I was going to post this elsewhere, but in my small mind I thought it was important enough to generate separate discussion. In reading the "Open Letter to Dayton Moore", there was a discussion about OBP vs. BA, and it got me to thinking-what comes first?
For example, is a good OBP a residual effect of being a good hitter, and therefore secondary to the importance to the actual ability to hit the ball, or is OBP a skill in and of itself? I am assuming that pitch recognition (the "batter's eye", Dayton, if you're reading) is a skill, but that is also probably tied up in bat speed, reaction time, etc. that allows a batter to let the ball travel deeper and therefore get a good read on the pitch before triggering.
Perhaps there are two-types of "walkers": the good hitters who never see anything (Barry Bonds) and the great pitch-recognition types (I'm guessing somebody like Youkilis might fall into this category). Obviously, Bonds also has great pitch-recognition skills as well.
What confounds me a little bit, however are the Adam Dunn/Jack Cust types: those who strike out a ton and would therefore seem to have poor pitch-recognition skills, but also have a good ability to get on base.
I think where the disconnect may come from for the BA vs. OBP crowds are due to guys like these. If a guy is relatively lousy at making contact, how can he hit so many XBH? Why aren't pitchers going right at these guys more often, because most likely they are going to strike out or get themselves out? Do these guys just not swing unless they can absolutely square the ball up, and the walks and strikeouts are just a residual effect of that particular approach? I wonder if they actually think about this before going to bat, and if they change their approach for specific situations, like RISP w/ less than 2 outs?
A corollary to this (kind of a tangent and I'm winging it so bear with me) is if it would make sense to look at individual hitters like a "market", where the expectancy of a particular result could be compared with the expectancy of another particular result and a decision then made on what the best approach would be for that batter.
For example, take Albert Pujols. His career line is .334/427/629. Based on this line, is there a way to calculate the expectancy of him creating a run every time he comes up? Let's say that it's something like .25 runs created for every plate appearance. Is there a way, based on game situaton, to determine quantitatively what the best approach is (walk him, pitch carefully, go right after him)? Intuitively, if there's two outs, runners on 2nd and 3rd, and he comes up, you probably walk him. Two outs, nobody on, you go right after him. But what about runner on 2nd and 1 out? Is there an appropriate way according to numbers to determine the correct approach? Is any team using such an approach?
Then the last question would be, if all of this information were available, do pitchers over or under (or appropriately) "value" his at-bats from an approach perspective? Could this be done for every batter/game situation? Maybe I'm over-thinking it, but if anybody has any insight into this I would appreciate hearing it.