Undervalued OBP Sources (and an Ode to Anthony Rendon)

Tim Acree breaks down sneaky plays for your OBP league.

On Base Percentage.

A metaphor for life.

How often we falter and how often we prevail.

Some people shoot for the stars in everything they do – either hitting one out of the park or coming up empty (Todd Frazier). Some people take a more incremental approach, chipping away one base at a time (DJ LeMahieu).

The baseball elites – the players who sit glistening on the highest shelf – are able to accomplish both. They demonstrate great discipline, great approach, and great power. They are the Trout’s, the Harper’s, the Votto’s, and the Freeman’s – the vintage reserves that fetch upwards of $1000 a bottle – the Pappy Van Winkle – err – Papi Span Winker.

Collecting dust on the lower shelves are the Francisco Cervelli’s – the players who compensate for a lack of loud tools by getting on base. They don’t tickle the palate like Anthony Rendon, but they aren’t Black Velvet either.

What follows (I see you, Cistuli) is an attempt to find OBP diamonds in the rough. Diamonds on the diamond, if you will. For the sake of this exercise, I’ve created a statistic called On Base Percentage Draft Discrepancy (OBPDD) which outlines the largest discrepancies between current NFBC draft data and the 2017 leaders in On Base Percentage.

As a formula: OBPDD = (ADP – 2017 OBP ranking).

ExampleMike Trout’s ADP is 1st overall and last year he finished 2nd in OBP. Therefore, his On Base Percentage Draft Discrepancy is 1. Aaron Judge finished 3rd in OBP and his ADP is 19. Therefore his OBPDD is 16. 

Here are the OBPDD leaders based on the 40 players with the highest OBP in 2017. The number in blue indicates each player’s 2017 BABIP. This will help gauge which players are true OBP stalwarts, and which ones may be wolves in sheep’s clothing (looking at you, Avisail!).

Note: Daniel Murphy is not included because his injury factors heavily into his ADP.

OBPDD Leaders

1a. David Freese    OBPDD: 1156      (1188 – 32 = 1156)     .336

Technically, and I mean technically, David Freese is the king of this list. His NFBC ADP of 1188 is a euphemism for “undrafted” or “I’d rather draft Cheslor Cuthbert (1116).” Even with his solid OBP skills, his lack of power at corner infield makes him virtually unrosterable in all formats. However, we must adhere to the formula! To explain Freese’ lack of draft appeal, here are his home run + RBI totals over the last five seasons

9-60 | 10-55 | 14-56 | 13-5510-52

At least he is consistent. But is he all that different from:

1. Joe Mauer      OBPDD: 389      (407 – 18 = 389)      .349

A former MVP and top-5 trade chip in baseball, turned waiver fodder, turned… sneaky OBP player? Apparently. Like Freese, Mauer’s lack of home run power makes him unappealing in today’s power climate, but if you’ve compiled a squad full of bashers, he could theoretically be a solid OBP glue piece. Bleh I just dry-heaved a little.

2. Josh Reddick      OBPDD: 231      (270 – 39 = 231)      .339

3. Cesar Hernandez      OBPDD: 224      (253 – 29 = 224)      .353 

The bane of Scott Kingery’s existence. If you took prime Rafael Furcal and dropped all of his tools about 10 scouting points, you’d have Cesar Hernandez. He is fine. But he is no Scott Kingery.

4. Yonder Alonso      OBPDD: 223      (288 – 35 = 223)      .302

Yonder had a beastly May, then performed like a high .700’s OPS guy the rest of the season. Still, while his power numbers dipped notably, he continued to demonstrate strong OBP skills throughout the season. Slotted to his 4th in a strong Indians lineup, Yonder has top-15 first baseman potential in OBP leagues.

5. Zack Cozart      OBPDD: 204      (218 – 14 = 204)      .312

Please, continue to write off his 2017 season as a fluke. I’m more than happy to grab a late-blooming .850+ OPS stud as my shortstop. He should quickly gain 3B eligibility, too.

6. Avisail Garcia      OBPDD: 177      (196 – 19 = 177)      .392

What are the odds Avisail reproduces his .392 BABIP? 5 million to 1? I wouldn’t even bet a dollar on it. Why waste money? Still, I’ve always liked Avisail’s talent – his strong physique, his all-fields approach, and his above-average coordination. While his batting average will surely regress, I predict a notable power breakthrough and low end OF2 production. While everyone runs for the hills while clamoring about his BABIP, I’m betting on another step forward, and I’m glad to plug in Avisail as a low end OF3. Good things ahead for Mini Miggy.

7. Matt Carpenter      OBPDD: 164      (181 – 17 = 164)      .274

8. Eugenio Suarez      OBPDD: 146      (179 – 33 = 146)      .309

9. D.J. LeMahieu      OBPDD: 138      (164 – 26 = 138)      .351

10. Carlos Santana      OBPDD: 132      (169 – 37 = 132)      .274

The Shades of Time will one day come for you, Carlos Santana, no matter which Soul Sacrifice you offer to the Black Magic Woman. But I Hope You’re Feeling Better about this move to Philadelphia, and hopefully you will play loose and Free As The Morning Sun. Or perhaps, as the wily mentor, you will Let The Children Play. Life Is Just A Passing Parade, but 2018 could be one of your Greatest Hits. Carlos, if you have No One To Depend On… Why Not You And I?

