You’ll often hear a baseball player referred to as a “Three True Outcomes” hitter. Players like Rob Deer, Adam Dunn, and Russell Branyan are a few classic examples of TTO hitters. Each one of these players are either going to strike out, walk, or hit a home run in the majority of their at-bats. Thus, the “Three True Outcomes” are BBs, Ks, and HRs.
In 2000, Baseball Prospectus whipped up a handy formula to determine which players had the highest percentage of the TTO. It’s defined as:
Consider that the highest single-season Three True Outcome (TTO) average (defined as (HR+BB+K)/(AB+BB)) by a batting qualifier in history, 57.7%, belongs to Mark McGwire in his record-setting season of 1998. Feel our power.
Recently, I’ve been playing with the Lahman Database and I thought it would be interesting to see who held the title of the greatest TTO hitter in Giants — I’m only examining the San Francisco era — history. The recently updated Lahman Database now includes the 2008 season making it a perfect time to run through some Giants history in search of the best and worst TTO baseball players. A couple of brief methodology points.
- I’ve limited the hitter sample to those with at least 500 career ABs. Unsurprisingly, there was a large portion of players who only got a cup of coffee with the team, making their ABs sample too small. 500 ABs is almost a full-season of play, so I think it should suit our needs fine.
- In addition to limiting the hitters by at-bats, I’ve also tossed out pitchers. I’m only really interested in position players. If I left pitchers in the sample, I had people like Mike McCormick and Gaylord Perry showing up because they played for the Giants over a long time period and they ended up striking out a ton — inflating their TTO score.
That’s it. It’s a pretty simple idea. I’ve ranked the Giants by the Top-10 TTO hitters and I thought it would be interesting to see the Bottom-10 as well — the players that didn’t walk, strike out, or hit many HRs. These players should be contact oriented free-swingers. Today we’ll be looking at the top TTO hitters and tomorrow, we’ll check out the bottom TTO hitters.
Top-10 SF Giants TTO Hitters (1958-2008)
The #1 TTO hitter in the San Francisco era for the Giants is — drum roll please — Dave Kingman who clocks in with a TTO% of 46.16. Kingman is a classic story. A moody, defensively challenged, free-swinging, talented as hell baseball player who never really lived up to enormous expectations. Yet, he played for 16 seasons and was an above average hitter — a career OPS+ of 115 — that piled up strikeouts, home runs, and walks. He finished his career with 442 HRs, placing him 35th all-time on the HR leaderboard. Dave Kingman was Adam Dunn before Adam Dunn existed. ‘Kong’, as he was nicknamed, was a Giants farm product when the team drafted him in the 1970 Player Draft.
Kingman only played four seasons with the Giants before the team traded him to the New York Mets because of defensive problems. But, in those four seasons from 1971-1974 Kingman did what he did best — hitting. By our TTO numbers, he had 1,242 at-bats in which he walked 138 times, struck out 422 times, and hit 77 home runs. In ’72 at 23-years-old Kingman finished 6th in the NL for HRs with 29. Over the next two seasons, the Giants limited him to 305 and 350 ABs, then he was gone to New York.
#2 on our TTO% list is some guy named Barry Bonds. Bonds doesn’t really fit the mold of TTO hitters because in his prime, he was guaranteed to hit for a high average, something that most TTO hitters don’t do, but his TTO% of 42.41 is second best among our list. In 6,263 ABs he produced 586 home runs with 1,947 walks. I’ll note here that those are un-intentional walks. If you counted the additional 575 IBBs that Barry accumulated with the Giants, he would move past Kingman — by a fraction of a percentage point — for the #1 all-time TTO Giants hitter.
Jack Hiatt is the only other hitter besides Kingman and Bonds to break the 40% threshold for the TTO% scores. He comes in at #3. Hiat played five seasons with the Giants from 1965-1969. Hiat picked up 661 ABs during those five years and he was a very useful part-time player. He never hit for much power but he knew how to draw a walk. Drawing 132 walks to 175 strike outs.
The remainder of our list has some classic Giants. Dick Deitz is #4 on our list with a TTO% of 38.22. He played six seasons with the Giants from 1966-1971. Deitz is probably the best modern catcher in Giants history, his career OPS+ of 129 makes him the best hitting Giants catcher of the modern era. Over those four seasons Deitz accrued 1,634 ABs, walked 318 times, struck out another 366 times, and belted 62 home runs. His 1970 All-Star season is the 2nd best ever single season performance by a Giants catcher — Buck Ewing’s 1888 season edges him out by a few OPS+ points. In that season Dietz hit: .300/.426/.515 with 22 HRs. Those are monster numbers from a catcher.
Bobby Bonds makes the list at #6 with a TTO% of 37.43. Bonds played with the Giants from 1968-1974 and during that time he had 4,047 ABs with 500 BBs, 1016 Ks, and 186 HRs. Bond was always a free-swinger but his combination of power and speed was unheard of. If you search for the number of seasons in which a player hit a least 30 HRs and stole 30 bases, you would find that Bobby Bonds is all over that list. He appears 10 times, more than any other player ever in the history of the game. Definitely one of the more unappreciated historical players.
Willie McCovey is #7 with a score of 35.65. ‘Stretch’ hit a bunch of HRs during his time with the Giants — 469 in total — and he walked a ton and struck out a ton. Ellis Burks finishes right after McCovey with a score of 34.45. Burks had 2.5 very nice seasons with the Giants after coming over in 1998 from the Colorado Rockies. In 930 ABs he walked 144 times, stuck out 166 times, and hit 60 HRs.
Part of me was surprised to see Fred Lewis show up at #9 with a TTO% score of 34.14 but the other part of me wasn’t. Fred racked up a lot of strikeouts last season and in 636 career ABs he has struck out 159 times. That’s certainly boosted his TTO%. He’s also walked 70 times and hit 12 HRs over that time span.
Finally, at #10 on our list we have Billy North with a TTO% of 33.09. This is exactly why I love doing historical lists like this. I had no idea who Billy North was until today. I had never heard his name, not even once. North played with the Giants from 1979-1981 and must have been the master at drawing walks. Over his three years with the Giants, North drew a total of 203 walks in 1,006 ABs. He also struck out 190 times and only hit 7 home runs. North played primarily CF during his Giants years and his 1980 season line is pretty strange. In that year he hit: .251/.373/.292, posting a higher OBP than his SLG. North actually drew more walks — 81 — than he struck out — 79 — in that season. He also swiped 45 bags in that year, very cool.
This is the only picture I can find of North, when he was playing with the A’s.
He just looks speedy and slappy. Awesome.
Comment Starter: What do you make of the Top-10 TTO list? And, do you remember Billy North?