On Base Percentage (OBP) is what Skynet created for the Oakland A’s so they could win the World Series and ruin baseball.
Actually, that doesn’t sound quite right. I think OBP is the brew baseball writers’ fermented in a basement to scare Andre Dawson, or it was the reason pitchers feared Jim Rice, thereby making him a Hall of Famer.
I’m all confused. But, apparently, Razzball readers and commentators aren’t. According to the recent survey we conducted
(to mine all of your personal information to sell to Facebook), a ton of you play in leagues that swap out average for those crazy on base skills. Accordingly, this changes the value of several players:
Jose Bautista: Over the last three seasons (including Bautista’s generally poor 2009), Bautista has the eighth best OBP. Last season, Bautista was just .001 behind the OBP leader, Miguel Cabrera, and over the last two seasons, Bautista has the third best OBP in all of baseball. The only glaring weakness in Jose Bautista’s armor is average. If you substitute OBP, Bautista is a legitimate best-player-in-the-format candidate.
Lance Berkman: Berkman’s .412 OBP last year was the fifth best in all of baseball and not far off his career mark (.409). While Berkman’s average is typically useful, his OBP is top 10, making him a four-category stud. With OBP instead of average, Berkman should pass the likes of Paul Konerko, Mark Teixeira, and Eric Hosmer and is a top six first baseman.
Adam Dunn: Until 2011, Dunn was the answer to the question of who benefits most from the switch to OBP. Last season, he posted an OBP under .300. Oddly enough his walk rate was close to his career norm, but his already high K-rate spiked, his ISO and BABIP cratered and he hit .159. Dunn can walk and appears to be approaching 2012 with more determination. A return to .350 OBP is certainly plausible and has some upside. Last season, Mike Stanton with a .356 OBP had the 40th best mark.
Prince Fielder: Fielder and Pujols have the same OBP over the last three seasons. During that time, Pujols has just 10 more HRs and eight more RBIs. In addition, during that same span, Cabrera has an OBP .012 points higher, 14 less HRs and 10 less RBIs. Fielder isn’t the top 1B in OBP leagues, but he isn’t far off. His move to the American League could depress his numbers somewhat, but in OBP leagues, he is a top producer.
Carlos Pena: While Carlos Pena’s OBP skills do not produce league leading rates, they do erase the stank displeasure of his putrid batting average. Pena has a .239 career average, but .352 OBP. A first baseman capable of hitting 25-30 HRs with a .355 OBP is top-10 consideration.
Mark Reynolds: Like Pena, Reynolds makes an untenable batting average disappear with a superior walk rate. For his career, his OBP is about 100 points higher than his batting average. While his .323 OBP last season was tied for 99th best, it’s a far cry from where his average would rank him. Reynolds is an incredibly attractive option in OBP leagues, as his immense power is not entirely derailed by a sub-optimal OBP. Grab Reynolds with confidence that you will get a .330 OBP, with 35 HRs and near 100 runs and RBIs.
Carlos Ruiz: Over the last three seasons, Ruiz trails only Joe Mauer in OBP. His .376 mark is far ahead of the third place healthy backstop Brian McCann. An afterthought in most leagues, Ruiz can provide solid catcher production in OBP leagues at virtually no cost. Pencil Ruiz in for a .365 OBP, eight HRs and 50+ runs and RBIs.
Nick Swisher: Nick Swisher in an on base cyborg. When you throw out Ryan Braun, Jose Bautista and Lance Berkman, Swisher has the fourth best OBP over the last three seasons (behind Matt Holliday, Shin-soo Choo and Carlos Beltran). With Swisher’s .365 OBP and the Yankee line-up, runs and RBIs will be there. He’ll also add good pop and, best of all, you don’t have to worry about his .255 average.
Ben Zobrist: Zobrist, who walks at a great clip, has the ability to post the second best OBP at the position (behind Dustin Pedroia). A basic 20-20 guy with 100 runs and RBI potential, Zobrist takes a massive step forward in OBP leagues when they do away with his .260 average.
OBP Sleeper Values
Daric Barton: Over the last three seasons (1,158 plate appearances), Barton has a .373 OBP. He crashed and burned last season, but still posted an above average walk rate. If healthy, Barton should post a .365 OBP with 10 or so HRs, 80 runs and 70 RBIs. He could be a sneaky value in OBP leagues.
Jack Cust: Like Barton, Cust was horrible last year. However he had a .366 OBP from 2009-2011 and is moving from two difficult parks (Oakland and Seattle) to the hitter friendlier Houston and NL Central. In the easier league, Cust’s walk rate should play tremendously, possibly to the tune of a .370 OBP. He could also add 20-25 HRs and solid RBIs. As a flier, Cust’s upside makes the gamble reasonable.
