Archive for August, 2017

dScore: End of August SP Evaluations

I went over the starters version of dScore here, so I’m not going to re-visit that here. I’ll just jump right in with the list!

Top Performing SP by Arsenal, 2017
Rank Name Team dScore +/-
1 Corey Kluber Indians 69.41 +2
2 Max Scherzer Nationals 62.97 -1
3 Chris Sale Red Sox 56.82 -1
4 Clayton Kershaw Dodgers 55.26 +1
5 Noah Syndergaard Mets 47.39 +2
6 Stephen Strasburg Nationals 47.24 +5
7 Danny Salazar Indians 43.46 +16
8 Randall Delgado Diamondbacks 42.00 +1
9 Luis Castillo Reds 37.99 +5
10 Alex Wood Dodgers 40.72 -8
11 Zack Godley Diamondbacks 39.55 -1
12 Luis Severino Yankees 39.24 +1
13 Jacob deGrom Mets 36.69 -1
14 Dallas Keuchel Astros 37.37 -8
15 James Paxton Mariners 35.81 +1
16 Carlos Carrasco Indians 34.23 +4
17 Sonny Gray Yankees 30.59 UR
18 Brad Peacock Astros 29.98 +6
19 Lance McCullers Astros 32.18 -11
20 Buck Farmer Tigers 31.31 UR
21 Nate Karns Royals 30.21 -2
22 Zack Greinke Diamondbacks 29.45 -4
23 Charlie Morton Astros 28.55 UR
24 Kenta Maeda Dodgers 27.40 -7
25 Masahiro Tanaka Yankees 26.83 -3



Danny Salazar (+16) – dScore never gave up on him, despite him being absolute trash early on this year. He came back and dominated, launching him up the ranks even farther in the process. Current status: injured. Again.

Sonny Gray (newly ranked) – If there were any doubts about the Gray the Yankees dealt for, he’s actually surpassed his dScore from his fantastic 2015 season. He’s legit (again).

Alex Wood (-8) – Looks like the shoulder issues took a bit of a toll on his stuff, but dScore certainly isn’t out on him.

Dallas Keuchel (-8) – Keuchel’s stuff isn’t the issue. He’s still a buy for me.

Lance McCullers (-11) – Poor Astros. Maybe not too poor though; their aces have gotten hammered but haven’t fallen far at all. McCullers is going to bounce back.


The Studs

Some light flip-flopping at the top, with Kluber taking over at #1 from Scherzer. The Klubot’s been SO unconscious. Everyone else is pretty much the usual suspects.


The Young Breakouts (re-visited)

Zack Godley (11) – He’s keeping on keeping on. He barely moved since last month’s update, and I’m all-in on him being a stud going forward.

Luis Castillo (9) – He’s certainly done nothing to minimize the hype. In fact, he’s added a purely disgusting sinker to his arsenal and it’s raising the value of everything he throws. Also, from a quick glance at the Pitchf/x leaderboards, two things stand out to me. He seems to have two pitches that line up pretty closely to two top-end pitches: his four-seamer has a near clone in Luis Severino’s, and his changeup is incredibly similar to Danny Salazar’s. That’s a nasty combo.

James Paxton (15) 


The Test Case

Buck Farmer (20) – Okay, so to be honest when he showed up on this list, I absolutely thought it was a total whiff. By ERA he’s been a waste, but he’s really living on truly elite in-zone contact management, swinging strikes, K/BB, and hard-hit minimization. His pitch profile is middling (not bad, but not great either), so I really don’t think he’s going to stay this high much longer. He’s certainly doing enough to earn this spot right now, and I’d expect him to not run a 6+ ERA for much longer.


The Loaded Teams

Yankees – Luis Severino (12), Sonny Gray (17), Masahiro Tanaka (25) / Some teams have guys higher up, but the Yankees are loaded up and down.

Astros – Dallas Keuchel (14), Lance McCullers (19), Brad Peacock (18), Charlie Morton (23) / Similar to the Yankees. Morton and Peacock are having simply phenomenal years.


The Dropouts

Rich Hill (39)

Trevor Cahill (35)

Marcus Stroman (28)

Poor Rich Hill. Lost his perfect game, then lost the game, then lost his spot in the top 25. Cahill’s regressed to #DumpsterFireTrevor since his trade to the Royals. Stroman really didn’t fall that far…and his slider is still a work of art.


The Just Missed

Jordan Montgomery (26) – Too bad the Yankees couldn’t send down Sabathia instead. This kid is good.

Aaron Nola (27) – #Ace

Carlos Martinez (29) – Martinez simply teases ace upside, but frankly I think you can pretty much lump him and Chris Archer (30) in the same group — high strikeouts, too many baserunners and sub-ace starts to move into the top tier.

Dinelson Lamet (32) – He’s absolutely got the stuff. He could stand to work on his batted-ball control though.

Jimmy Nelson (34) – dScore buys his changes. He finished at #148 last year. I’ll call him a #2/3 going forward.


Notes from Farther Down

Jose Berrios is all the way down to 47. His last month cost him 19 spots, but frankly it could be much worse: Sean Manaea lost 39 spots, down to 87. Manaea really looks lost out there. I don’t want to point at the shoulder injury he had earlier this year since his performance really didn’t drop off after that…but I’m wondering if he’s suffering from some fatigue that’s not helped by that. He’s pretty much stopped throwing his toxic backfoot slider to righties, and that’s cost him his strikeouts. Michael Wacha is another Gray-like Phoenix: he’s up to 52 on the list, once again outperforming his 2015 year. I’m cautiously buying him as a #3 with upside. And finally, buzz round: Mike Clevinger (33)Alex Meyer (36)Robbie Ray (38)Rafael Montero (41), and Jacob Faria (43) are already ranked quite highly, and outside of Montero and maybe Meyer I could see all of them bumping up even higher. Clevinger’s really only consistency away from being a legitimate stud.


My next update will be the end-of-season update, so I think I’m going to do a larger ranking than just the top 25; maybe all the way down to 100. Enjoy the last month-plus!

Eddie Rosario and “Going the Other Way”

The Twins are one of two teams in baseball competing for a wild-card spot without a qualified hitter inside the top 50 on FanGraphs’ WAR leaderboard. Venturing out beyond this window unveils two players the average baseball guru would guess are Thad Levine and Co.’s most valuable assets: Miguel Sano (injured; 2.5 fWAR) and Brian Dozier (2.7 fWAR). If “Thad Levine and Co.” was the name of an ’80s band — which I can’t confirm or deny — Eddie Rosario would be the rhythm guitarist capable of beautiful harmonies; forgotten, but essential to the end product.

