200 Highest Increases in OBP & Shin-Soo Choo

Schin-Soo Choo

I struggle to find topics to write about. Because, for me, if I don’t think a topic is interesting to write about, I don’t know how it could possibly be of interest for anyone to read. The past two weeks I’ve started and deleted several excel and word documents; I get to the point where I say to myself “this is garbage”, I take a shot of Fire Ball, and I start over.

So I aimlessly wandered around the Internet in search of a topic until I saw a picture of Shin-Soo Choo. I checked out his Fangraphs page, scrolled to last season, and saw that he had a 50 point increase in his OBP from 2012 to 2013, which is convenient for him that this happened in a contract year.

How often does a player improve his OBP this drastically? Choo increased his BB% by over five percent in one year (15.7% in 2013 and 10.6% in 2012), but should we expect this to happen again next year?

Since 2003 there have been 123 players (with a minimum of 300 at bats in each season) that have improved their OBP as much or more than Shin-Soo Choo from one season to the next. There have also been 214 instances where players have improved their OBP by 39 points or more, but we’ll focus on the top 200 hundred to keep the number round.

Highest Increases in OBP

NameSeasonOBP DIFF
Adrian Beltre20040.098
Casey Kotchman20110.098
Jason Giambi20050.098
Mike Napoli20110.098
Tony Womack20040.098
Josh Hamilton20100.096
Matt Kemp20110.089
Ray Durham20080.085
Cristian Guzman20080.085
Magglio Ordonez20070.084
Omar Infante20080.084
Travis Hafner20040.083
Brandon Phillips20060.082
Gaby Sanchez20130.082
Dustan Mohr20040.08
Hanley Ramirez20130.08
Barry Bonds20040.08
Carlos Gonzalez20090.08
Scott Spiezio20060.078
Alex Cora20040.077
Corey Patterson20100.077
Mike Lamb20060.077
Aubrey Huff20100.075
Brandon Inge20040.075
Justin Morneau20100.074
Alex Avila20110.073
Carlos Pena20070.073
Geovany Soto20100.072
Michael Cuddyer20130.072
Josh Bard20070.071
Justin Morneau20060.071
Mark Ellis20050.071
Alex Rios20120.069
Jose Bautista20110.069
Ryan Howard20060.069
Marlon Byrd20070.068
Aramis Ramirez20110.067
David Bell20040.067
Jeff Keppinger20120.067
Kelly Johnson20100.067
Bill Hall20050.066
Daric Barton20100.066
Jayson Werth20070.066
Michael Bourn20090.066
Milton Bradley20080.066
Yadier Molina20070.066
Luis Matos20050.065
Ramon Vazquez20080.065
Alberto Callaspo20110.064
Mark DeRosa20060.064
Dioner Navarro20080.063
Jose Reyes20110.063
Derrek Lee20050.062
Garrett Atkins20060.062
Ichiro Suzuki20040.062
J.D. Drew20040.062
Aaron Hill20120.061
Adrian Beltre20100.061
Julio Lugo20080.061
Ryan Theriot20080.061
Alex Gonzalez20050.06
Austin Jackson20120.06
Corey Patterson20060.06
Jason Bartlett20090.06
Placido Polanco20070.059
Omar Vizquel20100.058
Ben Broussard20040.058
Bill Hall20100.058
Carlos Beltran20060.058
Clint Barmes20080.058
Joey Votto20120.058
Morgan Ensberg20050.058
Reed Johnson20060.058
Chone Figgins20070.057
Emilio Bonifacio20110.057
Jayson Werth20120.057
Jeromy Burnitz20040.057
Joe Mauer20060.057
Martin Prado20120.057
Freddie Freeman20130.056
Joe Mauer20120.056
Ken Griffey Jr.20070.056
Pat Burrell20040.056
Brady Clark20040.055
Ian Kinsler20100.055
James Loney20130.055
Jonathan Lucroy20120.055
Scott Hatteberg20060.055
Adam Lind20090.054
Colby Rasmus20100.054
Jose Reyes20060.054
Paul Konerko20040.054
Aaron Rowand20070.053
Brian McCann20080.053
Deivi Cruz20040.053
Dmitri Young20070.053
Jhonny Peralta20130.053
Mark Ellis20100.053
Nick Punto20080.053
Reed Johnson20080.053
David Murphy20120.052
Jermaine Dye20060.052
Jonny Gomes20120.052
Jorge Posada20070.052
Wilson Betemit20100.052
Carlos Lee20110.051
Buster Posey20120.051
Gary Matthews Jr.20060.051
Gerald Laird20080.051
Manny Ramirez20060.051
Melky Cabrera20120.051
Nick Punto20060.051
Ryan Braun20090.051
Craig Monroe20040.05
Jarrod Saltalamacchia20130.05
Chipper Jones20050.05
Edwin Encarnacion20120.05
Geoff Jenkins20050.05
Jay Bruce20100.05
Juan Encarnacion20050.05
Michael Young20110.05
Nick Swisher20060.05
Ryan Spilborghs20100.05
Shin-Soo Choo20130.05
Colby Rasmus20130.049
Aramis Ramirez20040.049
Brian Giles20050.049
Cliff Floyd20070.049
Daniel Murphy20110.049
Eric Hosmer20130.049
Gerardo Parra20110.049
Miguel Cabrera20130.049
Steve Finley20060.049
Cesar Izturis20040.048
Prince Fielder20070.048
Casey Blake20060.048
Mark Teahen20060.048
Eric Chavez20040.047
Miguel Cabrera20090.047
Chase Headley20110.047
Robinson Cano20090.047
Abraham Nunez20050.046
David Wright20120.046
Kenny Lofton20050.046
Adrian Gonzalez20090.046
Alex Rodriguez20050.046
Gary Sheffield20090.046
Jason Bay20080.046
Jim Thome20100.046
Joey Votto20090.046
Juan Rivera20060.046
Carlos Ruiz20100.045
Chris Snyder20070.045
Jeff Francoeur20070.045
Mark Ellis20120.045
Nelson Cruz20090.045
Ramon Santiago20100.045
Ryan Klesko20040.045
Brad Ausmus20050.045
Carl Crawford20090.045
Chipper Jones20080.045
Hunter Pence20110.045
Jerry Hairston20110.045
Miguel Cabrera20060.045
Omar Infante20130.045
Robinson Cano20060.045
Troy Tulowitzki20090.045
Wily Mo Pena20060.045
Jason Bay20050.044
Justin Smoak20130.044
Nick Markakis20080.044
Chris Davis20130.044
Frank Thomas20040.044
Jamey Carroll20060.044
Lance Berkman20110.044
Brian Roberts20050.043
Derek Jeter20090.043
Jose Valentin20060.043
Adam Lind20130.043
Alex Rios20060.043
Lyle Overbay20080.043
Chris Davis20120.042
Ivan Rodriguez20060.042
Paul Goldschmidt20130.042
Terrence Long20040.042
Alfonso Soriano20060.042
Casey Blake20040.042
Coco Crisp20040.042
Eric Chavez20120.042
Freddy Sanchez20060.042
J.T. Snow20040.042
Jacoby Ellsbury20130.042
Jason Varitek20070.042
Manny Ramirez20080.042
Nelson Cruz20100.042
Adam Dunn20120.041
Alcides Escobar20120.041
Mike Lowell20060.041
Brian Dozier20130.041
Eric Young20040.041
Adrian Beltre at bat

