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  1. Good stuff, Dave.

    I took a look at this very topic the other day. If anything, the relationship between working a pitcher more and performance is positive, if not terribly robust: http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2011/10/26/2513194/are-patient-hitters-better-hitters

    Now, this just looked at P/PA as it relates to performance, but it reaches pretty much the same conclusion.

    Comment by BillPetti — October 27, 2011 @ 12:07 pm

  2. The phrase that Theo Epstein kept referring back to in all the interviews I’ve heard was “selectively aggressive.” TLR is doing TLR things here and picking and choosing things he wants to hear and putting them in a vacuum to make his point.

    Comment by Bob — October 27, 2011 @ 12:12 pm

  3. Hm…does the patience of low-power patient hitter like Abreu and Gardner make them more vulnerable to pitchers with good control? If, after all, they’re exploiting the flaw of poor control, then it stands to reason that they aren’t able to exploit that flaw when it doesn’t exist.

    I’d be curious to compare, say, Gardner’s effectiveness vs control pitchers to Fielder’s. It might be interesting to come up with a different kind of matchup than just handedness…

    Comment by Jay Stevens — October 27, 2011 @ 12:20 pm

  4. Just one comment – I don’t think this is what LaRussa was talking about, but isn’t there evidence that a passive hitter who just takes pitches for the sake of taking them is different than a selective hitter, who takes the bad pitches, but is ready to do damage if he gets a good one? I forget who posted on this, it was months ago, but they looked at Brett Gardner, who seemed to be struggling because he was too passive – he would see a pitch that he could maybe drive, but let it go by looking for a walk. When a hitter like Gardner is going well, he’ll see that pitch and drive it for a single or double.

    So, while LaRussa probably didn’t mean to do so, he did bring up one ‘danger’ of OBP, in that you shouldn’t take the OBP philosophy to mean you should just take pitches; what it really means is that you should merely take the bad pitches, and hit the good ones, or take a walk if you’re only getting bad pitches. Your walk rate will go up, which is good, but you’ll also do more damage on good pitches by not wasting your swings hitting popups or grounders when you could have waited for a better pitch, so it’s a win-win if for a player who be selective successfully . Again, though, LaRussa seems to have referenced that discussion by accident.

    Comment by Tom O — October 27, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

  5. There’s clearly a difference between patience and passivity. If you or I just went up there and made it obvious that we weren’t going to swing the bat, our Zone% would really be off the charts. There’s a minimum level of skill necessary to convince a MLB pitcher to not just throw meatballs down the middle.

    That said, I just don’t think there really are any super-passive guys in MLB who this critique would actually apply to. Perhaps the closest recent example is Luis Castillo, who hardly ever swung the bat and had no ability to drive the ball even when he did, but yet still got on base a lot because he fouled off marginal pitches that he could hit and stared at ones that he couldn’t.

    Castillo was about as passive as an MLB hitter gets, and yet, pitchers couldn’t exploit this. He was still an effective offensive player even though it was pretty clear to everyone that he wouldn’t swing unless you made him.

    There’s a line at which patience crosses over into counterproductive passivity, but I don’t think there are many (or probably any) hitters who actually cross that line. Guys like that get filtered out before they ever get to the big leagues.

    Comment by Dave Cameron — October 27, 2011 @ 12:31 pm

  6. If I were a manager, I would definitely preach a very patient approach. However, in each game, I would assign one “designated hacker” in the early innings who is encouraged to take the biggest swing he could on the first pitch he sees. This reminds the pitcher that he might get burned at any point if he lays one in for strike one. Often we’d be giving up a strike, but it would benefit the rest of the team for that giant swing to be in the back of the opposing pitcher’s mind. It’s similar to having your leadoff hitter take a few in the first inning or after the pitcher bats…..

    Comment by adr3 — October 27, 2011 @ 12:32 pm

  7. …..and it drives me nuts whenver TLR talks about swinging aggressively early in the at bat, because this is what prompts Skip Schumaker hit a bouncer to the second baseman on the first pitch he sees. Skip doesn’t have power anyway, so what’s the advantage of jumping on a good pitch? Maybe you get a single?