Anytime a player of Rosario’s level comes into relevancy, the radar in my mind starts to tick, hoping to decipher what changed to bring about better results. Naturally, venturing to other outlets helps to answer that question quickly, leaving me satisfied and with one less idea for a future column. Other times, unsatisfied by the results of searching, a new narrative will linger in my mind long enough to expand such thoughts into a column. That’s exactly what took place with my thoughts on Rosario’s recent breakout.

If you’re looking for a deep dive into some of the finer aspects of Rosario’s changes, SB Nation’s Twinkie Town — unrelated to the apocalypse-proof snack — has what you’re looking for. I, however, was stuck on one general concept from a Star Tribune post at the end of April. In an attempt to not rob the outlet of its quote, I’ll paraphrase by citing that Rosario was looking to go up the middle and the other way more, in an effort to help him find comfort at the plate.

The midpoint of that sentence — “… go up the middle and the other way…” — is something I’ve heard so much in baseball circles that I’ve become numb to the concept. Most of the time when I see those words in citation of a change in approach, it’s backed up by said player’s batted-ball distribution. For Rosario, that was initially the case, but then something odd happened.

La Velle E. Neal III’s column for the Tribune — 80-grade name — was written at the end of April and jives with the barebones comparison of Rosario’s batted-ball distribution between 2016 and the first month of action in 2017.

2016 – Pull 36.1% / Middle 39.8% / Oppo 24.1%

2017 – Pull 26.9% / Middle 44.8% / Oppo 28.4%

Whether this created an intersection of adjustment and improvement, in a purely statistical sense, I would be skeptical. Rosario had a wRC+ of 86 in his full season of work from 2016 and April brought with it a discouraging 72 wRC+. He was pushing balls to the middle of the field more, but this dampened production wasn’t intended.

Even more spiteful of any theory linking Rosario’s batted-ball distribution the other way and casual success is breaking down the outfielder’s changes over time in relation to performance. Keep in mind the love for Rosario was spurred off the starting block recently, as the average fantasy owner got tired of struggling vets, and searched for the hot hand (Rob Arthur say what?!).

April 2017 – Pull 26.9% / Middle 44.8% / Oppo 28.4% / wRC+ 72 / 18.6% K

May 2017 – Pull 33.9% / Middle 38.5% / Oppo 27.7% / wRC+ 108 / 18.6% K

June 2017 – Pull 36.7% / Middle 38.3% / Oppo 25.0% / wRC+ 126 / 22.4% K

July 2017 – Pull 36.8% / Middle 35.3% / Oppo 27.9% / wRC+ 126 / 18.5% K

August 2017 – Pull 54.1% / Middle 29.7% / Oppo 16.2% / wRC+ 155 / 15.6% K

Total 2017 – Pull 38.0% / Middle 37.1% / Oppo 24.9% / wRC+ 118 / 18.7% K

Weird indeed. That statement about Rosario going the other way, and that concept leading to results, is a theory that just took a wrench to the gut in the form of this progression in 2017. A progressive tendency to pull the ball, met with better wRC+ numbers, and a fluctuating strikeout rate that — in the aggregate — is substantially lower than 2016.

Intuition took over as I began to formulate ideas on what exactly happened in this particular case of the missing culprit of success. One stuck, and to my dismay, it’s not as groundbreaking as I had hoped.

Seeing Rosario’s strikeout rate plummet this much, I theorized that staying up the middle, or to the other way, doesn’t always mean actually doing so in a way that results in tangible batted-ball changes. It’s all about the approach itself. By Rosario telling himself to approach the ball with anticipation of hitting it to the left-center gap, he was effectively saying see the ball deeper into the zone. This may have helped his ability to recognize pitches and judge the break on an offspeed pitch better, along with a plethora of other nuances that sum to cuts in his swing and miss tendencies of years prior.

But my theory wasn’t enough to inspire confidence in claim, so I went to an individual that I admired the presentation of at Boston’s Saberseminar, and subsequently connected with on the network that is Twitter: Dan Blewett, host of the Dear Baseball Gods podcast and pitching guru.

I asked him whether it made sense that when Rosario says he is going the other way, it may actually be a larger complex of changes taking place. His response was what I wanted to hear…

“Hitters who are dead-pull commit earlier to pitches, because they have to get their barrel farther out in front of the plate in the same amount of reaction time. This limits pull-hitters to only a small grouping of pitches that they can both hit hard and keep fair.

By taking an opposite-field approach to the plate, Rosario is watching pitches in deeper, and thus keeping his barrel in the hitting zone longer. For someone who was an extreme pull-hitter, ‘opposite field’ is somewhat relative, and lining balls up the middle with authority is a sign that his new approach is working, even if it’s not producing true opposite-field hits.

He’s making himself a vastly tougher out, and it’s a sign that he’s growing as a player.”

– Dan Blewett

The interesting thing about Rosario is that he wasn’t much of a dead-pull hitter last year, but still realized that his production lacked punch with the approach he carried. This concept of him staying toward the middle of the field and the other way is a roundabout way of saying what Dan Blewett points out above — Rosario is making himself a vastly tougher out, and growing as a player. He’s not going the other way more, but that middle/oppo approach allows him to see the ball deeper — fewer strikeouts — and recognize which pitches he can pull productively without creating the dead-pull approach that Blewett implies is futile for most.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens going forward with Rosario’s approach, as he has gotten pull-happy in the month of August, but has been unbelievably productive in the process. With hitting’s mental side as important as its mechanical side, I continue to think his April tweaks to take a left-center approach primed him for development as an asset, even as his batted-ball distribution changes like the weather.

Hearing that a player is trying to go up the middle, or the other way, is too general of a statement to capture all that a player is doing. Next time I hear those four words — going the other way — I’ll be a lot more inquisitive as to what else may actually be happening in the player’s approach. Cycles of adjustments are guaranteed in baseball; player analysis is catching those adjustments and hammering out the what and why.


A version of this post can be found on my site, (to be published 8/27/2017).

I also tweet baseball… pretty much all the time — @LanceBrozdow

Rhys Hoskins Is Particularly Exciting in the Context of the Current Phillies

Rhys Hoskins is getting a lot of digi-ink recently. You may have read about him being only the third player ever to have eight dingers in his first 15 games. Or maybe the first player to have 19 RBI in those same games. Or how he’s walking nearly as much as he’s striking out. Or how he’s doing it with a BABIP flirting with the Mendoza line. Or how he’s done it all despite having only 64 plate appearances and after starting out 0-for-12. All these things are worth talking about.

