Bouton: Finding the game with the fewest three true outcomes

From Chris Bouton at The Hardball Times on March 12, 2019:

As the Three True Outcomes have become ubiquitous, it’s easy to forget that the term began as a joke on the board. Christina Kahrl, before she co-founded Baseball Prospectus and pioneered transaction analysis, coined the term to describe players of the early-to-mid 1990s known for their ability to walk, strike out, and hit home runs.

In the Usenet era, Rob Deer, with his 220/.324/.442 career batting line, 12.7 percent walk percentage and 31.2 percent strikeout percentage, epitomized the Three True Outcomes player. Over the ensuing years, numerous others, like Adam Dunn, Ryan Howard, and Travis Hafner, have carried that sobriquet.

Players like Deer, Dunn, Howard, and Hafner all shared certain physical attributes. They were tall, heavyset, and played first base or the outfield. Three True Outcomes players tended not to put the ball in play, which conventional wisdom held was the best and most exciting form of baseball. This led to the famous mid-2000s complaint, first made by Joe Morgan but echoed elsewhere, that such hitters “clogged up the basepaths” with their walks. It was a silly complaint—as if reaching base were somehow a bad thing—but it reflected a post-Moneyball pushback by baseball traditionalists against the encroachment of sabermetrics into the sport.

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Originally published: March 14, 2019. Last Updated: March 14, 2019.