WTF

Who are you?

I fell in love with baseball statistics looking at the backs of baseball cards in the late 80’s. Playing with Microsoft Excel and reading lots of Bill James books took me to the next level. Now I am a big freakin’ dork. Sites like baseball-reference.com have put complete minor league numbers into a central location, making it super-easy for dorks like me to run some numbers on them.

What is “Hitting Potential”?

By itself, the number doesn’t really mean anything. But it’s a way to rank players relative to each other. Coincidentally, it goes from about .000 to 1.000, with .500 players being your run-of-the-mill major leaguers. The highest number I’ve come up with was .948 for Willie Mays, and the lowest was .275 for Matt Bush (what a bust!).

How is “Hitting Potential” calculated?

I don’t want to give away my secret sauce, but it crunches all of a player’s minor league hitting statistics to come up with a single number that approximates a player’s potential with the bat.

My numbers take into account the kind of power a player is showing in the minors, with the assumption that some of their doubles and triples might turn into additional homers as they get bigger and stronger. It also takes into account a batter’s “eye” by preferring guys who are able to draw a walk and avoid the strikeout. If a player doesn’t have any sort of eye in the minors, he’ll usually struggle in the majors. Lastly, I look at age. Younger players are preferred since a) being rushed to the majors usually means that there is are something special about them that may not be reflected in the stats, and b) they get to spend their formative years playing against the best of the best.

But the system is not perfect. So that everyone is ranked on the same scale, I only use minor league stats that aren’t normalized for level, league, or park. So batting .350 for A-ball High Desert counts the same as batting .350 at AAA Durham. If/when I can get reliably normalized minor league stats, I’d love to run the numbers again. I also don’t run numbers for Independent League players, since guys like Johnny Bladel put up slow-pitch softball like numbers that don’t mean a whole lot.

There’s also the assumption that players are promoted according to their ability, so that they are always facing the appropriate level of competition. While this is true most of the time, sometimes there’s a guy lingering in the low minors for some reason and killing it. That’s when the numbers lose some value. The guy will look a lot better better than he really is.

Which players do you profile?

I like looking at rookies and future stars, players with little or no major league experience. I get names from online prospect lists, baseball broadcasts, and my own statistical digging. After players have already established themselves in the majors, it can be fun to go back and see how they did in the minors to see how good my numbers really are.

I don’t do pitchers, mostly because inevitable career-altering injuries mean that it’s not worth the effort. By the time I’ve finished crunching the numbers, they’ve torn a labrum or UCL. But maybe I’ll get into it soon.

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What Jeff thinks.