None of those reasons acknowledge Hoskins in the context of the current Phillies lineup, though. Maybe it’s because the team is the clear-cut worst in the majors this year. Or how they’ve been so terrible the last few years that it mirrors their futility in the 90s. Or how they stand in such stark contrast to the organization’s great run from just a few short years ago. All of these things are worth not talking about.

But the way the this year’s team persists makes it important to look at Hoskins in their construct.


These numbers back up everything about Hoskins at the start of this piece. They also tell us a couple of other things about the rest of the current Phillies core, whose average age is 25. (Jorge Alfaro is excluded because he’s only played in nine games this year.)

Nick Williams has probably been the second-most exciting bat in the Phillies lineup this season, but his BABIP and K% also make him the biggest wild card moving forward. Cesar Hernandez is a worthwhile hitter who provides value in a few ways. Odubel Herrera goes through stretches that are equal parts brilliance and frustration. Freddy Galvis is a defense-first shortstop who isn’t a total black hole at the plate. And Maikel Franco may be genuinely concerning at this point, which could be why JP Crawford is seeing time at third base in AAA.

As members of the second-worst offense in baseball, do they provide a single reason to get excited when watching them? They can be compelling on a given night, but no one in that group has a game-altering skill that urges you to tune in or stick with them through a whole contest.

It’s more than not having a standout skill, though, and goes beyond being bad. It’s that this Phillies team’s greatest flaw often seems to be that they can handily beat themselves. How each individual performs at the plate can provide one example.


Galvis is the eighth-easiest out in baseball when he’s down in the count. Nick Williams would be up there if had enough at-bats to qualify. Odubel Herrera is in the top 50. Maikel Franco is 74th, but his overall game hasn’t struck fear into anyone in a couple years. Cesar Hernandez is quietly one of the better second basemen in the league, but he doesn’t offer nearly the offensive upside as Hoskins.

That likely makes Hoskins the best of the Phillies core at avoiding outs when behind in the count, and what contributes to him already being the team’s best hitter. Consider his crazy low BABIP and ability to walk and it gets easier to buy into. Yes, the sample size is small. But it’s also yielded results very similar to what his minor-league profile says to expect.

Hoskins isn’t just making outs at a lower rate than his teammates when down in the count. He’s shown himself to be adept at causing damage in such situations. That’s when he’s hit half of his eight home runs, meaning he doesn’t make it about just shortening up or taking a pitch. He simply doesn’t give a flip if he’s behind. He appears calm at all times. Combined with true talent, that is what makes for perhaps the most dangerous type of player.

Now, add that distinction to a lineup of other serviceable players where one or two of them grow. Add a pitcher or two to Aaron Nola, who’s becoming an ace. Think of other help coming from the minors. Things are looking much better for the Phillies, even if they come with conditions.

Rhys Hoskins has been excellent, but that’s not all. He’s clarifying Philadelphia’s path out of the basement, and possibly back to relevance, rather quickly.

2017 Awards Predictions

AL Comeback Player of the Year: There’s a case for many players who could potentially receive this award. For me personally, I would have to pick either Mike Moustakas, who has seen a resurgence after being plagued by injuries last season, or Ervin Santana, who has been the ace of the Twins’ staff and may help carry them to a playoff appearance.

NL Comeback Player of the Year: From a pitching standpoint, Zack Greinke would be a good choice, as he has pitched like the $206-million ace that Arizona thought he might be. Others such as Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Conforto should also be up for consideration.

AL Manager of the Year: This one is a bit tougher, because there are so many managers who have their teams performing beyond expectations for this season. If I could only pick one at the moment, it would be Mike Scioscia. Even with Mike Trout missing significant time due to injury and the rest of the roster mostly depleted of talent, it’s incredible to see that the Angels are just a couple games out of a Wild Card spot.

NL Manager of the Year: While Bud Black has the Rockies performing at their peak, I believe Torey Lovullo has to be the front-runner for this award, considering where the Diamondbacks were last season and how he has been able to unleash the maximum potential out of some players that the baseball community had previously written off, while overcoming injury woes that haunted the team last season.

AL Rookie of the Year: Aaron Judge. I know that he hasn’t been able to buy a hit since the All-Star break, but he has still out-performed other rookies above and beyond, and still has a good chance to break Mark McGwire’s record for most home runs by a rookie (48).

NL Rookie of the Year: Cody Bellinger. Just like with Judge, Cody Bellinger burst onto the scene and was crushing baseballs at an outrageous pace, much like Gary Sanchez did in 2016. Bellinger has out-performed other NL rookies, so this award should be his for the taking.

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale. So far, the Red Sox have been more than satisfied by the results of the trade they made last offseason. Their intimidating left-hander has been shutting down lineups just as Dave Dombrowski had hoped. An argument could also be made for Corey Kluber, but because he missed some time this season due to injury, I believe Sale should have no problem getting his first Cy Young, especially if he wins the pitching triple crown.

NL Cy Young: Despite both of these pitchers suffering from injuries, it would be hard to give the Cy Young to someone other than Clayton Kershaw or Max Scherzer. It’s hard to decide between the two of them at the moment, but the choice will probably be much more clear after the conclusion of the season.

AL MVP: If you had asked me this question before the All-Star break, I would have definitely picked Aaron Judge. However, due to his recent struggles, I would have to give this award to Jose Altuve. Altuve stands at the moment with an amazing .358 average while also leading in stolen bases. Altuve is often under-appreciated due to his small stature, but he has led the big leagues in hits since his arrival, and this season is his best opportunity to win a well-deserved MVP, especially since Trout also missed significant time with a thumb injury.

NL MVP: The answer out of many people’s mouths at the moment would be Giancarlo Stanton. However, despite the torrid pace at which he is hitting home runs, I believe someone like Nolan Arenado or Paul Goldschmidt is more deserving. I was also considering Bryce Harper before his injury, which could potentially sideline him for the season. If not for Kris Bryant, Nolan Arenado would have won the MVP last season, and now that both him and Goldschmidt have put their teams in positions to make deep playoff runs, it’s time in 2017 that all of these overlooked players finally get their well-deserved recognition.

The Correlation Between BABIP Rate and Three True Outcomes

First things first, I would like to credit my friend Elling Hofland for coming up with the main idea of this piece. He’s the one who provided me with his thoughts and theories that allowed me to expand on this topic in the first place. Give him a follow on Twitter for sports and stats-related banter; his handle is @ellinghofland.

BABIP, or batting average on balls in play, is an incredibly useful stat. It does a fantastic job at using both luck and quality of contact to give a better grasp as to how a player actually performs during batted-ball events. These batted-ball events only take up a certain percentage of a player’s plate appearances. BABIP rate focuses on how many plate appearances a player has relative to the number of batted-ball events they have. To calculate BABIP rate, you take at bats minus strikeouts and home runs, plus sacrifice flies, and divide that by plate appearances. For example, if a player has 600 PA during a single season along with a 300 batted-ball events, they have a BABIP rate of .500.

