September 20, 2012
In A Pickle
Introducing the Bloop Factor
For lots of obvious and good reasons, we don't spend a lot of time talking about weak hitters. I don't mean bad hitters, because we actually do spend a lot of time talking about them ("Who's the worst everyday player in baseball?" is a common question, for instance). I mean weak hitters—guys who have an ability to put the bat on the ball but are completely incapable (or unwilling?) of doing so with any force, of causing the ball to travel at extreme velocities, of making a crowd, even a very inexperienced crowd, rise to its feet as it perceives the possibility of a home run.
Before we get deep into it, I want to give full credit to my sources, so I'll tell you about the genesis of this topic: this weekend, I listened to Sam Miller and Riley Breckenridge discuss how well they thought Sam would hit in adult-league baseball against low-80s heat and guys with no breaking stuff, which led to the question of how well reasonably athletic but really not terribly talented adults would do in the major leagues (one hit in 20? 30? 100?), which itself led to the question of which players in baseball have the least upper-body strength. I was along for the ride, as my brain tends to operate on a glacial scale, making me something less than a scintillating conversationalist, but then I got to thinking about weakness.
Specifically: How could we measure it? Game power is one obvious way, but some players have pop because of their legs or perfect swing mechanics, not as a matter of pure physical studliness. Strength is one route to power, in other words, but it's just one.
Alternatively, I could do a survey of which players can bench press or curl the least weight, but everybody would lie:
Me: Hey Juan Pierre, what do you bench?
Well, maybe not everybody: