Trying To Figure Out Everyone’s Obsession With Power…

Jason Heyward only hit 11 homers last year, which I think is a part of the reason he got traded. If Heyward produces at the exact same level he did last year though, with excellent defense, a touch of speed and hitting righties well, without an increase in home runs, I’d be happy. The only thing I’d like to see him do better isn’t hit more homers, but work on hitting lefties better as well as developing better plate discipline against them. EVeryone else though seems to be hoping that last year was an aberration and that his power will come back.

It seems to me that people have quickly forgotten that we just had a World Series where the home run leader on the NL team (Buster Posey) only had 22 homers and the leader on the AL team (Alex Gordon) only had 19.

Kansas City made it all the way to a game seven on pitching, speed, and defense, while the Giants clawed their way into the playoffs and then jumped on Madison Bumgarner‘s back and rode him to a World Series victory.

Yet it seems like if a hitting prospect has a high contact rate or good plate discipline but little power, he’s downgraded.

On the hitting side of our prospect list, we have Stephen Piscotty, who’s known more for getting on base than power. He’s well regarded within the organization and many people (including myself) are looking forward to seeing him in the big leagues, but I don’t sense as much buzz around him as a  power prospect would generate. In fact, many people I’ve observed on Twitter seem to be hoping he’ll develop more power as time goes along.

Now, I admit that I’m obsessed with OBP. I’ll take a guy who gets on base at a .400 clip but hits 5 to 15 homers a year over a guy who hits 40 homers  but gets on at a .300 to .330 clip.

But let’s say Wade Boggs, his prime, was a free agent. Boggs had a career .328 batting average with a .415 OBP for his career, but only had two years with more than 10 homers, averaging eight a year and ending up with 118 total over an 18 year career. Boggs didn’t have much speed either, stealing only 24 bases in his career. He did have a decent slugging percentage at .443 thanks to a high volume of doubles. (578 total, an average of 38 per year.) But he had five years where he didn’t slug over .400.

Now let’s suppose that Andre Dawson was also a free agent in his prime. Dawson, had 13 years with over 20 homers, averaging 27 a year, ending up with 438 total. He also stole 314 stolen bases, averaging 19 a year. Dawon’s career batting average was .279 with a .323 OBP. He had a decent amount of doubles too, with 503, average of 31 a year. Thanks to those homers he had a .483 career slugging percentage, never having one below .409. Back to to that OBP though: He only had three years where his OBP was *higher* than Boggs worst OBP year, 1998, in which Boggs had a .348 OBP.

So while I know which one *I* would pay more, which do you think would get more money? I’m betting you’d say Dawson, because of his homers, consistently higher slugging percentage, and speed. His pwer and speed totals would dazzle you, yet in the end Boggs was the one with the higher WAR, and it isn’t even close despite the fact that Boggs played three fewer seasons (18 to Dawson’s 21). Boggs had 91.1 WAR, while Dawson had 64.5. Admittedly both are in the Hall of Fame, but still.

Food for thought.

As always, thanks for reading.

  • TheRealAaron December 5, 2014, 12:23 pm

    I suspect the obsession with power isn’t because it’s objectively more valuable than OBP. It’s more that it’s rare. Particularly on the Cardinals roster, I can imagine Carpenter, Wong, Jay, Holliday, Heyward each having .375 OBP. I can’t see a single person hitting 30 home runs.

    It’s not bad for any individual player to be a low-power/high on-base guy, but to have a lack of power on the whole roster is a weak spot. With our offense, it takes three successful at bats to score a run (single, walk, single or some such). It would be nice to have a couple of guys who are threats to score a run with one at bat. Holliday, Peralta and Adams hit a decent number of home runs, but they may all three combine next season to hit what Giancarlo Stanton has by himself.

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