Which batters experience success against elite pitching? Focus on Elvis Andrus...

Around these parts, and throughout the MLB community in general, Elvis Andrus is seen as a treasure and a pleasure to watch. He is seen this way thanks to his remarkably young age, his speed, and his defensive prowess. His ability at the plate, however, is not perceived as being anything special. His stat line at the plate is usually seen as mediocre at best. But I assert that he actually has some hidden value at the plate that most are not aware of in that he does not experience a drop-off against elite pitchers. In fact, he thrives against them.

I have been working on a project for a month or two that is trying to find the profile of a hitter that will tend to have greater amounts of success against dominant pitchers than the rest of the league does. I'm not going to post the entire study here - I'm not even done with it. All I'm going to do here is post some of the raw data that I've come up with, especially as it relates to the Rangers.

What I did was record how each MLB batter performed against the Top 30 pitchers in the league as a whole. I arbitrarily defined the Top 30 as being those 30 pitchers that had the lowest FIP during the 2011 season, with a minimum of 100 innings pitched.

This is a list of the top 15 OBPs against the Top 30 pitchers (min 70 AB):

First Name Last Name Bats AB (Top 30) OBP (Top 30)
Ryan Braun R 93 0.436
Michael Bourn L 87 0.433
Dustin Pedroia R 78 0.429
Jacoby Ellsbury L 74 0.419
David DeJesus L 71 0.407
Lance Berkman B 82 0.404
Carlos Beltran B 80 0.398
Joey Votto L 107 0.390
Rickie Weeks R 73 0.386
Matt Kemp R 106 0.385
Drew Stubbs R 102 0.385
Todd Helton L 95 0.382
Howie Kendrick R 75 0.375
ELVIS ANDRUS R 128 0.373
Corey Hart R 87 0.371

Notice Elvis, whose regular season OBP usually comes in around .310 - .330, is sitting there at 14th, and has by far the largest number of at-bats.

Here's the top 10 according to AVG, this time with a minimum of 40 ABs:

First Name Last Name AB (Top 30) AVG (Top 30)
Daniel Murphy 44 0.432
Jose Reyes 60 0.417
Michael Bourn 87 0.414
Ryan Braun 93 0.387
Nick Markakis 65 0.385
Skip Schumaker 42 0.381
Nate McLouth 45 0.356
ELVIS ANDRUS 128 0.352
David DeJesus 71 0.338
Jacoby Ellsbury 74 0.338

Again, Elvis is in the building, and this time he makes it even though there are many that are probably only on this list due to SSS.

Unfortunately, Elvis is still a relatively little man, so his OPS numbers aren't as impressive as his OBP and AVG, but you get the point - it seems that Elvis actually has a really valuable skill at the plate. There are some other interesting findings in these rankings as well, such as Michael Bourn and David DeJesus popping up in both categories. I realize that there are flaws with what I have done... maybe I should've used xFIP to rank pitchers rather than FIP. Also, I know that I should definitely expand the study back a few years so that I have a larger sample size, and I will. But I still think that these numbers are very interesting, particularly those of Elvis Andrus if you're a Rangers fan.

Speaking of the Rangers, here is how they performed against this group (min 40 AB):

First Name Last Name Bats Top 30 OPS - Reg OPS AB (Top 30) AVG (Top 30) OBP (Top 30) SLG (Top 30) OPS (Top 30)
Elvis Andrus R 0.095 128 0.352 0.373 0.43 0.803
Chris Young R 0.094 94 0.277 0.355 0.489 0.845
David Murphy L 0.052 74 0.311 0.321 0.541 0.861
Adrian Beltre R 0.032 101 0.327 0.34 0.584 0.924
Yorvit Torrealba R -0.032 62 0.274 0.286 0.387 0.673
Mitch Moreland L -0.038 78 0.231 0.259 0.436 0.695
Josh Hamilton L -0.108 90 0.278 0.33 0.444 0.774
Ian Kinsler R -0.119 119 0.244 0.343 0.37 0.713
Michael Young R -0.191 116 0.267 0.31 0.353 0.663
Mike Napoli R -0.278 74 0.27 0.349 0.419 0.768

Pretty interesting. What I'm finding is that plate discipline is not as helpful as it is against the rest of the league. I hope to update y'all updated.

EDIT: Oops, left Nelson Cruz out.

First Name Last Name Bats Top 30 OPS - Reg OPS AB (Top 30) AVG (Top 30) OBP (Top 30) SLG (Top 30) OPS (Top 30)
Nelson Cruz R -0.19274 90 0.211 0.228 0.4 0.628
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