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).
Example: Mike 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.
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 | 13-55 | 10-52
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
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.
- David Freese 1156
- Joe Mauer 389
- Josh Reddick 231
- Cesar Hernandez 224
- Yonder Alonso 223
- Zack Cozart 204
- Avisail Garcia 177
- Matt Carpenter 164
- Eugenio Suarez 146
- DJ LeMahieu 138
- Carlos Santana 132
- Marwin Gonzalez 104
- Eric Hosmer 63
- Tommy Pham 52
- Anthony Rendon 46
*Spray chart courtesy of Fangraphs