Bill James brought up something on Wednesday that I had entirely missed -- Colorado's Charlie Blackmon almost never hits into a double play. He has hit into 20 double plays in his entire career, and he has never even hit into five in a season.
Anyway, once you know this to be true, once you know that Charlie Blackmon almost never hits into double plays, you can instantly come up with all sorts of theories about why Charlie Blackmon almost never hits into double plays.
He's a leadoff hitter, he's a fly-ball hitter, he plays in the light Colorado air so the ball travels differently, he swings left-handed so he gets out of the box quicker, the earth rotates in such a direction as to make Charlie Blackmon more difficult to get on double-play grounders …
I thought it would actually be fun to figure out why Charlie Blackmon really hits into so few double plays.
Fewest double plays per plate appearance since 1945 (min. 2,000 PAs)
- Kazuo Matsui, one per 183 PAs
- Roger Repoz, one per 176 PAs
- Charlie Blackmon, one per 160 PAs
- Robert Stubbs, one per 158 PAs
- Don Buford, one per 157 PAs
Let's dig a little deeper into the numbers. Only Buford has more than 5,000 plate appearances in the big leagues. If you start looking at players who had long careers -- say, 7,500 plate appearances or more -- your top five looks like this:
1. Brett Butler, one per 154 PAs
- Curtis Granderson, one per 130 PAs
- Brady Anderson, one per 119 PAs
- Johnny Damon, one per 117 PAs
- Richie Ashburn, one per 117 PAs
Ichiro Suzuki is just behind Ashburn.
So Blackmon is a serious outlier when it comes to double plays. Why? There are, as you know, a lot of ways to avoid hitting into a double play. Heck, striking out avoids the double play. Blackmon does strike out quite a bit, so that helps. He is fast, so that helps. He does generally hit the ball in the air, so that helps.
But let's get to the heart of things: What is the main reason that Charlie Blackmon hits into so few double plays?
Answer: He comes up in double-play situations a freakishly small percentage of the time, even for a leadoff hitter.
Here are the players who, since 2000, have come up in double-play spots the highest percentage of the time:
1. Ruben Sierra, 23.9 percent
2. Jason Giambi, 23.1 percent
3. Paul O'Neill, 23.0 percent
4. Jeff Bagwell, 22.9 percent
5. Jose Pujols, 22.7 percent
Looking at that list, I feel like Doc Brown in "Back to the Future." Do you know what this means? Do you know what this means? This means that RUBEN SIERRA CAME TO THE PLATE MORE THAN 1,000 TIMES THIS CENTURY.
This seems utterly impossible to me. I grew up watching Ruben Sierra play. My dad grew up watching Ruben Sierra play. I believe if you look closely at the signatures for the famed Hoboken game, when the New York Nine defeated the Knickerbockers in 1846, you will find Ruben Sierra's name among them. This guy has had that many at-bats since 2000? Impossible.
Back to the point. Here are the players who, since 2000, have come up to the plate in a double-play situation the fewest times:
1. Dave Roberts, 10.6 percent
2. Fernando Vina, 11.2 percent
3. Ryan Freel, 11.3 percent
4. Charlie Blackmon, 11.5 percent
5. Billy Hamilton, 11.6 percent
So that's where Blackman's double-play avoidance really begins. He just doesn't come up to the plate very often with runners on first base and fewer than two outs. In his career, he has only come up in double-play situations 366 times.
The next question, then, is: How effective is Blackmon at avoiding the double play when he does come up in those situations? And the answer is: pretty darned effective. Not amazing. But pretty darned effective. In those double-play situations, he hits into one every 18.3 plate appearances. That is among the better ratios, but it is pretty much in line with what you might expect from an athlete and a hitter like Blackmon. He hits into double plays at about the same ratio as Didi Gregorius, Colby Rasmus, Kevin Kiermaier, Michael Bourn, Emilo Bonifacio -- guys like that.
I'll tell you someone else who is kind of amazing at avoiding double plays: Kristopher Bryant. He has actually come up to the plate in more double-play situations than Blackmon (445 to 366), and he has hit into two fewer double plays. The real story isn't Blackmon. It's Bryant. He has hit into double players one out of every 24.7 opportunities, a pretty remarkable number. But maybe it's not that surprising. He hits the ball in the air, he's a good athlete, etc.
Now that we're done with that, I'll just tell you for fun that Wilson Ramos is the guy most likely to hit into a double play -- he does it one out of every 4.7 chances he gets. The bottom five among active players are:
1. Wilson Ramos, one in 4.7 chances
2. Yunel Escobar, one in 5.3 chances
3. Salvador Perez, one in 5.7 chances
4. Yadier Molina, one in 5.7 chances
5. Kendrys Morales, one in 5.8 chances
And since we're here, I might as well tell you what is the worst double-play season since they have been keeping records. You might think it was Jim Rice's record-setting 36-double-play year in 1984, but it turns out that is not even close. Rice just happened to come up in double-play situations 202 times that year, so he only hit into double plays once out of every 5.6 chances -- that's pretty bad, but it's not even his worst season.
No, the worst belongs to … Ivan Rodriguez in 2010. He came up in double-play spots 88 times and hit into 25 double plays, one in 3.5 chances. Brad Ausmus in '02 hit into 30 double plays in 107 chances, which is a lot, but honestly, that's what you get giving a 33-year-old Brad Ausmus nearly 500 total plate appearances in a season.