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JULY 5, 2004
Unyielding Batter Ratings
By Steve Lombardi, NetShrine.com

A batter steps up to the plate.  (Some may prefer to say 'a hitter steps to the plate.'  But, in reality, a player is only a hitter if he gets a hit, no?  There are many other results for a player at the plate besides getting a hit.  Therefore, 'batter' - as it 'at bat' - is always the proper way to go.)

At the extreme highest level, the goal of every successful batter is to reach base safely and avoid being retired.  Sabermetrics tells us this at almost every turn.

The most common method to reach safely is via a base hit.  The second most common way is to earn a base-on-balls.  Everything else - such as being hit by a pitch, reaching on an error, catcher's interference, reaching on a fielder's choice etc. - as a group pales in comparison, percentage-wise, to reaching via a hit or a walk.  (Since 1900, through the end of last season, major league batters - sans pitchers as batters - reached base safely via a hit or a walk in 32.5% of their plate appearances.  Conversely, at the same time, they registered an out in 65.1% of their plate appearances.  If you factor in fielding percentages and such, this would put ‘everything else’ at around 4% - ballpark, if you excuse the pun - of a batter’s plate appearances.) 

However, the large majority of the 'everything else' methods (to reach safely) are almost always contingent to the batter making contact with the pitched ball. 

In fact, the failure to make contact situation - the strikeout - is one of the highest least likely batter efforts to result in reaching base.  In all probability, a player reaches base safely via a strikeout in less than 2/10ths of a percent of their plate appearances. 

In a conservative estimation, a batter making contact has a 15 times better chance of reaching base safely via an error by a position player in fair territory than by reaching base safely while striking out.  And, then, of course, by making contact, you also give yourself the chance of getting the “gork” or “ground ball with eyes” or the “dying quail” hit.  Those do not come on strikeouts.

In summary, in terms of being a successful batter (meaning reaching base safely), hits and walks are very good - and strikeouts are bad.

This all leads to the question:  Which batters excel at reaching base via the hit and walk, while at the same time avoiding strikeouts?

But, before we get to that, there is one issue.  A walk is always a walk.  However, not all hits are of equal merit.  We know that homeruns are more valuable than singles, etc.  That latter point should be factored into any equation.  And, one cannot just look at walk and hit totals without considering the number of outs that come along with them.  A batter with 100 hits plus walks in 500 plate appearances is not the equal of a batter with 100 hits plus walks in 300 plate appearances.  Therefore, outs must be considered. 

“Hey, wait a minute!” some may be thinking here.  “Haven’t you’ve heard of Pete Palmer and John Thorn’s ‘Batting Runs’ formula?  You’re trying to build a road where there’s already a four lane super highway in place!”

And, those thinking that would be correct – for the most part. 

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Batting Runs.  It is a landmark baseball statistic.  But, I still have an issue with treating strikeouts as just another form of an out.  (For all the reasons stated herein.)  Therefore, I would like to take some elements of the Batting Runs formula and add a factor for strikeouts – just to have some fun.

This is not an attempt to shock the sabermetric community.  It is merely an exercise in determining which batters are the best at giving themselves a chance to reach base safely, according to the scrawling on this scorecard.

Still, while “I would like” to do this, there is a problem (at least for me).  I prefer short calculations as opposed to longer ones.  The formula for Batting Runs is a tad lengthy.  Luckily, there is help here.  Jim McMartin has come up with a statistic called “Runs Generated” [(.35)(TB + BB) - (.25)(AB - H)] which is akin to Batting Runs – but much easier to compute - and will do just fine here.

To that end, borrowing from Batting Runs and Runs Generated, I present to you “Unyielding Batter Ratings” (UBR).  The following formula is proposed:

Unyielding Batter Ratings = (.35)(TB + BB) - (.25)(AB - H) - (.5)(SO)

Why an additional tax factor of .5 for strikeouts?  If it was good enough for Palmer and Thorn to apply to a penalty of .5 times Outs on Base in Batting Runs, it is good enough for strikeouts in Unyielding Batter Ratings.  Seems to be close enough.  Losing a base runner and ensuring for the most part (to a mark close to 99.8% certain) that you will never be a base runner is about equal.  It works for the scrawling on this scorecard.

