Everybody loves the long ball. Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., and Hank Aaron were some of the best when it came to putting on a home run show. In today’s league, we have Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, Nolan Arenado, and Jose Bautista. More often than not, we give a lot of attention to guys that can drive the ball a long way, and not the guys who can just purely hit the baseball.
Pure Hitters Have Feelings Too
Every so often we witness a very special player in all his glory. A guy that can hit .320+/.425+/.525+. Coupled with that slash line is usually an eagle eye at the plate, and a great understanding of the major league strike zone. More often than not, these guys come and go without much appreciation at all. This is mainly because they aren’t hitting 30+ homers a year. We all know who comes to mind in this situation. Guys like Joey Votto, Jose Altuve, Paul Goldschmidt, and Miguel Cabrera are more recent examples.
They ARE Appreciated, What are You Talking about?
No they’re not. Look at this year’s NL MVP race for example. The two pure hitters named above, Goldy and Votto, were in the final three with pure power hitter, Stanton. Votto slashed .320/.454/.578 with 36 home runs and 100 RBI, and Goldy slashed .297/.404/.563 with 36 home runs and 120 RBI. Votto rarely strikes out, his 83 strike outs this year are nearly half of Goldy and Stanton’s totals. All three men walk at ungodly rates, Votto more than the other two because of his elite batter’s eye.
Really the only thing Stanton did better than the other two was hit the ball out of the ballpark. In the MLB today, hitting home runs is a very “sexy” thing. This is the reason Stanton edged out Votto by two whole points in the voting.
What is This Teaching the Younger Generation?
This is teaching our younger generation a lot of bad habits. It is teaching them that it’s okay to strike out 208 times, as long as you hit 52 homers. Kids want to watch guys like Stanton, or Judge more than guys like Votto, Altuve or Goldschmidt. They should watch a guy like Altuve who hit .346/.410/.547 with 24 homers and 81 RBI. He understands that he’s a table setter for players like Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel. Votto understands that he has Adam Duvall, Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler behind him, who can all drive a baseball. Yes, there’s times that these players need to take the job into their own hands, as shown by Votto’s 36 home runs, or Altuve’s clutch World Series jacks.
For the most part, these guys are more worried about getting a hit and getting on base. While home runs are great and all, have you even realized the trail that these guys are blazing? Guys hit over .340 all the time. Guys like Todd Helton hit .370, and guys like Tony Gwynn hit .390. To put it in perspective, Gwynn never placed higher than third in MVP voting, and he hit over .345 seven times in his career.
Pure Hitters are Just as Good
Take a look at the guys we consider pure hitters that got the recognition they deserve. Pete Rose, the all time hits leader in the MLB, won MVP in 1973. Joe Morgan won it back to back in 1975 and 1976. Cal Ripken Jr. was named the MVP in 1991, and that was the last time a pure hitter won the MVP award in either league. After ’91 known power hitters have won 35 out of a possible 52 MVP awards. The names that come up when thinking of pure hitters are legendary. Rose, Ty Cobb, Rogers Hornsby, Lou Gehrig, Votto, Goldy, Altuve, and the list goes on. These players did hit a lot of home runs, but they also hit over .300 for their careers and got on base all the time.
The writers who vote the most valuable player let home runs sway their decisions too often. Give someone like Votto or Goldschmidt a chance and they won’t let you down. They will hit homers, but also get on base for you and be a franchise cornerstone to build around. It’s also a fact that a pure hitter has a higher upside than power guys. While power guys see production for the years in their prime, pure hitters can extend careers past their primes because of their elite hitting and on base ability. Power hitters are not bad, or bad to have in your lineup. Every team needs a power hitter, but every team would benefit from a pure hitter as well.
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