    Comment by adr3 — October 27, 2011 @ 12:36 pm

  8. Can you print this on an over-sized banner, fly it off a plane, and have the plane circle Eric Wedge’s house 24/7 all off-season long? Please?

    Comment by Andrew — October 27, 2011 @ 12:46 pm

  9. He isn’t saying OBP is bad, he is talking about players making walks a higher priority than a hit being bad…which it is.

    Also he said the guys with the highest OBP are the guys that are dangerous when they have a pitch in the zone and for the most part that is true as well.

    Comment by odditie — October 27, 2011 @ 12:47 pm

  10. I think the point of OBP is that a junk ball hitters are not as valuable as their OBP suggests. As a Twins fan, I always thought it was designed to make me feel bat about loving Kirby Puckett, who often had an incredibly low walk rate, but got great counting stats (2040 hits within 10 calendar years, surpassed only by Wee Willie Keeler).

    http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=1010557

    Comment by barkey Walker — October 27, 2011 @ 1:04 pm

  11. Well this explains why I keep seeing Cardinal batters swinging at pitches I wouldn’t expect a major league hitter to swing at…. their own manager is feeding them this junk that keeps them from thinking at the plate. Yikes!

    Comment by Devon — October 27, 2011 @ 1:07 pm

  12. The advantage of jumping on a good pitch is, it beats the heck out of taking it for another strike.

    Comment by Richie — October 27, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

  13. Chris Young stands out to me as a guy who might have been passive rather than selective. fwiw.

    Comment by Brad Johnson — October 27, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

  14. TLR is dumb.

    Comment by Ryan C. — October 27, 2011 @ 1:49 pm

  15. u realize they had 9 walks in game 5 right

    Comment by johnefive — October 27, 2011 @ 1:53 pm

  16. Its not surprising that LaRussa’s team hits so well after hearing these thoughts. What you are forgetting Dave is pitch recognition and how it factors into this, although it is hard to quantify. Guys like Abreu have high walk rates despite low power because they can identify borderline pitches and know to take them. Guys like Stanton and Howard get pitched around because they have power but also because they don’t have good pitch recognition, hence their lower walk rates. The Cards by and large jump on first pitch strikes that are in their wheelhouse, and foul off tough pitches until they work a walk or get a hittable offering. This is why teams like the Cards succeed against good pitching in the playoffs and the Phils struggled. Although Philly had one of the better walk rates and the 2nd lowest strikeout rate in the NL, they didn’t do much with what they were thrown when ahead in the count and lacked the ability to foul pitches off (They oalso were thrown the highest percentage of changeups in the NL this year, many of them in hitters’ counts). See the article below for support of this. A major part of building a good lineup is having hitters who can recognize and square up a hittable pitch, while fouling back or taking the borderline pitch to make the pitcher work. The Cards do this very well, and that’s why they are in the World Series. Theo and TLR are referring to being selectively aggressive, and that’s a skill the Phils never have had.

    http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillies/132621748.html

    Comment by DD — October 27, 2011 @ 2:06 pm

  17. Dave,

    You really seem to be arguing against something that Tony LaRussa is not saying. LaRussa seems to be making the argument that hits are better than walks and that a player should not trade a hit for a walk. If I am reading LaRussa correctly, he is, of course, dead right.

    You’re argument suggests that you think Tony LaRussa believes that the only think determining whether a batter sees strikes or balls is the fear of the pitcher. You write:

    “If LaRussa’s contention was right, and that the quality of pitches seen was dictated simply by the amount of intimidation a batter could inflict on the opposing pitcher, guys like Gardner and Carroll would have Zone% that were off the charts.”

    Do you seriously believe Tony LaRussa is simple minded? Of course he knows there are many factors involved in addition to the one he identified (and you confirmed explains a full 20% of the variation!!! And that is a lot, whether you want to acknowledge it or not!!!). You are attributing to LaRussa the most extreme interpretation of an idea and then beating him up for it. Not fair.

