. So it’s easy to see where Leyland, and no doubt many others, get the idea that "moneyball" and sabermetrics are all about "on base, on base, on base."Actually, that is a gross over simplification of what sabermetrics is all about.
During Phase 3 or the release, the hitter will allow their arms to relax so the the barrel will continue upward through the path of the pitch with very little loss of bat speed. Like I previously said, Phase 3 can happen earlier or later depending on the adjustment the hitter must make. If need be, the hitter can make contact during Phase 3 if they are early. This is when you will see a hitter at contact with already extended arms. This is not ideal but will save hitters when their timing isn’t perfect. Just another reason why having a nice upward swing path is so important for longevity as a hitter.
I do not consider loading the body to be a part of the actual swing, because it isn’t. However, there CAN NOT be an efficiently powerful swing without a proper loading sequence. The loading sequence for a any hitter is fundamentally the same but it may change due to the size, strength, and talent level of the individual. Players who are limited in size need to think about a more obvious momentum builder move like Jose Bautista shown below.
Here at Red Reporter, some of us are more interested in statistics than others, but we've all been known to use these newer metrics. Unfortunately, we don't always take the time to explain the figures. I know that I'm frequently guilty of inserting statistics without providing an adequate illustration of their meaning. In an effort to provide context to these figures and their use, we've decided to roll out a new series of posts exploring these new metrics. We will start with the simpler statistics and work our way to others from there. You won't need a statistics or mathematics degree to understand these posts, and best of all, we'll have fun. I promise.
On-Base Percentage (OBP) measures the most important thing a batter can do at the plate: not make an out. Since a team only gets 27 outs per game, making outs at a high rate isn’t a good thing — that is, if a team wants to win. Players with high on-base percentages avoid making outs and reach base at a high rate, prolonging games and giving their team more opportunities to score.
Have you ever wanted to learn more about the game's newer and more advanced statistics but didn't know where to start? Have you ever read an article that liberally mentions WAR or xFIP, leaving you feeling as if you walked into Math 401 when you haven't taken Math 101? It's ok, don't worry; that's how we all felt the first time we stumbled upon these figures. The good news is that the best of these statistics make a great deal of sense once they are explained. Often, though certainly not always, the calculation of these figures is straightforward upon closer inspection.
If the batter doesn't hit the ball just right, he's in trouble. An amazing series of reactions propels a shortstop or third baseman into the path of a hard-hit ball. In two steps or less, he may have already caught the ball and fired it to first base for an out, with a swiftness and assurance acquired only through years of practice. Inherited skill alone just won't do the job.
Runs batted in (RBI): It's one of the most familiar and comfortable offensive stats around, and it's still got plenty of advocates. It's one of my least favorites, not only because of its native weaknesses but also because of its outsized importance when it comes to awards, bar-stool debates and the like. The primary problem with RBI is that it's highly, highly team-dependent. After all, it's hard to drive in many runs unless runners are getting on base in front of you, and that's not something you can control. Additionally, it's highly dependent upon your spot in the lineup. Take the exact same two hitters, put one in the leadoff spot and one at clean-up and you're going to get vastly different RBI totals. Like any traditional counting stat it's useful at the margins (e.g., it's hard to drive in 130 runs and somehow suck, but it's entirely possible to plate 100 runs and not be a useful player). Mostly, if you feel compelled to pay attention to RBI, don't do so without also paying attention to RBI percentage, or the percentage of runners than a batter plated. You can't consider RBI without also considering opportunities for RBI. - Perry
HR/FB% – This stands for home run to fly ball rate, which is the percentage of fly balls a player hits that end up as home runs. While this stat doesn’t play much of a role in BABIP due to the fact that home runs are factored out of the BABIP equation, it is definitely a key component of a player’s batted ball profile. HR/FB% is a stat that is largely skill based, but typically doesn’t see much fluctuation from year-to-year, so a player that posts a HR/FB% much lower than their career norm is very likely to bounce back the following season and vice versa.
These types of movements encourage poor technique and motor patterns. I have talked about the central nervous systems relationship with movement patterns in the past with speed development and in baseball youth athletes, the same rules apply here. This type of training negatively affects your body’s motor/muscle recruitment patterns during a game setting.
If you want to hit farther, hitting the ball straight-on may not be the best way of doing it. Successful players who tend to score home-runs generally try to focus on hitting at the lower two-thirds of the baseball. This gives the hit both height as well as distance. So the next time you are aiming at hitting far, try to focus on the lower two-thirds of the baseball. This is a tough nut to crack and may take some practicing before you are able to master it.
Players who hit 40 or more home runs produced 3.4 fWAR on average, the lowest rate since 2008 (1.8) and the third-lowest average on record since expansion, slightly behind the 1984 campaign (2.8 average fWAR from a batter with at least 40 home runs). Compare that with the average fWAR from batters with between 20 and 29 home runs (3.1 in 2016) and it is easy to see where the value lies.
Getting on base is an important skill, so you want to use OBP to determine if the player in question is a good offensive performer. However, OBP can only take you so far and it should only be used in the context of other statistics because OBP weights every time you reach base equally, whether you hit a home run or an infield single. If used in conjunction with slugging percentage or isolated slugging percentage, OBP is a very useful tool. In general, something like wOBA or wRC+ will tell a more accurate story, but if you’re looking for something extremely simple OBP is a much better bet than batting average.
Runs Batted In: "The guys that knock em in," as Leyland calls them, do make the big bucks in the baseball market. But RBI are, to a great extent, a function of opportunities. You can’t drive in runs, other than solo home runs, unless there are runners on base to drive in. A typical lineup should be arranged so that the big RBI guys follow guys who frequently get "on base, on base, on base." Leyland happened to be talking about Jhonny Peralta, his 80 RBI, and his value to the team when he launched into his philosophical discussion of on-base percentage. What he didn’t mention was that Peralta led the league in at bats with runners in scoring position the previous two seasons. It should be understood that players who get hits tend to also get hits with runners on base, or in scoring position, at about the same rate, averaged over time.
I'm an agnostic when it comes to a silver bullet statistic. Sure, it might exist somewhere, but I haven't seen evidence to support that. Instead, I think the sheer number and variety of statistics we have show just how much beauty and nuance there is in the game, and why it's the greatest game that's ever been. That said, I like OPS+ because it incorporates many different things -- getting on base (i.e. not making outs) and slugging, while also putting those performances into the context of a time (the season) and place (ballaparks). I also like the simplicity of 100 being average -- so if you see something like Barry Bonds' run of four years with a 230 or better OPS+ is simply superhuman (or some may say, unnatural).
The best way I can explain “Hitting for Average” is that this tool is not just solely focused on a person’s batting average. This tool is more about having the ability to have a consistent swing, the ability to keep the bat on-plane for a long period of time, and the ability to square up baseballs on a regular basis. I wrote another article about having the ability to “Repeat Your Best Swing.”