In baseball, there are dozens of statistics that are used to measure a players overall performance. Rather than joining the never ending conversation of which ones matter vs. which ones don’t, I set out to answer my own question based on my own criteria. The question is – which MLB player has been the best hitter for the past three seasons? When I say ‘best’, I mean who gives their team the best chance to win by hitting the ball. For the sake of this research question, the four stats I will be analyzing are wOBA, runs produced (RBI + R scored), hard hit percentage and average exit velocity.
Here is my reasoning and brief explanation for each:
- wOBA (weighted on base average) is my favorite offensive statistic in sports. It does a precise job of measuring players’ and teams’ ability to be productive, as it assigns different weighted scores to different results of an at bat. wOBA has the highest correlation of any offensive stat to runs scored, meaning the better the wOBA, the higher the runs scored will be.
- Runs produced (RBI + R) captures the availability and the effectiveness of a player within the lineup he plays in. The entire defense of 9 players is doing all they can to prevent runs from crossing the plate, so that should indicate the importance of a stat like this. This obviously helps guys in the lineup every day, but that’s something that is a pre requisite to be the best hitter in the game.
- Hard hit percentage measures how often a player ends an at bat with a hard hit ball in fair territory. From youth sports all the way to the professional leagues, hitting a ball hard is always the first goal for hitters because it; breeds confidence, increases chances of getting a hit/on base, and also is a really simple goal to have for each plate appearance.
- Average exit velocity is very similar to hard hit percentage, but it differs because it really works to measure the raw power in each player rather than how often that player reaches that raw power. Larger built guys score better here, but the reality is that they are able to generate more force behind the baseball which is what drives extra base hits and tough defensive plays.
TOP TEN HITTERS 2019-2021
- Mookie Betts
- Vlad Guerrero Jr.
- Manny Machado
- Matt Olson
- Nelson Cruz Jr.
- Rafael Devers
- Bryce Harper
- Jose Abreu
- Freddie Freeman
- Juan Soto
Winning a batting title is something most professional players will never feel the joy of winning. But, does winning a batting title necessarily mean they are one of the better offensive players in the sport? Here’s a look at the past three batting title winners and a summary of their stats for those years:
As you will see, placing more weight on certain statistics of a player will provide a clearer image for who really has been the best. So, batting average doesn’t really indicate the best offensive player; after the final calculations, Turner ranks as the 13th best hitter, LaMahieu 11th and Anderson 37th over the past three seasons (2019, 2020, 2021).
I began this process by gathering the relevant statistics from trusted open sites such as Baseball Savant and Baseball Reference. After cleaning and importing the data to work with, I broke it down into three sections for each year in question.
For each year the same methods of calculation were used; each recorded stat is measured up against the rest of the qualified hitters for that season, by utilizing a formula that requires a Most Desirable (maximum value) and a Least Desirable (minimum value) score. This score is referenced as the scaled score.
In this case the highest number for each stat was the most desirable, but it may be the case (like pitching statistics) where least desirable is actually the lowest number.
Next, the scaled score is multiplied by a pre-determined weight for each category. The total weight between all categories must equal 100, and since there are four categories I used, I think they are all equally important so I weigh them at 25 (out of 100) each. This results in the actual score.
Once the actual score is gathered for each of the categories, the sum of those actual scores results in a players final score for that season.
This process occurred for all three seasons, and the final score at the end of every season was used in sum to get the FINAL rankings for the previous three years.
The hitters that rank higher in these calculations are those that take good swings at the plate and make the most of their opportunities on a routine basis. So, if I had to start a MLB team with one offensive player, I would start with Juan Soto.