Why Martin Prado Doesn't Cut It...
I'll bet that title is what made you look, huh? If I titled this "Another Boring Post About Needing a Lead-Off Hitter", would you have opened it? Of course not. Gotcha.
And by the way, this is my first ever Fan Post - be gentle, because it's time for another junk stat.
On another board (and practically everywhere on TC), the conversation/debate is rampant on if the Braves need/will acquire a lead-off hitter. There are two sides to this argument: the-Martin-Prado-is-fine-because-he-gets-on-base side, and the a-stolen-base-threat-is-needed-at-the-top-of-the-order side. Team Jacob and Team Edward - pick your side.
Personally, I fall in the latter. I believe OBP to be important, but not the sole issue in determining a lead-off hitter, and I hope to convince you of that by reading's end. However, I believe that Prado is our best de facto lead-off hitter now, and is doing a great job, but there could be better options. Before I go into the raw numbers, let's first discuss some of the intangibles of what speed allows:
scoring from first on a double
scoring from second on a single
and (what I believe to be extremely important yet rarely mentioned:)
putting pressure on the opposing pitcher to watch the baserunner with the possibily of losing focus on the hitter at the plate
I am not saying Martin Prado cannot do any of those things (on the record, I believe him to be a great mind on the basepaths), but it is absolutely not what he is known for.
Quick disclaimer: I am using Carl Crawford as my stereotypical lead-off hitter/stolen-base threat. Admittedly, he is hitting third in the Rays' line-up, but he will suffice. Also, I am not going into rosterbation; I am NOT saying Carl Crawford will/should be a Brave next year. I am only using him as the example because he is who most TC'ers typically go to as a reference. I am also going to use OBP-machine, Adam Dunn, to try to show how OBP should not be the only factor measured in determining a lead-off hitter.
Now quick raw stats:
Carl Crawford career OBP: .336
Martin Prado career OBP: .359
Adam Dunn career OBP: .381 (just because I am the one writing this, therefore I can, I am including that Dunn's OBP this year is .359)
Prado is 23 pts higher than Crawford, and Dunn is 22 pts higher than Prado. To translate that into percentages, Prado gets on base 2% more often than Crawford, Dunn gets on base 2% more than Prado, and therefore Dunn gets on 4% more than Crawford.
In my opinion, those intangibles I listed earlier, warrant 2%. If they do not for you, keep reading.
Martin Prado averages 12 home runs a year - that is, he scores himself, 12 times. He also puts himself into scoring position each year with 40 doubles and 4 triples. That means he either scores himself or puts himself in a position to be scored an average of 56 times a year (with the bat, but we will get into that part later) in 608 plate appearances.
Dunn averages 40 HR, 20 2B, and 1 3B for a total of 61 times in 680 PA.
Crawford averages 13 HR, 28 2B, and 13 3B for a total of 54 times in 707 PA.
That was just food for thought - here is where the statistics get a little harder to solidify.
Martin Prado averages 4 stolen bases a year (you knew it was coming), Dunn 7, and Crawford 55. I cannot find statistics that differentiate stolen bases, (ie. steals of third, home, or second; or double steals). All I have are the numbers that are given me. If I had to take a guess, I would say 80% of stolen bases are straight steals of second, with 24% being steals of third. That equates to Prado 3 steals of second and 1 of third; Dunn 6 steals of second and 1 of third, and Crawford 44 steals of second and 11 of third. Also, there are no statistics that show the starting position of the baserunner who steals. I have no way to measure if a steal of second was on a double, on a stolen second off a single, or off a single/walk and then advance by S/FC. While there will be a margin of error, to be consistant (yet I know people will have problems with it), I will say that all steals of third were off doubles and all steals of first were off singles.
To be a good lead-off hitter, you have to get into scoring position - that much, I think everyone can agree on. Scoring position refers to being a runner on second or third base. However, feared HR-threats like Adam Dunn are considered to be "in scoring position in the batter's box" because of their ability to hit the long ball. That being said, I will consider HRs in this statistic as well.
So now I will redefine and enumerate scoring position with percentages:
There are three parts of scoring position now - second base, third base, and home.
Home (which refers to having hit yourself in via homerun) is 100%
Third base is 66.66%
Second base is 33.33%
What I did was divide "scoring position" into even thirds 100% likely to score via a home-run, 66% chance of scoring from third, and 33% chance of scoring from second. Again, I made this up, but it's the best I can come up with and easiest way to do it.
Now, my nifty little equation called Scoring Position Efficiency (SPE).
(home x 100%) + (third x 66.66) + (second x 33.33)
plate appearances as a percent
So what we first have to do is add in the stolen bases to the 2B/3B totals. So now their stats are: (HR/3B/2B)
Martin Prado - 12/5/43
Adam Dunn - 40/2/26
Carl Crawford - 13/26/72
Martin Prado SPE
(12 x 100%) + (5 x 66%) + (43 x 33%)
_________________________ = 48.55 SPE
.608 plate appearances
Adam Dunn SPE
(40 x 100) + (2 x 66) + (26 x 33)
__________________________ = 73.38 SPE
Carl Crawford SPE
(13 x 100) + (26 x 66) + (72 x 33) = 76.27 SPE
Really now - who saw that coming? Raise your hands. LIAR!
What this means is that Prado puts himself into scoring position 48.55% of the time on average, Dunn 73.38% and Crawford 76.27%. That equates to a ~3% more chance that Crawford will be in scoring position than Dunn and a whopping 28% more than Prado.
Again, this is a junk stat. It has nothing to do with the batters' propensity to knock the runner in from scoring position who bat lower in the order. It also does not solely measure OBP. I do not believe SPE should be the sole factor in determining one's ability to hit in the one-hole, but should at least be considered as important. R, OBP, RBI, etc do not tell the whole story.
For kicks and giggles, here are the SPE to other prototypical lead-off hitters around the league. Please, do not compare them to Adam Dunn - that was not the point here. Most hitters are not like Adam Dunn, compare these statistics Crawford and Prado.
Jimmy Rollins - 69.3 SPE
Grady Sizemore - 71.7 SPE
Hanley Ramirez - 81.9 SPE
Jacoby Ellsbury - 69.3 SPE
Chone Figgins - 52.9 SPE
Jose Reyes - 69.1 SPE