    Comment by Jason — October 27, 2011 @ 2:07 pm

  18. I agree with TLR. In RBI situations, OBP isn’t going to help. You need guys who can actually put the ball in play. The Brett Gardner’s have problems driving in runs.

    Comment by Flip — October 27, 2011 @ 2:14 pm

  19. The kurtosis on ISO is pretty low. It gets a very close passing grade on the Shapiro-Wilk Test (Prob < W = .0892). If FG is going to keep throwing around parametric statistics like R^2, you should make note that you are applying the relevant statistical distribution tests rather than just assuming all distributions are normal all the time.

    Comment by Nick44 — October 27, 2011 @ 2:17 pm

  20. Because that’s the point of being patient: being able to swing at a pitch that is good.

    Comment by Eminor3rd — October 27, 2011 @ 2:18 pm

  21. yet somehow the cardinals with their junk fed thought process at the plate led the league in runs scored. And struck out the least amount of times in the league

    hmmm

    Comment by mister_rob — October 27, 2011 @ 2:19 pm

  22. There’s also a danger in trying to extrapolate too much out of a low correlation. Like you said there’s many factors to be considered. You might want to look at correlations based on game situation/leverage. In early innings, pitchers might not worry too much about the batter; they are probably more focused on pitching their game and hitting their spots. In late innings, in close games, pitchers may be adapting their pitching to the scouting report. Low power patient hitters may see a higher spike in strike percentage versus high power hitters.

    This question just might be really hard to address given how hard it is to throw strikes. A better approach may be to look at the change in strike percentage of a given pitcher to different batters.

    Comment by Klatz — October 27, 2011 @ 2:25 pm

  23. Man its good to have Dave back and in mid season form!

    Comment by Mike — October 27, 2011 @ 2:27 pm

  24. Dave will you be live chatting tonight?

    Comment by Playoffs!?! — October 27, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  25. “There’s just no evidence to support the idea that batters being selective in what they swing at is ‘dangerous’ or is producing sub-optimal results relative to a more aggressive approach at the plate.”

    So much of this depends on the skills of the hitter, the batter, and what the game situation is.

    I obviously trust Tony LaRussa’s opinion on something like this way more than Dave Cameron’s. I’ve heard what LaRussa is saying here echoed by some great major league hitters, including Chipper Jones.

    Hits are better than walks. The best way to get a hit is to get a good pitch to swing at. Most times, you’re going to want to try to get into “hitter’s counts.” However, there are certain times where if you take a strike, that’s going to be the only pitch that you’re going to get to hit. And if you’re a much better hitter than the guy in the on-deck circle, you want to drive the ball and make something happen and not pass the baton to the next guy.

    Comment by waynetolleson — October 27, 2011 @ 2:28 pm

  26. Is it really a low correlation? There aren’t programmed pitching machines, these are real pitchers throwing to hitters in numerous game situations. I think 20% is impressively high for a single parameter given how many things are actually going on.

    Comment by Jason — October 27, 2011 @ 2:29 pm

  27. Haha. TLR was mentioned in the book as the guy who screwed up Alderson’s work of cultivating plate discipline in the minors. When they got to the big leagues, mlb manger Tony told them to swing away.

    Comment by Ryan — October 27, 2011 @ 2:35 pm

  28. and gave Phillies pitchers fits by driving up their pitch counts through selectivity and the ability to foul good pitches off.

    Comment by LTG — October 27, 2011 @ 2:48 pm

  29. What DD points out is better explained by the Phillies collective weakness at hitting fastballs well. Check the pitch breakdowns. Phils were 5th or 6th worst at producing against fastballs. They hit curveballs very well, and change-ups pretty well. If you can’t hit fastballs you won’t succeed against good pitchers. Although, yes, the Phillies do not foul off pitchers’ pitches well.

