It's time for another entry into our leaderboarding series. This time we're going to focus on baseball's best hitters in a specific situation. That situation is the most pitcher-friendly ball-strike count in the game: the 0-2 count.
Overall, MLB players hit .152/.161/.215 in 0-2 counts this season. That's terrible but totally understandable. Hitters have to protect the plate in 0-2 counts and the pitcher can do anything -- throw a breaking ball out of the zone, stand the hitter up with a fastball inside, you name it. The guy on the mound is in complete control. Hitting even .200 in an 0-2 count is something to be proud of.
Like everything else in baseball, there are outliers when it comes to hitting in 0-2 counts. Some do it exceptionally well, others exceptionally poorly. The 2013 season was no different. Below are this past season's 10 best qualified hitters in 0-2 counts by OPS, though I'm only showing their batting average and slugging percentage in those spots. On-base percentage isn't a thing in 0-2 counts, you can't draw a walk in that situation. You can get hit by a pitch, but it's not worth cluttering the chart. To the data:
I suspect that by time we're a few more posts into this series, we're just going to have to rename it "Matt Carpenter is good at ___________." Because he is good at pretty much everything, you see.
There's a nice variety of hitting styles among the top 10, including contact hitters (Martin Prado), speedsters (Denard Span), all-around hitters (Chase Headley) and pure sluggers (Jose Bautista). You'd think guys like Prado, whose game revolves around putting the ball in play and not striking out, would be dominate the best 0-2 hitters leaderboard, but that's not really the case.
In fact, let's flip over to the 10 worst hitters in 0-2 counts from this past season:
Baseball's worst hitter in 0-2 counts this year was Alberto Callaspo, a pure contact guy like Prado. Marco Scutaro, the ultimate put the ball in play hitter, is also among the bottom 10. World Series MVP David Ortiz had a .959 OPS overall but a .189 OPS in 0-2 counts in 2013. Pretty crazy.
Know what else is crazy? Miguel Cabrera, the best hitter on the planet, hit .104 with a .125 slugging percentage in 0-2 counts in 2013. He was only two OPS points away from making that bottom 10 chart. Ridiculous.
So does this tell us anything useful? Not really, but it is fun to look at. Sure, certain hitters might be better equipped to hit in 0-2 counts, but that doesn't mean they'll actually do that in a given year. Mark Trumbo led all hitters with 95 plate appearances in 0-2 counts in 2013 and that's nothing. It's a small sample and anything can happen in a small sample. Being able to hit well in an 0-2 count is a skill, but one year of data won't tell us who is and is not good at it.