consulting martian child, or, why batting average is overrated

A while ago, I watched Cusack's Martian Child. I thought I'd written up some thoughts on that, but I can't find it now, so I must not have saved it. *sigh*

Anyway, it was a fairly sappy, if enjoyable, movie about a sci-fi writer adopting a boy shortly after the death of his wife. The boy he ends up adopting thinks he's from Mars, hence the title.

They go through quite a bit of awkwardness as they try to accept one another. There's some good dialog there, and some very good, if limited, special effects in a couple of scenes where they're talking.

But what I wanted to talk about today was that one of the ways Cusack's character tries to get the boy to connect with people around him is through baseball. And he tells the boy something like, "Baseball is a great sport, because you can succeed three times out of ten, and be a good player. Succeed a little more than that, and you'll be a superstar".

I couldn't find the exact quote, and can't check with the movie right now (my copy is in storage), but the quote is in there in two variations, and I recall one of the variations saying that if you hit .350, you'll be a superstar.

And that kind of bothered me, because I knew it was overstating things, but I wasn't sure how much so. A few days ago, I finally decided to work that out.

So I hypothesized a slap-singles hitter, who would be a lead-off hitter (hits .350 without power? Gotta have him leading off) unable to take a walk. So, he'd have something like 750 PA, 15 sacrifices (hits and/or flies), and no extra base hits.

So how good a hitter are we talking about, here? -0.027478 runs/PA, for -20.6 RAA, and -0.1 WAR. That is to say, you can hit .350, and still be a replacement level player. Of course, many baseball people being what they are, that BA will probably keep you employed for a long time, but you won't be helping the team. (For those unfamiliar, replacement level means, approximately, the level of talent available for free (minor league free agents, and the like).)

I should point out, I suppose, that you can still be a useful player if you're quite good on defense, and can even add some value via baserunning skills, but you're not adding value with your bat.

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