Commentary

New metric measures power

Smashing percentage shows the best power hitters in baseball

Originally Published: August 5, 2014
By Peter Keating | ESPN The Magazine

Carlos PenaKevin Jairaj/USA TODAY SportsThe SMASH leaders make up a fun list, including future notables like Carlos Pena.

I TRY NOT to foist too many of my own metrics on you. But hey, it's the middle of the summer, baseball is the only game around, and pennant races are still taking shape. So it's the perfect time to tinker with numbers that answer interesting questions like, "Who has the most pure power on the planet?" So I present to you: smashing percentage.

Smashing percentage (SMASH) is a hitter's slugging percentage divided by his batting average, which is another way of expressing his total bases per hit. SMASH doesn't measure the value of a player's power. (For that, you're better off looking at isolated power, which is SLG minus BA.) It doesn't care how often a batter reaches base, or whether he makes contact at all. It just basically looks at how hard he crushes each ball he hits safely. And in an offense-starved MLB, that may be just what GMs need to know.

I was inspired to look into smashing percentage when researching Dave Kingman's 1982 season. As a young Mets fan, I had never seen anything like Kong's stat line before, and I haven't since: Kingman cracked 37 homers to lead the NL that year and did almost nothing else. He hit just .204, by far the lowest batting average for a home run champ, with only nine doubles and one triple. That gave him an impressive smashing percentage of 2.119. (Since World War II, the MLB average has hovered around 1.5.)

Peter Keating is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, where he covers investigative and statistical subjects. He started writing "The Biz," a column looking at sports business from the fan's point of view, in 1999. He also coordinates the Magazine's annual "Ultimate Standings" project, which ranks all pro franchises according to how much they give back to fans. His work on concussions in football has earned awards from the Deadline Club, the New York Press Club and the Center for the Study of Sport in Society.