By: Noah Wright
USA Today Sports
Batting average has always been a decent way to determine a players batting ability, but in the new age of stats, and percentages, average has somewhat been discredited (not that average is useless anymore) to measure the true value of a batter. This has led to power hitters who don’t hit for average, but are patient hitters being called a three-true-outcome hitter, and being viewed differently because of it. Here, I will discuss the three-true-outcome theory, what is it, and why it’s useful.
What is the three-true-outcome theory?:
The three-true-outcome theory describes a batter who doesn’t hit for average, and strikes out a lot, but also draws a handful of walks, and hits for a great deal of power (K, walk, HR, being the 3 outcomes). You can identify a three-true-outcome hitter by someone who has a lower batting average, but decent OBP, and high slugging %. I would say the poster boy for this theory is Adam Dunn. Adam Dunn had 5 seasons where he batted under .250, walked at least 100 times, struck out at least 100 times, and hit 25+ home runs. Dunn overall has a .237 batting average, but a .364 OBP, .490 slugging %, with a 15.8% walk rate, and a 28.6% career K-rate.
Why is it useful?:
Like I said earlier, in the past, average has been a good way to determine a player’s ability in the batter’s box. This theory is a fairly modern baseball theory, and it also shows why batting average is not the best stat to use when comparing a player’s batting ability. While average is not completely useless, it doesn’t paint the full picture.
Cheslor Cuthbert’s 2016 batting-line: .274/.318/.413
Jake Lamb’s 2016 batting-line: .249/.332/.509
This is where the three-true-outcome theory comes into play:
Average would tell you that Cuthbert had a better season with the bat than Lamb, and while Cuthbert saw around 45 less AB’s than Lamb, Lamb had an OBP that was 14 points higher than Cuthbert’s, showing he drew a handful of more walks, and a slugging % that’s nearly 100 points higher, showing he hit more home runs, and more extra-base hits, the two stats this theory focuses on the most. The only thing Cuthbert did better with the bat that season compared to Lamb is hit more singles, and while singles are important, how productive is a hitter who just hits singles?