Top 20 power hitters of 2012
Top twenty power hitters in 2012
There is an old quote that equates statistics to rather severe untruths. As with many quote and sayings, there is a grain of truth to it; statistics must always be viewed in the context they were compiled and with the proper margins of uncertainty calculated for instances where one is trying to predict the future. But that is only as accurate as the saying gets and really statistics are quite good if one is using them correctly. Generally speaking they only appear to be close to 'damned lies' if one is either intentionally (to make a point) or inadvertently (due to being ignorant/incompetent) abusing them. Most people do seem to be in the latter category and especially a lot of sports commentators. How often has one heard the entirely erroneous and statistically baseless suggestion that a player is 'due' to break out of a slump? It's popularity seems to be directly proportional to it's inaccuracy. For evidence of how effective statistics are in the hands of someone who knows what they are doing, however, look no farther than Nate Silver's success at predicting the last two American presidential elections.
Easier, much easier, than trying to predict an election from poll data is analysing past performances from a sport such as baseball where there is so much data readily available. When looking back one still has to be careful, there is a lot of variation of which to be mindful, but simply organising numbers from largest to smallest is an excellent way to start. Many times the differences will actually turn out to be large enough to finish there.
For this project, we want to look at the best power hitters in the major leagues. And there is an obvious stat to use: slugging per cent. Slugging per cent is the total bases of a batter divided by his at bats; it's theoretically capped at 4.000 therefore. That would be a batter who homered in every one of his at bats. On the other side of that, a batter whose only hits were singles would have a slugging per cent identical to his batting average. The biggest caution to use in analysing slugging per cent is home advantage. A batter who plays half of his games in the home run friendly Yankee Stadium is going to get more total bases than an identical hitter playing in Comerica Park where many of those drives would go for outs or doubles instead. That said, however, because batters still have to play half of their games away from home the effects will be mitigated.
As a first order approximation, therefore, one could say that simply the twenty hitters with the best slugging per cent are the twenty best power hitters. This will do for most cases, but to be a little bit more interesting it is worth tweaking the numbers slightly to reflect home ballparks. This also introduces some subjectivity into the rankings as no two people will do so the same way.
20 - Ian Desmond, Washington Nationals
Most of the media attention around the National League East Champions centred on Bryce Harper (as far as hitting went, anyway), but it was Ian Desmond who put up the better power numbers with a .511 slugging per cent.
19 - Carlos Gonzalez, Colorado Rockies
It was a disappointing year for the Colorado Rockies, but they at least had Carlos Gonzalez. In the thin Denver air and massive expanse of Coors Field he managed to put up a slugging per cent of .510
18 - Alex Rios, Chicago White Sox
The centre fielder for the Chicago White Sox had an excellent year as his team made a bid for the AL Central title. His slugging per cent of .516 is indicative of some of this.
17 - Billy Butler, Kansas City Royals
Billy Butler not only slugged 29 home runs playing half his games in the large dimensions of Kauffman Stadium, he also hit over .300 and knocked in more than a hundred runs. All those combined to get his slugging per cent to a very good .510 in 2012.
16 - Garret Jones, Pittsburgh Pirates
It was another chaotic and dismal end to a promising year in western Pennsylvania, but the efforts of Garret Jones is one of two from which the fans there can take a lot of hope.
15 - Albert Pujols, Los Angeles Angels
It would not be fair to say that the high profile free agent move of Albert Pujols failed to pay dividends for the Los Angeles Angels. They did finish in third place, but it was no fault of Pujols who chipped in with a .516 slugging per cent.
14 - Allen Craig, St Louis Cardinals
The mostly unheralded right fielder for the St Louis Cardinals put together a lovely season fir the Wild Card winners and finished the year with a well deserved .522 slugging per cent.
13 - Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks
There was no playoff berth in the desert this year, but Aaron Hill made every effort to get his team over the line in a tough division. His .522 slugging per cent and 26 home runs show his class.
12 - Josh Willingham, Minnesota Twins
Josh Willingham's numbers do him a slight injustice and actually were it not for the excellence of others he might be higher up on this list. He had a brilliant season in Target Field with both bat and ball and was one of the few bright spots for the Minnesota Twins this year.
11 - Prince Fielder, Detroit Tigers
Prince Fielder is only eleventh on this list because of a slow start. But once he heated up he took his team to the top of the AL Central and did it all in one of the largest parks in the Major Leagues.
10 - Aramis Ramirez, Milwaukee Brewers
A good year, albeit in a losing cause, for the Milwaukee Brewers saw Aramis Ramirez put up a .540 slugging per cent and finish in the top ten best power hitters.
9 - Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
It was a good regular season for the New York Yankees' second baseman, but it will likely be more remembered for humiliation at the All-Star Game and for an abject failure in the playoffs as the Yankees crashed out of the ALCS in four games. His numbers in Yankee Stadium also flatter him.
8 - Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
It could hardly have been a better season for Buster Posey. A World Series ring to go with his National League MVP award and Comeback Player of the year award. It almost seems irrelevant to bring up his .549 slugging per cent.
7 - Andrew McCutchen, Pittsburgh Pirates
This was the other bright spot for Pittsburgh Pirates fans. It was a fantastic season for Andrew McCutchen and he came tantalisingly close to leading them to the playoffs before it all went pear shaped at the end of the season.
6 - Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
The numbers for Adrian Beltre are a bit flattering as Rangers Ballpark is barely larger than the tabletop models that they sell. But still a slugging per cent of .561 is impressive.
5 - Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
It's not true to say that it went unnoticed, but Edwin Encarnacion probably did not get the attention and praise he deserved for his .557 slugging per cent. He had a fantastic season and in another year might have been one of the best power hitters in the league.
4 - Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
Another player who is very flattered by his numbers coming as they do from Rangers Ballpark. But as with Beltre above, the sheer weight of the numbers is enough to accept that they probably would have been pretty good even in a real stadium.
3 - Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
There is no question that the AL Rookie of the Year had an incredible season and probably the best ever by a rookie. He slugged a fantastic .564 and were it not for the stiff competition in the AL West he might have led the Angels to a division crown.
2 - Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
There is going to be some controversy around Ryan Braun. He was accused of being a drugs cheat during the offseason, but the evidence was mishandled and he was cleared. It is suspicious, but the fact is that there is no evidence now to suggest that his numbers are not legitimate and they were the second best in the major leagues.
1 - Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
There was never going to be a question about this. The AL Triple Crown winner and deserved MVP managed a .606 slugging per cent in Comerica Park. It is 420 feet to straight away centre field there and he still averaged better than six bases per ten at bats! It is a stunning output and there is no question that Miguel Cabrera was the best power hitter of 2012.