The measure of a man, part 1.5

Let’s put some names to the factors, shall we?  In part I of this series, I introduced a profiling system that distills hitters abilities (not performance) down to four factors.  The four factors were the Ichiro-Howard continuum (slap and run guys vs. lead-foot big fly guys), contact skills, risk-taking, and solid contact.  So, in 2008, who were the guys who best exemplified each of these ideals?

First, the Ichiro-Howard continuum.  The guys most on the Ryan Howard side (slow guys who hit big fly balls… although Howard himself is actually in the middle of the list… he actually hits more grounders than foul balls)

  1. Kevin Millar
  2. Joe Crede
  3. Mike Napoli
  4. Aramis Ramirez
  5. Marcus Thames

And on the Ichiro side:

  1. Argenis Reyes
  2. Joey Gathright
  3. Luis Castillo
  4. Ivan Ochoa
  5. Emmanuel Burris

None of those five had more than 400 PA last season and Reyes, Ochoa, and Burris were all 100 PA guys.  The best of those who had at least 400 PA (i.e., regulars)… well, it was Ichiro.

But let’s take a look at the guys who are closest to the middle.  The three on either side of the midpoint make for a rather interesting list: A-Rod, Ryan Zimmerman, Nick Markakis, Brandon Boggs, Corey Hart, and Clete Thomas.  I guess being in the middle means that you are either equally good or equally awful at both hitting big flies and slapping and running.

On to contact skills, which includes… contact percentage (easy enough), fouling off two strike pitches and having a good eye at the plate in general.

Best contact skills:

  1. Yadier Molina
  2. Nom-ah Garciaparra
  3. Omar Vizquel
  4. American League MVP Dustin Pedroia
  5. Ramon Santiago

Worst contact skills:

  1. Mark Reynolds
  2. Justin Upton
  3. Wlademir Balentin
  4. David Murphy
  5. Ivan Ochoa (apparently a slap hitter who misses on a lot of his slaps)

Really?  Mark “204 strikeouts” Reynolds has trouble hitting the ball?  (For the record, Jack Cust was not in this particular data set, oddly enough due to a problem in calculating his speed score.  It’s a technical problem on my end.)

Now, moving on to the players who take the most risks at the plate.  These are guys who swing a lot, don’t make contact as much, and hit a lot of foul balls for strike one or two, something associated with swinging for the fences.

Most risk-positive hitters:

  1. Vlad (who else?)
  2. Alex Cintron
  3. Pudge Rodriguez
  4. Delmon Young
  5. Josh Hamilton

Most risk-averse:

  1. Luis Castillo
  2. Dave Roberts
  3. Joe Mauer
  4. Reggie Willits
  5. Bobby Abreu

Some All-Stars at both ends of the spectrum.  Not bad.  Delmon Young and Josh Hamilton have also engaged in some risky behavior off the field too.  I’d have to wonder how much of this factor carries over to the players’ off-the-field personalities.

Then, there’s the final factor of solid contact.  These guys hit line drives and they hit balls that tend to go a long way.

Best solid contact skills:

  1. Dan Murphy
  2. Ryan Ludwick
  3. Milton Bradley
  4. Chris Davis
  5. Cliff Floyd

Worst solid contact skills:

  1. Brian Bixler
  2. Jeff Mathis
  3. Joey Gathright (apparently hits a lot of weak grounders)
  4. Reggie Willits
  5. Sean Rodriguez

Some of the “best of” list suffer from the problem that they don’t often make contact… but when they do… It’s pretty clear that one skill unto itself doesn’t guarantee success.  Plus, there are several ways to get a base hit.

My hope is that by giving a few examples at the extreme ends, it could be a little more clear what the four factors represent.


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