Offensive Environment Is Critical To Critiques Of Ben Revere’s Game

Corey Seidman has a piece up at CSNPhilly.com that cites an oft-used criticism of Ben Revere: his low on-base percentage. Seidman frames it in the context of a Ben Revere-Juan Pierre comparison.

“This season, though? Revere in 36 games has hit .268 with a .284 on-base percentage. He’s walked three times in 142 plate appearances — that 2.1 percent walk rate ties him for dead last in the majors with Jean Segura and Khris Davis of the Brewers.”

“When you’re a player with no power and can’t play quality defense, you better get on base a ton like Juan Pierre did in his prime. Pierre from 2000 to 2009 hit .301 with a .348 on-base percentage. That made up for an arm that was always tested and a bat that produced just 13 home runs in 1,433 games.

And you know what? As soon as Pierre started hitting below .280, he started settling for one-year deals and irregular playing time.”

Corey Seidman

He raises an excellent point. Revere’s strength is his speed and the only way he’s a valuable starter is if he uses that speed to run down balls in the outfield, get on base, and then steal additional bases. Juan Pierre is the perfect model for what Ben Revere should be trying to achieve. The fact that Pierre had a .348 OBP while Revere’s OBP this season sits at .284 should set off massive alarm bells. It’s natural for this discrepancy to raise questions and concerns about Revere’s overall effectiveness, but when analyzing Revere’s value in comparison to Pierre it is absolutely critical to remember to adjust for the offensive environment.

When Juan Pierre entered the Major Leagues in 2000, the league-wide OBP was .345. Today, league average OBP has plummeted to .317. Take a look at how Revere is doing compared to league average and how it stacks up to Pierre’s numbers:

Player Seasons PA OBP lgAvg OBP % Difference
Revere 2013-2014 478 0.322 0.318 +1.3%
Pierre 2000-2009 6066 0.348 0.334 +4.2%

 

As you can see, Juan Pierre’s numbers are still superior to Revere’s when comparing them to league average rates, but the gap between the two is significantly smaller than the raw numbers indicate. Pierre got on base at a clip 4.2% better than the average batter, while Revere is doing so just 1.3% above average. To put it another way, a .322 OBP today is markedly more valuable than a .322 OBP was during Pierre’s heyday.

I’m a known Ben Revere apologist, but even I can’t deny his .284 OBP this season is unacceptable. If that’s what his true talent is, then Seidman is right when he says Revere shouldn’t be a starter. However, we have more data about who Revere is as a hitter than just his output this year. According to this FanGraphs article coincidentally by Corey’s brother, Eric Seidman, on-base percentage stabilizes around 500 PAs. So far this season, Revere only has 142 PA’s, barely one-quarter of a reliable sample size. Revere’s full Phillies career though consists of 478 PAs, very near to that 500 milestone. For that reason, I’m inclined to put significantly higher stock in Revere’s overall .322 OBP since 2013 than what he’s put forth just this season.

Is Ben Revere an All-Star in the making? Probably not. Even Pierre never made an All-Star Game. But is Revere a dramatically lesser version of Pierre and not worthy of his starting position? I really don’t think so. At the very least, he’s still a better option than anyone currently on the Phillies roster, in particular the alternative Seidman suggests: John Mayberry, Jr.

All of this does raise a thought-provoking question. Was a speedster who got on base at an above average clip more valuable in the high-offensive environment of the ‘00’s than he would be in today’s dramatically lesser offensive environment? It’s accepted in the sabermetric community that on-base percentage is more valuable than slugging percentage, but is it conceivable that in an environment which sees fewer runners on base, slugging percentage is increasingly important? If that’s the case, even if Ben Revere develops into a perfect Juan Pierre clone and gets on base 4% more than the average hitter, he could be less valuable in today’s league than Pierre was ten years ago.

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15 comments

  1. Mike Lacy

    May 15, 2014 03:36 PM

    A speedy guy who can hit for a high average and cover a lot of ground in the outfield can be a very useful player for a major league team.

    The problems are:
    1. Revere isn’t hitting for a high average, and his defense has been subpar
    2. The rest of the lineup – and the outfield in particular – isn’t hitting for enough power to compensate for Revere’s lack of it.

