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One of the concerns about contemporary baseball is that it’s becoming boring. The Three True Outcomes[1]—walks, strikeouts, and home runs—have accounted for more than a third of all plate appearances so far this season, an all-time high.

That means less action on the field. We’re not just talking about, for example, fewer hit-and-runs; we’re talking less running altogether. Byron Buxton sprinting first-to-third, Jarrod Dyson chasing down a liner to the gap, Yasiel Puig throwing out a runner—that’s exciting. Players walking to and from the dugout, trotting around the bases, or taking first base on a walk—not so much. On a related note, 42 percent of runs so far this year have scored on homers, the highest percentage ever.

That being said, if you’re a fan, the Three True Outcomes aren’t necessarily boring. A Red Sox fan doesn’t think Chris Sale strikeouts are boring. A Reds fan knows the mayhem that can follow a walk to Billy Hamilton. Yankee fans watch Aaron Judge at-bats hoping for a home run. The Three True Outcomes are boring only if your team is the victim, not if it’s the perpetrator.

So let’s try to quantify boredom from the perspective of the batter, or of the fan watching the batter. A strikeout, if not fascist, is boring. Watching your team’s batters carry their bats back to the dugout isn’t exciting. And you know what’s an underrated play for being boring? Pop ups. Pop ups are pretty much like strikeouts: Automatic outs, no chance of advancing baserunners. (Well, like dropped third strikes, hardly ever.)

We’ll start our Boring Index by adding a batter’s strikeouts and pop ups. At the All-Star break, the strikeout leader was Miguel Sano with 120, and the pop up leader was Mookie Betts with 48, believe it or not. But nobody’s going to call Sano or Betts boring. We need to adjust boring strikeouts and pop ups with excitement.

Total bases are exciting! That way we give Sano and Betts credit for what they do when not striking out or hitting pop ups. I’m proposing this formula: SO + POP – 0.55 x TB.

Why that factor of 0.55? Because accumulating every plate appearance since 1950 (the first year for which we have pop-up data), that formula gives us a value close to zero. If a player’s SO + POP – 0.55 x TB is greater than zero, he leans boring. If it’s less than zero, he leans non-boring. And rather than go with raw numbers, let’s make this a rate stat by dividing it by plate appearances.

For example, this year Sano has 120 strikeouts, 11 pop ups, 162 total bases, and 345 plate appearances. (120 + 11 – 0.55 x 162) / 345 = .121. For Betts, it’s (33 + 48 – 0.55 x 173) / 399 = -.035. He’s been wholly non-boring. Let’s call this the Boring Index. The Boring Index, expressed like a batting average, is strikeouts plus pop ups minus 0.55 times total bases, all divided by plate appearances.

Here is the all-time leaderboard among batters with 250 or more plate appearances in a season:

Player

Year

PA

SO

POP

TB

Boring Index

Adam Dunn

2011

496

177

31

115

.292

Jon Singleton

2014

362

134

23

104

.276

Mike Olt

2014

258

100

13

80

.267

Mike Zunino

2015

386

132

28

105

.265

Jeff Mathis

2008

328

90

44

90

.258

Rob Deer

1991

539

175

58

173

.256

Jeff Mathis

2011

281

75

30

64

.248

Curtis Casali

2016

256

82

23

76

.247

B.J. Upton

2013

446

151

21

113

.246

Cody Ransom

2012

282

109

15

101

.243

Or, if you prefer, batting title qualifiers:

Player

Year

PA

SO

POP

TB

Boring Index

Rob Deer

1991

539

175

58

173

.256

Rob Deer

1993

532

169

52

180

.229

Mark Reynolds

2010

596

211

43

216

.227

Dan Uggla

2013

537

171

33

162

.214

Chris Carter

2013

585

212

35

228

.208

Carlos Pena

2012

600

182

37

176

.204

Rob Deer

1990

511

147

61

190

.203

Drew Stubbs

2012

544

166

31

164

.196

Rob Deer

1989

532

158

55

198

.196

Mickey Tettleton

1990

559

160

42

169

.195

Basically Rob Deer and some other guys.

As a reality check, I looked at the least-boring players since 1950. I think this passes the sniff test:

Player

Year

PA

SO

POP

TB

Boring Index

George Brett

1980

515

22

12

298

-.252

Ted Kluszewski

1954

659

35

6

368

-.245

Ted Williams

1955

417

24

0

225

-.239

Don Mattingly

1986

742

35

2

388

-.238

Carl Furillo

1953

518

32

0

278

-.233

Ted Williams

1950

416

21

4

216

-.225

Yogi Berra

1950

656

12

15

318

-.225

Don Mattingly

1985

727

41

0

370

-.224

Stan Musial

1951

678

40

6

355

-.220

Don Mattingly

1984

662

33

0

324

-.219

No, I don’t entirely trust those pop-up numbers from years past, either. But that’s a good list, isn’t it? George Brett in 1980 played only 117 games due to injuries, but hit .390/.454/.664. His TAv was .392. He had 10.3 WARP and was an easy choice for MVP. And he struck out in only four percent of his plate appearances. You know who’s struck out that infrequently this season? Nobody.

