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2014: A Phillies Statistical Oddity -- Ben Revere

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Ben Revere's game is made up of a combination of extreme strengths and weaknesses, and seeing them in display for a full season made for a very odd and interesting year.

Rich Schultz

Eric recently published his Ben Revere exit "interview" where he covered Revere's season, and touched on some of the aspects that make him such an unusual player, with extremes in his game in a number of areas:

- lots of singles
- few walks
- few strikeouts
- little power
- lots of steals

Here we are going to go more in-depth into these to highlight what a weird season this was that Ben Revere just put together:

Singles

Revere led the NL in singles this year with 162 (only 6 behind MLB batting champion Jose Altuve), and 19 ahead of the next highest. It was the most singles in a season in the NL in 7 years, since Juan Pierre had 164 in 2007.

There were only 11 players in the majors this year who singled in at least 25% of their plate appearances. Only 2 of those 11 had more than 20 PAs, and only 1 (Revere) had more than 74.

Of the 263 players with 300+ PAs, these were the top 5 in singles as a percentage of PAs:

25.9% - Ben Revere
23.8% - Jose Altuve
22.3% - Ichiro Suzuki
22.0% - Jon Jay
21.8% - Juan Uribe

Since 1900 (i.e. including the dead ball era of the early 1900s), there have only been 32 qualifying seasons with a higher singles/PAs ratio than Revere's 25.9%. And only 6 of those have been in the last 40 years, all by Ichiro and Tony Gwynn (Sr):

26.4% - Ichiro 2009 (179/678)
27.6% - Ichiro 2007 (203/736)
29.5% - Ichiro 2004 (225 singles, 762 PAs)
26.0% - Ichiro 2001 (192/738)
26.7% - Gwynn 1995 (154/577)
26.2% - Gwynn 1984 (177/675)

Revere also led the majors (i.e. all 263 players with 300+ PAs), in singles as a percentage of all hits, at 88.0%. No one else came close:

88.0% - Ben Revere
84.3% - Ichiro
83.9% - Derek Jeter
83.1% - Eric Sogard
82.4% - Jon Jay

It was the first season in four years in which any player's hits were at least 88.0% singles, and only the 6th such season in the last 20 years, joining these five:

88.5% - Elvis Andrus 2010
89.1% - Luis Castillo 2009
88.4% - Willy Taveras 2005
88.1% - Tom Goodwin 1998
88.0% - Otis Nixon 1996

Finally, and this ties into the next topic on walks, of the 201 times that Revere got on base this year (excluding reaching on errors), he got on by a single 80.4% of the time.

Of the 146 qualifiers in MLB this year, the next highest % was 66.5% (Adeiny Hechavarria). Expanding the pool to the 263 players with 300+ PAs, these were the top 5:

80.6% - Revere
71.1% - James Jones
69.4% - Ichiro
66.5% - Hechavarria
65.8% - Jeter

Obviously, Revere is in a class by himself.

In fact, no one had recorded a percentage above 80% in the majors in the last 90 years. These are the only 4 seasons since 1900 where singles represented more than 80% of a player's times on base:

80.6% - Ben Revere 2014
80.8% - Mickey O'Neil 1924
83.1% - George Maisel 1921
80.5% - Art Hoelskoetter 1906

(Also, Kirby Puckett in 1984 was at exactly 80.0%)
(Also also, O'Neil, Maisel, and Hoelskoetter had only 382, 431, and 330 PAs respectively, so I'm not sure how they "qualified for a batting title" according to bb-ref -- in any case, Revere has now set the new major league record for % of times on base via single, for any player with 500+ PAs. Ever.)

In terms of Phillies history, the 25.9% (singles as % of PAs) is a new team record. The 88.0% (singles as % of hits) is the highest by any Phillie in 55 years, since Sparky Anderson's 88.5% in 1959. And of course the 80.6% (singles as % of times on base) is also a new team record.

Summary

2014: Revere led the NL in singles (162), and led the majors in singles as a % of PAs (25.9%), and as a % of hits (88.0%)

Historically: He had the most singles in the NL in 7 years; he hit singles in 25.9% of his PAs, a figure that had only been reached 6 times in the last 40 years, and for over 88% of his hits, something that had only been done 5 times in the last 20 years. And he became the first player in 90 years whose singles represented more than 80% of his times on base.

