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Bruce Bochy says batting average is “way overrated”

May 9, 2014, 10:35 PM EDT

Bruce Bochy AP AP

The Giants sit atop the NL West, in first place at 22-13, one game ahead of the Colorado Rockies. Part of that success can be attributed to the success of second baseman Brandon Hicks at the plate. But… huh? Hicks is only hitting .200. Thanks to six home runs and 13 walks in 101 plate appearances, Hicks has gotten on base at a .313 clip and is slugging .459 for a respectable .772 OPS.

Manager Bruce Bochy sees beyond the batting average. Via CSN Bay Area’s Andrew Baggarly:

“You’ve heard me say it. I’m not all that big on average,” Bochy said. “I agree with a lot of baseball people. That’s way overrated. It’s on-base and slugging. Sometimes you give up a little bit to do some damage. That’s his style.”

Bruce Bochy, saberist.

  1. clydeserra - May 9, 2014 at 10:45 PM

    huh. a baseball professional with a reasoned opinion.

  2. kcroyal - May 9, 2014 at 11:29 PM

    Batting average is overrated. In a vacuum it means next to nothing. It’s taken me longer than some to come around to advanced stats, mainly because at first they seem rather difficult to understand and it goes against everything we’ve learned growing up watching the game we all love. Without OBP or SLG, batting average has no context at all. It’s more useful than, say pitcher wins (which is next to useless) but its doesn’t paint a very detailed picture. I look forward to the SABR movement continuing to evolve. . I’m sure in 20 years we will look back at our current “advanced metrics” and laugh. Should be a fun ride.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - May 9, 2014 at 11:41 PM

      I mostly agree, b-u-t… if all you heard about some guy in 1941 is that over a full season his BA was .406, would you be hesitant to say he had a really good year, insisting you needed more information to make such a call?

      • kcroyal - May 9, 2014 at 11:48 PM

        I think if someone hits .400 then we can reasonably assume he’s a badass. The problem isn’t with outrageously amazing batting averages, but with guys with low batting average than can take a walk and can hit with power. I don’t think the stat nerds are arguing guys that hit .400 aren’t great ball players, but rather some guys with low batting averages can be more than competent hitters.

      • jwbiii - May 10, 2014 at 12:49 AM

        Some guy who batted .400 in any Major League season/park context had a darn solid OBP. Yeah I know about the insane batting numbers in the West Texas League in the 1920s.

      • anxovies - May 10, 2014 at 3:36 PM

        1941: .406/.553/.735/1.287. His lifefetime .482 OBP is the highest of all time.

    • asimonetti88 - May 10, 2014 at 1:10 AM

      just like any other stat, it doesn’t tell you the whole story without other stats around it to put it in context. OBP or SLG alone can’t tell you the whole story either. All these stats serve a purpose, and it’s important to remember to take the holistic approach and look at the whole picture and all the stats available. It certainly doesn’t make it useless though

  3. vanindeed - May 9, 2014 at 11:46 PM

    Overrated if the RBI’s aren’t there.

    • kcroyal - May 9, 2014 at 11:50 PM

      I thumb downed you because I can’t tell if you are kidding. If you are, and realize RBI are as worthless as pitch wins, then kudos to you for pulling a fast one on me.

  4. riverace19 - May 10, 2014 at 1:51 AM

    Bruce Bochy : best manager in baseball.

  5. mikhelb - May 10, 2014 at 3:34 AM

    To be fair, OPS does not tell you a lot either by itself, you will always need at least two.

    A batter with an 0.750 OPS can have:

    Excellent OBP of 0.400 and a not so great SLG of 0.350
    Excellent SLG of 0.450 and a not so good OBP of 0.300
    Good SLG of 0.400 and a good OBP of 0.350

    Similarly if you have a player with a not so good SLG of 0.340 but great OBP of 0.410 you have a good player with an 0.750 OPS but those stats alone do not tell you the whole story of where you should put him in the lineup, because he could be helpful driving runs if his OBP is due to hits and bases, or he could be mainly a leadoff hitter if his OBP is mostly product of a huge AVG with a low amount of bases (Ichiro), he could be half and half (Jeter, who is a prototype for #2 hitters because he could get on base with a walk for the heart of the lineup and could drive home the leadoff hitter), or be due to a huge amount of walks with a poor AVG (indicative of a good eye, but weak contact, who could mostly help you as a leadoff if he has good speed, or be down in the order, somebody like Jason Giambi with bad AVG but great OBP, in his favor: good SLG).

