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January 24, 2006

Aim For The Head

Three True Outcomes, 2005

by Keith Woolner

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The time has come to crown the 2005 Three True Outcomes champion! As we have in years past, Baseball Prospectus celebrates those batters who follow the three-fold path set forth by Rob Deer.

In more mundane terms, the Three True Outcomes (TTO) are those plate appearances that end without the defense getting a chance to touch the ball, plate appearances that end in a home run, a walk, or a strikeout. What started as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to a unique player (Deer) has, ironically, turned out to have useful applications not for batters, but for pitchers, in the form of Voros McCracken's work into defense-independent pitching statistics.

We've detailed the evolution of how we award the TTO prize in earlier years, and so we'll just restate it briefly now. The simplest TTO measure is the percentage of all plate appearances that end with a TTO.

TTO% = TTO/PA = (HR+BB+SO)/PA

However, because of the differences in the total numbers of typical home runs versus walks and strikeouts, TTO% doesn't ensure that a batter generates exceptional numbers of each True Outcome. It's possible to have a high TTO% without hitting many home runs, if you walk and strike out enough.

So what we do is take the rate of production for each True Outcome, and divide it by the major league average rate for that season. Then we take the lowest value of the three, and rank players according to that value.

TTO = Three True Outcomes
TTO% = TTO / PA
RK = TTO% rank among all hitters in the season with 300+ PA
NHR, NBB, NSO = normalized HR, BB, or SO rate (batter's rate divided by MLB rate)
NAVG = average of NHR, NBB, NSO
NLST = lowest value among NHR, NBB and NSO
RK = NLST rank


NAME              PA HR  BB  SO TTO  TTO% RK   NHR   NBB   NSO  NAVG  NLST  RK
Richie Sexson    656 39  89 167 295 45.0%  6  2.21  1.66  1.55  1.81  1.55   1
Adam Dunn        671 40 114 168 322 48.0%  2  2.21  2.08  1.52  1.94  1.52   2
Jim Edmonds      567 29  91 139 259 45.7%  5  1.90  1.97  1.49  1.79  1.49   3
Pat Burrell      669 32  99 160 291 43.5%  9  1.78  1.81  1.45  1.68  1.45   4
Matt LeCroy      350 17  41  85 143 40.9% 14  1.80  1.44  1.48  1.57  1.44   5
David Dellucci   518 29  76 121 226 43.6%  8  2.08  1.80  1.42  1.77  1.42   6
Jose Cruz Jr.    437 18  66 101 185 42.3% 12  1.53  1.85  1.41  1.59  1.41   7
Troy Glaus       634 37  84 145 266 42.0% 13  2.17  1.62  1.39  1.73  1.39   8
Jason Varitek    539 22  62 117 201 37.3% 28  1.52  1.41  1.32  1.41  1.32   9
Austin Kearns    448 18  48 107 173 38.6% 19  1.49  1.31  1.45  1.42  1.31  10
Travis Hafner    578 33  79 123 235 40.7% 15  2.12  1.67  1.29  1.70  1.29  11
Nicholas Swisher 522 21  55 110 186 35.6% 38  1.49  1.29  1.28  1.36  1.28  12
Jhonny Peralta   570 24  58 128 210 36.8% 31  1.56  1.25  1.37  1.39  1.25  13
Jason Bay        707 32  95 142 269 38.0% 23  1.68  1.65  1.22  1.52  1.22  14
Jason Giambi     545 32 108 109 249 45.7%  4  2.18  2.43  1.22  1.94  1.22  15
Carlos Delgado   616 33  72 121 226 36.7% 33  1.99  1.43  1.19  1.54  1.19  16
Jason Larue      422 14  41 101 156 37.0% 30  1.23  1.19  1.45  1.29  1.19  17
Alex Rodriguez   715 48  91 139 278 38.9% 18  2.49  1.56  1.18  1.74  1.18  18
Victor Diaz      313 12  30  82 124 39.6% 16  1.42  1.17  1.59  1.40  1.17  19
Jonny Gomes      407 21  39 113 173 42.5% 11  1.92  1.17  1.69  1.59  1.17  20

There are a lot of new names on the list, including top ranking batter Richie Sexson. In fact, only 6 batters repeat from the 2004 list: Adam Dunn, Jim Edmonds, Pat Burrell, David Dellucci, Jason Varitek, and Carlos Delgado

The top NLST value is down sharply from last year, when Dunn easily led the majors with a 1.70 worst-TTO-category (normalized strikeout rate). No player topped 50% TTO% in 2005, a rare feat done only 27 times in the past 46 years, most recently by Dunn and Barry Bonds in 2004.

While the list shows the top 20 players by NLST, I've also shown their rank in pure TTO%. Interestingly, the #1 player in TTO% doesn't appear at all in the top 20 (or indeed, the top 50) among NLST leaders. The easy answer to this question used to be Barry Bonds, who excelled in HR and BB, but stubbornly refused to strike out more often. But Bonds was on the sidelines much of the year and failed to qualify for the TTO leaderboard this year. Can you guess the identity of the TTO mystery man of 2005? The answer appears at the end of the column.