Many of the increases in OBP on this list turned out to be mirages of promise, but not Adrian Beltre. Photo by: Kens_Refuge

Out of the 200 players that increased their OBP the most from one season to the next, 28 of those players’ OBPs continued to go up or staid the same in the third season, 39 players didn’t play in the third season—they either retired, did not accumulate enough playing time in the third season to qualify, or they played in 2013 and their fate remains to be seen—and 132 players had their OBP go down.

What concerns us most, to see if we can expect Choo’s OBP to stay the same or increase in 2014, are the 28 players in the last decade that had as big or bigger of an improvement in OBP from one season to the next as Choo did from 2012 to 2013, and replicated or improved on that success in the third season.

These are those 28 players: Chris Davis (2012), Nelson Cruz (2009), Mike Lowell (2006), Robinson Cano (2009), Marlon Byrd (2007), Pat Burrell (2004), Miguel Cabrera (2009), Carlos Gonzalez (2009), Omar Infante (2008), Paul Konerko (2004), Mark DeRosa (2006), Lyle Overbay (2008), Jayson Werth (2012), Jason Bay (2008), Joey Votto (2009), Nick Swisher (2006), Yadier Molina (2007), Morgan Ensberg (2005), Brandon Phillips (2006), Chris Snyder (2007), Mike Lamb (2006), Scott Hatteberg (2006), Alex Rios (2006), Troy Tulowitzki (2009), Bill Hall (2005), Chase Headley (2011), Coco Crisp (2004), Jose Reyes (2006). The year listed is the middle year in the three year run.

Two primary groups of players emerge when we look at these players. The first group is made up of players in the formative parts of their careers: Joey Votto and Yadier Molina. The second group is the player who develops power that he did not have in the previous season: Chris Davis and Robinson Cano.

Shin-Soo Choo doesn’t fit into either of these groups; he’s not developing as a player anymore, and he didn’t manage to hit more homeruns than he ever has before like Chris Davis did in 2012 and 2013.

But there is also a third group of players: uncategorized. The players in this group are Mark Derosa, Mike Lamb, and Morgan Ensberg. Players that it would be foolish to use inference and try to come up with a reason why they played well all of a sudden.

Let me borrow a metaphor that Nicholas Nassim Taleb uses in the Black Swan. Imagine a cube of ice on the floor. Now imagine it melt into a puddle. See it in your head transform from a cube with perfectly distinct and symmetric sides gradually melt, precipitate moisture, and divulge into a puddle on the ground.  Easy enough, right?

Now, try and picture a puddle of water on the ground and picture it develop into an ice cube. It not as easy, is it? I mean I don’t even want to try and right about it.

This metaphor just shows that even though we know what happened in the past, that doesn’t mean we know why it happened.

Derosa, Lamb, and Ensberg aren’t Shin-Soo Choo. But that doesn’t mean that Choo won’t fall into the third group of players that we cannot explain.

It’s seems unlikely that Choo will have as good of year last year as he did this year when it comes to his BB%, but now that he calls the Ball Park in Arlington his home, there still needs to be an additional recalibration for his projected numbers. Beyond Choo, this exercise shows that unless an improvement in walks comes from a player in development, or a batter that changes his approach to generate more power, we should be skeptical about his outlook for the next season.

Follow Me on TwitterDevin Jordan is obsessed with statistical analysis, non-fiction literature, and electronic music. If you enjoyed reading him, follow him on Twitter @devinjjordan.

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