On Base Percentage: A Walk Really Is As Good As a Hit
Todd reviews the top-25 leaders in on-base percentage: who to buy and who to sell.
Let's give some love to those that have opened their minds up to using on base percentage (OBP) in lieu of batting average. Today we'll review the top-25 in OBP with a lean towards deciding if they'll maintain their present pace.
OBP relies on two components: batting average and walk rate. While contact rate is integral to batting average (BA), we're at the point of the season a player's contact reflects what they're likely to do the rest of the season. So we'll focus on the happenstance of BABIP and look for examples where a lucky BABIP is also buoying a high OBP. As a rule of thumb, a BB% of at least 0.100 (one in in every ten plate appearances) is desired in a solid OBP contributor.
1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (BB% 0.135, BABIP 0.361, OBP 0.448) - With a career OBP of .373, Tulo is always among the league leaders in OBP as he routinely carries an excellent walk rate. This season, his league-leading mark is propped up by a BABIP 40 points higher than normal as well as a reduced strikeout rate. With the obvious caveat health can't be assumed, even when Tulowitzki's normalizes, fewer whiffs should lead to a better than career usual BA and OBP.
2. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians (BB% 0.053, BABIP 0.428, OBP 0.438) - Hopefully you realize that a BABIP 0.120 higher than a career norm should come crashing down. This does not bode well for Chisenhall as his poor walk rate is as poor as it always has been. That said, he's making better contact so for those in BA leagues, the fall won't be as steep.
3. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays (BB% 0.172, BABIP 0.324, OBP 0.434) - While his teammate Edwin Encarnacion is getting the pub for his record-setting May, Joey Bats is having an outstanding campaign. His BABIP is on the lucky side and he's walking a bit more than normal but Bautista's stellar walk rate makes him an asset in OBP formats.
4. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates (BB% 0.167, BABIP 0.355, OBP 0.434) - Beloved in fantasy circles for his power and speed, Cutch has sported an OBP of .400 and .404 the last two seasons. This season he's walking more so his OBP is up. Trading for McCutchen will obviously be next to impossible, but if you have a miracle in you, there's no one with his skills not named Trout that can offer this level of impact in OBP.
5. Yasiel Puig, Dodgers (BB% 0.116, BABIP 0.390, OBP 0.423) - With barely a calendar year in the league, we aren't quite sure where Puig's baseline falls, but we're pretty sure it'll be dang good. That said, sustaining a BABIP in the .390 range would be historical. In addition, last season Puig's walk rate wasn't quite as good so it's not definite he keeps up a double digit rate. Puig's OBP with be very good based on a very good OBP, but maintaining a number north of .400 will be difficult,
6. Adam LaRoche, Nationals (BB% 0.159, BABIP 0.349, OBP 0.418) - If LaRoche hadn't missed some time,more would be made of his outstanding season. he always walks a lot but so far that level is even higher. Add in fewer whiffs and some batted ball luck and LaRoche has his OBP owners giddy. While buy low/sell high is usually easier said than done, it could be time to cash in on OBP leagues especially since Ryan Zimmerman's ultimate destination is first base and Bryce Harper has to play somewhere when he's back.
7. Adam Lind, Blue Jays (BB% 0.119, BABIP 0.394, OBP 0.413) - If Lind were hitting more homers he could be the AL version of LaRoche. Though it should be noted that he's hitting doubles by the bushel so perhaps more dingers are on the way. As for OBP, Lind's career mark is .326 so a decline is on the way. But then you knew that already based on his BABIP nearly 100 points higher than normal.
8. Russell Martin, Pirates (BB% 0.142, BABIP 0.321, OBP 0.410) - Mea culpa. It wasn't long ago that in this space I suggested Martin's days as a solid fantasy receiver were numbers. Heck, the three steals he has this week is enough to have me dine on a bit of crow. Martin us walking a lot and that usually leads to good things. His power is way down but Martin is at least contributing in BA/OBP and scoring runs. That said, it's time to sell high as Martin is enjoying an extended stint of batted ball bliss.
