Boston’s Best Tools: Power

The Best Tools ratings are a standard of prospect evaluations, but I thought it would be fun to apply that model to the Major League team. First up, Best Power.

Looking at the 2011 Boston Red Sox, power might not be the first thing that comes to mind. The presence of elite speedsters like Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford is often heralded as a movement away from the long ball heavy days of yore towards increased athleticism and skill. While the team has changed from the slow-footed, lead gloved sluggers that dominated the ’03-’04 era, the 2011 Sox will still sport some serious power. So, which slugger has the most raw power on the team?

Sox fans will all have their own opinion on that question, but with the data available to us now, we should be able to approach the problem logically and find something close to a definitive answer.

When you think of power, you think of home runs, so we should consider them pretty heavily. Home runs aren’t the only manifestation of power, though so we need to use a metric that considers all extra base hits. The obvious answer is Isolated Power, or ISO. ISO subtracts batting average from slugging percentage to isolate the extra bases. It provides a very balanced view of power with home runs, triples and doubles all given their due. Still, when thinking about raw power, the ability to consistently put the ball in the seats seems to deserve more weight, so as another point of reference, we will look at HR/FB. The more raw power a hitter has, the more his fly balls make it over the wall. Line drives are great, after all, but they aren’t the mark of a true masher. Last, we look at how far those home runs go. It is one thing to clear the Pesky Pole by a few feet; it is an entirely different thing to shatter windows on

Lansdowne St
. 

From 2008-2010, the four current Sox with the highest total home runs are J.D. Drew (65), Kevin Youkilis (75), David Ortiz (83) and Adrian Gonzalez (107). In fact, these four player are tops in all four of our criteria.  After that, it gets a little bit murkier. Gonzalez has the most home runs and the highest HR/FB rate, but he trails both Ortiz and Youkilis in both ISO and average home run distance.*  Ortiz may not be the same player  he was back in 2007, but he still can crush the ball. His home runs last year averaged over 400 feet, two feet further than runner-up Kevin Youkilis. Youk leads the group in ISO by a pretty fair margin. This is a testament to his ability to hit the ball hard on a line as well as in the air; he is second only to Gonzalez in line drive % among this group. Interestingly, Drew has the second highest HR/FB rate here, behind Gonzo, despite being last in every other category. Drew hits line drives at a good rate, but he is also far ahead of everyone here in ground balls, a real drawback given his power.

*For average home run distance I am using only 2010 data, where as the other numbers are based on the three year sample.

Name

HR

ISO 

HR/FB

2010 AVG HR

Adrian Gonzalez

107

0.238

19.70%

393.3

David Ortiz

83

0.241

15.60%

400.3

Kevin Youkilis

75

0.252

15.10%

398

J.D. Drew

65

0.225

16.10%

390.5

 

Looking at everything, the obvious answer still seems best to me; Adrian Gonzalez has the best power on the 2011 Red Sox. I was surprised by Ortiz, you can still argue that he has more raw power than Gonzalez, but I don’t think so. Gonzalez hits screaming line drives regularly and when he does put the ball in the air, it ends up a souvenir almost 20% of the time. His ISO may have been hurt by Petco, but he wasn’t far behind Fenway mainstays Youk and Papi. If he benefits even a little from the more neutral park, he will be an absolute monster at the plate.

Who do think has the power on the team?

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