The idea behind this article comes from a discussion Jaymes Langrehr and JP Breen of Disciples of Uecker and Jerry Eldred of The Book of Gorman had on Twitter during Monday night’s game relating to the impact Norichika Aoki’s knack for slapping infield hits has had on his rookie season.
Entering the final series of the season, 13.0 percent of Aoki’s hits had come via the infield variety, which is double the league average of
6.5 percent. After beating out a grounder to San Diego shortstop Everth Cabrera in the first and receiving a, um, generous call at first on a tapper in front of the mound, that percentage jumped up to 14.1, best in the majors (surpassing….Edwin Encarnacion. You can’t make this stuff up.)
The .290 hitter that Aoki is through his 511 at-bats he sits at as I write this wouldn’t look so impressive is his infield hits were at a league average percentage. At a 6.5 IFH %, the 30-year-old rookie would be a .265 hitter; though that figure isn’t shabby by any means, it figures to have cost the Brewers a fair amount of runs over the course of the season. That’s a 25-point batting average raise as a result of Aoki’s bat control, timing, and speed.
Aoki’s infield hit prowess has led to 16 more hits than the average batter. Though runs are a stat far too subjective to reliance on other batters to read too much into this, but, on the season, Aoki averages a run every 2.6 times he reaches base. With 16 more hits than the “league average” player, that amounts to 6.15 runs on the season (technically 6 because, well, you can’t score .15 runs unless the replacement refs suddenly appeared out of an abyss). Throw in any variables such as innings kept alive by Aoki’s legs and homers Weeks, Braun, or Ramirez may have blasted, and, odds are, you’re looking at 7 to 8 runs created by his legs alone.
Aoki’s IFH%, however, will almost assuredly drop next season. He turns 31 and will lose some of those “lucky” bounces off the bat that he received this year. But, much like Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and the nearly-immeasurable framing runs saved for catchers, Aoki’s infield hits have provided a solid lift at the top of a 200-homer mashing lineup. Hooray, runs created!