Every Plate Appearance in the 2018 MLB season visualized

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The 2018 MLB season is over. I looked into some batting stats. The idea is to show what happened with the Plate Appearances in the Major Leagues this year. How many times did batters strike out? What did Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich do so good to become the MVPs of their Leagues (I’m just assuming that this will happen)? What seperates the World Series Champions from Boston from my favourite Team, the Detroit Tigers?

I visualize this with the help of so called sankey diagrams, with which we can see the “flow” of the Plate Appearances.

So for starters: What happened all over the MLB this year? There were 185,137 Plate Appearances. Here is how all of them played out:


Plate Appearances all over the MLB (total):

(You can find a legend of the different abbreviations at the end of this post)

So of the 185,137 Plate Appearances 53,041 turned into the batter reaching base and 5,585 were straight away homeruns. (You can see these numbers when you hover over the individual nodes and links.) In all of the games there were 27,213 Runs recorded. This is just an illustartion of how much baseball is played every year in a regular season in the MLB.


Why didn’t the Tigers win the World Series?

So now let’s see what seperated the Boston Red Sox this year. We will compare them to the Detroit Tigers, my favourite team (please don’t ask me why).


Boston Red Sox (percentages):

The Red Sox Batters made it on base 31% of the time and 3% of the Plate Appearances were Home Runs. In total they turned 17% of their Plate Appearances into Runs and struck out 20% of the time. But what does this mean? Let’s compare the Boston Red Sox to the Detroit Tigers:


Detroit Tigers (percentages):

So while the Red Sox turned 17% into Runs, the Detroit Tigers only did that 13% of the time. They also struck out 22% of the time, which is 2 percentage points more often than the Red Sox. So we can see that the Red Sox were just more efficient in turning Plate Appearances into Runs. That is probably a big part of why the Red Sox went on to collect 108 wins this season and the Tigers only got up to 64 wins.


Interested in what is possible when it comes to sports statistics and other data? Leave me your mail address and I will keep you updated:

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For me it is pretty obvious that Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich should win the MVP awards in their leagues. So let’s see how their offense went this year. Let’s start with Yelich:

Christian Yelich (percentages):

Yelich did a pretty good job getting on base. 35% of his Plate Appearances resulted in him reaching base. Besides that an astonishing 6% turned into straight away Home Runs. Combined, almost a quarter (!) of his Plate Appearances turned into a run. Sure, you need some guys behind you to cross the home plate after you become a base runner but still, this is pretty impressive.

So let’s look at Mookie:


Mookie Betts (percentages):

Betts did an even better job reaching base than Yelich. 39% of the time he reached base and 5% of his Plate Appearances turned into being a Home Run. He also did a better job giving the pitchers a hard time. He only struck out 15% of the time, Yelich struck out 21% of the time. Betts also went on to turn a quarter of his Plate Appearances into runs.


What is the opposite of a MVP?

Chris Davis of the Baltimore Orioles (don’t confuse him with Khris Davis of the Oakland A’s; totally different story) had a famously bad season in 2018. But what happened on the field? Here it is:

Chris Davis (percentages):

So let’s remember Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich. Betts reached base 39% of the time and Yelich did so 35% of the time (leaving out the Home Runs). Chris Davis only did so 21% of the time but to his credit he still hit 16 Home Runs (or 3%) which isn’t great but ok. Also, 37% of his Plate Appearances turned into straight away strike outs (Yelich 21%, Betts 15%). All of this amounts to 11%. Davis was only able to turn 11% of his Plate Appearances into runs (Yelich 24%, Betts 26%).


Also interesting

While Mookie Betts and Christian Yelich had some serious sluggers following them in the batting order, Mike Trout wasn’t this lucky this year. But his performance was also impressive:

Mike Trout (percentages):

Trout turned himself into a base runner an astonishing 39% of the time. If you also count the Home Runs here, he was productive for his team in 45% of the times he stepped up to the plate. I mean what? If he had some support from the rest of the line up, the Plate Appearances to Runs ratio wouldn’t be just 23%.

As a last example let’s look at Giancarlo Stanton. If there are Home Run Hitters then Statnton is a freaking Home Run Hitter. Why? Let’s have a look:

Giancarlo Stanton (percentages):

Why is Stanton a Home Run Hitter in my eyes? Because he also strikes out a lot. This is what is really amazing about Betts, Yelich and Trout. They don’t only hit home runs, they also reach base. So let’s look at it: Stanton hit 38 home runs this season (5% of his Plate Appearances) but struck out 30% of the time and reached base 29% of the time. Let’s compare this to the other three guys:


Betts: 32 Home Runs (5%); On Base 39%; Strike Outs 15%

Yelich: 34 Home Runs (6%); On Base 35%; Strike Outs 21%

Trout: 39 Home Runs (6%); On Base 39%; Strike Outs 20%


So in summary. These three guys are incredible (I know there are lot’s of other guys who are but how long do you want this blog post to be?)


End notes

I think the sankey diagrams are a nice way to show how well or bad hitters do. I’m always amazed that the official MLB website doesn’t use more visualizations for the stats. Baseball is perfect for it.

Also, which other players or teams would you be interested in? I have the code ready and can produce them pretty quickly now. So if you want to see another sankey diagram hit me up on Twitter, LinkedIn or via mail. Happy to produce some more.


Interested in what is possible when it comes to sports statistics and other data? Leave me your mail address and I will keep you updated:

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And PS: No, I haven’t forgotten the home run leader Khris davis:

Khris Davis (percentages):

PPS: As pormised here is the legend to make sense of all the abbreviations:

Abbreviation Description
PA Plate Appearance
1B Single
2B Double
3B Triple
IBB Intentional Base on Balls
UBB Unintentional Base on Balls
HBP Hit by Pitch
HR Home Run
On Base Reaches Base
SH Sacrifice Hit
SF Sacrifice Fly
SO Strike Out
Other Out Out (except Strike Out)
R Run
CS Caught Stealing
LOB, Other Out Either Left on Base, Picked Off or Out in any other way on Base

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