    Comment by LTG — October 27, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  30. What I remember before reading Moneyball was references to it on the topic of OBP and how it was a leading indicator of how successful a minor league batter would be in the majors (Actually I think walks were the indicator, but OBP seems often associated with walks – duh). One theory was that good pitch discernement led to good offensive performance. So, OBP simply measured the ability of implementing the basic (little league) strategy of swinging at strikes, not swinging at balls. OBP is just a way of measuring offense, not a concept of how to play offense.

    Comment by Matt — October 27, 2011 @ 2:53 pm

  31. There’s just nothing that Tony LaRussa said that’s actually against the concept of obp. He just doesn’t know it. Good hitters for the most part have a good approach to the plate. Or rather almost all good hitters tend to have a sound approach at the plate. They are good hitters because they only swing at the pitches they can drive. So of course they tend to take more pitches and walk more, because they’re not waiting for a pitch in the strike zone. They’re waiting for a pitch in the strike zone that they can do something with.

    Comment by Crumpled Stiltskin — October 27, 2011 @ 3:06 pm

  32. Man TLR must have really hated having to watch that Rickey Henderson guy take all those walks.

    Comment by jpg — October 27, 2011 @ 3:07 pm

  33. Normality is not an assumption or requirement of Pearson’s r. You can compute the statistic from any distribution so long as the variance and covariance are finite. However, for small samples with non-normal distributions you might not want to believe hypothesis tests about the significance of r (Dave does not report any hypothesis testing, so this is irrelevant to the present discussion). ….and I think it is really highly skewed distributions that screw up tests of significance and a log transformation can generally rescue you. …or you can use the non-parametric Spearman’s rank correlation….

    …anyway, I think Dave is in the clear reporting his correlation.

    Comment by Jason — October 27, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

  34. I read those comments by La Russa more as, “You are what you are.” In other words, you’re not necessarily going to make yourself a better hitter by trying to take more pitches at the expense of your aggressiveness in going after pitches you could hit.

    While the value of a player who does have OBP skills (and therefore in almost all cases good plate discipline and walking skills) is indisputable, the above point is certainly not settled. It still seems to be an open question whether a player can remold himself into having a higher OBP without damaging other aspects of his game.

    Comment by Matt — October 27, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

  35. Perhaps the Chipper Jones analogy works for a late game scenario when there are two outs, but early in the game, a walk has the additional hidden benefit in that it turns the line-up over. (ie. every time someone walks, someone gets an extra at bat.) Of course, hits do that too, but balls put in play end up being outs a majority of the time.

    This is something that we constantly do in talking about sports, talk about end of the game scenarios as if the rest of the game (which is really the majority of the game) isn’t meaningful. Usually that’s the part of the game that decides the contest.

    Comment by Crumpled Stiltskin — October 27, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  36. Yea bases loaded walks always find a way to hurt you in the long run.

    Comment by Jross — October 27, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

  37. Pujols needs protection in the front as well, TRL needs to put higher OBP people in front him.

    Comment by Buster — October 27, 2011 @ 3:20 pm

  38. TLR’s key statement is this:

    “It’s not sitting up there and taking strike one, strike two so that you can work the count.”

    Such an MLB hitter basically doesn’t exist, and that’s the whole point. The question is whether or not to shrink your strike zone and how much. Selectively aggressive means understanding how small your zone should be so that you’re more likely to drive the ball if you swing. If you try to cover the whole plate from the beginning of the at bat, you sacrifice power from the get go. It’d be nearly like hitting with two strikes every time–almost no one does that well.

    Perhaps TLR’s statements are lip service when in fact he teaches his hitters to shrink the zone considerably (and lay off the off-speed stuff) early in the count. My impression is that he doesn’t see it that way however.

    Comment by Dan — October 27, 2011 @ 3:22 pm

  39. A note on hypothesis testing:

    When you calculate the correlation coefficient r, you always get a number between -1 and 1. The number is only meaningful if it is different than zero. An r of r=0 means that there is no correlation and the two variables are completely independent of each other. In the real world, r is an estimate of the actual dependence between two phenomenon. Because it is an estimate, you want to know if the estimate is believably different from zero and not simply due to random sampling bias.

