Knowing I was scheduled for today's VEB Daily post, I kindly made it public that I was looking for possible topic ideas last night on Twitter. Though many could have made for solid discussion, one suggestion stood out to me most because it was something I had never really looked at before, and it would lead to a more data-driven post than an opinion one. Now, before I get into it the discussion too much, I really have no idea if the statistic is all that valuable (and am open for your opinions), but on the surface, it makes a whole lot of sense (to me at least).
The suggestion was to break down the Cardinals lineup in total bases per plate appearance (TB/PA). Considering sample sizes have grown enough to reach somewhat normalized statistics, all TB/PA's will be much less than one. Considering I had no idea what a "good" TB/PA value was, I figured I needed to come up with some sort of benchmark comparison before looking at the lineup of the Cardinals. Thus, I took the top five players based on fWAR (Troy Tulowitzki, Giancarlo Stanton, Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, and Yasiel Puig) and included their 2014 statistics in the following table:
Not suprisingly, Mr. Tulowitzki is considerably higher than the rest, with roughly six-tenths of a base per plate appearance. However, as you can see from the four remaining mere mortals, there is no real correlation between TB/PA and fWAR (i.e. a higher WAR doesn't always mean a higher TB/PA). This makes sense, though, because fWAR takes a look at a lot more than just the number of singles, doubles, triples, and home runs by a given player. Plus, the main purpose of TB/PA is to show just how valuable a player is with the bat exclusively. The only reason why I included fWAR in the first place was to find five players from around the league to use as the benchmark.
Now, what about the Cardinals? Which player has the highest TB/PA? The lowest? How do they compare to the five players I included above?
Like almost any statistic, TB/PA, too, has its limitations. The total base (TB) statistic excludes BBs and HBPs, so players who rack up a bunch of either of these will be at a disadvantage because they will have a smaller numerator. Specifically, Carpenter has 28 BBs and 3 HBPs this season, and if those were all valued as a single in the numerator, his TB/PA would be much higher than it is currently. Also, Carpenter, is at an even further disadvantage with this statistic because his denominator will always be the largest on the team considering the leadoff hitter gets the most plate appearances. The statistic favors guys like Adams and Molina who don't walk very often (5 BBs and 9 BBs, resepectively) because they rely almost solely on base hits to get on base. By relying on base hits, both Adams' and Molina's numerators will be higher, and this will subsequently lead to a higher TB/PA's.
Something interesting to note is that Wainwright, through just 29 plate appearances, has a 0.4 fWAR and the fourth highest TB/PA on the team. If he is able to keep up his hitting and his pitching, 2014 may be a very real chance for Wainwright to take home both the NL Cy Young Award and the Silver Slugger. Finally, let's take a look at Daniel Descalso's numbers in the chart: a negative fWAR (-0.5) and the lowest TB/PA (.204) on the team, by far. There really isn't anything positive to say about his numbers, and I am convinced that if he weren't making $1.3 million this season, he would have been cut already.
Again, I am interested in seeing the discussion regarding TB/PA because I am not entirely sure whether it is a useful statistic or not. I am also looking forward to seeing lil_scooter's reaction when she finds out the otherworldliness of Tulo's TB/PA.