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Predictors of Success for Diamondback Batters

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Let’s look at five batting skills.

Batting skills are music to my ears.
Batting skills are music to my ears.
The Detroit Free Press/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Which inning? What’s the score? Are runners on base? Sometimes the game situation dictates the batter’s goal at the plate.

Three basic goals are get on base, advance the runners, and hit the ball out of the park. Perhaps different skills make a batter successful in each of those situations. Let’s look at five skills that indicate success.

Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP). It’s debatable how much of BABIP is batter skill and how much is luck. In baseball, as in life, people make their own luck. From that view, each season’s BABIP is a predictor of success.

Defense, luck, and talent all feed into [it]...For batters, BABIP can be used as an indication about the batter’s overall quality of contact if you have a large enough sample of balls in play [about 3 seasons].” — Steve Slowinski, FanGraphs

On Base Percentage (OBP). Although it could be debated, OBP can be more valuable than power hitting when bases are empty. Supporting that view is this article.

“A point of OBP is worth about .003 runs per game from the leadoff man… The value of OBP is much less for the number 8 man.” — Cyril Morong

Weighted On Base Average (wOBA). More so than OBP, wOBA predicts whether runners will advance and score. The reason is that each outcome of an at-bat is weighted by its’ average of projected runs scored, so that wOBA better predicts the value added by the batter.

Hard Hit Percentage (HH%). For this article, hard hit means exit velocity is at least 95 mph (Statcast data from Baseball Savant). In 2018, hard hit balls had a better average wOBA (.653 vs .206).

Home Runs per Plate Appearance (HR/PA). Strength and timing are needed to achieve a high rate of home runs.

Demarcation Lines for Batter Success

make your own luck get on base advance the runners hit a home run
make your own luck get on base advance the runners hit a home run
BABIP at least .325 OBP at least .340 wOBA of at least .345 HR/PA at least .038
HH% of at least 40%
Makakilo

Looking at each season’s statistics, if a batter exceeds at least 4 of the demarcation lines, then he is likely to succeed in any batting situation. Clearly, that batter is on the right road to achieving elite status.

Let’s look at the Diamondback batters (excluding pitchers) who exceeded the demarcation lines:

2020 season.

A pleasant surprise was that Wyatt Mathisen is on the road to elite status; outstanding were his .382 OBP, his 40% hard hit rate, his .349 wOBA, and his .061 HR/PA. A caveat is he had 33 plate appearances. He may get more next season.

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Player BABIP OBP wOBA HH% HR/PA
Player BABIP OBP wOBA HH% HR/PA
Wyatt Mathisen .308 .364 .349 40.0% .061
Baseball Savant

Tim Locastro led the Diamondbacks in OBP and wOBA. He was a get-on-base hitter for a second consecutive year, which is a valuable achievement because no player is faster. He increased his walk rate to 10%. He improved his plate discipline. For details, see this article on AZ SnakePit.

Christian Walker, who was on the right road to achieve elite status in 2017 and 2019, exceeded the hard hit demarcation line in 2020. Even in a relatively down year, he was a strong hitter who contributed much to the team offense.

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Player BABIP OBP wOBA HH% HR/PA
Player BABIP OBP wOBA HH% HR/PA
Christian Walker .317 .333 .333 48.5% .029
Baseball Savant

Similar to Christian Walker, Ketel Marte was a right road hitter in 2019, and exceeded the hard hit demarcation line in 2020.

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Player BABIP OBP wOBA HH% HR/PA
Player BABIP OBP wOBA HH% HR/PA
Ketel Marte .311 .323 .311 40.5% .010
Baseball Savant

Two mighty home run hitters were Kole Calhoun and Carson Kelly.

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Player BABIP OBP wOBA HH% HR/PA
Player BABIP OBP wOBA HH% HR/PA
Kole Calhoun .211 .338 .357 38.2% .070
Carson Kelly .250 .264 .275 34.4% .039
Baseball Savant

You could say David Peralta hit for the cycle: hard hitter in 2019, power hitter in 2018, and get-on-base hitter in 2017 and 2020. In addition he was a right road hitter in 2018.

A summary of Diamondbacks who exceeded the demarcation lines for batting skills follows. Players are listed in descending order for each skill. Some players are color coded so you can more easily see all their 2020 skills.

2020 Season. Baseball Savant.

Diamondback batters who were awesome.

Goldschmidt. For six consecutive years as a Diamondback, he was an All-Star (Silver Slugger caliber offense and Gold Glove caliber defense). He was traded to the Cardinals. His performance dipped, although he was still a great player. In 2020 he appeared to be nearly back to his previous level of performance.

JD Martinez. In only 62 games, 257 PAs, he made a huge impact getting the Diamondbacks to the playoffs. His .113 HR/PA was very outstanding. After the 2017 part-season, he signed with the Red Sox for 5 years/$110 Million. After All-Star years in 2018 and 2019, his batting performance fell in 2020. He said it was because his routine was broken.

Christian Walker. He belongs in this group! A summary of his four characteristics can be found in this article at AZ Snake Pit.

David Peralta. Although 2018 was his best season, 2020 was “arguably his third best season.” Reasons why can be found in this article at AZ Snake Pit.

Ketel Marte. His wOBA was .405 in 2019, which was a breakout year. His swing got “out-of-whack” in 2020. It wasn’t all bad because his hard hit percentage was 40.5% in 2020. Although he can play two positions, either second base and center field, Steven Burt noticed he hit better when he played center field. More about these issues can be found in this article at AZ Snake Pit.

Abraham Almonte. In September 2019, he briefly excelled with the Diamondbacks. Sometimes success is fleeting. His next season: one hit and two walks in 13 PAs, OPS+ of negative 5. In October he signed with the Braves.

“Almonte made the very most of his short time on the roster, putting together a 149 OPS+ in his 17 games [38 PAs] split between center field and right. Known more his speed than his power, Almonte was not without a few flashes of pop.” — James Attwood article at AZ Snake Pit.