Now, if you look at the three variables taken out of that equation, you’re left with walks, strikeouts, and home runs, otherwise known as the “three true outcomes.” These are called true outcomes due to the fact that none of them (for the most part) involve defense on the field. A shortstop can’t screw up a strikeout, walk, or a home run. You can take these three true outcomes and turn them into a rate as well. If you add up a player’s strikeouts, walks, and home runs and then divide them by plate appearances, you get TTO rate.

Let’s look at Mike Trout. In 2017, Trout’s BABIP currently sits at .369. However, he has a BABIP rate of .550 along with a TTO rate of .435, meaning that 55% of his at bats end with a ball in play, while 43.5% of his plate appearances result in a strikeout, walk, or home run. Both BABIP rate and TTO rate are useful stats, as they essentially show how well and how often a player makes contact. While BABIP itself is useful, it can be hard to tell how luck is involved in a batted-ball event when it isn’t hit over a fence for a homer. BABIP rate attempts to bridge the gap between BABIP and the three true outcomes.

Miguel Sano is a well-known slugger. In his three seasons in the majors, he’s smashed the ball when he’s hit it, boasting exit velocities of 94.0 in 2015, 92.3 in 2016, and 93.1 in 2017. Despite these consistent EVs, his BABIP has fluctuated from 2015 to 2017, with marks of .396, .329, and .385, respectively. If we look at his BABIP rate from 2015-2017, they look like this: .429, .478, and .473. Despite the difference in his BABIP from 2016 to 2017, his BABIP rate has stayed nearly the same, meaning that he’s still making the same amount of contact with the ball despite fewer balls falling for hit in 2016. Looking solely at BABIP, it could be argued that 2016 was his “regression” to where he should be after sporting an incredibly high BABIP in 2015. In 2017, one could say his high BABIP is a cause for concern, as he may just be getting lucky. However, his BABIP rate shows that isn’t the case.

Let’s look at another player, Brandon Phillips. Phillips’ BABIP has been incredibly consistent during his past three years, sitting at .315 in 2015, .312 in 2016, and .305 in 2017. Additionally, his BABIP rates have been .820, .816 and .802. Phillips puts the ball in play nearly 80% of the time on a regular basis.

So, as you can imagine, there is a real link between BABIP rate and TTO rate. The more contact a player makes, less they tend to walk or strikeout. Thus, a high BABIP rate equals a low TTO rate. This is exactly what we see if we attempt to correlate these two stats. Below is a snapshot of a graph that shows TTO rate vs. BABIP rate.

TTO vs BABIP rate

Players names aren’t included because, A) it clutters the graph, and B) they aren’t necessary at this point. Accompanying this graph is a trend line with an R squared value, otherwise known as a correlation coefficient. Essentially, an R squared value measures how well your model fits your data, or in this case, how closely correlated  TTO and BABIP rate are to each other. It turns out that the R-squared value is .991, which means that the relationship between BABIP rate and TTO rate fit very well together: in fact, you’ll find that TTO rate and BABIP rate are almost the exact opposites of each other. The players with the top 10 lowest BABIP rates in the MLB all have TTO rates of .437 or higher, meaning that their at bats result in an outcome of a walk, home run or strikeout 43.7% of the time. Inversely, players with the lowest BABIP rates all have TTO rates of .225 or lower.

We can also derive more information from these numbers using this correlation. Players who have a low BABIP rate have a very high OPS. Remember, these players also have high TTO rates. The top 10 players, Judge, Sano, K. Davis, Souza Jr., Reynolds, Morrison, J. Upton, C. Santana, Lamb, and Stanton all have an OPS of .841 or higher. The players with the highest BABIP rates (or lowest TTO rates) have an OPS of .798 or lower.

BABIP rate can tell us a lot of about a player. Just by glancing at a player’s BABIP rate, you can have an instant idea of how often the player walks, strikes out, or hits dingers. Not only that, but it you can tell you a lot about their offensive production. High TTO rates usually mean high hard-hit rates along with high exit velocities. BABIP rate also helps understand BABIP itself better and teaches that you can’t judge a player by BABIP all the time. In most cases, players with an over-inflated BABIP (relative to past performances), just tend to mash the absolute heck out of the ball, as told by their low BABIP rates and high TTO rates. On the opposite end, players with a steady BABIP will have very high BABIP rates and tend to be contact hitters that put the ball in play and don’t hit for power. BABIP rate, along with its correlation to TTO rate, has the potential to be a powerful, tell all offensive stat.

Why the Mets Should Call Up Tim Tebow in September

As of August 21st, 2017 Tim Tebow was slashing .220/.304/.343 between the New York Mets’ High-A team, the Columbia Fireflies (South Atlantic League), and their Advanced-A squad, the St. Lucie Mets (Florida State League). In 442 minor-league plate appearances, he is the owner of a .304 wOBA, and is striking out at a 26% clip while walking in 8% of his plate appearances. For every one ball that Tebow elevates, he is hitting the ball on the ground three times over. Right off the bat (pun intended), it is evident that Tebow’s offensive game leaves something to be desired.

Let’s take a quick look at how Tebow stacks up with the average hitter, in each A-ball league, that has had a minimum of 200 plate appearances and has primarily played the same position(s) as Mr. Tebow (outfield & designated hitter):

*Data as of 8/21/2017
Tim Tebow 30 8.8% 26.5% 0.220 0.304 0.343 0.647 0.304 90
Avg. SAL OF/DH 21.5 7.7% 21.9% 0.253 0.322 0.378 0.700 0.322 104
Avg. FSL OF/DH 23 8.2% 21.4% 0.255 0.324 0.370 0.694 0.324 103

Only his walk rate appears to be on par with each respective league’s average. Additionally, Tebow has logged a .913 fielding percentage while playing (primarily) left field this year. It is widely understood that fielding percentage is a “far-from-perfect” measurement when objectifying defensive ability, but it can provide a high-level perspective on one’s aptitude as it relates to fielding the baseball. To put Tebow’s number into context, the lowest fielding percentage in the major leagues this year by an outfielder (minimum 100 innings played) is Mark Canha of the Oakland A’s, at .922.

Many words come to mind when attempting to summarize the 30-year-old’s all-around quality of play while in A-ball; ‘excellent’, ‘incredible’, or ‘promising’ would not be any of those words. However, despite the subpar statistical measuring points, the Mets should seriously consider calling up Tim Tebow to the big leagues come September.

