Giving Away At Bats

Like many in the Athletics Nation community, I also read articles on the website Fangraphs. One piece this season has stayed with me. On September 9, Fangraphs posted an article by Kevin Goldstein called The Rays’ Unique Ability To Mitigate Risk | FanGraphs Baseball.

For most of the article, Goldstein examined why the Rays pitch effectively even though they use so many relief pitchers. Most of the time, a team that cycles though relief pitchers in bunches is a bad team—like the Baltimore Orioles this year. But the Rays, as they often do, defy common practice.

I actually did not remember that part of Goldstein’s article. I only remembered it when I re-read it before writing this. What stuck with me, was a short section at the beginning of Goldstein’s article in which he explained why the Rays score so many runs.

Goldstein’s question was how does a team that has no high-priced free agent, slugger, like Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, or no home-grown, young stud, like Juan Soto or Fernando Tatis Jr, score so many runs? You will see in a moment why I am ignoring the Rays’ young phenom Wander Franco.

Goldstein’s answer is simple. While the Rays do not have Bryce Harper or Juan Soto, they do have a deep roster of above-average hitters. In fact, they have more than any other team in the American League East. When Goldstein wrote his article, the Rays had 11 hitters on their roster who had at least 200 at bats and a wRC+ of more than 100. Now you know, why I left out Wander Franco. They Rays had 11 hitters at that level as of September 9 even without Franco yet to reach 200 at bats.

The rest of the American League East follows pretty much follows the standings. As of September 9, the Red Sox had eight hitters with 200 at bats and a wRC+ of more than 100, the Blue Jays had seven, while the Yankees and the Orioles had six each.

The A’s by the way finished the season with seven: Olson, Marte, Kemp, Cahna, Laureano, Brown, and Chapman (barely with a wRC+ of 101). And Brown only lifted his WRC+ above 100 with two home runs on the last game of the season.

Goldstein’s answer as to why the Rays offense is so good is that they have no soft spot in their lineup. They can field a lineup of nine players with a wRC+ of more than 100. In other words, even if you don’t have a superstar hitter to anchor your lineup, you can still have an excellent offense if you have a lineup full of above average hitters, and if, and here’s the important part, you minimize the players in the lineup with a wRC+ of less than 100.

All of which brings me to our beloved Oakland A’s. What stuck with me after reading Goldstein’s article is not how many at bats did the A’s give good hitters, but the opposite. How many at bats did the A’s give to hitters who’s wRC+ was less than 100? Or, how many players did the A’s give substantial at bats who, relative to the rest of the league, were easy outs? The answer is four.


At Bats


Elvis Andrus



Sean Murphy



Mitch Moreland



Chad Pinder



Two more players just missed joining the group above.


At Bats


Josh Harrison



Stephen Piscotty



One player on the A’s finished in limbo. Jed Lowrie had 512 at bats with a wRC+ of exactly 100.

The Rays have three players with more than 200 at bats and a wRC+ of less than 100. What about the A’s main division rivals? The Astros have three. But one is catcher Martin Maldonado who contributes defensively, and another is Myles Straw whom the Astros traded away. The Mariners have five, with 670 at bats going to Kyle Seager whose wRC+ is 99 and 377 at bats to Jared Kelenic whose wRC+ is 73.

The more I thought about giving at bats to weak hitters the more I realized that baseball really needs another stat--one which would measure a team’s GAAB%, its Giving Away At Bats percentage. Defined as: the percentage of a team’s total plate appearances that went to hitters with a wRC+ of less than 100.

To compute these numbers, I only looked at a few American League teams and I did not include at bats by pitchers. I took the plate appearances taken by position players with a wRC+ of less than 100 and divided it by the team’s total plate appearances.

Before I give the A’s GAAB% this year, I will give you some other teams’ GAAB% so you have a context for guessing the A’s percentage.



The Rays


The Astros


The Mariners


What about the worst team in the American League this year, the Baltimore Orioles: 35.7%

What about a team which finished around .500, like Cleveland: 56.7%.

The Mariners’ GAAB% makes you wonder if the team played above its head this year. While Cleveland has an astonishing 11 players with more that 200 at bats and less than 100 wRC+. It makes you question how much worse its record would be if not for the efforts of a handful of their talented pitchers.

Now the A’s: 24.2%

No team will have a GAAB% of zero. Every team has a back-up catcher, utility infielder, or 4th outfielder. Every team calls up players from Triple-A to fill in for injured players. But the A’s GAAB% can give the team a yardstick to measure how much the team has to improve to match the offense prowess of the Astros or the Rays. The A’s have to transfer about 500 at bats from batters with a wRC+ of less than 100 to those with a wRC+ of more that 100. How the team does that is part of the off-season debate.