    You can get away with a guy like Revere if Dom Brown is hitting home runs. But since Brown isn’t – and really nobody on the team is – then he becomes much less useful.

  2. Richard

    May 15, 2014 03:41 PM

    ” is it conceivable that in an environment which sees fewer runners on base, slugging percentage is increasingly important?”

    I believe this has been shown to be the case… in fact, I want to say I saw something at Tango’s site not too long ago touching on this point. I’ll try to locate it.

    • Dan R

      May 16, 2014 10:45 AM

      Is that what you were thinking about?

      www.tangotiger.net/markov.html

      Also, there was this article on fangraphs:

      www.fangraphs.com/blogs/team-specific-hitter-values-by-markov/

      The author used Tango’s Markov model to look at how Mark Trumbo and Alberto Callaspo would benefit teams who had very different offensive profiles. They had the same wOBA in 2011 but Trumbo had considerably more power with Callaspo having the much better OBP. It’s an interesting read even if you were talking about something else.

  3. Bob

    May 15, 2014 03:55 PM

    What’s even worse is Revere’s .259 wOBA this year. Even so, I’m a Dom Brown apologist and he’s making Ben Revere look good by comparison. It’ll be interesting to see what they do with Ruf if both Revere and Brown continue to struggle. It might still be early, but I’m rapidly growing impatient with Brown’s lack of production. It’ll be interesting to see whether they’d put Ruf in LF to see how he does and Brown a breather.

  4. Carmine Spellane

    May 16, 2014 09:05 AM

    I am a huge fan of this site and admire the work of all the writers. But for the life of me, I can’t understand the ongoing defense of Ben Revere. Bill effectively proved Revere is better than Tony Gwynn, Jr., and now Corinne says he doesn’t underperform as badly as we think when compared to the league average. The only point with which I’ll agree is that he is the best option for center field for 2014. Yes, getting hit by a Honda Civic while crossing the street is better than getting hit by a truck. Revere seems very likeable, and I’m sure he is good to his family, but I suggest he find another line of work. At his age, he should be at least showing improved fundamentals in his fielding and his patience at the plate to make up for his total lack of power and inability to drive the ball. When and if the Phillies rebuild the organization and climb back into contention, someone else will be playing center field.

    • Richard

      May 16, 2014 09:51 AM

      Maybe you should try harder. I suggest looking at Revere’s previous body of work, prior to this season, which indicates he’s not nearly as bad as he’s been in the early going this year.

    • Bill Baer

      May 16, 2014 09:57 AM

      There’s a few things to keep in mind about Revere:

      1) The Phillies are not contenders. Letting Revere play and make his mistakes isn’t keeping them out of the playoffs.

      2) Revere is not a finished product. He’s 25 and has played all of 3 full seasons in his career. We’re used to hearing about players like Mike Trout coming in and getting the job done from the moment they’re called upon, but many players struggle early in their careers because the level of competition at the Major League level is disproportionately higher than at any other jump in professional baseball. Shane Victorino didn’t become a truly valuable regular until he was 26 years old.

      3) Revere is arbitration-eligible through 2017. That means the team has control. If Revere becomes a solid Major League contributor at any point through 2016, the Phillies will have an opportunity to sign him to a contract extension. It’s in the team’s best interest to give him every opportunity to succeed and fail so they can make the correct investment (or lack thereof) when the team is legitimately competitive again in 2016 or ’17.

      If the Phillies cut bait on Revere now, they most likely non-tender him during the next off-season. Imagine he goes elsewhere, gets the proper coaching, and becomes the latest version of Juan Pierre. The Phillies will have gotten rid of him for no reason other than some fans’ impatience that the team isn’t in a good enough position to win 78 games instead of 76. Besides, who else would replace Revere right now? Gwynn? Mayberry? Hernandez? All would perform at around the same level, if not worse.

      • Sunny D

        May 17, 2014 11:01 AM

        So where do we find the right coach to make Revere an excellent outfielder Bill, he obviously doesn’t work for the Phillies as evidenced by the horrid outfield defense we see from Dom and Ben. Again, at least Hernandez showed flashes of promise while Ben continues to regress. You are right on the point where it really doesn’t matter, this team is going no where as they are constructed.