  6. mikhelb - May 10, 2014 at 3:40 AM

    I sometimes chuckle when baseballs fans who call themselves “sabrmetricians” or in favour of that line of thinking, fail to recognize obvious faults in some of the stats we use to evaluate and value players, if it existed a good all around stat to determine how good a batter is, there would not be studies done to try and find different ways of evaluating. Even WAR has faults, and defensive metrics? even more, way way more, specially those who rely on human perception to evaluate if a player is “good” or “bad”.

    • 18thstreet - May 10, 2014 at 8:58 AM

      I think that the stat-oriented fans, like myself, are stuck arguing with non-stat oriented fans and forced to dumb it down. A lot. It’s not that WAR tells me everything I need to know. It’s that it’s a great blunt instrument for combining a lot of information. I mean, if I want to know which player is better, I’d want to separate out hitting, defense, and baserunning — not just blend them together. On some teams — last year’s Tigers — you’d probably be very willing to give up some hitting skills for an improvement in defense. But WAR lets us know that, all things considered, a lousy hitter/great fielder like Ozzie Smith is more valuable than a great hitter/lousy fielder like Ryan Howard in his prime. That’s great cool. And, I might add, it confirms what the old-timers used to say all the time.

      OPS is, in my opinion, pretty stupid. You’re adding together two numbers that are not on the same scale. Each of those numbers, individually, is a meaningful number. Adding them together reduces the amount of information revealed. But OPS is *still* better than batting average, which is why nerds like me use OPS. It’s only because the conventional stats are so nearly worthless and we’re not trying to overwhelm anyone with new information.

      Someone up above made that point that a guy who bats .406 must be pretty awesome. And he was. But the value of a statistic is not at the extreme ends. It’s practically impossible to be a good hitter with a .180 batting average or a bad hitter with a .400 batting average. But there are definitely .270 hitters who are more valuable (as hitters) than .310 hitters. And that’s why batting average is not a worthwhile number.

  7. brazcubas - May 10, 2014 at 8:25 AM

    While I agree with the overall point (BA by itself is overrated), Hicks is hitting home runs at twice the rate he did in the minors, and is walking at a higher clip, too. His success so far is probably not sustainable unless he brings up his batting average a bit.

    • clydeserra - May 10, 2014 at 12:35 PM

      doesn’t he bat 8th? Like in front of the pitcher? which could explain the walks.

  8. sportsfan18 - May 10, 2014 at 11:24 AM

    That getting on base at a .313% clip is BELOW the league average so it is NOTHING to talk about…

    I’ll agree that batting average is overrated…

    It’s about GETTING on base… other than a homerun, a team can’t score without getting men on base.

    The league average on base percentage fluctuates a bit year to year but it’s close to .330%

    Again, except for the home run, one HAS to get on base to score… and having a guy in the lineup only get on base at a .313% clip is HURTING the team…

  9. sisqsage - May 10, 2014 at 11:54 AM

    In his unique way, Hicks has made people not miss Scutaro so much. Hicks’ defense has been good. People remember clutch HRs and Hicks has hit more than a few in the early going. His offensive numbers are not normal. Most batters who K a lot, wouldn’t take a walk to save their life. But he walks a lot and has good power. He either Ks, walks or hits a homer. Weird.

    • clydeserra - May 10, 2014 at 12:47 PM

      I don’t know that its true that people who strike out a lot don’t walk. Eyeballing the leaderboard of K%, it looks like most of them walk more than league average.

      my guess is that striking out means seeing a lot of pitches.

  10. jeffbbf - May 10, 2014 at 2:02 PM

    If the batting crown were given to the player with the highest OBP, we’d be arguing that you can’t just look at OBP, because BA is a huge factor, and hits are more valuable than walks.

  11. rdlo56 - May 11, 2014 at 10:33 PM

    I agree with Bochy, but aren’t sabermetric calculations generally accepted at this point? Is this really a novel perspective in 2014? As much as I enjoyed Hawk Harrelson’s adorable “will to win” diatribe last season, I tend to believe that these sort of statistics have moved beyond cult status.

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