The Tall And Short Of Hit
December 21, 2016
By Nathan Rode
Nearly two years ago, a question was submitted to the PBR Mailbag asking why 6-foot-2 is an ideal height for pitchers. A friend of mine in the scouting community suggested doing the same exercise, but for hitters. The thought being that levers lengthen with increasing height, making hitting for average difficult because of a long swing. Once again, I dove in using Baseball Reference’s player index. If you enjoy going into rabbit holes, the subscription is well worth it.
The question of height and its correlation to hitting for a high average came up at one point because of who was among the major league leaders. Jose Altuve and Dustin Pedroia are listed at 5-foot-6 and 5-foot-9 respectively and they finished in the top 10 for 2016. Altuve won the American League batting title with his .338 average. When you think of the game’s best hitters, you probably don’t think someone that could blend into a crowd of baseball writers.
To start this exercise, I had to set parameters. I wanted to find the average height for the best career hitters. Using Baseball-Reference, I limited the search to the Integration Era (1947-present) and asked for the results to include players with at least 3,000 plate appearances and a career average of .286 or better. The plate appearances give a basic benchmark for an established big leaguer. As for the average, that’s where the 20-to-80 scouting scale starts for a hitter being a 60, or above average.
With those numbers, we get 216 players with at least 3,000 plate appearances and a career average of at least .286. The tallest hitters are 6-foot-5 and include Freddie Freeman, Joe Mauer, Frank Thomas, John Olerud and Dave Parker. The shortest is Altuve.
Below is an entire breakdown by height and the best active and retired average for that height.