No, that is not a typo. Yes, you read the last sentence of the above paragraph correctly. When rosters expand to include anyone on the 40-man roster on September 1st, the New York Mets should give sincere thought to adding Tim Tebow to their roster/big-league club. Now, why would the New York Mets, a team that owns a 55 – 71 win-loss record and trails the NL Wild Card race by 13.5 games and NL East Division title by 21 games, bother calling up a poorly-performing 30-year-old high-A-ball player? The answer, as it is with many things in life, is money.

Baseball clubs generate revenue in many ways: merchandise sales, concessions sales, corporate sponsorships, media deals, etc. One of the largest and most obvious ways in which income at the major-league club level is generated is through home-park ticket sales. Tim Tebow excels at putting fans in the stands:

YoY Average Home Game Attendance Figures

Year Columbia Fireflies St. Lucie Mets
2016 3,768 1,405
2017 4,783 1,996
YoY % Change 21% 30%

As you can see, both teams that Tebow has played for this year have experienced huge jumps in home attendance figures. This has occurred despite the fact that in 2016 the Columbia Fireflies were celebrating their inaugural season at a brand new stadium, and the St. Lucie Mets were 11 games over .500 in the thick of a playoff race (compared to 11 games under .500 in 2017 at the time of this publication).

As I alluded to above, a lot of circumstances can impact attendance figures: new stadium, weather, promotions, team quality, opponent, etc. However, I think that it’s pretty evident that Tim Tebow’s arrival on the Mets’ minor-league scene has driven a majority of the jump. To confirm this, let’s look at attendance figures from a different angle – specifically, 2017 home attendance numbers and how they vary for each team from when Tebow was actively rostered vs. when he was not:

*Data as of 8/19/2017
Team Tebow Rostered # of Home Games Avg. Home Game Attendance % Change
Columbia Fireflies No 20 3,757
Columbia Fireflies Yes 41 5,308 29%
St. Lucie Mets No 37 1,745
St. Lucie Mets Yes 24 2,419 28%

Again, it’s evident that Tim Tebow’s roster presence has enticed people to come to the home team’s ballpark at a clip nearly 30% greater than if he were not on the team.

So how do we translate these attendance figures into dollars and cents? Since I do not have access to either team’s ticketing database, this is where some assumptions about average per-cap and ticket value will have to come into play. Baseball America’s JJ Cooper & Josh Norris have recently written articles that similarly examine Tebow’s impact at the box office – however, their stories concentrate heavily on road attendance and overall league attendance impacts, rather than the home ballpark’s ticket sales (which are critical to driving a organization’s recognized revenue). In his article, Norris notes that most minor-league operators use a $21 per-cap estimate for fan spending. This figure is an estimate of what each fan that enters the ballpark will have paid in tickets, concessions, merchandise, and parking.

For the first 39 home game dates (41 games due to two doubleheaders) of their 2017 season, the Columbia Fireflies were able to showcase Tim Tebow in uniform. They attracted 207,031 fans. In the first 39 home game dates of their inaugural 2016 season, the Fireflies drew 155,132 fans. The difference between 2017 and 2016 for these first 39 home game dates is 51,899 fans. If we apply the $21 per-cap estimate referenced above, we are looking at about $1.1 million in additional revenue that can be largely attributed to Tebow being in uniform. Tebow’s last game for the Fireflies was on June 25th, his first game for the St. Lucie Mets was on June 28th. Through August 18th, Tebow has been a member of St. Lucie’s roster for 22 home game dates (24 games due to two doubleheaders) and has helped attract 53,207 fans. In 2016, the St. Lucie Mets were able to draw 21,097 during the same stretch. If we apply the $21 per-cap estimate, it will have amounted to $674,310 in additional revenue over the course of the 22 home game dates at this point in the season. Additionally, Tebow has undoubtedly drawn in an abundance of new consumers to each team’s ballparks and databases. This is information that can be leveraged for future sales and marketing initiatives. It would not be ludicrous to state that, combined, the Mets’ A-ball affiliates have increased home-park revenues by roughly $2 million due to Tim Tebow.

Let’s take a hypothetical look at these trends from the 2017 New York Mets point of view. Their current 40-man roster sits at 36 occupants – so there is no risk of having to DFA a player in order to bring on a newcomer. They are far removed from the playoffs, and already have their sights set on next year. Even by adding Tebow to the 40-man roster, they would have three additional spots to work with should they want to expose some of their MLB-ready prospects to low(er)-leverage big-league games in September. The Mets would have to pay Tebow a pro-rated MLB minimum salary, which would come to be about $65K for the final four weeks of the season, pennies compared to what he would bring back in return.

Here is a table of the historical attendance at Citi Field for the month of September since 2010:

Year Citi Field Sept. Attendance # of Games
2010 382,306 14
2011 433,251 16
2012 385,292 16
2013 340,799 15
2014 337,343 13
2015 353,005 11
2016 468,283 14
2017 ? 14

I’ve highlighted 2014 because it most closely resembles the environment that the 2017 Mets will be embarking upon, as you can see below:

*Through 122 games
Year Winning % GB – Division GB – Wild Card Weekday Home Games Weekend Home Games
2014 0.467 10.5 7.5 7 6
2017 0.443 20 12 8 6

You will notice, the 2014 and 2017 Mets were/are both clearly out of the playoff picture and had/have a similar distribution of home games throughout the month of September. Despite one more overall September game in 2017, the 2014 season should prove to be a good starting point for us; because of the extra game, let’s estimate that the Mets will bring in around 339,000 people to Citi Field in September of 2017.

Now, the fun part. How does that audience, and consequentially revenue, project to increase if Tim Tebow were added to the roster? It would be rather difficult to forecast how a marketplace like New York City would react to a move of that nature. There are infinite amounts of variables that could be considered: chilly September temperature and weather volatility, inability to purchase season packages so late in the year, the comparison of the NYC marketplace to that of Columbia, SC and St. Lucie, FL, the matter of the media, the beginning of football season, etc. the list could go on and on. For simplicity’s sake, let’s assume that New York’s market would react in a similar manner as that of Columbia & St. Lucie’s – home attendance gains of near 30%. That would push an additional 102,000 customers through the Citi Field turnstiles during the last four weeks of the season.

The average MLB ticket price in 2016 was $31.00, a 7% increase from the previous year. A 7% increase from the 2016 ticket price would put us just over $33.00 for 2017. This gives us a place to start with regards to estimating revenue impact. I don’t have access to the Mets’ ticketing database, so this barometer will do for the time being. My gut tells me that the $33.00 price point is low; typically season-ticket prices are used when calculating the league-wide annual average ticket price, and season tickets are sold at a discount compared to single-game ticket prices. Being that it is September, most fans that would turn out to see Tebow would be purchasing at the single-game ticket price point (or group-ticket price point, but that complicates things further) since season packages are likely no longer being sold for 2017.

