Sox By the Numbers: New outfielder Renfroe an all-or-nothing outlier

Baseball history is full of power-hitting home run mashers who either deposit balls on upper decks and state highways or strike out. The current Three True Outcomes Era has led to an exaggerated version of this prototype (may I present you Joey Gallo: a slugger who casually swats 40 home runs a year while striking out nearly 40 percent of the time). But no one has ever posted an offensive profile quite like new Red Sox outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Renfroe is the only player in big league history with more than 100 plate appearances to post a career batting average below .230, an on-base percentage below .300, and a slugging percentage above .480. In fact, there are really only two other players who come anywhere close to this peculiar set of benchmarks:

PLAYER               PA    AVG. OBP. SLG

Hunter Renfroe   1,589 .228 .290 .486

Steve Balboni       3,440 .229 .293 .451

Tyler Austin           583 .219 .292 .451

Often lots of home runs (which raise your slugging percentage) are coupled with lots of strikeouts (which lower your batting average) so it’s not rare to see players like Renfroe, Gallo, or Adam Dunn hit high numbers of homers but also hit for relatively low average. What makes Renfroe unique is that his high homer and strikeout rates aren’t accompanied by a high walk rate. Take a look at his walk rate compared to some of his generational peers:

PLAYER                 PA      HR%   SO%    BB%

Hunter Renfroe    1,589   6.1     28.0     7.4

Joey Gallo             1,785   6.7     37.7    14.0

Kyle Schwarber      2,108   5.7     28.0    13.0

Max Muncy            1,536   5.6     25.3     15.2

Rhys Hoskins         1,762   5.2      23.4    15.3

While his walk rate is still relatively low compared to his power-hitting peers, it has increased every season he’s been in the big leagues, topping 10% last year for the first time. Boston is clearly hoping they are getting a hitter whose discipline is improving. Chaim Bloom made it clear earlier this week that he sees Renfroe as a well-rounded player, mentioning his defense and noting that his offensive skill set should translate well to Fenway Park. The Monster will be especially alluring to Renfroe, who led baseball in pull percentage in 2019.

“The power is obvious,” Chaim Bloom told reporters. “That’s kind of been his main calling card throughout his career. But he’s more than a one-trick pony.”

Red Sox fans hope so, because a feast-or-famine slugger who strikes out a lot and doesn’t reach base much can be ugly, as anyone who lived through Rob Deer’s 1993 cameo in Boston can attest.

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