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Monday, July 14, 2014

Batter Patience as a Team Sport

If plate patience was so important, why don’t they put it on the scoreboard?

But the problem with this narrative goes deeper than that. In truth, there is little evidence of any ultimate connection between team plate patience and production, on either side of the ledger. So far this season, the Red Sox (4.02 P/PA), Mets (3.87 P/PA), and Phillies (3.87 P/PA) all have significantly above-average plate patience, and significantly below-average offensive production. The Blue Jays, Athletics, and Indians have significantly above-average plate patience with above-average offensive production…. We can find some effect of plate patience if we step back to hits, strikeouts, and walks. Over this same time period, there is a significant (p<.05) but weak (r=.21) positive connection between team P/PA and hits, a highly significant (p<.001) and moderate (r=.4) positive connection between team P/PA and strikeouts, and a highly significant (p<.001) and rather strong (r=.56) positive connection between team P/PA and walks. The connection between plate patience and walks/strikeouts at least makes sense: the more pitches you take, the more likely a hitter will get to strike three or ball four. But when you re-run any of the bottom-line metrics we care about, like wRC+ or Runs Scored—even controlling for walks and strikeouts—there still is no meaningful connection between team plate patience and team offensive success, at least over recent seasons.
RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 14, 2014 at 11:28 AM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: lyle overbay, moneyball, plate discipline

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   1. cardsfanboy Posted: July 14, 2014 at 03:35 PM (#4750155)
I think this is one of those situations in which the writer is trying to over analyze. I don't know if anyone is claiming patience or aggressiveness results in more offense, I think the claim is arguing whether these attitudes helps the individual players. Are there guys going from an aggressive team to a patient team and seeing their pitches per pa going up along with their offense? the opposite? or vice versa?

Also in this case Overbay was arguing the team would rather face a pitcher four times through the order than three times, so shouldn't the goal on a study, be to determine whether they are getting that advantage that they are shooting for? Do the Brewers(or other aggressive teams) face the opposing teams starter four times through the order more than passive teams like the Mets?

   2. cardsfanboy Posted: July 14, 2014 at 03:49 PM (#4750168)
The final portion of the article attempts to try to argue for/against the concept that aggressive teams face the starting pitcher four times, but instead of actually looking at actual results, he lists pitches per pa and comes to the conclusion that the average start results in the aggressive team getting one more batter against the starting pitcher over the passive team...simply because of the average number of pitches that pitchers in baseball face.

No real evidence that is true or not as he didn't look at actual results.

As it stands, the Brewers are the most aggressive team in the NL, second best runs per game, and have 65 pa against the starting pitcher 4th time through the order. The Marlins are the second most patient team in NL, 3rd best runs per game and have faced the starting pitcher a fourth time through the order 38 pa. Not sure if that extra batter every third game is a big deal or not, but it's at least one point of evidence in favor of the Brewers approach. (it's far from conclusive and is nearly useless to be honest, but it's something to point to on how they should be exploring this type of study)
   3. cardsfanboy Posted: July 14, 2014 at 04:02 PM (#4750180)
Here is the list of plate appearances by team versus the starting pitcher fourth time through the lineup.

