However, as Nationals fans in particular have learned with Nyjer Morgan, there are more ways to make an out than to strike out, ground out, or fly out. You can get picked off, caught stealing, thrown out trying to advance on a flyball, and more.
And especially for lead-off hitters, the most important thing they need to achieve is to avoid creating outs so that there are base-runners for the heart of the order. A lead-off man who reaches base and then gets picked off or caught stealing hasn't really contributed any more than if they had made an out in the first place.
So I created a stat that I call out rate. Out rate is the percentage of all plate appearances that end in the hitter creating an out, either at the plate or on the bases. The stat also counts the extra outs created by GDPs. Here's the formula: Out rate = (H+BB+HBP-CS-GDP-POCS-OOB)/PA.
Some explanation on unfamiliar stats here. POCS stands for pick-off caught stealing. In the dataset that Baseball Reference uses, runners are charged with both a CS and a PO if he is judged to have been making a motion towards the next base before getting picked off. But BRef also tracks those "double counted" events as POCS, so by subtracting that number, we're able eliminate the overlap.
OOB is "outs on base"--other events when a runner is called out on the bases. Example plays are out advancing on a flyball, trying to "take the extra base" on a hit, or attempting to advance on a wild pitch.
The reason I think this represents an upgrade over OBP is because it represents a more complete view of the key thing OBP measures--how often a hitter does or doesn't create an out.
Some will object that I'm mixing base-running and hitting, two very different skill sets. Indeed I am. But when measuring the offensive output of a player (as opposed to their skills), it doesn't really matter how they are creating outs. Outs are outs. Indeed, OBP itself is a stat that is derived by looking at the outcomes of some very different skill sets--mainly strike zone discipline and contact ability. To really drill down to measure one skill at a time, we should be looking at more granular data still, like contact rate, walk rate, swing rates, etc.
I like out rate because it presents the data in the way it's more intuitively useful--i.e., how often a player creates an out, as opposed to measuring a negative, how often a player avoids making an out.
Here are the league-wide numbers, updated through the end of the weekend: http://bit.ly/bDBjhs.
And here are the rates for all the players in MLB who have started at least 30 games this season in the lead-off spot, ranked from best to worst, with OBP also listed for reference.
Nationals fans--take note. The only lead-off hitters worse than are guy aren't lead-off hitters anymore. A real good way to kill an offense is to create a league-leading number of outs from the lead-off spot.