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How Patient Are Oakland's Hitters?

I haven't really seen much analysis about plate discipline statistics, but they exist, and they're pretty great. In a nutshell, they measure swing and contact rates on balls in and out of the zone. I'll reprint some stats first, and explain afterwards.


Real quick: O means out of the strike zone and Z means in the zone. So the first column indicates that Daric Barton swings at only 13.9% of pitches outside of the zone, while making contact on 82.4% of those swings.

You know what I really love about these stats? They pretty much confirm things we already know. There's nothing really surprising about anything here. Daric Barton is ultra-patient, and it shows. He combines a very low out of the zone swing rate with very high contact rates. In other words, not only is he very selective, but he can hit what he decides to swing at, even if it's out of the zone. That's fantastic.

On the other hand, Rajai Davis's plate discipline stats trouble me. How does Rajai have a ridiculously high swing rate on pitches out of the zone, but an average rate swinging on pitches in the zone? I really hope it's a sort of statistical fluke, because otherwise, there's something completely broken with how he recognizes pitches. Sadly, that wouldn't be much of a shocker. Compare Rajai to Kevin Kouzmanoff, who exhibits normal "free swinger" numbers. Not good ones, mind you, but at least they're not puzzling. Kouzmanoff swings a lot more than the league average on all pitches, and makes contact at about a league average rate. To succeed with such a high swing rate, it'd be nice to see a high contact rate. Vladimir Guerrero and Pablo Sandoval come to mind.

Now, obviously, it's only been six weeks, so these numbers should be tempered a little bit, but I like what I see from some of the key players that should be around for quite a while. I know our offense is difficult to watch at times (okay, all of the time), but once we jettison the dead weight, most of our team has a pretty good approach at the plate.

A rematch of opening day is on the slate for tonight, as Felix Hernandez comes to the mound to face Ben Sheets at 7:05 PM.


Odds and Ends

  • All numbers come from Fangraphs, and I limited the table to players with at least 100 PAs. Sorry, Jack.
  • I really love Ryan Sweeney's approach at the plate. He's a little bit more selective than your average player, and he has extremely high contact rates on pitches in the zone. He simply doesn't miss pitches. I know, I know, it's the same old complaint, but if he had some power in that huge frame of his, he'd be a star.
  • Is there a better argument against Zombie Eric Chavez's place on the roster than his contact rate on pitches in the zone? He's almost 10% worse than average at making contact with pitches in the zone. Among qualified players last year, only six had worse zone contact rates: Mark Reynolds, Carlos Peña, Russell Branyan, Jack Cust, Brad Hawpe, and Ryan Howard. See the pattern? They have power. Loads of it. Chavez can barely muscle a ball to the warning track.