For Reference: The Dominican Team Has Average Patience

Tom McCarthy: Well, Wheels, that’s what you’re talking about. They’re not going to take many pitches.

Chris Wheeler: No. I was kidding with Juan Samuel about that behind the cage today… I was kidding around with Sammy. He says, “You want to see the lineup?” and he showed us the lineup card. I said, “Not many walks in that lineup, are there?” He said: “I told you a long time ago, we do not come off that island walking. We come off swinging.” And that was something that Sammy had said years and years ago, and it’s so true.

–From the second inning of Tuesday’s Dominican-Phillies exhibition game

During today’s game between the Dominican national team and the Phillies in Clearwater, Florida, the broadcasters for Comcast SportsNet Philadelphia (Tom McCarthy and Chris Wheeler, it appears) made a number of references to the aggressive approach of the Dominican team’s batters as a unit — the comment above being merely an example of a half-dozen or so made by McCarthy and Wheeler over the first two or three innings.

Certainly, this will not mark the first time that the reader has encountered the suggestion that Dominican players — or, perhaps, Latin players as a whole — exhibit less in the way of plate discipline than their American counterparts. To what degree there is or isn’t any truth to this generalization historically is one matter — and is decidedly outside the purview of this present post. The plate discipline of the lineup deployed by manager Tony Pena on Tuesday, however, is something that can be measured with some ease.

Indeed, what follows is that exact starting lineup deployed by Pena. For each batter, the author has included both his walk rate and overall swing percentage for the last three seasons combined. Alongside each metric is an index measurement — that is, the player’s personal rate compared to league average from 2010 to -12, where 100 is average and above 100 is greater than average. (By way of reference, the average walk rate for the selected timeframe is 8.2%; the average swing rate, 45.1%).

Num Name POS PA BB% BB+ Sw% Sw+
1 Jose Reyes SS 1905 7.2% 88 43.3% 96
2 Robinson Cano 2B 2074 7.5% 91 51.1% 113
3 Edwin Encarnacion 1B 1541 10.1% 123 43.9% 97
4 Nelson Cruz RF 1600 7.4% 90 48.6% 108
5 Hanley Ramirez DH 1671 9.7% 118 44.4% 98
6 Miguel Tejada 3B 1024 4.1% 50 50.5% 112
7 Carlos Santana C 1459 15.4% 188 38.1% 84
8 Ricardo Nanita LF
9 Alejandro De Aza CF 788 8.2% 100 43.8% 97
Average 1508 8.7% 106 45.5% 101

In fact, what we find is that the Dominican players — Ricardo Nanita, who has played only minor-league baseball, excluded — have posted swing rates only about 1% greater than league average (45.5%, relative to 45.1%) and have actually posted walk rates about 6% greater than major-league average (8.7%, relative to 8.2%).

From this, we might conclude that whatever the truth has been about the Dominican Republic national team — and it’s entirely possible that colorman Chris Wheeler is 100% accurate in his assessment — that the Dominican hitters in Tony Pena’s starting lineup are very close to major-league average so far as walk and swing rates are concerned, nor should we expect them to walk any less than any of the other nations involved in the World Baseball Classic.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

16 Responses to “For Reference: The Dominican Team Has Average Patience”

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  1. kdm628496 says:

    glad the broadcasters are espousing the front office view of eschewing any sort of critical analysis whatsoever. hooray for synergy.

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  2. james wilson says:

    Maybe they are walking off the island now, but for about fifteen years they were shooting off the island.

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  3. james says:

    Dominican got 28 hits today at the Phillies, 12 of those against Cole Hamels in 2.2 innings. I think it might be okay if they swing a bit.

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  4. Dag Gummit says:

    You know, I’d be curious to see a comparable study that compared the national teams to a pool exclusively of WBC-competing MLB players. I’m not completely sure what the end results would be, but I bet it would be pretty interesting.

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  5. cass says:

    What percentage of baseball would you say that you’ve analyzed in this post, Mr. Cistulli?

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  6. x says:

    Average when excluding a minor leaguer with a mediocre walk rate in the minors does not translate to average overall.

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    • rusty says:

      Given that the calculated rate is weighted by MLB PAs, 2010-12, I’m not sure that the ‘average’ the author calculated and the ‘average’ that you’re describing are the same calculation.

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  7. Le Vagabond says:

    Surely if they walked off the island they would drown? They should atleast attempt to swim. I’m actually going to hazard a guess and say they never swung off the island either but mostly flew or traveled on a sea vessel.

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  8. bleh says:

    Meanwhile the Phillies were 26th in BB% last year but you never hear those 2 dolts say anything about that.

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  9. dbssaber says:

    And that, class, is why we mute the TV and turn on the radio when we watch Phillies games

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  10. Jim says:

    Believe it or not this is actually one of the more intelligent things those idiots have said over the years. Thank God we have such an awesome radio crew because I would have shot myself by now if the TV crew was all I had to listen to.

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  11. Eric R says:

    “You know, I’d be curious to see a comparable study that compared the national teams to a pool exclusively of WBC-competing MLB players. I’m not completely sure what the end results would be, but I bet it would be pretty interesting.”

    That’s what I was thinking– collectively, the WBC rosters [with guys without MLB experience exlcuded] are almost certainly well above average MLBers, so comparing them to average, seems to be missing someting…

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    • KDL says:

      It’s a totally relevant comparison, because the idiotic announcers were only talking about these players…and talking about them in a ‘compared to other major leaguers’ sense. If the point of this article was to make a larger point (which the article takes a few sentences to tell us that’s not the goal), then, yeah it would be better to compare larger samples or WBC rosters against each other.
      But for the expressed purposes of the article, this comparison is perfectly apt. Your critique is basically complaining that the article wasn’t about what you wanted it to be about, which isn’t a very helpful one.

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  12. Benzedrine says:

    I did a rudimentary study of comparing o-swing rates and walk rates of foreign-born Hispanic players vs all players for my baseball class about 4 years ago. The result showed more o-swings for Hispanic players (27.6%) vs All players (25.8%), but no significant. Also fewer walks for Hispanic players (7.6%) vs All players (8.9%), again not significant.

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  13. Jon L. says:

    I interpret this analysis to suggest the opposite of what the author claims, because major league average walk rates and swing rates are calculated across all major leaguers, and you would expect rather high-ceiling hitters like these (compared to the average) to have higher walk rates. Jose Reyes stands out as a guy who would benefit disproportionately from walking, but doesn’t walk more often than average. Cano and Nelson are intimidating hitters who pitchers might want to pitch around, but they’re both so aggressive that they walk less often than the average major leaguer. And Tejada, a former MVP, has apparently never walked. On the flip side, we have Encarnacion, who walks quite often, but maybe not more than we’d expect from a top-tier slugger, and Carlos Santana, who does appear to take a lot of pitches and have elite sense of the strike zone. (Hanley dropped to league average last year.)

    Overall, this adds up to a team that profiles as having less command of the strike zone than one would expect, given the overall quality of the hitters.

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  14. d says:

    You didn’t exclude the population of Dominican players from your “average.” You’d have to compare Dominican walk/swing rates to non-Dominican walk/swing rates.

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