The new wave baseball people will not want to hear this.
Although we agree with many of the tenets of the statistic oriented baseball experts who opine on the sport on a regular basis, the devaluing of the batting average stats is one we aren’t sure about.
There is no question that OPS is a credible stat, and we use it to judge the offensive ability of a player on a regular basis.
And while on base percentage is very important because it measures a hitters’ ability to NOT make an out, getting hits is important too.
In trying to analyze the offense of the Cleveland Indians, that is the one stat that separates the top three offenses in the American League from Terry Francona’s club.
Take for example, the Red Sox, who lead the American League in runs scored with 616, an average of 4.97 per game.
They have hit one less home run that the Tribe, yet score a third of a run per game more than the Indians.
One of the reasons is their team batting average is 20 points higher than Cleveland’s, which in turn makes their on base percentage .022 higher.
You might blame the Indians propensity to strikeout, but the Red Sox have fanned pretty much the same number of times as the Tribe.
The Indians rank 8th in the AL in batting average, 26 points behind the Tigers, who rank 2nd in the AL in runs scored, and they are 11 points behind Baltimore, who are third.
Now, we understand that batting average can be an empty statistic, as guys can hit .290 and be singles hitters who never walk, and therefore are not good offensive players. Those guys don’t add much to an attack.
Currently, the Indians have just one player with over 200 at bats and a batting average over .290: Jason Kipnis. Yan Gomes is hitting over .300, but doesn’t qualify at this time, although he is getting more playing time.
Kipnis has 47 extra base hits, which leads the Tribe.
By contrast, Boston has four such players: Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz, and Daniel Nava, with the latter’s 28 extra base hits the least of the quartet. Detroit also has four players who qualify: Miguel Cabrera, Omar Infante, Jhonny Peralta, and Torii Hunter, with Victor Martinez probably joining them soon, as hot as he has been. Infante’s 26 extra base hits are the least among those Tigers.
Baltimore has three batters who qualify: Chris Davis, Manny Machado, and Adam Jones and every one of that trio has over 50 extra base hits.
The Tribe’s next best hitter for average is Michael Brantley, who certainly has been special in clutch situations this season, but still has only 30 extra base hits, less than Asdrubal Cabrera, who has had a sub-par year at the dish, and only three more than Drew Stubbs.
The lack of hitters with the ability to get hits hampers the offense because they can only score with home runs or by using situational hitting, and that isn’t always a constant.
They don’t have a great ability to string three or four hits together, mixed with a walk here and there to put together a big inning. That’s because they don’t have high average hitters.
That’s something that needs to be looked at in the off-season, because if they can add a couple of .280-.300 hitters into the lineup, they could be a run scoring machine.