How Do You Measure MLB Success? Yasmani the OBP Merchant

Yasmani Grandal may have had one of the weirdest months in recent baseball memory, let alone baseball history. When one thinks of high production and solid indicators of success at the plate, many baseball fans think of the classic stats such as batting average, slugging percentage, and home runs. Even in the current baseball climate dominated by analytics and fans spouting that batting average can not be used to evaluate a player, an exceptionally low batting average is generally a sign of poor performance, even when other statistics are not consulted. But in Grandal’s case, he managed to put up a very solid May while hitting only a meager .136. 

To put it frankly, Grandal struggled to get hits in the month of May. While Grandal has never been a hit machine with his high strikeout-rate, pitifully slow sprint speed, and three true outcomes-centered approach at the plate. But in 2021, this has only been compounded by another issue for Grandal, an inability to get balls to drop in for base hits. He only has a .128 batting average on balls in play, and his xBA is .034 greater than his actual batting average. Grandal simply has not been able to manufacture base hits.

Despite his inability to get base hits and high strikeout rate, Grandal has found another way to be productive. Even with a meager .136 batting average, Grandal still accrued a .467 OBP and .409 SLG with four home runs over the month of May. He was able to walk 38.7% of the time, greater than even the legendary Barry Bonds 2004 campaign. This historic walk rate allowed for Grandal to have an OBP over 80 points greater than the next highest OBP by a player with a sub-.150 BA. Grandal was making history with his walks. He found a way to be productive without having to get base hits. In fact, Grandal had a 162 wRC+ in May, making him 62% above league average. He not only found a way to stay afloat with such a poor average, but he even thrived with it. While this is certain to change (I hope) over the course of a long season, it has been amazing to watch a player play so well while also maintaining such a low batting average.