Aaron Altherr: The Best Extra-Base Hitter In MLB History, Sort Of
So here’s the thing about Aaron Altherr: he is the best* extra base hitter in major league history. (*Okay, sure, we’re going to need a few qualifiers here.)
During his major league career, Altherr has stepped to the plate 199 times and recorded 40 hits. If you think that sounds like it should result in a low batting average, you are correct. He’s batting just .237, but sports a significantly more impressive .338 on-base percentage thanks in large part to a 10.6 BB%. Now let’s take a look at a breakdown of those 40 hits:
|Aaron Altherr’s 40 hits|
Add that all up and you’ll find 23 of Altherr’s 40 hits (or 57.5%!) have been of the extra-base variety. This got me wondering who holds the record for highest extra-base hit percentage (XBH% = XBH/H) and so I went to the best place to answer a question like that, the Baseball-Reference Play Index. I set the plate appearance minimum of 170 so that it was low enough to include Altherr and generated the following All-Time XBH% Leaderboard:
There’s Aaron Altherr right up on top — and with a sizable lead, at that. But that’s not even the best part of this leaderboard, not even close. The best part is the identity of the player ranked seventh on this leaderboard — Diamondbacks pitcher Shelby Miller! Having spent his entire career in the National League, Miller has taken quite a few major league at bats and, in doing so, has posted the following dismal slashline: .115/.153/.192. He’s recorded just 21 hits, but 11 (!) of them have been of the extra-base variety — 9 doubles, 1 triple, and 1 home run. His inclusion over guys like Mark McGwire does an excellent job of illustrating how trivial this metric is.
If you’re like me and curious how much lower you’d have to set the plate appearance threshold in order for Altherr to be dethroned, the answer is not much further. San Diego Padres rookie Ryan Schmipf currently has 145 career plate appearances, 27 hits, and an absolutely mind-boggling 20 extra-base hits. Crunch the numbers and you’ll discover that comes out to an utterly absurd 74.07 XBH%.
Is Aaron Altherr the greatest power hitter of all-time? I’m going to go out on a limb and say no. He is, however, a player whose power ticked up tremendously last season and has shown indications in his performance over the past week that the newfound power was for real. I worried the wrist injury would diminish his power for a period of time, but two homers and a double during his first seven games back in the majors have done much to alleviate my fears.
Anyway, it’s silly to read anything substantive into a power leaderboard which includes Shelby Miller, but it is fun to note that Altherr is doing things with the bat in his young career that are downright silly. It’s great to see him back in the lineup.