Quiz: Free Swingers (stumped)

2015 NL RoY Kris Bryant makes this list of modern batters who were not shy about taking their cuts. What is the unusual seasonal batting feat that only these players have achieved since 1901?

Our readers zeroed in on BABIP as part of the quiz answer, but didn’t get that only these players had a qualified season since 1901 with a .350 BABIP that was one-third higher than their overall batting average. Those seasons are after the jump.

Here are those uncommon seasons (that have become increasingly more common recently).

Rk Player Year BAbip BA Age Tm G PA R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO OBP SLG OPS Pos
1 Anthony Gose 2015 .352 .254 24 DET 140 535 73 123 24 8 5 26 45 145 .321 .367 .688 *8/H
2 Kris Bryant 2015 .378 .275 23 CHC 151 650 87 154 31 5 26 99 77 199 .369 .488 .858 *5/789HD3
3 Mike Napoli 2013 .367 .259 31 BOS 139 578 79 129 38 2 23 92 73 187 .360 .482 .842 *3/DH
4 Austin Jackson 2010 .396 .293 23 DET 151 675 103 181 34 10 4 41 47 170 .345 .400 .745 *8/H
5 Jack Cust 2007 .355 .256 28 OAK 124 507 61 101 18 1 26 82 105 164 .408 .504 .912 D97/H
6 Mark Bellhorn 2004 .364 .264 29 BOS 138 620 93 138 37 3 17 82 88 177 .373 .444 .817 *45/H6D
7 Jose Hernandez 2002 .404 .288 32 MIL 152 582 72 151 24 2 24 73 52 188 .356 .478 .834 *6/H
8 Ben Grieve 2001 .353 .264 25 TBD 154 639 72 143 30 2 11 72 87 159 .372 .387 .760 97D/H
9 Gary Pettis 1985 .354 .257 27 CAL 125 516 67 114 10 8 1 32 62 125 .347 .323 .670 *8/H
10 Rick Monday 1968 .371 .274 22 OAK 148 563 56 132 24 7 8 49 72 143 .371 .402 .773 *8/H
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/13/2016.

The abundance of strikeouts in today’s game enhances the opportunity for a wide spread between a player’s BA and BABIP. And, those strikeouts are happening because players are not cutting down on their swings with two strikes. Thus, if they do make contact, they’re more likely to hit the ball harder than if they were just trying to put the ball in play. The result: fewer outs on balls in play and higher BABIP scores.

Hernandez’s .404 BABIP from a .288 BA is particularly noteworthy. The next lowest BA in a qualified .400 BABIP season is a .351 mark by Manny Ramirez┬áin 2000.

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Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
4 years ago

Well, I don’t know about the rest of them. But I do know that Jose Hernandez got booed at home at the end of the 2001 AND 2002 seasons for failing to strike out. Those were sad, sad times as Brewers fans, and we wanted to have something to cheer about – even if it was breaking Bobby Bonds’ single-season K record. Jose Hernandez, for his part, did NOT enjoy the fans’ (intended-as-fun-but-in-retrospect-super-disrespectful) treatment of his flailing.

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

One of those seasons put Hernandez on this list.

Hernandez, incidentally, played fewer than 100 games for 6 franchises, second only to Kenny Lofton’s 7 franchises, among those with 1500 game careers (Hernandez and Lofton were teammates once, and were once traded for each other). For bonus points, which two players played for the most franchises, with at least 100 games played for all of them (Hint: they were contemporaries, who both played over 1500 NL games, but were never teammates and were never traded for each other.)

Dr. Doom
Dr. Doom
4 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Is Rusty Staub one of the players? Or has someone played for more than 5 franchises with at least 100 G for each?

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

It’s not Staub.

The number of franchises is eight, all with 100+ games played.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
4 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

Gary Sheffield and Reggie Sanders

Doug
Doug
4 years ago

Those are the two. Dave Collins is next with 100+ games for 7 teams, and 99 games with an eighth. A quick glance at Collins’ player page shows his only black ink for his 15 triples in 1984. His next highest total is 6 (in the strike-shortened 1981 season) making him the only expansion era player with one 15 triple season and no others of 7 or more. For his career, he had 52 triples and 395 stolen bases, one of 17 players with 350 steals and fewer than 60 triples (Otis Nixon is the most extreme example with 620… Read more »

CursedClevelander
CursedClevelander
4 years ago
Reply to  Dr. Doom

One of them is Gary Sheffield. Just cleared the bar with 100 games for the Mets in his final season.

Joseph
Joseph
4 years ago

I’ve been revisiting this over the last two days and can’t even formulate a guess.

Although you’d think it would be easy because Kris Bryant has only one season, so it has to be something about that season.

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  Joseph

It’s related, indirectly, to the category in which Bryant led the NL.

John
John
4 years ago

Could it be they each had at least one season with more strike outs than games played?

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  John

They probably do have such seasons, but so do a lot of other players (there were 16 players with such a qualified season in both 2014 and 2015).

oneblankspace
oneblankspace
4 years ago

Only these players… so the likes of Barry Bonds and Rob Deer do not make this list.

Also, Pettis never led his league in strikeouts, and did have some seasons with more hits than K. (Monday never led the league either.)

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  oneblankspace

Yes, it’s only these players.

It’s only indirectly related to strikeouts, so it’s not about leading the league or reaching a given number of K’s. It’s just that making this list will require a season with a goodly number of whiffs.

bstar
bstar
4 years ago
Reply to  Doug

Is BABIP involved, Doug? I got 6 or 7 of the names out of 9 in a PI search for player seasons with a high BABIP and high strikeout totals, but I forget the exact parameters.

Daniel Longmire
Daniel Longmire
4 years ago

Doug, does it have something to do with a K rate over 25%, plus a BAbip that is more than 50 points above the strikeout metric? Ex. Anthony Gose in 2015 with a K rate of 27.1% and a BAbip of .352, or 35.2%

Doug
Doug
4 years ago

Strikeouts or strikeout rate are not part of the answer.

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
4 years ago

They all appear on a list of 105 players with 120 SO,.350 BAbip and SO greater than 0.200 PA. The names on Doug’s list above are listed in descending order of BAbip and they all have relatively low BA, OBP, SLG and OPS if that’s any help to anybody.

Doug
Doug
4 years ago

The answer lies in Richard’s observation that “they all have relatively low BA, OBP, SLG and OPS”

Joseph
Joseph
4 years ago
Reply to  Doug

A low OPS follows low OBP and SLG–so that’s not a ton of help. And Bryant’s OBP was .368, which was significantly higher than league average, so that’s not really low.

Doug
Doug
4 years ago
Reply to  Joseph

So, the one that’s left over is …

Richard Chester
Richard Chester
4 years ago
Reply to  Doug

I ran BAbip greater than .350, BA less than .300, SLG less than .510 and qualified. They are all on the list but so are 49 others.

Joseph
Joseph
4 years ago

So, coincidentally, there are the same number of players (not these players), who have had seasons with BA at least .275, and SO of at least 175–which seems quite a remarkable feat to have a batting average that high while striking out so much. But there is at least one player on the list with that feat–but it’s not that.