On-base Percentage

I was out helping a friend shop for a new TV today and caught some footage of Harold Reynolds talking on ESPN. I like Harold Reynolds, I remember him as the second baseman for the Mariners when I was growing up in Seattle. That said, he was spewing some real non-sense today.

(Paraphrased) On-base percentage is overrated. Look at some of the guys who lead the league in on-base percentage (Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, etc. I actually can’t remember this list that well) and they clog up the bases. Now take a guy like Corey Patterson or Jimmy Rollins or Derek Jeter and they have a lower on-base percentage, but they score more often when they do get on base.

This is wrong on so many levels I hardly know where to begin.

First, if you get on base without hitting a home run, whether you score or not is almost entirely dependent on the hitters behind you, not anything you have control over.

The examples he gave were all (this year) lead-off hitters. Look at some of the guys hitting in the heart of the order behind Reynolds’s fair-haired boys: Bobby Abreu, Jim Thome, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Gary Sheffield, Jorge Posada… you get the idea. If you have good hitters hitting behind you, yes you will score a higher percentage of the time when you get on base, because the hitters behind you will get more hits than the average hitters.

Now let’s look at the other examples: Frank Thomas, Edgar Martinez, etc. are all middle of the linup hitters, behind them are the dregs of the lineup. Dan Wilson just doesn’t pack the same punch that Manny Ramirez does. Aaron Rowand may be a heckuva nice guy, but he’s not (yet) a great hitter. Yes, speed does make a difference, but if you get on base and are relying on a bad hitter to get you home, you’re not going to make it as often as you would if you had a good hitter to get you home.

Is it just me, or was not painfully obvious?