Hitting for average and nothing else

"One if by land, two if by sea, and four if by air!" - Rich Schultz

Even after Ben Revere's recent power surge, he still has a higher batting average than wOBA. How often does that happen?

One of the great things about baseball is that, every night, you have the chance to see something you've never seen before. Tuesday night, for example, Ben Revere hit his first career home run in 1,565 plate appearances. One of the other great things about baseball is that, every time you see something new, you can find a connection to the game's history. Revere had logged the most PA without a homer to start a career since Greg Gross in the 1970s; before Gross, you have to go back to Emil Verban in the 1940s.

Over at FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan celebrated Revere's achievement with an in-depth look into his inaugural dinger. Deep in the comments, user Yirmiyahu wrote,

Despite the homer, Revere’s AVG is still 5 points higher than his wOBA for the season. Someone with more time: when is the last time that happened over a full season?

Hey, I have some time. Let's go look.

Weighted on-base average (wOBA) was designed to capture offensive value better than OPS by assigning batting events weights related to the amount of runs those events produce on average. The constants associated with each event change from year to year as the run environment changes. So far this year, each single is given a value of 0.891. So, if we had a batter who only hit singles*, he would have a batting average of 1.000 and a wOBA of .891.

* - Lamest Matt Christopher story ever.

Looking at the formula, it becomes clear that breaking this threshold indicates a severe power outage, and Revere certainly seems a likely candidate. Revere finished last season with a .305 average and a .307 wOBA, and entered Wednesday's action with a .288 average and a .283 wOBA. Since World War II, only two batters have had a higher BA than wOBA in seasons they qualified for the batting title. This table presents all hitters with a higher BA than wOBA over at least 250 PA.

Name Yr Team Pos G PA BA wOBA rWAR
Rey Sanchez 2001 Royals/Braves SS 148 579 .281 .279 3.4
Don Kessinger 1966 Cubs SS 143 566 .274 .270 -0.3
Alex Sanchez 2004 Tigers CF 78 352 .322 .316 0.2
Bobby Richardson 1957 Yankees 2B 90 320 .256 .253 0.2
Pepe Frias 1980 Rangers/Dodgers 2B/3B/SS 99 255 .242 .241 -1.8
Mario Guerrero 1977 Angels 2B/SS/DH 86 252 .283 .281 -0.2

There is a definite pattern here. Most of these players are light-hitting middle infielders (a reminder of what baseball looked like before Cal Ripken, Jr. and his 28-homer rookie season). And while some of these players have some speed, none set the world on fire: Sanchez led the way with five baserunning runs above average in 2001. Good, but not fantastic.

The combination of lots of singles and little else limits the value of these players (measured here by Baseball Reference WAR, rWAR). But Sanchez managed to put up more than three wins for the Royals on the strength of his glove and his legs, Richardson actually made the All-Star Game in 1957, and Kessinger eventually matured into a five-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner.

Ben Revere will never be a home run hitter*. But with his speed and his ability to make contact, Revere is league-average and team-controlled through 2018. For a team with the third-highest payroll in the majors, there's still some value there.

* - Although Greg Gross did hit five home runs in 1977 once he finally got over that hump.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs, Retrosheet, and Baseball-Reference.

Bryan Cole is a featured writer for Beyond the Box Score and a lifelong singles hitter. You can follow him on Twitter at @Doctor_Bryan.

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