    There are three things you want to get from the correlation: 1) the effect size R^2 (which tells you how much of the variation you are explaining), 2) the sign of r (which tells you whether the relationship is positive or negative) and 3) whether r is significantly different than zero. This last thing is done to know whether you should believe your estimate is meaningful or not.

    To do this you test the hypothesis that your estimate is different than zero by comparing to some null distribution or r values. If your observed value is comfortably different from the null distribution then you can believe that there really is some effect (i.e. an actual correlation). The calculation of the null distribution may assume normality.

    Comment by Jason — October 27, 2011 @ 3:32 pm

  40. Did you even read the article?

    Comment by EarlSweatshirt — October 27, 2011 @ 3:51 pm

  41. Ya know hits count toward OBP right?

    Comment by Santos — October 27, 2011 @ 3:53 pm

  42. “you get that first strike, that may be the last one that you get to see. ”

    So take the walk.

    Comment by Matt — October 27, 2011 @ 4:12 pm

  43. It’s most certainly not a question of what the author wants to acknowledge. An R^2 of .22 is defined in statistics as a low to moderate correlation. In other words: it’s present, but it’s not particularly meaningful.

    If you’d be interested in a real-life application of this, the industry standard in manufacturing is to dismiss anything with an R^2 lower than .64. So if you said to your boss, “I can prove that this causes 22% of the problem,” your boss would say, “That’s not anywhere near good enough for me to take action.”

    Comment by Adam W — October 27, 2011 @ 4:13 pm

  44. There is no definition in statistics of what is a high and what is a low correlation. There are perhaps some rules of thumb. An R^2 of 0.9 might be considered quite low if you are testing a natural law in physics. An R^2 of 0.9 would be considered absurdly high in social sciences where many factors come into play besides those being measured.

    Your industry standard is not informative. I’m a geneticist. If I can explain 20% of the variation in some complex phenotype by the genetic markers I am looking at, I am absolutely thrilled.

    It all depends on how complicated the thing you are measuring is. Baseball is complicated.

    Comment by Jason — October 27, 2011 @ 4:31 pm

  45. Why shouldn’t a guy like Brett Gardner try to draw as many walks as possible? He has little power. And his job is to get on base. He is the lead off hitter, and if he has good pitch recognition skills, he does his job if he gets on base any way that he can. There are disciplined low power lead off hitters who hardly ever swing at the first pitch and maintain a high OBP. Generally, they have good contact ability and can foul off pitches well if they get down in the count. They are doing what is most valuable for the team.

    I really don’t see any evidence that scouting and acquiring high OBP hitters is dangerous. What examples prove it? Tony LaRussa’s team acquired one of the best OBP hitters in baseball this season–Lance Berkman. In 2010, Berkman was injured and suffered through a terrible season, with the worst ISO and slugging percent of his career. Yet he maintained a 16% walk rate in 2010. Despite the fact that pitchers knew that he wasn’t driving the ball well in 2010, he had the plate discipline skills to continue to draw walks.

    Comment by CJ — October 27, 2011 @ 4:36 pm

  46. If we were to believe LaRussa’s point then we would say that a player like Gardner’s OBP is a function of pitcher’s with poor control and he would struggle in the playoffs when the quality of pitching is higher. But Gardner was 7/17 with only one walk in the playoffs. So his response to getting more pitches in the strike zone was to hit more. Inversely his team-mate Nick Swisher also known for taking a lot of walks, yet possessing legitimate power, struggled (obviously SSS). So I think that the distinction between passive hitters and selective hitters probably has to do with something more than power.
    If Larussa has a valid point here it’s that while walks are valuable, they aren’t as valuable as hits. And thus your approach should not be with the intention of taking walks. Because the better a pitcher/pitching is the fewer pitches you will get to capitalize on and thus you need to make sure you take advantage of those opportunities. Whether it’s the first pitch of an AB or the count is 3-0.

