Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Who is the best hitter in the American League?

If you ask people this question, my guess is that most people would say David Ortiz. That was the response a few days ago after I wrote this:

Well, Hafner has been the best hitter in the American League so far, but that didn't even net him an All-Star appearance, so I'm not sure what to make of that.

In response, a commenter named Kampy had this to say:

Big Papi might have a problem with your anointing Hafner the best AL hitter in the first half... his average isn't there because of the shift, but the numbers and clutch hits sure are.

Not to single a commenter out (just using it as an example), but I must say I respectfully disagree.

Sure, the HR and RBI numbers are there, and he seems to be hitting a game-winning HR every time you turn around. But if you read any of my stuff then you know I'm not one to put much stock into RBI and the like. Let's compare some other numbers:

AVG - Hafner (.322) > Ortiz (.278)
OBP - Hafner (.461) > Ortiz (.388)
SLG - Hafner (.650) > Ortiz (.609)
OPS - Hafner (1.112) > Ortiz (.996)
RC/27 - Hafner (10.91) > Ortiz (8.00)
ISOP - Ortiz (.330) > Hafner (.329)
AB/HR - Ortiz (10.6) > Hafner (11.4)

What does all of this mean? Well, in my opinion, it's a pretty darn good argument that Hafner is the better hitter than Ortiz, at least through the 1st half of this year, even without adjusting for the parks that they play in or who bats behind them. The power numbers are about equal - the SLG advantage for Hafner is mainly do to the difference in BA - but Hafner is getting on base at a much more prolific rate. The Isolated Power stat suggests that they are basically even as far as power is concerned.

The other thing that is most often cited in Ortiz' favor is that he's a 'clutch' hitter. Once again I'm not sure that the numbers exactly prove that to be the case. First the numbers for each man with runners in scoring position and 2 out, the situation that is probably most considered 'clutch.' For fun, I won't give you their names yet.

Player 1 - .295 AVG/.446 OBP/.614 SLG - 4 HR, 23 RBI - 44 AB
Player 2 - .290 AVG/.522 OBP/.839 SLG - 5 HR, 20 RBI - 31 AB

How about with the bases loaded, another situation that can be described as 'clutch.'

Player 1 - .364 AVG/.385 OBP/1.091 SLG - 2 HR, 17 RBI - 11 AB
Player 2 - .700 AVG/.636 OBP/2.200 SLG - 5 HR, 25 RBI - 10 AB

Ok, so I can only assume that not telling you the names didn't fool anyone, and that you all know that Player 1 is David Ortiz and Player 2 is Travis Hafner. But would those numbers have been surprising if you didn't know going in? David Ortiz is always portrayed as the clutch hitter, and maybe with good reason, but Travis Hafner is pretty darn good there too.

So I humbly submit to you that Travis Hafner is in fact the best hitter in the American League.

Thoughts?

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

right on... Get Pronked!

Ben said...

Couldn't agree with you more

Anonymous said...

how much more obvious does it have to be that certain guys are on steroids?

Come on people. Use your eyes.

He is called 'Pronk' because thats the sound the needle makes when it shoots the 'juice' into his veins.

Thome, Beltre, Giambi, Sheffield, Vladdy, Miggy Cabrera, Bobby Abreu are TOO OBVIOUS.

Anonymous said...

Everyone in this room is now dumber for having read the above comment regarding steroids. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Pronk is the best, and his not being selected to the All-Star game is a travesty.

GO PRONK!!

Anonymous said...

absolutely 100% perfect dead-on analysis

Zach Landres-Schnur said...

great analysis as alwyas, Twins. Though some other hitters come to mind:

-tejada
-vlad
-a-rod

sure they're the obvious guys, but they're obvious for a reason.

still, great post!

STEPHEN A. SMITH said...

Best hitter?

Joe Mauer.

TVBrain said...

Please compare upperbody size of the Davd Ortiz who was waived by the Twins vs the upperbody size of the David Ortiz known as Papi before raising the steriod question.

twins15 said...

Heh, I'm not even going to touch anything about the steroid issue, because that's basically an exercise in futility.

Zach, those 3 you mentioned are obviously superb hitters, but at this point I think Hafner's above them all with his ability to get on base and hit for power.

kampy said...

Twins, just noticed this post - sorry I didn't see it earlier. Nice research work on your part.

I'll give "Pronk" - whatever the hell that means - the first half of 2006, which I know was your original point. But let's see what the second half brings.

In terms of being clutch, nobody has done it better than David Ortiz over the last few years.

Consider:

* Ortiz is the active MLB leader for walk-off HR's with 9. He's fourth on the all-time list behind names like Mantle, Ruth, Jackson and Schmidt.

* Of his 47 HRs in 2005, 20 either tied or gave the Red Sox the lead

* His bat was literally responsible for getting the Red Sox into the playoffs in 2005. In 29 games during September and October, all he did was hit .320, with 11 HRs, 29 RBI, a .425 OBP, and a .670 slug. In the heat of a pennant race.

The Pronkster needs to do it for more than one half a season, and he needs to carry a team into October like Papi did.

Until then, Papi is the clutch king.

twins15 said...

FWIW, I believe "Pronk" is supposed to be a combo of 'Project' and 'Donkey'. Don't ask me! :D

And yeah, Ortiz does have more clutch hits than anyone I can remember (all I have to do is think back to the 2004 ALCS), but I'm just pointing out that Hafner is no goat in that area either.

As for the doing it into October part, looks like this year at least he won't be able to do that (not through his fault), and hopefully, being that they're in the same division as the Twins, hopefully he never does get to! :D

Thanks for commenting.

kampy said...

Should be awfully fun to see which division sends the wild card team to the playoffs- the East or the Central (I'm pulling for your Twins). The trendy consensus is the Central, but I'm not so sure. Looks like the Sox and Yanks will again battle to the death. Can't believe the Sox couldn't pull away from NY in the first half with all their injuries.

twins15 said...

Yeah, the Twins still have an outside shot (especially if they can get some consistency from the backend of the rotation, and if the Tigers/Sox cool off a little), but it looks more and more like it will be down to the Yanks and the Tigers/Sox (whoever doesn't win the division.

Either way, I'd say about either of those teams (and throw in the Blue Jays) would be good enough to win the NL West this year. Oh well, just the luck of the draw.

kampy said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kampy said...

Wow, you're not much of a Red Sox fan, huh? First you diss Ortiz and now you're discounting the Sox' playoff hopes? :)

In the interest of full disclosure, I maintain a Red Sox blog that's listed on your site...

hardballheaven.blogspot.com

twins15 said...

Actually, I think they'll win the East! :)

I think the Wildcard will come down to the Yanks and whoever doesn't win the division for the White Sox/Tigers.

twins15 said...

Although I guess the gap between the Sox and Yankees is closer than I thought! Ok, so it'll probably be a 4-way race for the 3 spots!

By the way, Hafner just went yard off of Johan. :(

kampy said...

Saw that... Santana's the ace on my roto squad.

We can do a live Papi-Hafner comparison tonight. I love it. Papi's 0 for 1 vs. Haren and the A's. Sox need a win tonight big-time. Of course, we always feel that way around these parts. Call it self-inflicted stress.

kampy said...

You're not going to believe this. A 2-run triple for Big Papi to give the Sox a 3-0 lead. Beat that, Pronk.

twins15 said...

A triple for Big Papi? You're right, I don't believe it!

Twins win, Red Sox win. Luckily for me the Yanks took out the White Sox! :D

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