So who’s The Most Boring Man in the World this year? Is anyone challenging Dunn’s single-season record, or Deer’s as a batting title qualifier? Here’s where we stood at the break, minimum 125 plate appearances:

Player

PA

SO

POP

TB

Boring Index

Danny Espinosa

254

91

15

63

.281

Ryan Schimpf

197

70

19

70

.256

Chris Carter

208

76

13

68

.248

Mike Zunino

222

87

17

92

.241

Trevor Story

284

100

20

101

.227

Byron Buxton

283

87

19

78

.223

Joey Gallo

291

112

18

126

.209

Tyler Saladino

128

35

7

30

.199

Matt Davidson

257

106

12

124

.194

Cameron Rupp

197

66

7

64

.192

Espinosa and his .162/.237/.276 slash line is in rarefied territory, but he seems likely to fall short of Dunn’s all-time record, and after being cut by the Angels over the weekend he’s not on pace to accumulate enough plate appearances to challenge Deer’s record for batting title qualifiers. Story and Buxton are on track to finish in the top 10 all time among batting title qualifiers, but not at the top of the list. So for all of the legitimate complaints about the way baseball is being played in 2017, nobody’s as boring as some of the players in the recent past.

But how about teams? Are there clubs that are threatening to set a new standard for being boring? Here are the all-time top 10:

Team

Year

PA

SO

POP

TB

Boring Index

Astros

2013

6,020

1,535

250

2,049

.109

Cubs

2014

6,102

1,477

330

2,118

.105

Padres

2016

6,000

1,500

293

2,115

.105

Astros

2014

6,055

1,442

304

2,084

.099

Mariners

2011

5,972

1,280

335

1,887

.097

Diamondbacks

2010

6,183

1,529

316

2,275

.096

Brewers

2016

6,061

1,543

231

2,168

.096

Cubs

2015

6,200

1,518

272

2,186

.095

Astros

2012

6,014

1,365

304

2,008

.094

Mets

2013

6,207

1,384

317

2,035

.094

It probably won’t surprise you that, rebuild project done, this year’s Astros are the only team in the majors with a negative Boring Index. Might anyone challenge the 2013 version of the club?

Team

PA

SO

POP

TB

Boring Index

Padres

3,219

840

201

1,108

.134

Athletics

3,337

852

177

1,256

.101

Rangers

3,319

819

188

1,269

.093

Rays

3,465

874

175

1,369

.085

Phillies

3,259

751

145

1,168

.078

Orioles

3,341

779

192

1,303

.076

Brewers

3,477

874

138

1,399

.070

Cubs

3,373

743

171

1,236

.069

Twins

3,386

735

176

1,238

.068

Giants

3,447

665

192

1,162

.063

Why, yes, someone might. The Padres, who appear to be running some sort of weird personnel experiment this year, are on pace to shatter the team Boring Index record. So far they’re fourth in strikeouts, third in pop ups, and last in total bases. They’re slashing .243/.303/.374, which, among the 30 teams, equates to last/last/last. There may be no player on pace to take over as the all-time Most Boring Man in the World, but the Padres may be The Most Boring Team in the World, Ever.



[1] My BP colleague, Scooter Hotz, has looked into the derivation of the term three true outcomes. It’s not entirely clear whether it’s the creation of Rany Jazayerli or Christina Kahrl. However, since both are BP alumni, I’m happy to claim it as ours in any case.

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Grasul
7/17
Home Runs are exciting, shouldn't these boring three outcome types be credited back something in the metric for their HRs? Just a thought, fun article.
bigchiefbc
7/17
Home runs are 4 TB, so they are getting credit in that metric.
Grasul
7/17
My bad, teach me for replying so early in the morning. Cheers!
djswinger
7/17
As a Padres fan this feels about right. I've been watching a lot of Houston games this season
mainsr
7/17
Astros have been a delight.
jfranco77
7/17
Peak Ichiro was about the most exciting hitter I can think of. But he didn't hit enough TBs to make the list. Should stolen bases be added into the formula? I'm not sure if that's the right fix but it might help.
marshaja
7/17
Was thinking the same. SB are pretty exciting
mainsr
7/17
I thought about adding SBs to the equation, but my concern was that they're not particularly correlated to winning, unless you look at them in tandem with success rate.
marshaja
7/18
I think the excitement of Billy Hamilton and the like being on base would influence the score whether it leads to winning or not. I know I get nervous when a base stealer gets to 3 balls.
mainsr
7/18
No argument from me: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=30215
greywilliams
7/17
Not sure how the 2014 Cubs can be on there twice. Are these batting and pitching or something? I can't think of another way they would show up that way and don't remember the 2014 Cubs pitching being that high in Ks and BBs...
mainsr
7/17
Hey sorry Dire...my bad. I won't be at my laptop until tonight, but I'll fix it then and let you know. How I managed to screw up a cut-and-paste is beyond me
marshaja
7/17
As a Cubs fan, I'm fine with 2014 being on the list twice. Reading this site was the only thing that got me through the lean years.
mainsr
7/17
Actually, the problem was that the team names was the only part of the table that I didn't cut-and-paste. So I screwed it up! That should be the 2014 ASTROS in fourth place. I'll let the editors know. Thanks again for alerting me.
Underwig
7/17
dig it, man. good article. thanks. on another note, this juiced baseball is definitely adding excitement, but it's actually making the game a little silly for my taste. right when the pitchers are regaining some dignity, MLB "tightens the strings" on them. I love baseball any which way and as a dodger fan, I'm having a ball!!!
mainsr
7/17
Thanks, Underwig. Yeah, Dodgers, like the Astros, have been a gas.
brownsugar
7/17
Congratulations on the identification of yet another way to marvel at the futility that was Adam Dunn's 2011 season.
mainsr
7/17
I'm sure there are other ways to look at it that I'm missing.