Ben Revere has been flirting with the .300 mark all year, and currently sits at .301 after a two-hit game yesterday.
However he doesn't do many other things well offensively:
- he has very little power, ranking next to last out of 156 qualifying MLB hitters this year (ahead of only Derek Jeter).
- he almost never walks and also ranks 155th out of 156 in that category.
In fact, as those two facts might hint, no player in baseball (among the 156) gets more of their value from their batting average than Revere. Or, put another way, no hitter in baseball adds less value, beyond what their batting average shows, than does Revere.
The table below shows how much of a player's value as a hitter is explained by Batting Average, Walks (and HBPs), and Isolated Power (i.e. the extra bases on their hits). "Extra" is how much higher their overall wOBA is than what is explained by their batting average. These are the bottom 5 in MLB, out of the 156 qualifiers:
When sabermetrics first gained acceptance in the 1980s, the term "empty batting average" was coined to describe the hitting of a player whose most visible stat (and the one most casual fans judge a hitter by) looks great, but who doesn't do much else to generate production. That term describes Revere today better than any regular in the game (he may not be playing regularly at the moment, but still has the playing time to be called a regular).
That's not to say that Revere is not a useful player. Even offensively, he has created 6.7 runs above average on the bases this year (through both base stealing and taking extra bases etc.), second only to Dee Gordon in all MLB.
And he plays a key defensive position, albeit not particularly well, ranking below average in fielding among CFs.
The .300 mark has been the gold standard for hitting performance, for better or worse, since the early days of the game, and in most cases it represents a very good season at the plate.
But Revere's underperfomance in other ares means that he's actually a below average hitter, with a wOBA of .301, and relative to the league overall (and adjusting for his home park), his wRC+ is 90 (i.e. 10% below league average).
How does that rank among .300 seasons through history? In other words, what have been the worst seasons at the plate, despite a .300 batting average, and how would Revere's 2014 rank among them?
Using wRC+ to measure "worst" while keeping the standard constant at .300 gives funny results in a high-offense era like the 1930s, when it was fairly easy to hit .300 and there were many who did so despite being below average hitters overall relative to their league.
Instead we'll use wOBA. Below are the worst hitting seasons in history, despite sporting shiny .300 batting averages.
First, just for kicks, we'll go all the way back to 1871 -- which of these is not like the others?
But the game was very different in the 19th century, especially so in the very early years of professional league play in the 1870s.
Below is the list of the worst .300 seasons, but this time starting with 1900:
In the 115 years from 1900 through 2014, there have been 3,127 other player seasons with .300 batting averages. EVERY SINGLE ONE of them, all 3,127, were better hitting seasons than the 2014 that Ben Revere is putting together for us. By a fairly big margin.