    Comment by Preston — October 27, 2011 @ 4:49 pm

  47. I’m not sure if control is the biggest factor. Guys like Gardner and Abreu aren’t afraid to swing the bat, but they simply aren’t willing to do so on pitches that are likely to go out of the zone. Abreu through his career has been particularly stalwart about that. I remember him drawing a walkoff BB one time for the Phillies in a 3-2 count. I think this has a lot more to do with having good reads on where a pitcher is throwing, so it may be an eye-skill and pitch-identification thing.

    Comment by B N — October 27, 2011 @ 4:53 pm

  48. Like I said, it all depends on the hitter-pitcher match-up score/game situation. There are certain times where even if you’re Albert Pujols, a walk is as hood as a hit. But there are other times where your team needs a big hit, and the guys behind you in the order just don’t have the pop in your bat.

    Really, what it comes down to is getting a good pitch to swing at. If you’re facing Roy Halladay, that might be the first or second pitch. If you’re facing A.J. Burnett, you probably want to try to work a deeper count and wait until he loses his concentration and grooves one.

    Overall, OBP does matter. As you and others point out, walks mean more baserunners, and more batters getting a turn at the plate, which increases the odds of a guy getting an extra-base hit (or any hit) to plate a couple runs.

    But there are times in a game where you don’t want to let a hittable strike that you might crush go by and hope to work a walk.

    Basically, good major league pitchers are gonna show you one hit every PA that you might be able to handle. If you don’t swing at that pitch, or miss that pitch, the pitcher is probably not going to give you another pitch you can damage.

    Comment by waynetolleson — October 27, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  49. Similarly, from analysis of Juan Pierre I’ve seen here, there’s also a minimum power/ISO you need to prevent pitchers throwing you meatballs, especially in 3-x counts. If you hit for as little power as Juan, it’s pretty hard to get pitchers to nibble. On the other hand, guys with only a little more power seem to be able to keep pitchers honest.

    Comment by B N — October 27, 2011 @ 4:55 pm

  50. Isn’t there some heavy selection bias at play in these statistics? A hitter less likely to swing at poor pitches will see a disproportionately higher percentage of pitches from poor control pitchers than a hitter who swings more often at these poor pitches. Of course, contact % plays a roll as well.

    Perhaps a pitch-by-pitch breakdown would provide better illumination.

    Comment by Marver — October 27, 2011 @ 4:57 pm

  51. Well, let’s put it this way: Hits are better than walks, but walks are better than putting the ball in play in almost every case. I mean.. this is pretty obvious stuff:

    Superiority of Hits to Walks
    ——————————
    # Bases for a Walk: 1
    # Bases for a Hit: >= 1

    Superiority of Walks to (Ball in Play + HR’s)
    ————————————
    # Bases for a Walk: 1
    # Bases for a Ball in Play: ~ BABIP * SLG (<1 for all humans)

    So sure, you're better off getting a hit than a walk. But to GET that hit, you have to risk it being in play, which is more than 65% likely to result in an out.

    So saying a hit is better than a walk is like saying a HR is better than a hit. It's true, but does that mean that people should be swinging for the fences regularly? Of course not.

    Comment by B N — October 27, 2011 @ 5:09 pm

  52. Actually, against a guy like Halladay I think one should have a very different strategy. Back when he was with the Jays, I saw the Red Sox pick a very effective tactic: make him throw a lot of pitches. Basically, take pitches and foul off a lot of balls in 2 strike counts just to make him use up the pitches. It’s a pretty hard tactic to counter, and they got him into the 120 range by the 7th so they got to face almost 3 innings of relief and scored some runs, plus they made better contact on him later in the game.

    There are well known impacts on pitcher performance due to pitch count. If a pitcher is really on, I think the best strategy is to knock them out of the game by forcing them to throw as many pitches as you can. If that means taking strikes, so be it. So that would be an approach where any option except putting a ball in play or striking out is beneficial.

    So that is my take- sometimes taking more pitches is really an end-unto-itself.

    Comment by B N — October 27, 2011 @ 5:16 pm

  53. Agreed, and he’s going to go into the pivotal game of the season w/ Rafael Furcal leading off and Skip Schumaker batting 2nd.

