Some hitters have a unique ability to get on base despite hitting for a low batting average. That skill, which I recently examined at Bronx Banter, has been best personified this season by the Rays’ Ben Zobrist and Carlos Pena. But, what about those batters who can’t seem to find first base without recording a hit?
Among the 188 batters who currently qualify for the batting title, Cubs’ shortstop Starlin Castro has recorded the lowest divergence between on-base percentage and batting average, in terms of both differential and ratio. In the American League that distinction belongs to Mariners’ catcher Jesus Montero, which might serve as a small amount of consolation to Yankees’ fans still smarting over the trade that sent the team’s former top prospect to Seattle.
Castro and Montero are the only two qualified hitters in baseball with an on-base percentage to batting average ratio of 105% or lower, which is significant because only eight players (including Ozzie Guillen on two occasions) in the history of the game have maintained such a rate over a qualified season since 1901. Over an entire career of at least 1,000 plate appearances, the number is trimmed even further to only five players, including four who were pitchers.
Note: Based on a minimum of 1,000 plate appearances.
The only position player with an on-base percentage no more than 5% higher than his batting average was Rob Picciolo, a utility infielder who only managed 25 walks in a nine-year career. Not surprisingly, Picciolo’s OPS+ of 56 ranks as one of the lowest among hitters with at least as many career plate appearances. Interestingly, Picciolo currently serves as the bench coach for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where he is joined by batting coach Mickey Hatcher. In Hatcher’s 12-year career, his on-base percentage of .313 was only 112% above his batting average of .280. Perhaps that explains why the Angels’ currently rank last in the American League with an on-base to batting average ratio of 119.7%?