What if Jose Altuve was Aaron Judge-sized? Ranking top “pound-for-pound” hitters in MLB

We all know that Aaron Judge hit for more power this year than Jose Altuve. But, whose power was more impressive? Aaron Judge, who is 6’7″ and 282 pounds, has a considerable size advantage over Jose Altuve, at 5’6″ and 164 pounds. Perhaps Altuve is actually a better power hitter for his size than Judge. Let’s expand this idea to the entire league: who is the pound-for-pound top power hitter?

Role of Height and Weight in Batter Power

Using a statistical method (simultaneous linear regression), I estimated the effects of two physical characteristics—height and weight—on batter power. Measures of batter height and weight were taken from MLB.com. For batter power, I used Isolated Power, a simple, yet frequently used metric in analytics.

As shown in the figures below, weight and height have positive relationships with power.

Height and Weight

Weight has a stronger relationship with power than height, though it is difficult to see in the figures alone. In subsequent analyses, I consider both weight and height.

Who are the top pound-for-pound power hitters?

Using the model, one can predict a batter’s expected power (based on height and weight) and compare it to their actual power. 

Who are the top pound-for-pound power hitters? See below for the results.

Top 10 hitters

Khris Davis, formerly the #9 top power hitter, emerges as the #1 pound-for-pound power hitter in baseball. In 2017, Davis, who is 3 inches and over 30 pounds below average for a Major League hitter, hit a remarkable 43 home runs in 2017, with an ISO of .281. Nolan Arenado and Josh Donaldson made similar jumps in the rankings, from #7 to #2, and #10 to #3, respectively.

Notable power hitters have fallen slightly on this list, though remain in the top 10. For example, Aaron Judge fell from the top spot to #8, while Giancarlo Stanton dropped 3 spots (#2 to #5). It is important to note here that these power hitters are still impressive–continuing to hold spots in the top 10, regardless of their size.

Biggest improvements in rankings

Which players showed the most improvement in the list? Below are results from the top 50 players on the list.

Top 3 improved rank players

Andrew Benintendi showed the largest increase in rankings (from 184 to 43). Jose Altuve nearly broke into the top 10, jumping from 132 to 12. Lastly, Eddie Rosario improved 68 spots (100 to 32). Altuve, in particular, has recently shown increases in power (from .146 to .194 to .202 in 2015-2017); look for his pound-for-pound status to continually increase in upcoming years.

Who was more impressive?

To reference the initial question in this article: was Jose Altuve’s or Aaron Judge’s power more impressive? Results from the above analyses were compiled from 2015 to 2017 seasons. To compare Altuve and Judge’s recent season, take a look below.

Altuve vs Judge

Aaron Judge tops Jose Altuve in the pound-for-pound hitter rankings–by a very thin margin–in 2017. Judge’s power performance exceeded expectations (as predicted by his height and weight) to a slightly higher degree than Altuve.

Full Rankings and Analysis

If you want to see the analysis and full list of hitters for this dataset, including the worst pound-for-pound power hitters (poor Jason Heyward!), click here.

Full Plot

Update 12/8: Reddit user dhmontgomery  kindly provided a plot of the overall results (predicted vs. actual power). Make sure to take a look at his other posted projects in data visualization–they are excellent!

Graph by reddit dhmontgomery 




Leave a Reply