Irrespectively, at this point the math becomes clear: 102,000 additional fans at $33.00/ticket would generate an estimated $3.4 million in surplus revenue. This doesn’t even include the additional revenue that would accrue via a multitude of other outlets. Concessions, merchandise, and parking – all revenue streams that the Mets split with their respective vendors – would experience huge jumps. Strategies to boost season-ticket-holder retention for 2018 (Tim Tebow meet and greet anyone?) would likely yield positive results. As stated before, entirely new ticket buyers would flood into the Mets’ ticketing database — which should boost returns in some form or fashion in future years.

Tim Tebow is not going to play baseball forever. He may choose to call it quits on his “pro-ball quest” after this year. Who’s to say he even wants to go through another year toiling away in the low minor leagues? A promising and young (albeit injury-prone) starting pitching staff should have the Mets within shouting distance of playoff contention for the next couple of years. If that is the case, they will not want to waste an NL roster spot on a subpar, 31-year-old, designated hitter. Roughly $3.5 million should allow the Mets to chase around 0.5 WAR on the open market. It could provide them additional wiggle room to take on extra salary in a deadline trade next year. It would allow the acquisition of players along the likes of Trevor Cahill, Logan Morrison, or Drew Storen…all of whom signed for under $3 million this past offseason. It could be put toward additional infrastructure, baseball analytics, or scouting staff.

Sure, there are certainly more deserving players in the Mets’ minor-league system that have ‘paid their dues’ to a greater extent than Tim Tebow — all in the hopes of getting a call-up to the Show. But baseball is a business, and at the end of the day, no one in the Mets’ system will be able to have an impact on fans the same way that Tim Tebow does/can. The Mets need to capitalize on their current situation before the former Heisman trophy winner tires of the long and uncomfortable bus rides, motel stops, and food spreads that dot the minor-league landscape. The Mets need to cash in on their investment before Tebow bids baseball adieu.

A Surprising Benefit of Throwing a Good Sinker

*Note: all stats are as of August 1, 2017

I originally intended to write a post about the aspects of a four-seam fastball that are most important in generating whiffs. The correlation between fastball velocity and whiff rate on the fastball is only about 25%, so I was interested to find out whether other factors, such as vertical movement, location, or pitch usage, are better indicators of a fastball’s swing-and-miss tendencies. While some of the names at the top of the fastball whiff list were not surprising at all (Chris Sale, Jacob deGrom, James Paxton), there were several others who I was surprised to see, including Brandon McCarthy, Rick Porcello, J.A. Happ, and Clayton Richard. There was one glaring similarity between these seemingly overachieving pitchers: they throw a high percentage of sinkers.

So I looked at the correlation between whiff rate on the four-seam fastball and sinker usage, only to find that it was not only small, but also negative. However, looking at the correlation between these two variables is somewhat like a chicken-and-egg problem: does sinker usage affect a pitcher’s four-seam fastball whiff rate, or does his four-seam fastball whiff rate affect his sinker usage? The latter option certainly seems reasonable: a pitcher who is ineffective with his four-seamer is more likely to develop a sinker than a pitcher with a dominant four-seamer. For this reason, we have to dig deeper to determine if sinker usage has any effect on four-seam whiff rate.

I looked instead at only the 48 qualifying pitchers who throw a sinker at least 10% of the time (and a four-seam fastball at least 5% of the time). I found the correlation between several variables — some relating to the sinker and some unrelated to it — and four-seam whiff rate. If the variables related to the sinker have a significant correlation with four-seam whiff rate, then that implies that a pitcher’s sinker can have an effect on his four-seam fastball. The variables I looked at were the four-seam fastball’s velocity and vertical movement, the sinker’s velocity and vertical movement, and the difference between a pitcher’s four-seam fastball and sinker in both velocity and vertical movement. Here are their correlations with four-seam fastball whiff rate:

   4-Seam Fastball                                        Sinker                                       Difference
Velocity 0.3022 0.2249 0.3011
V-Movement -0.0544 -0.2875 0.4348


There are a few interesting things to note here. First, the four-seam fastball’s velocity seems to be just as important as the difference in velocity between the four-seamer and the sinker. While velocity is often the first thing most people look for to determine if a pitcher has a swing-and-miss fastball, relative velocity is equally as important as absolute velocity, at least when it comes to pitchers who also throw a sinker. This confirms the notion that changing speeds can upset the hitter’s timing and make a fastball seem faster than it is.

Relativity is even more important when it comes to vertical movement. While there is no correlation between four-seam whiff rate and four-seam vertical movement, there is a significant correlation between four-seam whiff rate and the difference in vertical movement between the four-seamer and the sinker (I’ll call this “v-movement difference”). This seems to show that the downward movement of the sinker makes hitters more likely to swing under the four-seam fastball; they keep the sinker in mind, so the four-seamer appears to have more vertical movement than it actually does. If this is true, then we should expect v-movement difference to have a greater effect on pitchers who throw a higher percentage of sinkers. To test whether this is true, I increased the requirement of minimum percentage of sinkers thrown in intervals of 5%, from 10% to 35%. I then found the correlation between four-seam whiff rate and v-movement difference at these different thresholds. Here are the results:

threshold correlation
10 % 0.4348
15 % 0.4125
20 % 0.4752
25 % 0.4752
30 % 0.5121
35 % 0.5025


Just as we expected, the correlation between v-movement difference and four-seam whiff rate is higher for pitchers who throw more sinkers. If the relatively high correlation we observed at the 10% threshold were pure luck, then the correlations at higher thresholds would be scattered randomly. The fact that there is a clear upward trend in correlations as the threshold increases proves that v-movement difference does, in fact, have an effect on four-seam whiff rate. While this does not necessarily mean that adding a sinker will help a pitcher get more whiffs on his fastball, it does prove that the quality of a pitcher’s sinker can affect the effectiveness of his fastball. More specifically, we also learn that a good sinker, in terms of generating whiffs on the four-seamer, is one that has little vertical movement (or a lot of sink) in relation to the four-seamer.