Time for an application.  For the 2003 season, here are the Unyielding Batter Ratings leaders:

Rank Player TB BB AB H SO PA UBR
1 Barry Bonds 292 148 390 133 58 550 60.75
2 Albert Pujols 394 79 591 212 65 685 38.30
3 Todd Helton 367 111 583 209 72 703 37.80
4 Gary Sheffield 348 86 576 190 55 678 27.90
5 Brian Giles 253 105 492 147 58 609 10.05
6 Manny Ramirez 334 97 569 185 94 679 7.85
7 Luis Gonzalez 308 94 579 176 67 679 6.45
8 Edgar Renteria 282 65 587 194 54 663 -3.80
9 Magglio Ordonez 331 57 606 192 73 674

-4.20

10 Chipper Jones 287 94 555 169 83 656 -4.65
11 Jose Vidro 239 69 509 158 50 592 -4.95
12 Bill Mueller 283 59 524 171 77 600 -7.05
13 Aubrey Huff 353 53 636 198 80 706 -7.40
14 David Ortiz 265 58 448 129 83 509 -8.20
15 Doug Mientkiewicz 219 74 487 146 55 574 -10.20
16 Carlos Beltran 272 72 521 160 81 602 -10.35
17 Vernon Wells 373 42 678 215 80 735 -10.50
18 Nomar Garciaparra 345 39 658 198 61 719 -11.10
19 Carlos Delgado 338 109 570 172 137 705 -11.55
20 Alex Rodriguez 364 87 607 181 126 715 -11.65
21 Marcus Giles 290 59 551 174 80 635 -12.10
22 Trot Nixon 255 65 441 135 96 513 -12.50
23 Rafael Palmeiro 285 84 561 146 77 654 -13.10
24 Placido Polanco 220 42 492 142 38 554 -14.80
25 Larry Walker 216 98 454 129 87 564 -14.85
26 Frank Thomas 307 100 546 146 115 662 -15.05
27 Lance Berkman 277 107 538 155 108 658 -15.35
28 Jason Kendall 244 49 587 191 40 665 -16.45
29 Mike Lowell 261 56 492 136 78 557 -17.05
30 Richard Hidalgo 294 58 514 159 104 585 -17.55
31 Edgar Martinez 243 92 497 146 95 603 -18.00
32 Garret Anderson 345 31 638 201 83 673 -19.15
33 Kenny Lofton 246 46 547 162 51 610 -19.55
34 Scott Rolen 295 82 559 160 104 657 -19.80
35 Jay Payton 307 43 600 181 77 658 -20.75
36 Jim Edmonds 276 77 447 123 127 531 -20.95
37 Jorge Posada 249 93 481 135 110 588 -21.80
38 Moises Alou 261 63 565 158 67 638 -21.85
39 Shannon Stewart 263 52 573 176 66 644 -22.00
40 Mark Loretta 260 54 589 185 62 653 -22.10
41 Eric Chavez 302 62 588 166 89 654 -22.60
42 Mike Lieberthal 230 38 508 159 59 561 -22.95
43 Orlando Cabrera 288 52 626 186 64 691 -23.00
44 Carl Everett 268 53 526 151 84 602 -23.40
45 Bernie Williams 183 71 445 117 61 521 -23.60
46 Frank Catalanotto 231 35 489 146 62 535 -23.65
47 Miguel Tejada 300 53 636 177 65 703 -23.70
48 A.J. Pierzynski 226 24 487 152 55 533 -23.75
49 Edgardo Alfonzo 201 58 514 133 41 586 -25.10
50 Joe Randa 227 41 502 146 61 566 -25.70
51 Eric Young 186 57 475 119 44 541 -25.95
52 Jose Guillen 276 24 485 151 95 534 -26.00
53 Jody Gerut 237 35 480 134 70 525 -26.30
54 Jason Giambi 282 129 535 134 140 690 -26.40
55 Jeff Bagwell 317 88 605 168 119 702 -27.00
56 Juan Pierre 249 55 668 204 35 746 -27.10
57 Luis Castillo 236 63 595 187 60 676 -27.35
58 Todd Walker 251 48 587 166 54 647 -27.60
59 Jeff Kent 257 39 505 150 85 552 -27.65
60 Jeff Conine 265 50 577 163 70 646 -28.25
61 Steve Finley 258 57 516 148 94 582 -28.75
62 Hank Blalock 296 44 567 170 97 615 -28.75
63 John Olerud 210 84 539 145 67 634 -29.10
64 Tim Salmon 245 77 528 145 93 621 -29.55
65 Scott Spiezio 236 46 521 138 66 581 -30.05
66 Sean Casey 234 51 573 167 58 629 -30.75
67 Bobby Abreu 270 109 577 173 126 695 -31.35
68 Rafael Furcal 294 60 664 194 76 734 -31.60
69 Ivan Rodriguez 242 55 511 152 92 578 -31.80
70 Bret Boone 333 68 622 183 125 705 -31.90
71 Scott Hatteberg 207 66 541 137 53 622 -31.95
72 Tino Martinez 204 53 476 130 71 547 -32.05
73 Rondell White 238 31 488 141 79 534 -32.10
74 Geoff Jenkins 262 58 487 144 120 554 -33.75
75 Mark Grudzielanek 200 30 481 151 64 531 -34.00
76 Raul Ibanez 276 49 608 179 81 671 -34.00
77 Carlos Lee 311 37 623 181 91 671 -34.20
78 Derek Jeter 217 43 482 156 88 542 -34.50
79 Shea Hillenbrand 241 24 515 144 70 554 -35.00
80 Ichiro Suzuki 296 36 679 212 69 725 -35.05
81 Ron Belliard 183 49 447 124 71 505 -35.05
82 Scott Podsednik 247 56 558 175 91 628 -35.20
83 Richie Sexson 332 98 606 165 151 718 -35.25
