As a group, MLB players tend to reach base approximately one third of the time, but this year has been different. It has been more than a decade since hitters posted an on-base percentage as low as .319, the current MLB mark.
That means the Rockies’ .319 mark isn’t as bad as it seems and makes the Cardinals’ .360 mark doubly impressive (especially when you consider how mediocre their best player has been).
There’s more to offense than on-base percentage, but there’s something to be said for not making outs, so teams with poor OBPs may look to fortify their respective offenses this summer. Here’s a look at which potential contenders may look to acquire on-base help and which players they could target to boost scoring (all stats are entering the day's action):
Oakland Athletics (27th in MLB with a .303 OBP)
The A’s, a team many of associate with high-OBP hitters, aren’t doing much better than the tepid offenses in Minnesota and San Diego when it comes to getting on base. Mark Ellis (.243 OBP), Kevin Kouzmanoff (.238) and Andy LaRoche (.295) have been Oakland’s primary culprits. Ellis’ career mark of .332 gives the A’s some hope at second, but LaRoche hasn’t done much better than Kouzmanoff since taking over at third, so GM Billy Beane may have to consider some other possible solutions. Wilson Betemit (.383 OBP), Chase Headley (.381) and the surprising and versatile Ryan Roberts (.395) are potential third base targets for the A’s, whose offensive woes aren’t limited to OBP.
San Francisco Giants (25th in MLB with a .308 OBP)
No team in baseball has scored fewer runs than the Giants (164) and their low OBP doesn’t help. The primary culprits so far? Aubrey Huff (.280 OBP) and Miguel Tejada (.241). Brandon Belt (.484 OBP at Triple-A) awaits another shot at big league pitching, but improving the offensive output at shortstop won’t be so easy or cheap. Possible solutions include Stephen Drew (.352 OBP) and, of course, Jose Reyes (.365).
Atlanta Braves (T-24th in MLB with a .309 OBP)
Dan Uggla (.256 OBP) and Alex Gonzalez (.295) are the primary culprits, but they appear to be entrenched as everyday players. Perhaps the Braves would have interest in a middle infielder out of the Eric Hinske mold – someone who can play multiple positions and get on base at a decent clip. Possible solutions include Roberts, Jamey Carroll (.371 OBP), Robert Andino (.368) and Marco Scutaro (.316).
Tampa Bay Rays (T-24th in MLB with a .309 OBP)
Rays shortstops have combined for a .244 OBP and the team’s catchers have combined for a .256 mark. Reid Brignac (.210 OBP), Elliot Johnson (.306), John Jaso (.279) and Kelly Shoppach (.247) are the primary culprits. If the Rays decide Jaso and Shoppach aren’t going to return to their respectable career levels, they could explore a deal for Miguel Montero (.358 OBP), Wilson Ramos (.339) or Ryan Doumit (.354). The shortstops listed above also represent possible solutions, though OBP is just one of many considerations for such a demanding defensive position.
Philadelphia Phillies (19th in MLB with a .314 OBP)
It seems weird to say so, but the Phillies have had a below-average offense so far this year (20th in MLB with 189 runs scored). Phillies second basemen (.264 OBP) and center fielders (.305) have been the primary culprits so far. But Chase Utley (.380 career OBP) has returned from the disabled list and Shane Victorino (.343 OBP in 2011) could be back as soon as next Friday, so the Phillies may not have to explore the trade market for possible solutions.