    Comment by chuckb — October 27, 2011 @ 5:41 pm

  54. Taking pitches may be more helpful earlier in a ballgame. Obviously, you want to make the opposing pitcher work and get into the other team’s bullpen.

    However, a few years ago, the Red Sox had a much better lineup. Offenses were better across baseball. And Roy Halladay wasn’t quite as efficient as he has become, (though he was still pretty efficient).

    The thing today is that if you’re facing Roy Halladay, he might give you a fastball that catches some of the white of the plate on the first pitch. And that might just be the only pitch you get that AB to attack, especially if you’re down in the count.

    Comment by waynetolleson — October 27, 2011 @ 6:08 pm

  55. A skewed distribution will really affect Pearson’s r by giving outlier data outsized importance in calculating the dependence between two phenomena. It’s obvious when you examine how it is calculated.

    If you do a lot of data mining, R^2 can be a decent first pass filter.

    If your distribution is neither normal or log-normal, you should use the Johnson set of distributions before trudging off to the land of no return (i.e. non-parametric distributions).

    Comment by Nick44 — October 27, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

  56. Your statement “Baseball is complicated” is not informative.

    It is only informative if you consider yourself more knowledgable than the person you are talking to. Which you can’t really know.

    Comment by Nick44 — October 27, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

  57. anybody watch carroll or gardner on a regular basis? they’re both pretty short, do they also try to shrink the strike zone with their stance?

    Comment by the fume — October 27, 2011 @ 7:04 pm

  58. TLR’s A’s?

    Yeah, he really screwed up those hitters. Isn’t one of those hitters, one that walks quite a bit StL’s current batting coach.

    Isn’t this the same TLR that eventually traded (or insisted on a trade) Rasmus because Colby would rather listen to his dad as opposed to TLR’s suggestion of being more selective?

    StL was T-6 in BB% as a team in 2011.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — October 27, 2011 @ 7:26 pm

  59. As if all MLB players are really good at laying off pitches that start in the zone and end up 1-2 inches out of it.

    If all batters had that quality of pitch recognition and plate discipline, it would be a non-issue. We’d be wondering how batters ever strike out.

    Comment by CircleChange11 — October 27, 2011 @ 7:27 pm

  60. I didn’t read through all the comments but I would point people toward this year’s Diamondbacks. They just changed regimes from a more sabermetric management of Josh Byrnes/AJ Hinch to Kevin Towers/Kirk Gibson and CLEARLY they tried to put an emphasis on being more aggressive and less passive for the hitters. Justin Upton, Chris Young, Miguel Montero & Gerardo Parra all set career lows for K% this year and Kelly Johnson was shown the door in exchange for Aaron Hill who strikes out just over half as much.

    The numbers speak for themselves – all those guys had career or near career years.

    It will be interesting to see what that means for Paul Goldschmidt who K’s a lot.

    Comment by Anon — October 27, 2011 @ 7:46 pm

  61. I wonder if TLR realizes that the importance of OBP dates back to Branch Rickey, not Moneyball. Frankly, you guys missed an opportunity with your headline. I would have gone with: “LARUSSA DECRIES RICKEY’S ‘DANGEROUS’ IDEAS ABOUT BASEBALL!!!”

    Comment by Bigmouth — October 27, 2011 @ 8:18 pm

  62. Bad time to remind fellow Cubs fans that Soriano has 3 years remaining on his contract?

    Comment by Eddie — October 27, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

  63. Any chance TLR is playing us all for fools – seemingly criticizing the benefits of plate patience while secretly emphasizing the virtues of just such an approach to his players?

    Comment by Kush — October 27, 2011 @ 9:05 pm

  64. Don’t walk in RBI situations!! Genius!

    Comment by JDanger — October 27, 2011 @ 9:07 pm

  65. I think the key message from TLR is actually pretty accurate . . . I want my best hitters (think guys with a .900 + OPS) looking for a pitch that they can do damage to, and they are free to swing at this pitch regardless of the count. I don’t want these hitters trying to work a walk. Yes, I want them to take the walk if nothing good comes along . . . but not to think about walking as a priority over hitting.