On to the task of naming the 2005 champ. The top of the charts are dominated by two players, Richie Sexson and Adam Dunn, separated by a mere 0.03 in NLST. Both have strikeout rate as their lowest True Outcome Category. They were tied in normalized HR rate, while Dunn held a significant advantange in normalized BB rate. Indeed, Dunn led Sexson by 3% in TTO%. A mere three strikeout swing between Sexson and Dunn would have swung the NLST ranking in Dunn's favor. Yet we can not simply ignore the fact that Sexson most strongly embraced each of the Outcomes. So, as we did two years ago, we crown co-champions. Richie Sexson and Adam Dunn jointly win the 2005 Three True Outcomes championship, giving Dunn a share of the crown in each of the past three seasons. Baseball Prospectus offers our congratultations to the best at playing "Keepaway from the Defense!"

Other TTO trivia for 2005:

There were four players who managed to reach the lowest possible NLST score of 0, by hitting zero home runs.


NAME              PA HR  BB  SO TTO  TTO% RK   NHR   NBB   NSO  NAVG  NLST  RK
Jamey Carroll    358  0  34  55  89 24.9% 162  .00  1.16   .93   .70  .00  281
Jason Kendall    676  0  50  39  89 13.2% 280  .00   .91   .35   .42  .00  281
Tony Womack      351  0  12  49  61 17.4% 260  .00   .42   .85   .42  .00  281
Scott Podsednik  568  0  47  75 122 21.5% 208  .00  1.01   .80   .61  .00  281

But the lowest TTO% only includes one of the players with zero home runs:

NAME              PA HR  BB  SO TTO  TTO% RK   NHR   NBB   NSO  NAVG  NLST  RK
Paul Lo Duca     496  6  34  31  71 14.3% 275  .45   .84   .38   .56  .38  244
Miguel Cairo     367  2  19  31  52 14.2% 276  .20   .63   .51   .45  .20  270
Tike Redman      344  2  19  27  48 13.9% 277  .22   .68   .48   .46  .22  267
Aaron Miles      347  2   8  38  48 13.8% 278  .21   .28   .67   .39  .21  268
Freddy Sanchez   492  5  27  36  68 13.8% 279  .38   .67   .44   .50  .38  245
Jason Kendall    676  0  50  39  89 13.2% 280  .00   .91   .35   .42  .00  281
Toby Hall        463  5  16  39  60 13.0% 281  .40   .42   .51   .45  .40  238
Juan Pierre      719  2  41  45  88 12.2% 282  .10   .70   .38   .39  .10  280
Placido Polanco  551  9  33  25  67 12.2% 283  .61   .73   .28   .54  .28  262
Neifi Perez      609  9  18  47  74 12.1% 284  .55   .36   .47   .46  .36  249

I think we can safely call any player on either of the two preceding lists TTO Heretics. The "Princes of Put-It-In-Play" in 2005 must be Jason Kendall and Juan Pierre, both of whom managed to rank 280th or lower out of 284 in both NLST and TTO%, thus earning the enmity and scorn of True Outcome lovers everywhere.

The highest TTO season (by NLST) since 1960 are headed by the patron saint of the Three True Outcomes, Rob Deer. Both The Deer and his earlier incarnation, Gorman Thomas, appear twice on the top of the chart.


YEAR NAME              PA HR  BB  SO TTO  TTO%   NHR   NBB   NSO  NAVG  NLST
1991 Rob Deer         539 25  89 175 289 53.6%  2.20  1.90  2.14  2.08  1.90
1987 Fred McGriff     356 20  60 104 184 51.7%  2.04  1.90  1.88  1.94  1.88
2001 Mark McGwire     364 29  56 118 203 55.8%  2.73  1.82  1.87  2.14  1.82
1986 Gorman Thomas    377 16  58 105 179 47.5%  1.79  1.74  1.81  1.78  1.74
1979 Gorman Thomas    668 45  98 175 318 47.6%  3.15  1.73  2.10  2.32  1.73
1987 Rob Deer         566 28  86 186 300 53.0%  1.80  1.71  2.12  1.88  1.71
2004 Adam Dunn        681 46 108 195 349 51.3%  2.34  1.84  1.70  1.96  1.70

Trivia answer:

So, who led the majors in TTO% in 2005, yet failed to be crowned as the TTO champion due to a failure in one of the True Outcomes?


NAME              PA HR  BB  SO TTO  TTO% RK   NHR   NBB   NSO  NAVG  NLST  RK
Mark Bellhorn    355  8  52 112 172 48.5%  1   .84  1.79  1.92  1.52   .84  92

Keith Woolner is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Keith's other articles. You can contact Keith by clicking here

Related Content:  The Who,  Jason Adam,  Tto,  Three True Outcomes,  Jason Kendall

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