There are a lot of theories about what drives offense in baseball. We know that on-base percentage is good, but not every team builds it’s team to maximize OBP. Some teams are low-OBP in nature but hit for boatloads of power. Other teams are low-power but also low-strike out. Both approaches can work – just ask the Astros (big power, big strikeouts) and Royals (low-power, low strikeouts) who happened to be pretty good baseball teams this year. Even though we have OBP as the old standby in terms of how to build an offense, there are examples of success to the contrary.
For what it’s worth, the Diamondbacks were 15th in power (ISO) and 14th in strikeout rate (K%) in 2015. The offense was good, but it’s not like it was big time power or a minuscule strikeout rate that got the job done. So I’m still stuck wondering just what drove them beyond on-base percentage.
A big trend here at Inside the ‘Zona over the last two seasons has been hard-hit balls. So, I figured we should take a look at how hard hit balls have related to offensive production. Presumably, hitting the ball hard helps, in general. Have a look at the 2015 offense’s key pieces:
I chose to highlight three categories to see how much correlation there was: well-hit average (WHAV) from ESPN’s TruMedia, batting average on balls in play (BABIP) and weighted on-base average (wOBA). These tell us three things: how often the ball was hit hard from each batter, how often all batted balls became hits and how well the player performed offensively as a whole. My theory was that the more often a batter hit the ball hard, the more often his batted balls would fall in for hits, and the more often batted balls became hits, the better the player would perform overall. While higher BABIPs aren’t always sustainable, they are helpful for producing offense while they do exist.
By and large, hitting the ball hard frequently did help BABIP for the D-backs. Areas where they diverged from the norm can be seen with Ender Inciarte and Jarrod Saltalamacchia for opposite reasons. Inciarte didn’t hit the ball hard but legged out a lot of hits. Meanwhile, Salty hit it hard, but it was fielded, he wasn’t about to run it out. Aaron Hill was also an outlier, but I’m going to attribute that to declining skills more than anything.
But did BABIP, largely aided by WHAV, lead to better overall offense (wOBA)? The two moved together relatively consistently. For guys with big power, their wOBA’s eclipsed their BABIP by a decent margin (thank you, home runs) while those with less pop often found their wOBA and BABIP closer together. Those with strikeout issues often found their wOBA below their BABIP. To see if this was just a blip, here are the same graphs for 2013 and 2014:
Wow, despite a couple small deviations, these same trends held true in the two yeas prior. We may be on to something here, which is to say that we are further confirming the notion that hard hit balls drive offense (unless you have severe contact problems). Some plate discipline is necessary, of course, and a good approach can help make sure a power hitter gets good balls to hit. With less power, things like speed and contact rate come into play as wOBA and BABIP come closer together.
None of this is meant to serve as a “conclusive study.” It is, by definition, not one. This is just an observation. It’s one of those things that you’re sitting around thinking about and decide to investigate. This is why we started Double Plus to begin with. And who knows, maybe we’ll circle back to this idea, use a larger sample and add a few more categories. Still, I feel like the idea that hitting the ball hard is good for offense continues to make sense. While the names on the back’s of the 2016 D-backs hitters won’t change much from what this year’s crop looked like, we’ll keep working with the numbers to see how they can sustain or improve their performance. Even if the pitching improves next year, it’ll be the offense that makes the team a contender.
Powered by: Web Designers
- Best part of Peralta’s 108 mph fliner over the fence, IMHO: that he got that much leverage despite scooping it out… https://t.co/ivBrl76adF, Apr 08
- RT @OutfieldGrass24: If you're bored of watching Patrick Corbin get dudes out, you can check out my latest for @TheAthleticAZ. https://t.co/k1DymgY7zO, Apr 04
- Of course, they may have overtaken the league lead for outs on the bases just now, also... But in 2017, Arizona ha… https://t.co/38MBrr2D4b, Apr 04
- Prior to the games today, there had only been 5 steals of 3rd this season (and no CS) in the National League. The… https://t.co/gVVL84vPQ5, Apr 04
- RT @OutfieldGrass24: Patrick Corbin has a WPA of .318 and it's only the fifth inning., Apr 04
Powered by: Web Designers
- Old friend alert https://t.co/xwSHU0F8Hn, 2 hours ago
- Every once in a while you get a beer that's just a little off... Usually happens to me at airports., 8 hours ago
- If Pollock doesn’t sign with a team that wears red uniforms I’m going to be really disappointed. Working theory: Se… https://t.co/zHn9DqzEiD, 10 hours ago
- The work here by @Britt_Ghiroli is splendid https://t.co/c8tSq0vw3T, 10 hours ago
- RT @TheAthleticAZ: Plenty of #Dbacks fans gave it some time - and they still don't like the idea. The "why" from @ZHBuchanan https://t.co/9oDlvue3fV, 18 hours ago