This post by Tangotiger over at The Book blog might keep you busy for hours. In it he presents data compiled from 1993 through 2008, detailing how each position in the batting order fared with each type of hit. You can see how many runs a single from a leadoff hitter is worth, or how many runs you can expect from a homer by the cleanup hitter. Tangotiger breaks it down by runs scored, runs driven in, and runs participated in, which combines the first two. Yes, the batter himself is subtracted from runners driven in when he hits a home run, so there isn’t any overlap.
As Pinto notes, this creates a strong argument for a team’s worst hitter batting eighth, and adding a decent on-base guy in the nine slot. However, it looks like the seventh hitter in the order participates in the fewest runs. Does this mean that you should hit your worst hitter seventh? It makes sense in a way, given the cyclical nature of the batting order. The only issue is that the seventh hitter will get more ABs than the eighth and ninth hitters. Do you really want to be giving more at bats to a lesser hitter? It appears, though, that the answer isn’t as obvious a “no” as you might intuitively believe.
An interesting aspect to me is the difference between a single and a walk. It’s obvious to anyone, even the most vocal proponent of the walk, that you’re going to drive in more runs hitting a single than taking a walk. Ergo, runs participated in will be higher. However, what about runs scored? After all, both a single and a walk result with the runner standing on first base.
|#||RS 1B||RS BB|
So it looks like a single, in terms of runs scored, is between four and seven percent more productive than a walk (save for the crazy difference in the No. 8 slot). So no, a walk is not as good as a hit in a general sense, given 15 years’ worth of data. Not that this takes away from the superiority of OBP as a measure of production. After all, a walk is still infinitely more productive than an out.