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%).
|9||Alejandro De Aza||CF||788||8.2%||100||43.8%||97|
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.