Walks

Revere walked only 13 times in 626 PAs in 2014, for a measly 2.1% walk rate, lowest in the majors among the 146 qualifiers. It was also lowest among the 263 with 300+ PAs. You'd have to go down to 201 PAs (the amazing Reed Johnson, with 1 walk and 0.5% BB rate) to find anyone with a lower walk rate than Revere's.

(Johnson became only the 3rd player in history with at least 200 PAs and less than two walks, joining Andy Kosco [1 in 228 in 1970], and the Phillies' own Kim Batiste (1 in 214 in 1994])

But back to Revere, whose 2.1% walk rate (2.077% to be more precise) was the 3rd lowest of the 2000s by a qualifying player:

1.748% - Ivan Rodriguez 2007
1.866% - Tony Pena 2007
2.077% - Ben Revere 2014
2.079% - A.J. Pierzynski 2013
2.095% - Ivan Rodriguez 2005

Revere also set the modern Phillies record with the lowest walk rate any qualifying player has had for the team since 1900:

2.077% - Ben Revere 2014
2.123% - Nap Lajoie 1900
2.316% - Mariano Duncan 1993 
2.462% - Cookie Rojas 1968

Thirteen walks is also the fewest in a season by any Phillie since 1900 with at least 600 PAs.

Summary

2014: Had the lowest walk rate in the majors (2.1%)

Historically: Had the 3rd lowest walk rate in the majors in the 2000s, and set a new Phillies record for lowest walk rate by a qualifying player in the modern era (i.e. since 1900), and also for fewest walks by any player with 600 PAs.

Strikeouts

Well, at least Revere has few strikeouts to go with his few walks. He had the lowest strikeout rate in the NL in 2014 (7.8%), and 3rd lowest in the majors among qualifiers, behind only Victor Martinez (6.6%), and Jose Altuve (7.5%).

No surprise, given that he also led the majors in Contact% (92.3%), including an amazing 98.7% contact rate on pitches in the strike zone, also highest in the majors.

Both of those contact rates are also the highest by any qualifying Phillie in the 13 years that those stats have been tracked.

(By the way, in 2002 and 2004 Barry Bonds walked 32.4% and 37.6% of the time respectively, and hit 46 and 45 home runs -- in each of those years he struck out less than Revere struck out this year: 7.7% in 2002, 6.6% in 2004)

Power

Speaking of power, Revere did hit his first two career home runs this year, including a dramatic, ninth inning, two-out game tying shot on September 5th to spark a wild comeback win against the Nationals.

The best measure of power is ISO, or isolated power, which is simply the difference between a player's batting average and his slugging percentage. In Revere's case, even with this unexpected "surge" in home runs, he had the lowest ISO of any qualifying hitter in the majors, inching out Derek Jeter:

.055 - Revere
.057 - Derek Jeter
.069 - Elvis Andrus
.070 - Casey McGehee
.075 - Nori Aoki

To find someone with less power you would have to drop the minimum to 300 PAs, where you would find one player with less: Eric Sogard of the A's, at .045.

This year there were 62 pitchers in the majors with at least 40 PAs -- 13 of the 62 had higher ISOs than Revere. It's worth noting here that Revere's .055 in 2014 established a new career high, and raised his overall career ISO to .048.

It's no surprise, then, that Revere had the fewest extra base hits (22) of any qualifying hitter, and was tied for the fewest doubles (13, with the Rangers' Leonys Martin).

Revere recorded the lowest ISO by any qualifying Phillie since Steve Jeltz in 1986 (.043), and before that, Pete Rose in 1983 (.041).

(On a side note, I was a bit surprised to see that while Edwin Encarnacion had the highest ISO in MLB this year, just behind him at #2, and ahead of Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Abreu, was none other than Mike Trout. Not sure how many fans would have guessed that.)

Summary

2014: Revere had the least power of any qualifying major leaguer.

Historically: His ISO was the lowest produced by any Phillie in 28 years, since Steve Jeltz in 1986.

