Though all baseball analysts would agree that a 25 game sample isn’t enough to draw conclusions, there is one exception.
We can remark on statistical events if they represent a change in ability, style or approach. For Kansas City Royals DH/1B Billy Butler, his remarkable OBP can be attributed to a new plate approach.
According to an article in the Kansas City Star, Butler says that he has realized that a walk and a single are both going to put him on first base: “If they’re not going to throw it in the zone,” Butler said, “you’ve got to take your base. Or you go back to the dugout with an out. Which would you rather do? The game is all about avoiding outs, especially in my position.”
This statement by Butler shows the slow-moving trend among MLB players to embrace sabermetrics. The concept of OBP allows players to realize that a hard hit single is equally as valuable as a walk, and provides sluggers like Butler and Cincinnati Reds 1B Joey Votto another approach to add value to their games beyond just hitting the long ball.
This trend correlates to the rising strikeout totals in baseball. As hitters realize that all outs are basically equal, they’re more ready to work deep into counts and not fear striking out. Swinging at the first strike you see and making an out is likely less valuable than a five-pitch strikeout, as you make the pitcher labor and show more of his pitches.
Though sabermetrics are likely to infiltrate players’ minds even slower than they did front offices, its value is already apparent to the players that choose to embrace them.
Gabe Isaacson is a writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @gabeisaacson.