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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