Is There Such a Thing as Gap Power?
your daily SSI saber puzzle


This is one of the reasons that James retains me as a fan:


Can this if this is one of those "Should Pete Rose be in the Hall of Fame?" questions. But isn't the two-base hit the most consistently productive offensive weapon? (RBI+R) Wouldn't teams do best to build around players with gap power than guys with upper-cut swings?  
Asked by: tdwalla

Answered: 5/30/2017
 Well, let's see. . ..there were 8,254 doubles in the majors last season, and according to The Book the run value of a double is 0.77 runs, so that means that doubles added 6,356 runs to offenses last year.   By the same logic, singles added 12,943 runs to the majors, walks added 4,828, and home runs added 7,798.  So.. .no; two-base hits are not the most consistently productive offensive weapon.    
Also, it seems to me that the assumption that doubles represent "gap" power is questionable. . .don't most doubles actually go down the lines, rather than in the gaps?   Also, I question that anyone can have "Gap" power.   You can be a pull hitter or an opposite field hitter, but you can't really hit the ball in the gaps on purpose, I don't think.   You just try to hit the ball hard, and if it goes in the gap that's a good thing.   Unless Kevin Pillar is out there, in which case he will catch it anyway.  


That's pretty fundamental, isn't it?  The observation that gap power doesn't truly occur in baseball?  One more of 9,000 observations like that, "Hey, NBA players are tall."  I for one had certainly never noticed that gap power doesn't exist, had you?  Neither had any scout who ever lived. ... I wonder if James is right and 20,000 uniformed ballplayers wrong.

It makes a certain amount of sense in the year 2017.  They measure players along a velocity continuum, not according to three strata (1) punch and judy (2) gap power (3) homer guy.


That said, I wonder if there's such a thing as a player prone to doubles -- you know, higher SLG than you'd expect for his HR's.  Matty could figure this out for us if he were so inclined.  To play well, I'd imagine he'd need a topspin type trajectory - it's a given that he's not hitting many HR's, by definition.  We started out talking about players with fewer than 15 homers.  So logically he can't be lofting a lot of lazy flies to 300' while he's slugging .440.

I had thought of Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia this way, guys who might hit 35 doubles but only 10 home runs.  Now I'm wondering (1) if there is such a profile, and (2) if so, whether it has anything much to do with gappers.  One hop off the wall.  Maybe there isn't really such a thing as a guy who hits a lot of balls that roll to the wall?

Or is that what we were talking about with "gap power" -- good launch velocity, while avoiding high flies?

Interesting saber riddle of the day.  Like Sudoku.



Incidentally Gamel himself is slugging .306 with a .469 SLG, on pace for about 45 doubles/triples and 10 homers in a full season.  If there were such a thing as gap power that would be the profile.


Dr D

PS do most doubles really roll down the lines?  LOL.



tjm's picture

There's a ton of guys who hit 40-plus doubles and rarely top 15 HR - Biggio, Pedroia, Carew, Daniel Murphy, Matt Carpenter, Brett, Yount, Rose.That's just off the top of my head; I think it's a long list. I know James was dismissive of the idea - and more so of the label - but I think it's a real thing. He's dismissive of a lot of things these days. On the other hand, where doubles land is interesting and he might be right about that. But then he's just being persinckety about what to call the phenomenon. If they don't go in the gap doesn't mean it isn't gap power.


From the players you listed, most were known to use the WHOLE field - like Edgar. 

All those guys could just stick the bat out at an outside slider and poke it into the corner for a double... or in Rose's or Yount's case a triple.

So maybe instead of gap power, it comes to using the whole field - which is something we have seen Gamel do recently as well.


According to spray chart data, about 36% of doubles are down the lines. Most doubles aren't gappers though...those grounders and hard line drives down the lines plus maybe 30-35% that bang walls on the pull side.

I think when we say "gap power" we really mean "not high launch angles as often" or "not quite powerful enough to hit lots of balls over the wall but powerful enough to hit lots of balls NEAR the wall.


Matt got it, on the nose.

I see in the guys TJM listed above, a bunch of bats who hit the ball hard AND hit if often.  Yount played his 1st 13 seasons without K'ing more than 80 times.  Brett topped 51 only once in his first 16 seasons.  Pedroia has exceeded 75 only once.  Carew averaged about 45 K's a season.  Those guys hit a lot of balls hard, over the course of a season....and they tended to use most of the field. Carpenter is a bit different, he K's a lot.


The doubles hitter profile strikes out less than the slugger thus puts more balls in play, but hits with more power than the singles hitter. Thus, fewer home runs but more balls in play in the outfield, hence more opportunities to find gaps. 

That's my theory. Matt's is good too, and I have to defer to him.


I was typing my post when you were sending yours....but we say almost exactly the same thing!!

Mesully's picture

Speed has a place in this conversation also, really fast players can sometimes stretch singles into doubles.


I generally assume it's a player who doesn't, for whatever reason, present a consistently productive 'lift and pull' approach to the ball, leading him to 'hit it back up the middle HARD' as his game-in, game-out approach.

Some guys can lift and separate with ease.  Griffey, Bonds, McGwire, Buhner, Dunn, Thome, Palmeiro, etc.. were all prototypical 'pull it in the air' types of hitters.  That *seems* to suggest, to me anyway, that they don't 'use the whole field' as their default approach to an AB.

Guys like Edgar, Pedroia, Cano (younger?), Jeter, ARod (younger!), Votto and other high-BA/high-OBP types with plus (or even plus-plus!) power, on the other hand, never *seemed* to approach every AB with the intention of finding a pitch to lift and pull.  They legitimately seemed interested in hitting the ball hard, generally up the middle, and letting good things happen.

Always *seemed* to me that players with obvious lift-and-separate ability got cattle-chuted into that type of approach early on in their careers, whereas guys with more 'tweener' power demonstrated early in their careers would stick with the 'hit it hard up the middle' approach.  Most of those guys, it seemed to me back when I paid regular attention to baseball, got described as having 'gap power.'  Even if they eventually demonstrate plus or plus-plus power, they generally stick with their 'younger' approach until it just doesn't work any more, then they go to a 'lift-and-separate' approach to wind down their careers (thus skyrocketing their K's/BB's, plummeting their BA/OBP, and ratcheting up the power numbers).

Honestly, though, I haven't thought about James' observation all that much.  Just relaying what few thoughts I've ever had on the subject.


Don't you think the extra doubles and even the extra triples are a result of guys with good speed? 

No they don't have home run power but when they do get a ball in the gap they have the speed to streatch some of those singles into doubles

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