Tuesday, March 15, 2005

A study: BB and HR - Is there a correlation?

This evolved from a discussion on the BF.net forums. One fellow poster said that AVG was more important for a power hitter than OBP, and that great hitters "expand their zone" in order to "produce runs". Thinking this was blatantly wrong, I decided to do a little research. I looked only at 2004 numbers, and found that players that walked over 100 times (9) all hit over 30 HR. For this "study", I'll use the always handy ESPN.com sortable stats to look at the numbers over the seasons of 2000-2004 to see if there is any correlation between a hitters BB and his HR total. I'll also include RBI's, even though I think the batter has zero control over them and that the stat, like most counting stats, is meaningless. I'll also take into effect the players that hit over 30 HR, but walked lass than 100 times. For these players, I will provide averages only, due to the fact that there are many more 30 HR hitters than there are players who walk 100 times. Here goes it:

2004 (Player - BB - HR - RBI):
Barry Bonds - 232 - 45 - 101
Bobby Abreu - 127 - 30-105
Todd Helton - 127 - 32 - 96
Lance Berkman - 127 - 30 - 106
J.D. Drew - 118 - 31 - 93
Adam Dunn - 108 - 46 - 102
Brad Wilkerson - 106 - 32 - 67
Jim Thome - 104 - 42 - 105
Jim Edmonds - 101 - 42 - 111

Average 100 BB player in 2004:
36.7 HR
127.8 BB
98.4 RBI
1.041 OPS
.303 AVG

Notes: Now, obviously there are some outliers. Bonds is incomparable to any other player in any other era. Wilkerson is also a bit of an anomaly because over 400 of his AB's came from the lead-off spot in an anemic offense. Now, on to the 28 non-100 BB, 30 HR players of 2004.

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player in 2004:
35.8 HR
65.8 BB
109.8 RBI
.903 OPS
.285 AVG

So, these great "RBI machines" of 2004 were less productive in every facet from the kings of BB aside from RBI. Like I said earlier, RBI is a meaningless stat that is less a reflection upon the hitter than it is on the other players on his team. This means that teams on which the lead-off hitter does not get on base, the hitter has less RBI opportunites, except when they knock themselves in via the longball - something players who walk 100+ times hit more often than those who don't. Now let's try 2003.

2003 (Player - BB - HR - RBI):
Barry Bonds - 148 - 45 - 90
Jason Giambi - 129 - 41 - 107
Jim Thome - 111 - 47 - 131
Todd Helton - 111 - 33 - 117
Carlos Delgado - 109 - 42 - 145
Bobby Abreu - 109 - 20 - 101
Lance Berkman - 107 - 25 - 93
Brian Giles - 105 - 20 -88
Jose Cruz, Jr. - 102 - 20 - 68
Frank Thomas - 100 - 42 - 105
Erubiel Durazo - 100 - 21 - 77

Average 100 BB player in 2003:
32.4 HR
111.9 BB
102 RBI
.960 OPS
.289 AVG

Notes: In 2003, the players who walked 100+ times averaged fewer HR's, due to the inclusion of Cruz and Durazo, as well as the lower HR output by Abreu. Definitely not as flukey as 2004, as Bonds' BB total isn't as sky-high. Let's take a look at the 24 30+ HR players of 2003 that failed to walk 100 times or more.

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player in 2003:
36.25 HR
63.7 BB
106.9 RBI
.927 OPS
.292 AVG

This time, the less patient guys out HR'ed the 100 walkers, thanks in small part to a flukish season by Javy Lopez, and a full season by Richie Sexson. They also carried a higher AVG, however, their RBI advantage shrunk, along with their average BB total - anyone think those are connected? The 100 BB guys also continued to have a decent advantage over the others in OPS as well. So, there were some slight differences between 2003 and 2004. Which one was an anomaly? Let's consult 2002 for help.

2002 (Player - BB - HR - RBI):
Barry Bonds - 198 - 46 - 110
Brian Giles - 135 - 38 - 103
Adam Dunn - 128 - 26 - 71
Jim Thome - 122 - 52 - 118
Jason Giambi - 109 - 41 - 122
Chipper Jones - 107 - 26 - 100
Lance Berkman - 107 - 42 - 128
Rafael Palmeiro - 104 - 43 - 105
Bobby Abreu - 104 - 20 - 85
Sammy Sosa - 103 - 49 - 108
Carlos Delgado - 102 - 33 - 108
Jeff Bagwell - 101 - 31 - 98

Average 100 BB player in 2002:
37.25 HR
118.3 BB
104.7 RBI
1.015 OPS
.299 AVG

Notes: Bonds again was freakish, with his huge BB total, also Todd Helton failed to make the list, because he had 99 BB. He will definitely help the other guys. Regardless, 2002 looks a lot more like 2004 than 2003 did. This time, 9 of the 12 players who walked 100 times had over 30 HR. A much better rate than 2003. However, some players who walked less than 100 times had some pretty amazing seasons as well, let's take a look at how the 19 30 HR/less than 100 BB players fared.