Dexter Fowler: If only Fowler knew how to steal bases! His .365 OBP and 12.1% walk rate last season was a good step forward and echoed his minor league successes. He’ll likely only produce two categories: runs and OBP, but has a decent shot at 20 steals and upside to more if he ever figures out how to use his speed.
Jason Heyward: While Heyward hasn’t quite become a star, he knows how to get on base (13.2% walk rate, .362 OBP). In addition, his legitimate and realistic upside to 20+ HRs and 15 SBs make him worth reaching for in drafts. As he gets on base, he’ll score runs and has a solid shot at triple digits. At the worst, you have a solid run and OBP contributor with a little pop and speed.
Nate McLouth: Aside from a rough 2010, McLouth has shown above average on base skills. In fact, he posted double digit walk rates in every season since 2007, excepting 2008. As a late flier, McLouth makes a ton of sense. He should post a .345 OBP, get close to double digit HRs and steals and provide somewhat solid counting stats.
Geovany Soto: Soto’s treacherous average makes betting on his power unreasonable in average leagues. However, his 11.8% walk rate and .348 OBP solidify his power. As a catcher capable of 17-20 HRs with a .340 OBP, he is a clear top 10 option.
Those that get hurt in OBP leagues
Adrian Beltre: Beltre has been a good hitter throughout his career, especially since his escape from Seattle (.309 average last two seasons). However, he averages just 41 walks a season and has only posted two OBPs above .331 since 2001. His 2011 OBP was lower than that of Edwin Encarnacion, Ryan Roberts, Evan Longoria, Aramis Ramirez, Kevin Youkilis and Michael Young, whereas he had the third highest average among qualifiers at the position last year. He simply doesn’t walk enough and projecting and OBP over .335 is silly. While he remains a top seven option or so, hot corner specialists like Ryan Zimmerman, Youkilis and others can have more of an impact in OBP leagues.
Starlin Castro: There are a ton of shortstops with small gulfs between their averages and OBPs. Castro, who hit .307, is one of those. His average last season was only behind Troy Tulowitzki, however his OBP trailed eight shortstops. Given his age, there is optimism for growth, however Castro loses some luster in OBP leagues.
Robinson Cano: Cano has been a batting average superstar for much of his career. However, aside from 2010, he’s never been an on base machine. Last season, his OBP was seventh at the position and over the last three seasons is fifth. Meanwhile, Dustin Pedroia is an OBP dynamo. Certainly swapping average for OBP closes the gap between Cano and Pedroia. In this format, I wouldn’t mind passing on Cano and securing Pedroia.
Ian Desmond: Desmond just isn’t very good, so we shouldn’t be surprised he gets dinged in OBP leagues. His career .304 OBP was actually better than his effort last season, even though he improved his walk rate. There’s some optimism that Desmond can get his OBP to the .310-.320 range as he did improve his walks and cut down on swinging strikes and swinging at balls, however, over the last three seasons, roughly 30 shortstops have averaged OBPs over .315.
Alcides Escobar: In OBP formats, Escobar becomes a true one-category producer. His career .294 OBP is putrid and he has shown no signs of improvement (his walk rate declined in 2011, he chased more balls out of the zone and swung and missed more). He might be good for 25 steals, but that’s all he’s good for in fantasy.
Jeff Francoeur: Over the last three seasons, Francoeur’s .314 OBP is 75th among OFs, nestled between Aaron Rowand and Luke Scott. While his OBP improved last season, it was in large part thanks to a .323 BABIP and .285 AVG – he didn’t walk anymore and actually struck out more than normal. It is prudent to temper expectations for Francoeur in OBP leagues, especially because if that OBP suffers he’ll have no chance of reaching 20 steals again.
Ichiro: Just like Dunn has been the perennial gainer in OBP leagues, Ichiro has been the perennial loser. His .351 OBP over the last three seasons is 30th among OFs, while his .312 average is third. While many expect a bounce back, Ichiro is unlikely to post an OBP above .345, which, last season, would have tied him for 28th at the position. OBP leagues take away one of Ichiro’s calling cards: his superior average and relegate him to #3/#4 OF status.
Adam Jones: Jones really likes to swing the bat; his swing percentages have gone up pretty much across the board every season. In fact, his O-Swing% (the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside the strike zone) is at Vlad Guerrero levels. While he has been able to post solid averages, his swinging has translated to miniscule walk rates. He’s a fine option for average leagues, but his OBP over the last three seasons is 70th among OFs. In addition, his OBP has been trending downward: .335 in 2009, .325 in 2010 and .319 in 2011.