84 Raul Mondesi 253 56 523 142 97 586 -35.60
85 Erubiel Durazo 231 100 537 139 105 645 -36.15
86 Jason Varitek 231 51 451 123 106 521 -36.30
87 Derrek Lee 274 88 539 146 131 643 -37.05
88 Hideki Matsui 271 63 623 179 86 695 -37.10
89 Travis Lee 249 64 542 149 97 613 -37.20
90 Johnny Damon 246 68 608 166 74 690 -37.60
91 Brian Roberts 169 46 460 124 58 512 -37.75
92 Dmitri Young 302 58 562 167 130 635 -37.75
93 Ramon Hernandez 221 33 483 132 79 536 -38.35
94 Corey Koskie 212 77 469 137 113 562 -38.35
95 Chris Stynes 183 48 443 113 76 502 -39.65
96 Paul Lo Duca 214 44 568 155 54 630 -39.95
97 Adam Kennedy 179 45 449 121 73 510 -40.10
98 Marlon Anderson 181 41 482 130 60 535 -40.30
99 Marquis Grissom 275 20 587 176 82 618 -40.50
100 Jay Gibbons 285 49 625 173 89 682 -40.60
101 Kevin Millar 257 60 544 150 108 618 -41.55
102 Sean Burroughs 208 44 517 148 75 578 -41.55
103 D'Angelo Jimenez 233 66 561 153 89 639 -41.85
104 Bobby Kielty 171 71 427 104 92 509 -42.05
105 Jim Thome 331 111 578 154 182 698 -42.30
106 Sammy Sosa 286 62 517 144 143 589 -42.95
107 David Eckstein 147 36 452 114 45 517 -42.95
108 Shawn Green 281 68 611 171 112 691 -43.85
109 Juan Encarnacion 268 37 601 162 82 653 -44.00
110 Joe Crede 232 32 536 140 75 580 -44.10
111 Vinny Castilla 250 26 542 150 86 578 -44.40
112 Andruw Jones 305 53 595 165 125 659 -44.70
113 Bobby Higginson 173 59 469 110 73 538 -45.05
114 Mark Kotsay 185 56 482 128 82 541 -45.15
115 Marlon Byrd 207 44 495 150 94 553 -45.40
116 Preston Wilson 322 54 600 169 139 661 -45.65
117 Aramis Ramirez 282 42 607 165 99 670 -46.60
118 Luis Rivas 181 30 475 123 65 521 -46.65
119 Rich Aurilia 207 36 505 140 82 545 -47.20
120 Alfonso Soriano 358 38 682 198 130 734 -47.40
121 Eric Hinske 196 59 449 109 104 514 -47.75
122 Jose Cruz Jr. 223 102 539 135 121 650 -47.75
123 Desi Relaford 188 40 500 127 70 557 -48.45
124 Terrence Long 187 31 486 119 67 522 -48.95
125 Endy Chavez 171 31 483 121 59 526 -49.30
126 Deivi Cruz 207 13 548 137 49 572 -50.25
127 Michael Young 297 36 666 204 103 713 -50.45
128 Aaron Boone 268 46 592 158 104 654 -50.60
129 Roberto Alomar 180 59 516 133 77 598 -50.60
130 Jacque Jones 240 21 517 157 105 548 -51.15
131 Orlando Hudson 187 39 474 127 87 521 -51.15
132 Angel Berroa 256 29 567 163 100 635 -51.25
133 Jose Valentin 233 54 503 119 114 569 -52.55
134 Torii Hunter 262 50 581 145 106 642 -52.80
135 Jeromy Burnitz 226 35 464 111 112 505 -52.90
136 Mark Teixeira 254 44 529 137 120 589 -53.70
137 Julio Lugo 204 44 498 135 100 556 -53.95
138 Roger Cedeno 183 38 484 129 86 527 -54.40
139 Randy Winn 255 41 600 177 108 660 -56.15
140 Ken Harvey 198 29 485 129 94 524 -56.55
141 Brad Wilkerson 234 89 504 135 155 602 -56.70
142 Alex Sanchez 202 25 557 160 74 599 -56.80
143 Alex Cora 161 16 477 119 59 514 -57.05
144 Brad Ausmus 131 46 450 103 66 509 -57.80
145 Alex Gonzalez 234 33 528 135 106 582 -57.80
146 Carlos Pena 199 53 452 112 123 516 -58.30
147 Cristian Guzman 195 30 534 143 79 585 -58.50
148 Jack Wilson 197 36 558 143 74 615 -59.20
149 Gary Matthews Jr. 169 43 468 116 95 513 -61.30
150 Adrian Beltre 237 37 559 134 103 608 -61.85
151 Mark Ellis 205 48 553 137 94 622 -62.45
152 Craig Biggio 259 57 628 166 116 717 -62.90
153 Mike Cameron 230 70 534 135 137 612 -63.25
154 Ramon Santiago 126 33 444 100 66 507 -63.35
155 Wes Helms 214 43 476 124 131 536 -63.55
156 Casey Blake 229 38 557 143 109 621 -64.55
157 Royce Clayton 161 49 483 110 92 543 -65.75
158 Jimmy Rollins 243 54 628 165 113 689 -68.30
159 Cesar Izturis 176 25 558 140 70 593 -69.15
160 Alex Gonzalez 219 47 536 122 123 601 -71.90
161 Ty Wigginton 227 46 573 146 124 633 -73.20
162 Rocco Baldelli 265 30 637 184 128 684 -74.00
163 Tony Batista 248 28 631 148 102 670 -75.15
164 Pat Burrell 211 72 522 109 142 599 -75.20
165 Carl Crawford 228 26 630 177 102 661 -75.35
166 Jose Hernandez 180 46 519 117 177 571 -109.90