    For most other hitters on my team, I’m pretty happy to see them work the count, get the opposing guy’s pitch count up (especially early in a series and especially if the other team has not had an off day to rest up their bullpen), and I would not green light them on any 3-0 count.

    Overall, I think TLR’s point is that you let your power hitters swing at what they want, when they want, and to simply take walks as a by-product of not being thrown pitches that they can really drive. I am good with that philosophy.

    Comment by Matt — October 27, 2011 @ 9:16 pm

  66. He certainly seems nuts enough to try it.

    Comment by JDanger — October 27, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

  67. In fact Gardner is MOST effective against “finesse” pitchers:

    http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?id=gardnbr01&year=Career&t=b

    Scroll down to said line near the bottom, where you’ll see that he’s hit .289/.368/.394 against them-walks were down but everything else was up. Now perhaps that’s due to quality leakage (“finesse” pitchers as originally defined by Bill James himself might be below average overall), but still is another relevant data point.

    Comment by John DiFool — October 28, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

  68. @”No definition”: I’m using Guilford’s interpretation, which posits that .2<r<.4 is a "low correlation" and .4<r<.7 is a "moderate correlation".

    @"Industry Standard": This comes from the Lean Six Sigma model, which is most certainly the industry standard for process improvments in manufacturing. You are the one bringing genetics into the discussion.

    Comment by Adam W — October 28, 2011 @ 1:03 pm

  69. Adam,

    My point is that what is considered a “high” correlation is context dependent.

    A good portion of the variation in batters receiving walks is simply due to pitchers not being able to throw strikes when they want to. This variation is the uninteresting part that has nothing to do with strategy or the hitters at the plate. Suppose 80% of the variation is due to pitchers not being able to execute. If that is the case, and 20% of the variation is explained by the batter’s power, then 100% of the interesting variation is explained by a single variable. Here you have a low correlation that is extremely important. Its just that pitchers aren’t capable of doing exactly what they want to a lot of the time.

    We know for a fact that pitchers cannot always execute when they want to. Brett Gardner really does get walked a lot. Albert Pujols really does see lots of belt high fastballs right down the center. Given that we know this, we should not expect a high correlation even for something that is a very strong effect. Pitchers do not have the precision that is expected in manufacturing.

    Comment by Jason — October 28, 2011 @ 3:30 pm

  70. If 80% of the variation is due to the pitcher, there’s hardly any point in looking at the hitter if you want different results. 100% of 20% is still 20%, and it’s still not particularly helpful if you’re trying to improve a process.

    Comment by Adam W — October 28, 2011 @ 4:19 pm

  71. Adam,

    That is wrong. If you want to improve a process you have to focus on the fraction of the process you have control over. If you could put yourself in a better position 1 out of 5 times, you’d be foolish not to.

    It seems a silly argument for baseball fans to have. I mean, a .200 hitter is out of the league, and a .300 hitter is an allstar! The .300 hitter gets one extra hit every ten at bats! We all recognize that marginal differences can be extremely important. 20% may very well be very important. There is no reason to dismiss it just because of a rule of thumb that says something is “low” or “high”.

    Comment by Jason — October 28, 2011 @ 8:12 pm

  72. “You are attributing to LaRussa the most extreme interpretation of an idea and then beating him up for it. Not fair.”

    Of course, this is exactly what LaRussa himself was doing in the very remarks about OBP/Moneyball prompting this post. So, kind of fair, actually, in a tit-for-tat sort of way.

    Comment by Richard — October 29, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

  73. Jeff’s answers are great!!!! I would add to them a couple of articles you should check out where you can get a lot of good info that will really help you.

    Comment by Myles Pomales — November 13, 2011 @ 9:15 pm

  74. Highly beneficial appreciate it. It is my opinion your current audience may very well want even more posts similar to this continue the excellent hard work.

    Comment by Carrol Buttimer — November 16, 2011 @ 9:49 am

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