We all know that Aaron Judge hit for more power this year than Jose Altuve. But, whose power was more impressive? Aaron Judge, who is 6’7 and 282 pounds, has a considerable size advantage over Jose Altuve, at 5’6 and 164 pounds. Perhaps Altuve is actually a better power hitter for his size than is Judge. Let’s expand this idea to the entire league: who is the pound-for-pound top power hitter?
Role of Height and Weight in Batter Power
Using simultaneous linear regression, I estimated the effects of two physical characteristics — height and weight — on batter power. Measures of batter height and weight were taken from MLB.com. For batter power, I used Isolated Power.
As shown in the figures below, weight and height have positive relationships with power.
Weight has a stronger relationship with power than height, though it is difficult to see in the figures alone. (It’s also not intuitively clear exactly how height affects power.) In subsequent analyses, I consider both weight and height.
Who are the top pound-for-pound power hitters?
Using the model, one can predict a batter’s expected power (based on height and weight) and compare it to their actual power.
Who are the top pound-for-pound power hitters? See below for the results.
Khris Davis, formerly the #9 top power hitter, emerges as the #1 pound-for-pound power hitter in baseball. In 2017, Davis, who is three inches and over 30 pounds below average for a Major League hitter, hit a remarkable 43 home runs in 2017, with an ISO of .281. Nolan Arenado and Josh Donaldson made similar jumps in the rankings, from #7 to #2, and #10 to #3, respectively.
Notable power hitters have fallen slightly on this list, though remain in the top 10. For example, Aaron Judge fell from the top spot to #8, while Giancarlo Stanton dropped three spots (#2 to #5). It is important to note here that these power hitters are still impressive – continuing to hold spots in the top 10, regardless of their size.
Biggest improvements in rankings
Which players showed the most improvement in the list? Below are results from the top 50 players on the list.
Andrew Benintendi showed the largest increase in rankings (from 184 to 43). Jose Altuve nearly broke into the top 10, jumping from 132 to 12. Lastly, Eddie Rosario improved 68 spots (100 to 32). Altuve, in particular, has recently shown increases in power (from .146 to .194 to .202 in 2015-2017); as a result, his pound-for-pound status may continually increase in upcoming years.
Who was more impressive?
To reference the initial question in this article: was Jose Altuve’s or Aaron Judge’s power more impressive? Results from the above analyses were compiled from 2015 to 2017 seasons. To compare Altuve and Judge’s recent season, take a look below.
Aaron Judge tops Jose Altuve in the pound-for-pound hitter rankings – by a very thin margin – in 2017. Judge’s power performance exceeded expectations (as predicted by his height and weight) to a slightly higher degree than Altuve.
If you want to see the full list of hitters for this dataset, including the worst pound-for-pound power hitters (poor Jason Heyward!), click here.
I used a general linear model, with the following formula:
ISO = Weight + Weight2 + Height + Height2
Weight and Height were centered prior to analysis.
Estimate Std. Error t value Pr(>|t|)
(Intercept) 0.169874 0.002901 58.563 < 2e-16 ***
Weight 0.019473 0.003009 6.471 3.47e-10 ***
I(Weight^2) -0.003909 0.001573 -2.485 0.01346 *
Height 0.009427 0.002851 3.306 0.00105 **
I(Height^2) 0.001404 0.001590 0.883 0.37793
Steven is a psychologist and data analyst who likes to think about baseball (and other sports) at sportsonmind.wordpress.com