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player in 2002:
35.6 HR
67.6 BB
110.8 RBI
.917 OPS
.294 AVG

This time around, the walking men licked the hackers in every category except the treasured RBI. They evn took AVG, which was the point of contention all along in this "study". I don't know about you, but I'd gladly take the 100 point advantage in OPS over the measly 6 RBI. The numbers in 2002 fell much more in line with what I thought the numbers would look like. Now, 2001.

2001 (Player - BB - HR - RBI):
Barry Bonds - 177 - 73 - 137
Jason Giambi - 129 - 38 - 120
Sammy Sosa - 116 - 64 - 160
Jim Thome - 111 - 49 - 124
Carlso Delgado - 111 - 39 - 102
Troy Glaus - 107 - 41 - 108
Jeff Bagwell - 106 - 39 - 130
Bobby Abreu - 106 - 31 - 110
Rafael Palmeiro - 101 - 47 - 123
Luis Gonzalez - 100 - 57 - 142

Average 100 BB player in 2001:
47.8 HR
116.4 BB
125.6 RBI
1.054 OPS
.299 AVG

Notes: Obviously, this is knee-deep in the juiced era. Bonds hit 73 that year, and several other players put up suspicious seasons as well. However, this should apply either way, as I know of no evidence that shows steroids having an effect on a player's plate discipline or strike zone understanding. Hence, the players who hack also will have increased HR totals as well, so it really shouldn't effect the project. Regardless of other circumstances, those averages for the 10 100 BB walk players are flat-out staggering. Once again, it is back to every one of them having 30+ HR, and this time they each had 100 RBI as well. Now, let's look at 2001's 30 free-swingers with 30+ HR.

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player in 2001:
37.6 HR
65.6 BB
113.4 RBI
.942 OPS
.302 AVG

This time around, the patient hitters dominated in every category, aside from a three point disadvantage in AVG. Otherwise, this really illustrates my point that patience will lead to more runs scored and RBI's for hitters. Time for the last installment, 2000.

2000 (Player - BB - HR - RBI):
Jason Giambi - 137 - 43 - 137
Carlos Delgado - 123 - 41 - 137
Jim Thome - 118 - 37 - 106
Barry Bonds - 117 - 49 - 106
Brian Giles - 114 - 35 - 123
Frank Thomas - 112 - 43 - 143
Troy Glaus - 112 - 47 - 102
Jeff Bagwell - 107 - 47 - 132
Jorge Posada - 107 - 28 - 86
Tim Salmon - 104 - 34 - 97
Jim Edmonds - 103 - 42 - 108
Todd Helton - 103 - 42 - 147
Rafael Palmeiro - 103 - 39 - 120
John Olerud - 102 - 14 - 103
Gary Sheffield - 101 - 43 - 109
Alex Rodriguez - 100 - 41 - 132
Bobby Abreu - 100 - 25 - 79

Average 100 BB player in 2000:
38.2 HR
109.6 BB
115.7 RBI
1.021 OPS
.310 AVG

Notes: There is one outlier in the group, John Olerud, who drives down the HR average. Otherwise, it looks very good. The HR's are obviously down from the ridiculous 2001 average, the AVG is up, and everything else is pretty comparable. Let's look at how the last group of 30 under-100 guys stack up.

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player in 2000:
35.2 HR
66.6 BB
112.5 RBI
.953 OPS
.302 AVG

Well, this time the 100 BB guys won in every category again (I think), proving my point on how the best and most consistent run producers and "RBI machines" are those who walk and hit what a pitcher gives them, rather than "expand their zone" and at the same time expand their chances of making an out and hurting their team.

Here's the 5 year averages for each type of player.

Average 100+ BB player from 2000-2004:
38.5 HR
116.8 BB
109.3 RBI
1.018 OPS
.300 AVG

Average less than 100 BB, 30+ HR player from 2000-2004:
36.1 HR
65.9 BB
110.7 RBI
.928 OPS
.295 AVG

So there you have it. Which player would you rather have - the patient hitter that takes pitches rather than makes outs, or the RBI-driven player who swings at bad pitches and increases his chances of making out in order to attain that elusive RBI? My contention all along has been that the player that is patient is much more likely to help his team score runs than the player who swings away rather than work a BB. The RBI is the most overrated stat in the game, and the tiny average 1.4 RBI margin held by the free-swingers over the most patient players every year is useless, compared to the 90 point OPS advantage held by the others. A team should be built trying to compile the highest aggregate OPS, in my opinion, therefore give me the "Walking Men" over the "RBI Machines" every day of the week.

What do my precious few readers think about this? For instance - if a player hits 30+ HR, should he also walk 100 times? Or if a player walks 100 times should he also hit 30+ HR? Which comes first? The BB's or the HR's?

Comments:
All I know, the more walks will lead to a higher OPS. I'll take that any day. I did some research with the 2003 team hitting stats found the correlation between OPS and runs scored to be .97 with 1.0 being a perfect positive correlation. So OPS is the easiest quick stat for me.
 
I'd like to see the results of the analysis if you just took Bonds out of the equation. I suspect the conclusion will be almost the same but for god's sake, man, the guy walks 100 more times the the next guy!
 
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