No surprise at the top or bottom of the list.  Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols were unyielding batsmen in 2003 and Jose Hernandez and Pat Burrell were not.  We could have figured that out with the naked eye.

The interesting part of this list is the batters in the middle of the chart - say, between #15 and #120.  

Doug Mientkiewicz at #15 while Jason Giambi is at # 54?  Placido Polanco at #24 while Alfonso Soriano is at #120?  Mark Loretta at #40 while Richie Sexson at #83?  

Do the 2003 Unyielding Batter Ratings mean that Giambi, Soriano and Sexson were poor batters last season?  No.  Of course not.  But, it does suggest that there were many at bats for them where they could have given themselves a better chance at reaching base safely.  Take a look at their statistics.  Now, take their strikeout totals and multiple that by one-half.  Take that result and times it by one-tenth.  Assume that final number to potential "gorks."

That's about seven hits each for Giambi, Soriano, and Sexson.  It may not seem like much.  But, it would make a difference for them.  Is there a hitter alive or dead that would not want to add seven hits to their totals for a given season?

At the very least, UBR lends towards providing greater respect for the likes of Mientkiewicz, Polanco and Loretta.  As a fan, these are the types of batters that you like to see at the plate for your favorite team.   Batters who were productive and who mitigate the ultimate failure at the dish - the whiff.

We will continue to scrawl UBR thoughts on the scorecard for a while.  More lists will be run and examined.  In the meantime, if any readers have opinions on this measure, they are welcome and appreciated.  Please use this link at the end of this feature to share them with us.


Steve Lombardi is the Creator & Curator of NetShrine.com.  Scrawling On The Scorecard appears regularly during the baseball season and sporadically during the off-season.  Steve can be contacted at sots@netshrine.com

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