Starting Pitching: Not Dead Yet

Starting pitching constitutes the most persistently difficult roster-management problem in baseball. The laws of supply and demand make starters exceedingly expensive, while the laws of biomechanics make starters exceedingly unreliable. When Terry Francona had uberreliever Andrew Miller throw 151 innings (or something) during the 2016 postseason, people began to say “why not do that all the time?” And with MLB offenses scoring 4.67 runs per game, a level not seen since the tail end of Vitamin B-12 Era in 2007, the entire concept of starting pitching has come under withering scrutiny. The answer to “why not use relievers all the time” used to be “because it wouldn’t work, you remarkably silly person.” But now, with starters routinely getting shelled, it’s becoming clearer that the current default approach isn’t necessarily working either.

The internets are positively chock full of people anticipating the post-starter world (see, e.g., here and here). Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper, who has given starting pitching a lot of thought over the years, recently suggested removing the five-inning minimum as a condition for a win, in order to encourage managers to be more creative with starter usage (and, perhaps, to discourage Jon Lester from flattening Joe Maddon when he gets yanked after 4 2/3). The arguments for moving beyond traditional pitcher usage are creative and intriguing.

This future may seem exciting, but it still appears to be a long way off. While starter innings have certainly ebbed since the days of Big Ed Walsh, who led the charted universe with 422 IP in 1907, the number of innings per start has stabilized somewhat in recent years. And there is little evidence that shortening starters’ outings necessarily enhances run suppression.

Since 2007, innings/start has varied from a high of 6.0 in 2010 and 2011, to a low of 5.6, last season and this. From 2007 – 2009 the average was 5.8. Since 2011, innings per start, and the average number of pitches per start, have been generally declining, but run scoring has been increasing since 2014. The correlation between runs and the other variables seems weak, and to the extent a relationship exists at all, it appears to be an inverse one: from 2007 to the present, innings per start declined from the previous year when, and only when, run scoring rose (2012, 2015, and 2016). If a conclusion can be drawn from this limited and noisy data, it’s that starter innings fall more as the result of hitter success than clever managerial design. (This year is so far an exception — runs are up over last year but innings per start and average starter pitch count have remained the same.)

Many readers are surely now reaching for their 2015 Kansas City Royals World Series key chains, and The Fighting Yosts were indeed third in the American League in run suppression that year with a below-average innings per start of 5.6. The famous trio of Wade Davis, Ryan Madson, and Kelvin Herrera (and the less famous Franklin Morales) led a unit that amassed 5.0 WAR, good for a four-way tie for third in the majors. This was a significant achievement, but just as importantly, one hard to maintain. Just three teams have amassed 15.0 bullpen WAR over the last three full seasons: the Royals, Orioles, and Yankees. Of those teams, only the Orioles were in the top 10 in bullpen innings over the same period. Conversely, many of the teams that led the way in bullpen innings didn’t get stellar results: seven of the top 10 teams in bullpen usage failed to get even 10 WAR out of their bullpens over the three-year span.

This isn’t to say a pen-first strategy can’t work, but that it hasn’t worked so far in a sufficiently repeatable manner to dislodge traditional starting pitching. And a lot of that probably has to do with the relative quality of relievers. Many, if not most, are failed starters. They either lack the stamina to go deep into games or they never developed an adequate third pitch. A move to the pen mitigates those shortcomings, but does not eliminate them. An injury-prone starter may still be injury-prone coming out of the pen, and the absence of the third pitch will really hurt on those days, and there will be some, when the first two just aren’t working. And then there’s the statistical problem — it’s simply more difficult to get a good numerical read of a reliever because there are fewer innings by which to judge him. However unreliable starters are, relievers are for the most part even unreliable-er.

Change is happening. Managers are becoming slightly more averse to having their starters face hitters a third time. It happened in roughly 3,000 fewer plate appearances in 2016 than it did in 2007, a small but noticeable change. Tandem starts are perhaps becoming more common out of the nominal fifth-starter slot, even if these are officially unacknowledged. The Cubs survived the Eddie Butler Intermediate Period earlier this year by having Mike Montgomery come in and throw three innings after Butler’s usually early exit. MLB teams averaged 106 relief appearances of more than one inning last season, the highest in recent years.

That said, at the end of the day, talent probably wins a lot more baseball games than creative pitcher usage. There may be a vast storehouse of as yet unlocked wins lying around the bullpen amidst the ball bags, spent seed husks, and vaguely creepy masks. It seems more likely, however, that any improvement in pitcher deployment would bring marginal improvements in team performance rather than revolutionary changes. The remarkable resistance to sustained experimentation with pitching usage may stem from hidebound traditionalism or the timidity of the herd. But that explanation carries less force than it once did, given that there are today few front offices that can safely be characterized as hidebound or herdlike. It’s at least equally possible that teams have not taken hammers to pitching orthodoxy because they have concluded that this would be a waste of perfectly good hammers. Teams searching for more wins appear to be spending most of their time looking elsewhere.

This is not a paean to The Good Old Days, but rather a suggestion that shifting more innings to the bullpen may be more about moving risk than reducing it. The real hidden treasure buried somewhere in the pitching portion of the roster lies in unlocking the secrets of durable elbows and shoulders, and then being able to identify those in players still too young to legally drink. This would expand the supply of sustainable run-suppression talent, making pitchers a more predictable investment. This in turn could finally lead baseball away from its fascination with 14-man staffs, allowing for better-balanced rosters, more interesting game play, and fewer four-pitcher innings, since managers would be able to trust the men they are sending out to the mound, rather than placing all their faith in platoon splits. Heck, it might even lead to peace on the Korean peninsula and whiter, brighter teeth, too.

One way to deal with a presently unsolvable problem is to de-emphasize it. The Mets tried to build around young starting pitching and failed. The Astros didn’t, and didn’t. Their approach has been to invest modest resources in a more or less traditionally-deployed rotation while building around a MOAB offense and a high-quality, if not an extraordinarily high-quantity, bullpen. Expect more teams to follow this path until the buried treasure is unearthed.

If the Season Ended Today, Who Is the NL MVP?

This year, the NL MVP will be a highly-contested race among players such as Cody Bellinger, Nolan Arenado, Kris Bryant, Justin Turner, Paul Goldschmidt, and the superior all-around player, Joey Votto. If the season ended today (as of August 14, 2017), Votto, an average defender who has the best combination of power and OBP at the plate, should win the NL MVP this year.

According to Baseball Reference, Joey Votto boasts the highest-ranking OBP — of .446 — in the National League, along with having the third-most home runs, with 31. He ranks sixth in slugging at .600, second in OPS+ at 169, and second in runs created with 114. He ranks first in batting runs and batting wins with 48 and 4.5, respectively. Votto may not be the biggest slugger in the league, but there is no other player who hits for as much power while also getting out as infrequently and getting on base as frequently. In fact, he is the only current NL player with a .400 OBP and at least 30 HR. Compared to all other players with at least 20 home runs, nobody has been on base more times without reaching on error than Joey Votto.