9. Joey Votto, Reds (BB% 0.188, BABIP 0.295, OBP 0.409) - It's not often a .409 OBP can be considered a disappointment but Votto is expected to challenge for the league lead in the category. Much to the chagrin of his owners he's walking as much as usual; his OBP is a result of a low BABIP that should regress upward, carrying his OBP along with it. Votto is your primary target if you're looking to acquire a boost in on-base number.
10. Anthony Rizzo, Cubs (BB% 0.159, BABIP 0.312, OBP 0.407) - Primarily because there's no one else to fear in the Cubs lineup, Rizzo is earning more free passes than previous seasons. His BABIP is also a bit high but not absurdly so. Add in an improved contact rate and we round out our top-ten with an unexpected visitor. There's no reason for teams to begin pitching to Rizzo so an OBP better than originally thought is likely. Acquiring Rizzo is a great way to boost your OBP without costing an arm and a leg.
11. Derek Norris, Athletics (BB% 0.157, BABIP 0.327, OBP 0.404) - As part of the league's version of a Strat-O-Matic team, Norris is put in the best chance to succeed and is taking advantage by exhibiting his usual solid eye and making better contact. The OBP will still be stellar for a receiver but it's due a BABIP correction.
12. Jonathan Lucroy, Brewers (BB% 0.093, BABIP 0.371, OBP 0.403) - Speaking of catchers and a BABIP regression, while Lucroy is having an outstanding season, Lady Luck has been on his side.
13. Corey Dickerson, Rockies (BB% 0.100, BABIP 0.397, OBP 0.400) - Nice player, but not .397 BABIP nice. With the injuries to Michael Cuddyer and Carlos Gonzalez, Dickerson will continue to play regularly. If you can parlay this into someone assured of playing the entire season and charge a Coors tax, selling Dickerson is worth considering.
14. Seth Smith, Padres (BB% 0.129, BABIP 0.341, OBP 0.399) - If a player excels in San Diego, does anyone hear it? Smith has always shown good plate patience. This season he's upped that a tad along with making better contact. Now add in a little hit luck and you have one of the quietest OBP contributors in the league. Studies show an improved contact rate is likely to be maintained throughout the season so Smith is a decent cheap target to help OBP.
15. Conor Gillaspie, White Sox (BB% 0.085, BABIP 0.410, OBP 0.398) - Sell Mortimer, SELL!
16. Shin-Soo Choo, Rangers (BB% 0.149, BABIP 0.322, OBP 0.397) - Choo's power is below what was expected but his on-base skills are still solid.
17. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins (BB% 0.131, BABIP 0.359, OBP 0.394) - Why Stanton doesn't get the Barry Bonds treatment is beyond me.
18. Luis Valbuena, Cubs (BB% 0.149, BABIP 0.361, OBP 0.394) - Word around the league is DO NOT let Valbuena beat you!
19. Dexter Fowler, Astros (BB% 0.149, BABIP 0.351, OBP 0.393) - Fowler has always had very good plate discipline so this isn't a surprise. If you're looking for a stealth means of improving your OBP, Fowler is your guy.
20. Carlos Ruiz, Phillies (BB% 0.128, BABIP 0.316, OBP 0.390) - Ruiz is sporting a walk rate twice his career norm. There's no guarantee that level is sustained and in fact, a fall is likely.
21. Mike Napoli, Red Sox (BB% 0.163, BABIP 0.339, OBP 0.389) - Napoli's always been a decent OBP source, he just seems to exhibit more variance than players with a high walk rate.
22. Matt Carpenter, Cardinals (BB% 0.121, BABIP 0.357, OBP 0.385) - Very similar to last year's line with less power.
23. Victor Martinez, Tigers (BB% 0.089, BABIP 0.300, OBP 0.385) - V-Mart's always made excellent contact but 16 HR with 16 K is borderline ridiculous. Oddly, the 16 HR is the more surprising of the feats as this follows seasons of 12 and 14 homers.
24. Robinson Cano, Mariners (BB% 0.075, BABIP 0.363, OBP 0.381) - Pretty much as expected, but Cano's power is even worse than expected from the park change.
25. Mike Trout, Angels (BB% 0.127, BABIP 0.352, OBP 0.380) - Not to bring a dead horse back to life but sustaining a BABIP of .380 would be historical.