Three True Outcomes who last more than a few seasons are pretty rare. It’s a delicate balance and any one variable changing too much can make the whole approach collapse overnight. So it’s no surprise that there aren’t any real Three True Outcomes hitters among the all time greats. What may be surprising is what names landed in our MLB Rankings top 10 for this highly unusual group!
Last week we took a look at Red Sox prospect Bobby Dalbec, and by proxy Joey Gallo, through the lens of Three True Outcomes (TTO). TTO is the combination of strikeouts, walks and home runs, or the outcomes that do not involve defenders. We’ll ignore the the small percentage of home runs that are actually playable here. Today we thought we would take the next step and get into the all time leaders for this esoteric category!
The top twenty hitters by percentage in the piece linked above was heavily skewed toward current players. That may be a function of the shift toward trading power for contact that we’ve seen lately. We filtered out hitters with batting averages of .250 or higher because we wanted to stay away from all time great hitters who just happen to have amassed an enormous amount of home runs and walks. For this look we’re going to add another criteria; longevity. So this all time list will of hitters with the highest percentage of their plate appearances ending in a TTO who have batting averages below .250 and who were able to survive in the majors long enough to accrue at least 2000 PA.
And with that, we’ll get to the list!
#10: Mike Napoli – 44.75%
Having suffered a torn ACL and meniscus before having a single AB at the major league level this season, we may have seen the end of Mike Napoli’s career, unfortunately. He was a big part of several playoff runs, none more notable than the 2013 World Series championship for the Boston Red Sox. If his career is, indeed, done he will have finished with a .246/.346/.475 triple slash, 297 HR, 650 BB and 1468 K. That’s 2,385 TTO’s for those counting at home, and if this was an all time list for most TTO’s, he’d rank 4th. He also has the 4th most PA of anyone on this list.
At his peak, Mike Napoli had tremendous bat speed and the physique of a lumberjack. Mike Napoli was a huge part of getting past the Detroit Tigers in the 2013 ALCS, posting a 1.033 OPS that series with 2 HR and 2 2B. He will likely never have to buy a drink in the city of Boston ever again because of his part in that unlikely title run.
His run in Boston was almost derailed before it began when it was discovered that he had a degenerative condition in his hips which could have led to them fracturing. This is the same condition that ended Bo Jackson’s career. When managed with medication, however, its effects can be pushed off. Thankfully for Red Sox fans, the team and this bearded slugger were able to come to terms in a way that satisfied both parties. Because without him we wouldn’t have had this night to look back upon.
Mike Napoli has played for the Los Angeles Angels, the Texas Rangers, the Boston Red Sox, and the Cleveland Indians.
#9: Alex Avila – 44.98%
Alex Avila is still playing and at just 31 years old has plenty of time to move up or down this list. But for now, he slots in at number 9. He has the 6th most TTO’s on the list, but is more than 800 behind 5th. Avila is one of only two catchers on the list and the only one to remain primarily a backstop throughout his career. That could change before he retires, but to date has 760 games out of 876 in which he has spent time behind the plate.
His career to date has led to four postseason appearances, including a trip to the World Series in 2012 where the Tigers were swept by the San Francisco Giants. He has a good chance to get back to October baseball this year, however, as the Diamondbacks are off to a great start and currently lead their division.
The Diamondbacks catcher is currently sitting at .241/.350/.398 with 98 HR, 436 BB, and 881 K for 1,415 TTO’s and counting. Of course, with a 58 wRC+ he will need to pick up the pace if he intends to continue his career after this season. It’s probably not a big worry, though. His hard hit percentage and average exit velocity are both steady and his launch angle hasn’t changed much either. As his .280 BABIP indicates, he seems to be dealing with some poor luck on balls in play.
Alex Avila has played for the Detroit Tigers, the Chicago White Sox and the Arizona Diamondbacks.