Inside the numbers

Hitters vs. Sluggers

In today’s game of baseball there seem to be two types of offensive players. You have the hitter. The player who can hit for a high average as well as drive in runs. They can work the count and draw walks. They can move runners over with the sacrifice or hit to the opposite field. They get on base but don’t necessarily always posses the fan favorite tremendous power.

Then you have the slugger. The player with tremendous power. The player who can drive the ball 400 feet with the flick of the wrist. They can change the momentum of a game with one swing at any given moment. Pitchers avoid them with runners on base and are cautious with the bases empty. They hit for power and drive in runs, but rack up strikeouts and can cripple rallies.

Both contribute to their team in many ways, but which is better?

A quick look inside the numbers quickly separates most players into one of these two categories. There however are a select few that can just do it all. Some of those players are Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez, Justin Morneau, and Prince Fielder. They hit for the high average as well as tremendous power and are RBI machines.

Albert PujolsSome high profile hitters are players like Carl Crawford, Ichiro Suzuki, Shane Victorino, and Kevin Youkilis. They put the ball in play, can draw walks, and move the runners over when their team needs them the most. These players are pure hitters.

Carlos PenaSome sluggers you may know are Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard, and Carlos Pena. They can drive the ball with anyone, drive in runs, but rack up strikeouts at alarming rates.

A statistic that I find accurately grades the value of a hitter is Runs Created. Of all the sluggers in the league only Adam Dunn (7) ranks in the top ten in runs created. Ryan Howard (38) and Carlos Pena (23) rank further down the list. As for the hitters Carl Crawford (14), Ichiro Suzuki (9), Shane Victorino (16), and Kevin Youkilis (27) rank further up on the list. The previously mentioned freaks happen to all be in the top 6. Pujols and Fielder come in a 1 and 2 while Morneau sits at 4 and Ramirez at 6. They contribute to their team in a ton of different ways offensively.

Personally I would rather take the hitter because of the fact that they can do more. I would take the guy that hits .310 with 10 home runs and 80 RBI, but can move runners over and put the ball in play over someone who hits .260 with 35 home runs, 110 RBI, and 160 strikeouts.

Adam DunnThe strikeouts are a big factor because not only are they an ugly stat but they are a rally killer. If you are going to end a rally at least put the ball in play. Strikeouts are also an easy tell for someone who is just swinging as hard as they can. The hitters will shorten their swing with 2 strikes and look to put the ball in play rather than drive it into the gaps. The sluggers however tend to swing for the fences regardless of the situation. Not only is that not going to work out too well the majority of the time it sets a bad example for the younger players.

I guarantee that if any of the before mentioned freaks were to take up the slugger mentality they could put 55-60 balls out of the park every season. The home run is a great thing, but I think it’s time the hitter gets more recognition for his talent than the slugger.

Happy blogging,

Ben

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20 comments

  1. tomatalk

    Interesting post. Back before the Barry Bonds explosion (I’m not going to get into the “merits” and PEDs speculation) a friend of mine and I had a long running debate about who was the better hitter: Tony Gwynn or Barry Bonds. I was the defender of Gwynn. and I took that stance as much as anything to stir up debate. Bonds’ late 90’s and early 2000’s seasons kind of made that a moot argument, but there are certainly reasons to value the hitters in baseball. Gwynn, at the time, was a guy I defended for many of the things you mentioned.
    I would say that defining K’s as a “big factor” might be a bit misleading though. Prince Fielder’s well on his way to having 140+ k’s this year. Hanley Ramirez has several 120 K seasons under his belt. If you K a ton and only provide power with no secondary skills that can be a problem. A guy like Adam Dunn who takes a ton of walks though does provide a decent amount of added value. For example, Dunn and Hanley both have a career OBP of .383. And because Dunn K’s a lot, he generally avoids the GDP. His career high in GDP’s is 12 (granted some of that is just opportunity), but Pujols who is an absolutely amazing all around hitter has had more GDP’s than that in every season but one (and he’s already got 11 this year). Use of RC is an excellent way of comparing guys, but opportunity means something there as well. Anyways, wasn’t meaning to say anything negative…..very good article and got me to thinking about my old Gwynn/Bonds debate.

