Who Is the Most Average Hitter in the League?

Jonathan India
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

When I’m not watching or writing about baseball, I like to play games. Board games, card games, video games — I’m not picky, I’m a fan of them all. I like them for many reasons: they help me keep my mind sharp, I love picking apart puzzles and trying to improve my own thought processes, and they’re just fun. One ancillary benefit: I end up hanging out with a lot of people who are younger than me.

At 37, I’m a card-carrying old in the gaming community. I can’t keep up with the youngsters in video games — my hand-eye coordination won’t cooperate — but in other arenas, I give as good as I get. It’s satisfying to butt heads with people much younger than me, and I think it helps to broaden my horizons. Also: I get to learn some wonderful slang. This is a long-winded intro that hasn’t been much about baseball, but there’s a slang payoff: “kids” these days like to call everything “mid,” and I love it.

Mid means more or less what you think it means: average or below-average. It’s broadly applicable, pejorative without being overly harsh, and conveys meaning quickly and efficiently. I’m a mid slang explainer, for example; not my fault, I’m too old to be better. But hearing one of my plays described as mid — a play I thought was perfectly average — got me wondering: who is the most mid hitter in baseball?

Here’s how I’m thinking about it: this guy is going to be exactly average in as many things as you can imagine. Really, it’s the most average player in baseball, but I couldn’t resist talking about myself a little bit up at the top, and learning new slang is fun anyway. Now, to the task at hand: what does the most average hitter in all the land look like?

You’d think this would be easy; after all, wRC+ helpfully turns all of hitting into one statistic and centers average at 100. But a quick look at some of the guys around 100 is enough to see that this won’t be good as a sole criteria. Steven Kwan has a 101 wRC+, and he’s pretty clearly not an “average” player; he has far below average power but also never strikes out. I’m looking for someone who is average across the board in addition to being average overall.

To come up with this, I first tried a very simple test: using our plus stats leaderboard, I looked for the player whose batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage deviated the least from league average. In other words, I wanted to find the player who looked almost exactly like an average player. That gave me five candidates:

The Most Average Hitter, Take One
J.D. Davis .249 .326 .412 99.4 100.8 99.1
Seiya Suzuki .257 .329 .416 102.7 101.9 100.1
Josh Bell .242 .324 .419 97.8 102.0 101.7
Jonathan India .251 .336 .409 100.5 103.8 98.3
Keibert Ruiz .258 .315 .419 103.0 97.4 100.8

These guys all have really boring batting lines. It’s just a fact. But the criteria still aren’t good enough. Davis strikes out nearly 30% of the time and makes up for it by hitting for power. Ruiz barely ever strikes out, but he also walks less and has a low BABIP. They can’t both be average by the definition I’m going for, because they look nothing like each other.

Okay, then, time to fold in more statistics. I started adding plus stats left and right: BB%+, K%+, ISO+, BABIP+, even wRC+ for good measure. Then I looked for the most average players, measured by minimum total deviation from 100s across the board, by this more exacting criteria:

The Most Average Hitter, Take Two
Player AVG+ OBP+ SLG+ BB%+ K%+ ISO+ BABIP+ wRC+
Jonathan India 100.5 103.8 98.3 97.6 89.6 95.0 96.8 97.1
Anthony Rizzo 98.7 103.6 92.0 100.5 100.2 81.8 100.6 98.7
Seiya Suzuki 102.7 101.9 100.1 111.0 108.6 96.3 106.4 102.2
Carlos Correa 93.1 97.9 98.2 118.9 100.1 106.0 92.5 96.6
Hunter Renfroe 99.3 95.8 106.5 87.1 98.6 117.2 95.8 100.0

Now these are some average hitters. The only thing India does at a clip that diverges from average by even 10% is strike out, and even then, he strikes out 20% of the time, so it feels pretty middling. Rizzo and Renfroe are average at everything except for power (in opposite ways). Suzuki and Correa walk a lot and do everything else at a normal rate. They’re all within three points of a 100 wRC+, to boot. This feels like a very solid list to me.

I think the correct answer to this question is India. But I decided to go a little further down the rabbit hole because I was having fun slicing numbers up. India is decidedly not average in his behavior at the plate; he’s a patient hitter, something you can tell after watching him for only a few at-bats. What about the hitter who makes the most average swing decisions and makes contact an average amount of the time while doing so? That feels like another way that you could be completely middling at the plate.

To do this, I turned O-Swing%, Z-Swing%, O-Contact%, and Z-Contact% into plus stats. Then I applied the same method to those four numbers and looked for the lowest deviation from average. It makes for an interesting list:

The Most Average Plate Discipline
Player O-Swing%+ Z-Swing%+ O-Contact%+ Z-Contact%+
Daulton Varsho 102.5 104.8 100.5 101.5
Manny Machado 101.2 103.9 102.8 101.6
Jeimer Candelario 98.8 103.1 105.4 101.5
Marcell Ozuna 100.0 105.2 96.6 97.4
Anthony Volpe 97.9 99.7 91.5 99.5

That’s another solid group. Varsho is spectacularly average across the board there, and Machado isn’t far behind. The problem here: Machado, for example, hits the snot out of the ball when he connects, so this list doesn’t quite feel right. As it turns out, “makes normal decisions at the plate” doesn’t feel particularly important to me when I’m thinking about the most cookie-cutter hitters. I care more about what happens with strikeouts and walks, and also what happens after the ball is in play. So I plus-ized the Statcast leaderboards on our site to get an idea of whose contact is the most average. More specifically, I did it to barrel rate and hard-hit rate; the “plus” concept works pretty well with rates and not very well with whole numbers.

This chart isn’t quite as busy, but all of these guys seem extremely average. I went to ten players for an obvious reason:

The Most Average Hitter, One More Time
Player Barrel% HardHit% Barrel%+ HH%+
George Springer 8.2% 40.0% 101.5 101.7
Corbin Carroll 7.9% 40.0% 98.0 101.5
Gleyber Torres 8.3% 39.0% 102.6 99.1
Lane Thomas 8.4% 40.2% 103.5 102.1
Ketel Marte 8.1% 41.9% 100.1 106.3
Ezequiel Tovar 8.3% 37.5% 101.9 95.1
Michael Conforto 7.4% 40.1% 91.8 101.9
Jonathan India 7.4% 38.5% 91.9 97.7
Nolan Arenado 8.6% 41.0% 106.4 104.0
Taylor Ward 8.1% 43.6% 100.7 110.7

Ah yes, our old friend Jonathan India. He might be slightly more patient than the average hitter, but that’s the only thing he’s doing differently. He hits for average power. He has average patience and strikes out an average amount. He even hits for average average. I’ve seen enough. He’s the most average hitter there is. Congratulations.

Ben is a writer at FanGraphs. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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9 months ago

This article is based.

(Did I do that right?)

9 months ago
Reply to  TKDC

All your stolen bases are belong to us