Among players with 60 or fewer strikeouts, he ranks first in home runs, second in SLG, first in runs produced, first in WAR, and first in win probability added. Among players with 300 or fewer outs made, Votto is second in home runs, second in OPS+, and second in total bases.

Stanton and Bellinger, the only players in the NL with more home runs than Votto, have a combined 104 strikeouts more than Votto.

According to FanGraphs, Joey ranks first in wOBA (.431), second in wRC+ (165), and first in wRC (111). His 11.5 K% is the sixth-lowest in the league among qualified hitters, and his 47.9 wRAA (weighted runs above average) ranks first, along with his 18.5 BB%. His .287 ISO is fifth in the National League.

Joey has 3.7 Wins Above Average, which ranks third among all players in the National League. His 5.3 WAR in second among all position players, his 4.8 oWAR is second, and his 4.0 WPA is third.

At 33 years old, Joey Votto is having a career year, and if the season were to end now, he should have an MVP season. Hitters who get on base as often and strike out as rarely as Votto while also hitting for as much power are increasingly rare. I think he has a decent shot of winning this year; however, the ludicrous belief that the MVP should be on a playoff team is still rather prevalent, unfortunately. The Reds are not a good team this year, but this does not detract anything from what Votto has done this year. Hopefully, voters will recognize the value that he has brought to the Reds, and the exceptional way in which he has done it.

A Baseball World Without Intentional Walks

There are at-bats. And the possible positive outcomes of those come down to three: hits, walks and batters hit by pitches. Hits can be separated in singles, doubles, triples and home runs. Hits by pitch are pretty much what they sound like. Walks, on the other hand, are bases on balls awarded by the pitcher to the batter either unintentionally due to lack of control or intentionally to supposedly prevent the hitter for inflicting more than single-valued damage by giving him the first base for free.

The intentional base by balls have always been present in baseball. They have been tracked, though, since 1955. From that point in time to 2016 (the last complete season with data available), a total of 73,272 IBB have been awarded to batters, for an average of around 1,182 per season. If we look at the full picture, though, there have been more than 11 times more BB than IBB in the same period of time. Obviously, hitters are not awarded a base for free if they have not gained a certain status in which pitchers “fear” the possibility of them being punished by a bomb to the outfield that holds high value and could turn into runs for the opposing team.

Even with that, IBB rates are at their lowest since 1955 due to strategical improvements and the study of the game, which has led to the conclusion that awarding bases to hitters for free is more than probably not the best approach. But with more than a thousand instances per season on average, we have a big enough sample size as to have some fun with the numbers and try to think of a baseball world in which IBB had been somehow vetoed by the MLB and therefore not awarded to hitters from 1955 on. What could have this meant for batters during this span? How much could have it impacted the hitting totals for some of the already-great hitters of baseball history? Let’s take a look at the data.

Counting from 1955, only five players have had careers in which they have posted an IBB/PA larger than 2% in at least 10,000 PA. Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron, Ken Griffey, Albert Pujols and David Ortiz. Those are some scary names to have at the home plate staring at you while playing the role of the pitcher. If we lower the threshold to 1% IBB/PA, we end with a group of 39 players, more than enough to get some interesting testing. The first thing that jumps out and we could expect is that only one of the 39 players fell short of the 100 HR mark (Rod Carew, with 92) and that all of them surpassed 2223 hits during their careers (for that matter, only 110 MLB players since 1955 have got to that mark, so players from our group make for 34% of them).

So, back to our group, the correlation between IBB and HR yields an R-value of 0.256, which is more or less significant. This means that power hitters have historically tended to be awarded more bases by balls than any other type of batter. If no IBB had been allowed in baseball, we would only have hits, unintentional walks and hits by pitch left as our possible plate appearance outcomes. By making a simple set of calculations we can come up with how many extra hits, home runs, etc. each of our players could have ended their careers with had they not being walked on purpose during their playing time. It is just about knowing the rates they hit singles, doubles, triples and homers per PA (subtracting IBB outcomes from the total number of PA) and then multiplying those rates for the IBB each of them were awarded in their careers. This way we can have a simple look at how much better numbers those hitters could have reached based on their pure hitting ability.

The case of Barry Bonds is truly unique. The all-time home run leader not only lead the IBB leaderboard with 688, but the difference between him and the second ranked player (Albert Pujols, 302 IBB) is a staggering 386 IBB, more than doubling him. The difference between Pujols and third-ranked Hank Aaron is of 9 IBB, just for comparison’s sake. In order to get a comprehensive list of the most improved players in this alternative world, we can sort them by the number of extra hits (no matter the type) they would have got had they not received a single intentional base on balls. The next table includes the 20 players with the most expected extra hits to gain in this scenario.

Unsurprisingly, Bonds comes out first – and by a mile. Again, Barry doubles the EEH of second-ranked Pujols and would have finished his career with over 3,000 hits, at a 3,104 mark. That would make him the eighth player in terms of hits among those analyzed, while Pete Rose (not in the table above) would have gained 45 hits to surpass the 4,300-hit mark and reach exactly 4,301.

By breaking the hits by category the outcome at the top is the expected, with Barry Bonds always topping the simulations. Clearing him from the picture, Hank Aaron would have hit the most extra singles with 49, followed by Pujols and Tony Gwynn with 48. Speaking of doubles, Pujols would have got an extra 18, and three players would have 13 more than what they reached in their careers. Triples are much less frequent and only two players, Roberto Clemente and George Brett, would have batted for three extra triples. Finally, in the home-run category, Bonds would have hit for an extra 44 homers, followed by Pujols and Aaron (13 plus) and Ken Griffey.

Had all these numbers been real and IBB cleared from the face of Earth, historical career leaderboards would have not changed a lot, at least at the highest positions, but some records would be seen as even more unbreakable than they are now. Someone would have to break the 4,300-hit barrier again to surpass Pete Rose. Bonds’ new mark of 806 HR would be unimaginable to reach by anyone nowadays (Pujols, still active, would be almost 200 HR away while entering his age-38 season next fall).

It may not had been a critical change, but baseball would have been (and be) way more fun to watch. Just looking at our starting 39 guys, we would have seen the ball being hit 1,928 more times (out of 7,423 IBB, which is a 26% more than we have), witnessed 300 more home runs being called and annotated a couple of unthinkable numbers in MLB’s history books. Now just imagine how much baseball-fun we’ve lost if I remind you that there have been 73,272 walks awarded during the past 61 seasons (yes, your calculation is correct, around 19,000 extra hits by our group’s measures).