11. Marwin Gonzalez   OBPDD: 104      (125 – 21 = 104)      .343

12. Eric Hosmer          OBPDD: 63         (78 – 15 = 63)      .351

13. Tommy Pham          OBPDD: 52         (57 – 5 = 52)      .368

14. Anthony Rendon      OBPDD: 46         (55 – 9 = 46)      .314

I’ll be honest, this whole exercise is an elaborate excuse to write glowingly about Anthony Rendon.

When you think of players who excel in On Base Percentage it’s likely that patient, lumbering sluggers come to mind: Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Adam Dunn, Paul Goldschmidt, Anthony Rizzo, peak ‘deer-antler-spray-and-powdered-seahorse-brain’ Barry Bonds. It’s unlikely that your mind goes straight to Anthony Rendon – nimble enough to play second base when called upon – standing in at a generous 6’0, 194 pounds (while soaked in Lacroix).

But Anthony Rendon – “Uncle Tony” if you prefer – is an OBP beast. In addition to his aesthetically satisfying .301-25-100 Triple Crown line in 2017, Rendon rocked a stellar .403 OBP in 147 games, serving not just as the secret anchor of the powerful Nats offense, but as a game-changing middle-round fantasy pick. Perhaps most impressive, Rendon walked fewer times than he struck out. Mike Trout, the best player in baseball, strikes out an average of 153 times per year. Joey Votto, the most cerebral and disciplined hitter this century, has walked more than struck out three times in eleven MLB seasons.

To call Rendon’s feat remarkable is underselling it. His discipline, his quick wrists, his ability to fight off tough pitches and stay alive, and his all-fields approach make him a truly fantastic offensive player. Additionally, his exit velocity was higher than potent bats like Freeman, Bellinger, Murphy, and Springer.

Of all qualifying players with 25 or more home runs, only Anthony Rendon, Joey Votto, and Anthony Rizzo walked more than they struck out (Votto’s 134:83 ratio is something out of a fable). Emerging stud Jose Ramirez struck out only 17 more times than he walked and renowned walker Freddie  Freeman had a strong 65:95 ratio. Other than that crew, no one else was even close (Caution! at the risk of going blind, try not to look at Matt Davidson’s 19:165 ratio). Rendon also finished 11th in Z-contact %, which measures how often a player makes contact when he swings at pitches in the strike zone. He finished behind only ten players, which include the likes of Joe Panik, Denard Span, D.J. LeMahieu, Jose Mauer, Jose Peraza, and Kevin Pillar. Notice a trend? The other players are known contact hitters who almost always sacrifice power for contact; that kid in kickball who always taps the ball between the pitcher and shortstop. Anthony Rendon is not that kid. Rendon can take you yard! His on-base skills give him a high floor and the potential for a Donaldson-like rise to greatness, and his unique blend of elite contact and 25-homer pop make him a rare breed in today’s landscape.

OBPDD Leaderboard

  1. David Freese   1156
  2. Joe Mauer   389
  3. Josh Reddick   231
  4. Cesar Hernandez   224 
  5. Yonder Alonso   223
  6. Zack Cozart   204
  7. Avisail Garcia   177
  8. Matt Carpenter   164
  9. Eugenio Suarez   146
  10. DJ LeMahieu   138
  11. Carlos Santana   132
  12. Marwin Gonzalez   104
  13. Eric Hosmer   63
  14. Tommy Pham   52
  15. Anthony Rendon   46

*Spray chart courtesy of Fangraphs

Tim Acree

A former Little League all-star, Tim Acree peaked at age 9. Now in the twilight of his life at 28, Tim enjoys laying low with his two cats while listening to podcasts. Sometimes he holds his laptop up to the mirror to see what players would look like from the opposite side. Tim worries that his obsession with baseball prevents him from doing other meaningful things, but the heart wants what it wants. When Tim is not professing his adoration for Trea Turner he teaches at an elementary school near Yosemite. He also wrote this in the third person and it's making him uncomfortable.

  • Avatar Steve says:

    I see that Anthony walked 84 times and k’d 82 times in 2017. This sentence should be adjusted “Perhaps most impressive, Rendon walked fewer times than he struck out. ” In addition, Anthony was HBP 7 times in 2017:
    https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/rendoan01.shtml

    Lot of good info nonetheless. Anthony is underappreciated. And we’re not even touching his value in the field or as a teammate!

    • Avatar Tim Acree says:

      It was fitting that Rendon smashed one off the facing of the 2nd deck yesterday… right on cue! (and after fouling off a series of dirty 95mph sinkers from Romano)

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