Bob Sansevere of the PioneerPress is not a baseball guy. I don't typically read his columns, so perhaps I've missed some insights. But when I do read his columns, more often than not, I find myself scratching my head. Here's what he had to say about Carlos Gomez in a recent notes column.
Gomez hiked his batting average to .265. He's still young, still a streaky hitter. But he sure can run. That stolen base was his 11th of the season, and he energized the crowd even though he was thrown out at home after his steal of third. Gomez is one of the most exciting base runners in the game and will be universally recognized as the most exciting of them all if he gets his average above .275 and keeps it there.
I don't disagree with the sentiment that, if Gomez starts getting on base more often, he could be a star. But that's not what he said. He said, "if he gets his average above .275 and keeps it there," he could be the most exiting player in baseball.
First of all, if he hits .275 and doesn't walk at all, he's still a poor lead-off hitter. As anyone besides Bob seems to have figured out, batting average is not the important stat for a lead-off hitter, on-base percentage is. He needs to either hit .350 or start walking a few times a week to be an adequate lead-off hitter. The latter is typically easier, unless he can bunt for base hits twice a game.
Secondly, Gomez has only 102 at bats (104 plate appearences) this year. So the notion that .275 is much better than .264 is just nonsense. In fact, if one of his liners for outs found a hole rather than a glove in his first 102 at bats, he would be hitting .275. Let me say it again for emphasis: The difference between his average and .275 is one hit! Over the course of the season, that's six hits. It is almost pure luck whether he collects six more hits this year.
What is not pure luck is whether he learns to take a walk every other game or so. If he can learn to do that, he will be a star in this league. I'm not saying it will happen over night. But progress in plate discipline is what we have to keep an eye on--not whether an extra bloop falls in once a month.
Bob. You get paid to know this stuff. Time to go back to school.