Getting To First Base

Did you know the Diamondbacks hit the fewest singles in the National League? If my math is right, here's the list:

St Louis 1102

Atlanta 1035

Chicago 1018

Los Angeles 1018

San Fran 1010

NY 1007

Pittsburgh 966

Rocky Mtn God Squad  964

The Capitol Gang  964

Houston 959

San Diego 945

Cincinnati 871

Philadelphia 866

Florida 859

Milwaukee 841

Arizona 831 


We knew our OBP was low, especially after park adjustments, but this sort of caught my eye. Dead last in singles. In a weak league featuring three or four clubs deemed 'major league' by little more than name.  Why are we last?  What's the significance?

I decided to take OBP (essentially H+BB+HBP/ AB+BB+HBP) and extract out extra base hits, so instead of asking the question, "How often does a team reach base?", I'm asking "How often does a team reach first base?". Now, stop yelling. I know that hitting a double or homer is technically "reaching" first base too -but OBP already captures that. I'm trying to understand something more specific here, than how often a team reaches "any base" safely.

Here's the above list after adding in walks and HBP - how often teams reached (and stopped, essentially, at) first base: 

Toasted Ravioli 1721

Chicago 1704

Atlanta 1695

Shea It Aint So 1665

Hollywood  1604

Colorado 1591

Washington 1565

Philly 1519

Pet Co Boys 1516

Golden Gate 1510

Pittsburgh 1499

Brennamans 1481 (combined)

Miami 1471

Arizona 1467

Houston 1460

Laverne & Shirley 1460

Pretty similar. Philly jumped up several places, and we snuck ahead of Houston and Laverne's Brewers, who hit 60 more home runs than us. IOW, we're basically in the playoffs if we had Babe Ruth ;-)

More seriously, what this tells us in a more compelling way than OBP does, is that, after park adjustments, we are just off the chart miserable at reaching first base. Surely our youngsters' footspeed converted some potential singles into doubles, but it should also be noted that speedy Arizona ranks 13th in NL doubles, and is below league average in extra base hits.

The base we have the most trouble reaching is not second, or third or even home (ie "Runs"). The base we have the most trouble with (relative to the league) and from which, most of our offensive woes spread, is first.

I guess this interests me because, beyond the results themselves, scrbi and I (and many others) have been batting around the notion that this team's hitting philosophy is wrong. Young guys, driving the ball in the air when they hit it, striking out a ton - not "adjusting to the situation", as scrbi likes to say. Maybe there's something to that. Currently, we fly out and whiff as much as anyone and hit the fewest singles. Maybe we swing too hard too often, and should be looking to serve the ball instead, even if that compromises some of our power numbers.

I decided to drill this extraction of XBHs from OBP down to the player level, to ask how often players reached (and stopped at, or were satisfied with) first base. Here's those percentages for Dbacks with 200+ ABs, plus Adam Dunn. As you're reading the list, think in terms of the hitter's approach (philosophy) as well as talent. Who's trying to reach first base here?


Dunn .326

Ojeda .303

Jackson .298

Hudson .281

Upton .257

Snyder .254

Tracy .228

Reynolds .226

Drew .221

CY .214

Byrnes .183

....and some reserves

Clark .289

Burke .273

Montero .224

Romero .172

Haren .152

Drew's an outlier, I suppose, yet he still swings hard, pops up frequently (less so since June), and hardly ever walks. Tony Clark and Burke's numbers also surprised me, in that I dont perceive either as a philosophical "on base" guy. But the rest of the list, I think, is a decent representation of who's able (talent) and willing (philosophy) to reach (and stop at) first base. And it doesnt seem like age or experience has too much to do with it.  Further, this propensity or "ability" may not have quite as much to do with talent as I had previously assumed.

Comments welcome as always

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