Tony Campana and Striking Out with No Power

Jonathan Daniel

Campana did something in 2012 that no player in the modern era has ever done.

Oh boy. Kevin Towers does it again. In yet another attempt to add the maximum amount of grit possible to the Arizona Diamondbacks, Towers traded Jesus Castillo and Erick Leal to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Tony Campana.

Campana is about as gritty as it gets. He steals bases, plays good defense, and doesn't really do anything else. No really. Last season, he had no home runs, six doubles, 40 singles, and 30 stolen bases. He's probably best suited as a pinch runner and defensive replacement.

However, this post is not an analysis of the trade. It seems likely that it was a bad move, but I don't know what Kevin Towers knows. What I do know is that Tony Campana is a historically unique player - or at least, he was in 2012. See, after Dave Cameron tweeted this:

...I decided to do some investigation. I looked at all players since 1920 with a minimum of 150 plate appearances, an ISO less than .040, and a strikeout rate greater than 20%. Here's what I got:

Season Name Team PA BB% K% ISO wRC+ Fld BsR WAR
2012 Tony Campana Cubs 192 5.7% 22.4% .034 65 -0.5 6.3 0.6
1966 Al Weis White Sox 213 8.0% 23.5% .032 27 8 -1.2 -0.1
1979 Bill Almon Padres 226 9.3% 21.2% .030 54 1 -0.8 -0.2
2003 Henry Mateo Expos 169 6.5% 22.5% .032 53 -0.4 1.5 -0.2
1998 Pat Borders Indians 175 5.7% 22.9% .038 47 -1 -0.9 -0.4
2006 Paul Bako Royals 167 6.6% 27.5% .020 28 2 -1.2 -0.5
1972 Jim Mason Rangers 159 5.7% 24.5% .020 40 -3 0 -0.5
1968 Jerry Buchek Mets 207 4.8% 25.6% .036 32 1 -0.1 -0.5
2010 Tommy Manzella Astros 282 4.6% 25.2% .039 43 -0.3 -0.3 -0.6
1973 Lee Lacy Dodgers 150 10.0% 22.7% .015 52 -3 -0.7 -0.6
1998 Andy Stankiewicz Diamondbacks 155 4.5% 21.3% .034 27 1 0.2 -0.7
2002 Wilton Guerrero - - - 156 4.5% 20.5% .029 29 -1.6 1.1 -0.8
1996 Curtis Goodwin Reds 156 12.2% 21.8% .022 60 -6 0.3 -0.9
2012 Marlon Byrd - - - 153 3.3% 20.3% .035 25 -0.5 -1.6 -1
1968 Al Weis Mets 301 7.0% 20.9% .033 33 -6 0.3 -1
2011 Reid Brignac Rays 264 3.8% 23.9% .028 24 0.1 0.1 -1
1985 Steve Jeltz Phillies 228 11.4% 24.1% .031 40 -6 -0.3 -1.1
1999 Willie McGee Cardinals 290 5.9% 20.7% .026 43 -12 -0.4 -2.4

That's right. Tony Campana is the only player to strike out more than 20% of the time with an ISO under .040 who still provided positive value to his team according to fWAR. Yes, this means very little, but I find it pretty fascinating.

Campana's value came primarily from his high BABIP and exceptional stolen base success rate. Though his wRC+ was only 65, the fact that he stole 30 bases and was only caught three times provided him enough value to get over that replacement-level hump. Bravo, Mr. Campana. Bravo.

Stats courtesy of FanGraphs

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