2016 MLB OBP Leader Surprise

In this day and age many baseball fans pay very close attention to on-base percentage as a measure of how good a batter may or may not be. I don’t know that we can say exactly why we follow it so much more now, but I blame it on the movie Money Ball. Great movie by the way, you must see it if your a baseball fan.

What is on-base percentage, or OBP? It is pretty simple, a measure of how often a player gets on base. To calculate the actual percentage you would use the following formula OBP = (Hits + Walks + Hit by Pitch) / (At Bats + Walks + Hit by Pitch + Sacrifice Flies). Ok, so why is this important in baseball. That is somewhat obvious, the more a player is able to get on base the more often he has a chance to score.

Looking around my favorite baseball sites today and deciding what I wanted to post about I looked up OBP leaders for 2016 and the top five included names I expect; Mike Trout, Joey Votto, Jose Altuve and Paul Goldschmidt. There was however one name that surprised me. Not sure why I didn’t realize this player was such an OBP machine, but he seems to be. Number four on the list of on-base percentage leaders is, can you guess, DJ LeMahieu. Surprised? Like I said, I sure was.

1. Trout (LAA) .436
2. Votto (CIN) .431
3. Goldschmidt (ARI) .418
4. LeMahieu (COL) .417
5. Altuve (HOU) .412

DJ LeMahieu
By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “DJ LeMahieu”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
LeMahieu currently has an OBP of .417 to go along with a batting average of .344 and slugging percentage of .499. He is quietly putting together a very decent season and is on pace for a career high in hits, average, on-base, and slugging. Already this season he has set his career high in runs, walks and home runs. He is the #4 ranked second baseman in fantasy baseball according to FantasyPros player rater ahead of Brian Dozier, Robinson Cano, Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler. Yet most analyst rarely talk about him.

Why is he such an under the radar player? There are a few reasons. First, he plays on a team with Charlie Blackmon, Carlos Gonzalez and Nolan Arenado. Second, he lacks that sexy stat line that includes huge power numbers or stolen bases. Likely next year he won’t be drafted as the #4 second baseman because of these reasons. At least partially because of that as I would anticipate before the season is over some regression in his average and OBP since he currently has a .384 BAbip, roughly .084 points higher than league average. Which is actually good news if everyone else sleeps on him since that allows you to pick him up later in a draft and return really good value next year. One other thing you may want to consider, in 2015 he finished 3rd in roto rankings for second baseman.

Is Billy Hamilton a new hitter?

dscn0045_billy_hamiltonBy John on Flickr (Original version)UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons


I was listening to a fantasy baseball podcast the other day and the topic of Billy Hamilton came up. An analyst on the program was talking about how in the second half of this season Hamilton has actually began to hit enough to be a useful option in all leagues. They went on to discuss how he was stealing a lot of bases and having more attempts because he was on base more often. To me it sounded like a great narrative. I thought they were on to something because of course they are experts and he was getting a lot more steals. Then I did my own research.

What I found actually surprised me, not a little, but a lot. Let me start by saying I came in to the research with the assumption that Billy Hamilton hadn’t been hitting at all to start the season and that his batting average had gone way up since the first half. I was very wrong.

I started by looking at the season as a whole and trying to find a good, arbitrary, date to use to divide his stats in to two periods. While looking I came to the conclusion that I would use his disabled list stint in mid-July as the cut line. With that I looked at stats from opening day through June 8th and from June 17th to yesterday (August 24th). There is an obvious gap between June 8th and the 17th, but again that was his DL stint for a concussion.

Without telling you stolen base number I want you to look at two slash lines and see if you can guess which is the first half segment and which is the second. Slash line one is .255/.328/.319, the other is .269/.308/.394. Which one is segment one of the season and which is segment two?

Ok, time is up pencils down.

The answer is the first slash line is segment two. Surprised? I was. I never would have thought that Hamilton’s batting average has been lower in the second half of the games played this year than in the first. But why are people saying he is hitting so much better in the second half, he is only getting on-base at .020 points over the first half. Yet his dramatic turnaround is what a lot of analyst are using to justify the fact that in that second half segment he has stolen 37 bases as compared to 16 in the first half. That is more than double and only a difference of eight games played. I had to dig deeper to see what was going on and because of that I found what I was looking for.

@BBBaseball_Talk  Aug 23 WOW, Now that is fast – BB Baseball Talk http://bbbaseballtalk.weebly.com/1/post/2016/08/wow-now-that-is-fast.html … @Reds #Reds @BillyHamilton #MLB #Statcast

In the month of August Cincinnati has had 21 games and Hamilton has started 19 of them. He has a triple slash line of .297/.395/.365 with 18 stolen bases. Now that is a different player and one that needs to be owned in every fantasy league. If you extrapolate that over a 162 game season he would be on pace for 139 stolen bases. Wow! Question is can he keep this up? Over his four years in the majors Hamilton has a career batting average of .247 and an on-base percentage of .296, a full .099 points lower than his on-base for August.

We know that he is a speedster, just look at the recent statcast video of him getting up to 22 mph running down a fly ball. Can he, however, get on base enough to utilize his speed? If he can keep his number near what they are in August moving forward he will be a premier fantasy option similar to Dee Gordon.

Comment form previous site:

8/25/2016 07:14:01 pm

What you failed to realize and bring up is that Billy Hamilton batted 7th and 9th for the 1st half of the season. The impact there is tremendous for ability to steal bases. During the 2nd half or after your cut off, he has batted either 1 or 2 in the lineup. Joey Votto is great in allowing base stealers to attempt to steal. As long as Hamilton is batting 1 or 2, he’ll have the Votto advantage.