Is a walk just as good as a hit? If one must sacrifice a few points of on-base percentage for a few points of slugging, is it worth it? Eric Garcia McKinley recently detailed the unique season Nolan Arenado is having -- a season that embodies this perhaps unanswerable question: is it more important to avoid making outs or to drive in runs?
Matt Gross sums up the dilemma:
1) OBP and SLG% are not equally important statistically. This is the one real weakness of OPS aside from the fact that it's not park adjusted. It just adds the two together as if they're equally important, and they're not. In reality, OBP is more important and that's why wRC+ is the more accurate measuring stick because it accounts for that. (However, OPS is more user friendly at times and it tends to come up with similar results as wRC+ so it's still a great tool)
2) Hits become more valuable with men on base and then even more value with men on base the more outs there are in an inning. A walk is obviously every bit as good as a single however when there's nobody on no matter how many outs there are. So the walk vs. single debate is very situation dependent.
Basically, you need OBP guys (guys with high OBP / walk rates) to get on base, but "hitters" to drive them in.
Okay, so you need both. But this is America, dammit -- what's most important?
I'm tired of pretending to have answers. I've got some questions.
Would you rather Arenado get on base at a .340 clip but hit 10 fewer home runs?
Would you go the other way and take even more off his OBP if it meant more home runs and doubles?
Putting specific players and specific trade-offs aside, how much added value does the contact tool get for things like putting the ball in play hard and forcing the defense to work or what the threat of power can do to change the approach of the pitcher?
Speaking of buffering your value, the patience tool helps drive of pitch counts, increases baserunning opportunities through more potential off-speed pitches thrown (to steal on) and an increase of potential wild pitches and passed balls. The patience tool keeps the opposing pitcher on the mound and the defense in the field longer.
Today, Baseball America listed ($) Trevor Story as the position player in the Rockies system who had the best 2015 season. I think there is a strong argument for him, but shockingly to exactly nobody, my pick would have been Raimel Tapia, who has Nolan Arenado syndrome.
Tapia led the Cal League with 166 hits in 131 games played. He also finished sixth in doubles and triples, 19th in RBI (from the lead-off spot), and fifth in total bases. But his relatively pedestrian .333 OBP dragged his overall numbers down. He was not the toughest out in the Cal, but he was the toughest guy to throw the ball past.
Which would you rather have?
I tend to lean toward the guys who put the bat on the ball with regularity, so we all know that's probably not the answer. I want answers. I want the truth. I hope I can handle the truth.
We live in a world with stats and those stats have to be guarded by men with computers. Who's going to do it? You? You, Purple Row reader? We use words like "splits" "averages" and "park-adjusted." We use them as the backbone of a lifetime spent overanalyzing something. You use them hopefully as a means to provide a satisfactory answer to this question. I hope I can handle the truth because deep down in places I don't talk about at parties, I want you on that computer.
I need you on that computer.