      • WayneKerrins

        May 18, 2014 06:38 AM

        You can’t coach arm strength and I seriously doubt there are many precedents for for someone who has played baseball for circa 20 something years making a stepped change improvement in the other aspects of his defense.
        If we had sufficient power in CF and RF you might be able to make a case for Revere in LF longer term but that’s about it.

  5. Tim

    May 16, 2014 09:23 AM

    Checking in on Juan Pierre’s baseball reference page, I’m struck by how cool his first name/middle name combination are. How come none of the fanbases for the teams he played for (to my knowledge) called him Juan D’Vaughn? That’s a pretty awesome name, and perfect for cheering. I regret not trying to get that started when he was here. Also, his twitter account is @jpbeastmode, which is pretty awesome for a guy who always looked like he was 15 years old out there.

  6. Drew

    May 16, 2014 12:54 PM

    I’m an old guy and the metrics are fun but in some cases I will believe my eyes. My eyes tell me that Revere is a disaster. If “strong up the middle” holds any wisdom at all, Revere should not start for any serious ball club. His paths to balls hit right at him or just slightly to right of center are inept. His having to bounce the ball to reach the second baseman is not tolerable in a center fielder; plays at the plate will never happen. He has less power than anyone in the history of center field, perhaps even in all of baseball history. His ground balls either find a hole in the infield or he does not get on base.

    He is a one tool player, and that tool is speed. The problem is that because of his other deficits, his speed is not particularly useful. Speed will improve his route to the ball and it will not be of any use on the base paths if he isn’t getting on base.

  7. George Callanan

    May 17, 2014 08:23 AM

    The Phillies list of problems includes the following a need for a new GM, more help in the bullpen, the younger players need to start producing in other words more hits, the manager needs more patience less tinkering, the huge salary people need to step it up, they also need to stop playing pathetic baseball when we play the American League which we have done for years , and finally stop babying the minor league talent in other words do not keep them there for so long. Bring them up and give them a chance what do we have to lose we are already in last place. I indicated earlier we needed to do well in the 16 games at home or the season could be lost we are 0-3 and have gone 20 innings without scoring a run. Wake up you are at home 6-12 at home is a terrible record. The future looks bleak. Is there any hope?

  8. Sunny D

    May 17, 2014 08:25 AM

    This web site has been a Ben Revere apologist site since he got here. Sorry, Cesar Hernandez would be the better option in Center than JMJ, Marlon Byrd or Revere. At least we could rationalize his shi@%y defense with the comment, well he’s just learning the outfield. Ben Revere needs a .348 OBP to off set his lack of defense (At least Juan Pierre didn’t butcher the outfield like BR). They both have useless throwing arms but Juan got to the ball and caught it.
    Putouts as OF
    2001 NL 362 (3rd)
    2002 NL 363 (2nd)
    2003 NL 402 (1st)
    2004 NL 364 (3rd)
    2005 NL 332 (4th)
    2006 NL 379 (1st)
    2007 NL 366 (5th)

    Ben has great range but when you consistently break the wrong way on balls, you are always out of position when, if, you catch them and a noodle arm just makes it worse.

    Can Tyson Giles whose hitting 238 with an OBP be worth a look, it can’t hurt this team as we are going no where as they are constructed.

  9. Alex

    May 19, 2014 10:28 AM

    I think Ben Revere could be a valuable role player in the future. I think he’s mostly a bench guy/fourth outfielder. But I think when Darin Ruf comes back, we should send Revere to AAA to work on his defense. I’m pretty sure he’s got an option left. And if the whole plan for Ruf is to play Byrd in center and Ruf at one of the corners and then send someone in to caddy defensively in the late innings, I think Gwynn is a better man for that job. He’s about even offensively and is better defensively, notwithstanding his miscue in RF a couple weeks back.

    If not Revere, who goes down when Ruf comes back? I’d think Mayberry, but if it’s him, that leaves you with a really left-handed bench, especially if the idea is to get Ruf a bunch of starts.

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