The other 20/20/20 club

Jeff Hanisch-US PRESSWIRE

20 doubles, 20 triples, and 20 homers in a season is generally thought of as an impressive accomplishment for a player. For the sabermetrically inclined among us, however, there's another group with the same name that's just as impressive.

As baseball fans, we like to learn weird little factoids about the game. Part of this is because, as baseball fans, we are weird; part of this is because, on some level, the factoids are interesting.

One of the factoids I am referring to — with which you might be familiar — is the 20/20/20 club; it consists of hitters who have accrued 20 doubles, 20 triples, and 20 home runs in a single season. A pointless superlative? Probably. A superlative which can only be said of seven players? Definitely.

There exists another 20/20/20 club, however, and while it's not quite as exclusive (and it's considerably weirder), it's just as interesting, at least in my opinion.

Let's back up for a second. Plate discipline is, generally, a good thing for a hitter to have. If you strike out less often and walk more often, you're usually going to perform better. This fact seems like it should be true, and it is — of the top 20 hitters in baseball last year, 16 had above-average strikeout rates, and all had above-average walk rates.

Sometimes, though, a hitter is able to succeed despite an Arencibia-esque command of the strike zone, and while it may be uncommon, it's not impossible.

Since 1920, there have been 10,436 qualifying batter seasons. Of these, 1,291 (12.4%) featured hitters who had strikeout and walk rates worse than the major-league average. For this exercise, however, I'd like to go a little bit deeper, to isolate the truly awful batters. Setting our cutoff at 20%, we narrow the pool considerably; of the aforementioned 10,436 seasons, 291 (2.8%) featured strikeout and walk rates 20% worse than the league average.

We would expect these players to be worse offensively, and for the most part, we wouldn't be wrong; whereas the average wRC+ for all the players was 111, the average wRC+ for the 20%-worse group was 98. But this is not to say that there are no quality hitters in the latter group. Of the nearly 300 that fit the criteria, 47 had a wRC+ above 120 (i.e. their offense was 20% better than league average).

Hence, the other 20/20/20 club — players whose walk and strikeout rates were 20% worse than league average, and whose offense overall was 20% better than league average. Behold!

Player Year K% lgK% K%+ BB% lgBB% BB%+ wRC+
Andres Galarraga 1988 23.1% 14.7% 157 5.9% 8.1% 73 154
Joe Adcock 1956 17.2% 12.1% 142 6.4% 9.4% 68 154
Kiki Cuyler 1924 12% 7% 171 5.8% 7.7% 75 149
Cito Gaston 1970 22.6% 15% 151 6.5% 9.2% 71 144
Mike Marshall 1985 24.3% 14% 174 6.6% 8.6% 77 141
Dick Stuart 1961 21% 13.6% 154 5.9% 9% 66 141
Bill Skowron 1960 16.3% 13.5% 121 6.5% 8.8% 74 139
Marlon Byrd 2013 24.9% 19.9% 125 5.4% 7.9% 68 136
Geoff Jenkins 2000 23.9% 16.5% 145 5.9% 9.6% 61 132
Walt Dropo 1950 12.3% 9.9% 124 7.4% 10.3% 72 132
Mack Jones 1965 22.3% 15.7% 142 5.3% 8.2% 65 132
Alfonso Soriano 2002 20.6% 16.8% 123 5.9% 8.7% 68 131
Juan Gonzalez 1992 22.6% 14.7% 154 5.5% 8.5% 65 131
Carlos Gomez 2013 24.7% 19.9% 124 6.3% 7.9% 80 130
Lee May 1969 21.4% 15.2% 141 6.8% 9.1% 75 130
Bob Meusel 1920 14.6% 7.7% 190 4% 7.2% 56 127
Bill Robinson 1977 16.9% 13.4% 126 4.6% 8.5% 54 127
Dan Ford 1976 20.7% 12.7% 163 6.3% 8.4% 75 127
Matt Williams 1991 20.2% 15.2% 133 5.2% 8.7% 60 127
Sammy Sosa 1994 20.1% 15.9% 126 5.5% 8.7% 63 126
Andres Galarraga 1994 20.7% 15.9% 130 4.2% 8.7% 48 126
Ron LeFlore 1977 17.3% 13.4% 129 5.3% 8.3% 64 126
Jim Rice 1975 19.9% 13% 153 5.9% 9% 66 126
Dave Kingman 1976 26.5% 12.7% 209 5.5% 8.4% 65 126
Joe Medwick 1934 12.8% 8.8% 145 3.3% 8.2% 40 125
Sammy Sosa 1996 22.7% 16.5% 138 5.8% 9.1% 64 125
Henry Rodriguez 1996 27.8% 16.5% 168 6.4% 9.1% 70 125
Bob Meusel 1921 13.6% 7.3% 186 5.3% 7.2% 74 125
Andres Galarraga 2000 23% 16.5% 139 6.6% 9.6% 69 124
Tony Armas 1981 24.9% 12.5% 199 4.1% 8.4% 49 124
Gary Ward 1982 17% 13.2% 129 6% 8.3% 72 123
Mark Trumbo 2012 26.1% 19.8% 132 6.1% 8% 76 123
Dan Ford 1981 17.4% 12.5% 139 5.6% 8.4% 67 123
Andres Galarraga 1996 22.7% 16.5% 138 5.8% 9.1% 64 123
Wally Berger 1932 10.3% 8.2% 126 5.2% 7.8% 67 122
Jim Rice 1976 19.7% 12.7% 155 4.5% 8.4% 54 122
Tony Armas 1980 19.2% 12.5% 154 4.4% 8.2% 54 122
Bob Oliver 1972 17.9% 14.8% 121 4.8% 8.4% 57 122
Jim Rice 1980 19.2% 12.5% 154 4.4% 8.2% 54 122
Alfonso Soriano 2007 21.1% 17.1% 123 5% 8.5% 59 122
Lance Parrish 1980 18.4% 12.5% 147 5.2% 8.2% 63 121
Luke Easter 1951 13.3% 9.7% 137 7% 9.6% 73 121
Matt Williams 1990 20.8% 14.9% 140 5% 8.6% 58 121
Jacque Jones 2002 20.6% 16.8% 123 5.9% 8.7% 68 121
Starling Marte 2013 24.4% 19.9% 123 4.4% 7.9% 56 121
Larry Parrish 1984 17.5% 14% 125 6.3% 8.3% 76 120
George Kelly 1922 10.2% 7.2% 142 4.7% 7.5% 63 120

This is, for me, an interesting distinction. These players, against the odds, have excelled with the bat, and now I'm giving them some recognition. In fact, three players — Marlon Byrd. Carlos Gomez, and Starling Marte — achieved this feat in 2013, one of only four years that three players have done it.

Byrd excelled despite poor strikeout and walk numbers through above-average power, Marte through speed and a strong line-drive stroke. Gomez prospered with a little bit of both, getting on base through fleetness of foot and showing clout at the dish when he didn't.

Obviously, this is a rather uncommon feat, and a pretty useless one as well. Players with poor plate discipline will, more often than not, do poorly, as they should. Every once in a while, though, you'll get a player who goes against the grain, who breaks from tradition and attains greatness in doing so. In 2013, we got three. And in the end, aren't they the ones worth revering?

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Ryan Romano writes for Beyond the Box Score, the FanGraphs Community blog, and Camden Chat that one time. Follow him on Twitter at @triple_r_ if you enjoy angry tweets about Maryland sports and live tweeting about Community, Thursdays at 8/7c. Cool. Coolcoolcool.

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