Overall Hitting

This combination made for a very odd 2014 season. His average climbed for much of the year until it breached .300 by the end of July, and was even among the leaders in batting average for a time late in the season. A .300 average has historically been the standard for a good hitter in baseball, but Revere seemingly tried to destroy any value that standard still retained by demonstrating how poor a hitter someone could be, even with a shiny .300 batting average.

We delved during the season into how he was headed for one of the worst hitting seasons anyone with a .300 average has ever had, and we can now take a look at how that ended up.

You can use any number of metrics for overall hitting, each of which has its strengths and weaknesses, but let's start with OPS. OPS isn't as comprehensive or accurate as wOBA, but it also doesn't fluctuate based on hitting environment (which makes it appropriate for measuring against a static standard like a .300 average).

Revere hit .306/.325/.361, for a .686 OPS, which is the 7th lowest OPS recorded since 1900 by anyone with a .300 batting average, and the lowest since 1940.

In Phillies history, that .686 OPS was -- by a good margin -- the lowest OPS any Phillie with a .300 average has ever produced. These are the lowest in history:

.686 - Revere 2014
.711 - Larry Bowa 1975 (heh)
.724 - Walter Holke 1924
.725 - Harry Wolverton 1903
.726 - Harry Wolverton 1901
.729 - Dave Cash 1974

wOBA is more accurate than OPS, but is problematic in this case because while the .300 standard is constant from year to year, wOBA is adjusted up or down to align with each season's league-wide OBP. Still, it's interesting to see how Revere's wOBA this year compares to that of .300 hitters across history. Especially because Revere is by far the lowest:

.304 - Revere 2014
.315 - Maury Wills 1967
.316 - Vic Davalillo 1965
.317 - Bobby Richardson 1959
.319 - Len Randle 1974

These are all singles hitters who didn't walk much, and Revere is an extreme case even among this extreme group: he walked less than any of them, and he hit for less power than almost every one.

In the context of just 2014, there were 28 players with at least 300 PAs and batting averages over .300. Of those 28, Revere was the only one with a wRC+ under 111 (92), the only one with a wOBA under .324 (.304), the only one with an OBP under .337 (.325), and the only one with an OPS under .731 (.686).

Summary

2014: Of 28 hitters with 300 PAs and .300 averages, Revere was last in OBP, OPS, wOBA, and wRC+.

Historically: He recorded the 7th lowest OPS of any .300 hitter since 1900 (and the lowest of any .300 hitter in Phillies history). His wOBA was the lowest of any .300 hitter since 1900.

Base Running

While Revere had a below average season as a batter, despite his nice .306 average, adding in his contributions on the bases made Revere an above average offensive player, overall.

Revere led the majors in runs created on the bases, combining both his base stealing and his other contributions in taking the extra base, etc.

His 49 stolen bases were the most by a Phillie in 29 years, since Juan Samuel's 53 in 1985, and tied for the 4th most by a Phillie in the modern era:

72 - Juan Samuel 1984
55 - Sherry Magee 1906
53 - Juan Samuel 1985
49 - Sherry Magee 1910
49 - Ben Revere 2014

Conclusion

To summarize the highlights:

Singles: He hit the most singles in the NL in seven years, and had the first season in the majors in 90 years in which a player's singles represented more than 80% of their times on base.

Walks: His BB% was the 3rd lowest of the 2000s, and set a new Phillies record for lowest walk rate by a qualifying player in the modern era (i.e. since 1900).

Strikeouts: He had the lowest strikeout rate in the NL (3rd lowest in the majors), and led the majors in overall Contact% (92.3%), and contact rate on pitches in the strike zone (98.7%).

Power: Revere had the least power of any qualifying major leaguer, and his ISO was the lowest produced by any Phillie in 28 years, since Steve Jeltz in 1986.

Overall Hitting: He recorded the 7th lowest OPS of any .300 hitter since 1900 (and the lowest of any .300 hitter in Phillies history). His wOBA was the lowest of any .300 hitter since 1900.

Base running: Led the majors in BsR (runs created on the bases), and his 49 steals tied for the 4th highest total in modern Phillies history.

A very unusual year indeed. Ben Revere is not going to be a star, but can be a useful player as long as he has his speed. That's true of many players who use speed as a weapon, but no other player today (and few in history) has Revere's combination of extreme highs and lows.