The All Average wOBA hitters

I was looking on Fangraphs at Starlin Castro‘s stats this morning and couldn’t help but notice that his .357 wOBA was almost entirely batting average (.330). It doesn’t really matter how you accomplish it, but I started to wonder about the difference in wOBA and AVG. I was specifically interested in batters who had hit .300, which is what we usually consider someone being a good hitter. Since 2001 there have been 367 qualified seasons in which a player has batted .300 or higher. Ichiro Suzuki‘s 2004 had the smallest difference between wOBA and AVG. He batted .372 and his wOBA was .379.

Three of the top five and four of the top six belong to Ichiro. Placido Polanco‘s 2001 had the 2nd lowest difference. Starlin Castro batted .300 last season and had a .325 wOBA. The .025 difference is the 13th lowest since 2001. This season’s .027 dfference would rank 18th, tied with 2003 and 2007 Luis Castillo, as well as 2009 Erick Aybar.

Ryan Theriot‘s 2008 ranks 30th and Mark Grudzielanek‘s 2003 ranks 35th. There’s not another Cubs in the top 200. After that we see Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee three times each and towards the bottom we find Sammy Sosa‘s 2001. The hitters who got the most bang for their .300 batting average is no surprise. Barry Bonds has the four top seasons in that regard (2001-2004). Jim Thome, Travis Hafner, Jim Edmonds, and Alex Rodriguez are also up there.

Seeing Ichiro with the smallest difference isn’t too surprising. He’s a ridiculously good hitter, but he doesn’t walk much and doesn’t have great power. I think it’s safe to say at this point that Castro is also a very good hitter, but probably is never going to walk much and likely won’t ever have much power. As pessimistic as you guys probably think I am about Castro, I actually compared Castro to Ichiro after only 6 weeks of big league playing time. That thought has remained there. While I think it’s still way too early to think Castro is going to have an Ichiro-like career, it’s certainly possible.

The two are more similar now than they were a year ago. Castro is probably less a free swinger than Ichiro is, but he also doesn’t have the speed of Ichiro. The similarites are fairly obvious.

  • Both have needed a very high BABIP to be as productive as they have been (.352 for Castro, .355 for Ichiro)
  • Neither has or will walk much. Ichiro has walked quite a bit more than Castro, but he’s also a lot older.
  • Neither player has much power.
  • Both of them strikeout relatively little.
  • Ichiro’s career GB/FB is 2.33. Castro’s 2011 GB/FB is 2.33 (1.9 career).
  • Castro has swung at more pitches out of the zone in his career, but very similar to what Ichiro has done over the last few years.

Ichiro has played tremendous defense in the outfield while Castro has struggled at SS. Their defensive value overall has been somewhat similar when you factor in positional adjustment.

It’s still early in Castro’s career. We only have a year’s worth data for him whereas we have a decade for Ichiro. Please do not think I am saying that Ichiro and Castro are the same or that Castro will be as good as Ichiro. It’s not at all what I’m saying. I’m saying the two are similar and it isn’t hard to believe that Castro could have a similar career. At the same time, you have to be an idiot if you’re expecting a 21 year old to put together a career worthy of the Hall of Fame by the time he’s 30 years old. That’s what Ichiro has done.