  2. raysfanboy

    I think that one of the best pure sluggers out there right now is Adam Dunn. If you look at the guy’s numbers, nobody comes close in OPS. At least over the last 4 years or so. He hits it deep, or he gets walked. Or, true to his slugger moniker, he Ks.

    Best hitter, Pujols. I say this reluctantly since I do not like the Cardinals. But Pujols is in another world as a hitter.

    Great post.
    http://raysfanboy.mlblogs.com

  3. juliasrants

    I agree 100% with you Ben. I would much rather have a hitter. Too often the players (and the fans) forget that baseball is a game of one base at a time. If you have 3 or 4 guys in a row in your lineup that can consistently move runners over 2 or 3 bases, you will win a lot of games!

    Julia
    http://werbiefitz.mlblogs.com/

  4. orangebirds

    I, myself am a hitter, so I would go with the hitter Ben. A hitter can get the job done ALL of the time. He is the main man. Keep posting, and please check out my latest post, It has 54 comments, and it is about Cal Ripken Jr. so please comment
    http://balorioles.mlblogs.com/

  5. Jane Heller

    Really good post. I guess the best of all possible worlds is a player who’s both a hitter and a slugger. Pujols seems to be that player. Steroids aside, I’d have to put A-Rod in that category in 2007, when he had 50+ homers and 150 RBIs, plus he stole a lot of bases. But since then, I’d go with Pujols.

    http://janeheller.mlblogs.com

  6. thatbaseballguy

    Great post. I keep trying to tell my friends and such that certain people don’t belong in things like the home run derby… cough cough Brandon Inge… and you agree in general that hitters are different than sluggers.
    -Dillon
    http://dillonm.mlblogs.com

  7. brownson20

    Nice perspective. Fans flock to the ballpark to watch the long HRs and runs, so a slugger has his place in any lineup; but most solid teams are built with several key hitters. Personally, both hitters and sluggers are welcome on my team–and each has their critical role. Being a Braves fan, the last few years have left me praying for a slugger. Batting .310 is great for the top of the lineup, but it took 3 consecutive hits to drive in a run at times. Personally, hitters with a little speed (or a lot of speed) are those players I’ll never get tired of. You mentioned Victorino (despite being a Braves fan), one of my favorites to watch. Get on base, steal a base, or score from first on a double–gotta love those guys. Nice post.
    David

  8. diamondgirl55

    hey thanks for commenting! :] oh man I agree, Inge getting (or the lack of) 0 homeruns was a liiiiiiiiiiiittle sad. I live in Detroit right now though, and I was able to give a lot of people at work some sh*t which was pretty fun, hehe :]
    Great post, I love it!
    xoxo
    http://diamondgirl55.mlblogs.com

  9. raysfanboy

    I know this if off topic, but I agree with you about Figgins. That guy is awesome. He is sometimes inconsistent, and always hurt (I used to have him always on my fantasy team–not this year, though, and look what happened!). But when he is right, he can change a game all by himself. And a cannon for an arm. The guy is solid.
    http://raysfanboy.mlblogs.com

  10. bburrows@lhup.edu

    Haha, alright Joey. If you want that then with the players above it would go Pujols (2), Fielder (16), Ichiro (18), Morneau (20), Ramirez (49), Youkilis (63), Crawford (73), Howard (93), Pena (125), Dunn (163), Victorino (165). Victorino really let me down. I would think he would contribute more than that.
    http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

  11. sjbravos

    I think hitters are better for building a team, but sluggers are tough to come by. Most teams have at least one good hitter on their team but not many have a true slugger on their team.

  12. bobdawg25

    Thanks for the comment yesterday.

    I have to go with hitters being better for the team…There are more hitters out there that have tons of power, they just go unnoticed. Robinson Cano is the perfect example of this, here is a guy that has .330 – .350 potential and if you put the ball down and in on him he drops the head of the bat on the ball to drive it out. However he isn’t going to strike out 150 times every year and he will get on base, which is often more important than hitting a solo home run. Hitters are what make teams better in the long run, you need men on base to score runs, you can’t win every game with a 3-run homer.

    riveraverant.mlblogs.com

  13. bburrows@lhup.edu

    I would probably put him in the freaks section that can do it all. There are probably a handful more players that can be put in that category but I only chose a few. If you were wondering he ranks 19 overall in runs created. I think Citi Field is really going to hurt his power numbers in the future though.
    http://moneyball.mlblogs.com/

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