Rk             Split Year   OPS  PA AB  R  H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO   BA  OBP  SLG   OPS TB GDP BAbip tOPSsOPS+
31                                                                                                           
1    SEA vs
SP 4th2014  .636 101 92  8 20  4  0  3   8  6 21 .217 .277 .359  .636 33   2  .246    88    77
2    KCR vs
SP 4th2014  .726  85 76 12 20  2  0  3  12  6 11 .263 .318 .408  .726 31   2  .266   110   102
3    PHI vs
SP 4th2014  .667  82 80  2 23  6  0  0   2  2 12 .288 .305 .363  .667 29   1  .338   102    87
4    TEX vs
SP 4th2014  .646  79 69  3 17  4  0  0   3  9 13 .246 .342 .304  .646 21   2  .304    86    84
5    ATL vs
SP 4th2014  .539  77 69  4 14  3  1  0   4  6 12 .203 .263 .275  .539 19   1  .241    58    52
6    BAL vs
SP 4th2014  .775  74 64  8 16  4  1  2   8  9  6 .250 .338 .438  .775 28   4  .246   111   116
7    CIN vs
SP 4th2014  .686  74 66 12 14  3  0  4  12  4 13 .212 .247 .439  .686 29   0  .192    94    87
8    TBR vs
SP 4th2014  .734  72 68  9 16  2  1  4   9  3 13 .235 .264 .471  .734 32   0  .231   105   100
9    TOR vs
SP 4th2014  .967  69 62  9 23  4  0  2   9  6  7 .371 .435 .532  .967 33   3  .396   160   170
10   OAK vs
SP 4th2014  .967  69 57 12 18  6  1  2  12  8  5 .316 .406 .561  .967 32   1  .308   164   168
11   STL vs
SP 4th2014  .652  68 59  7 13  7  0  0   7  8 10 .220 .313 .339  .652 20   1  .265    90    83
12   CHW vs
SP 4th2014  .738  67 61  5 16  3  0  2   5  5 13 .262 .328 .410  .738 25   2  .304   107   106
13   PIT vs
SP 4th2014  .774  66 56  5 14  1  1  2   4  8  8 .250 .364 .411  .774 23   2  .261   115   117
14   WSN vs
SP 4th2014  .800  66 63 13 18  5  1  2  13  2  7 .286 .308 .492  .800 31   1  .296   126   120
15   DET vs
SP 4th2014  .912  65 59  8 18  2  0  4   8  4  8 .305 .369 .542  .912 32   3  .298   133   151
16   ARI vs
SP 4th2014  .684  65 57  1 15  5  0  0   1  3  3 .263 .333 .351  .684 20   4  .278    99    93
17   MIL vs
SP 4th2014  .837  65 60  5 18  6  1  1   5  5  8 .300 .354 .483  .837 29   1  .333   129   132
18   COL vs
SP 4th2014  .675  59 54  5 13  5  1  0   5  5  9 .241 .305 .370  .675 20   0  .289    74    88
19   NYY vs
SP 4th2014  .510  56 54  4 11  4  0  0   4  1  5 .204 .232 .278  .510 15   3  .224    47    42
20   HOU vs
SP 4th2014  .410  55 52  0  9  1  0  0   0  2 11 .173 .218 .192  .410 10   2  .220    20    17
21   CLE vs
SP 4th2014  .747  54 51  4 13  4  0  2   4  1  7 .255 .296 .451  .747 23   1  .262   105   106
22   SDP vs
SP 4th2014  .460  53 48  3  8  0  0  1   2  3 14 .167 .231 .229  .460 11   0  .212    53    30
23   BOS vs
SP 4th2014  .683  53 50  6 12  2  0  2   6  2 13 .240 .283 .400  .683 20   2  .286    95    89
24   LAA vs
SP 4th2014 1.315  51 44 13 20  2  2  3  13  6 10 .455 .520 .795 1.315 35   0  .548   242   262
25   LAD vs
SP 4th2014  .890  51 46 10 16  6  0  0   8  5  8 .348 .412 .478  .890 22   1  .421   146   149
26   MIN vs
SP 4th2014  .413  48 43  2  7  0  0  0   2  4  8 .163 .250 .163  .413  7   0  .200    21    20
27   NYM vs
SP 4th2014  .629  41 39  1  8  4  0  1   1  2  9 .205 .244 .385  .629 15   0  .241    82    73
28   CHC vs
SP 4th2014  .842  38 38  9 11  4  0  2   9  0  7 .289 .289 .553  .842 21   0  .310   142   129
29   MIA vs
SP 4th2014  .652  38 36  3  8  3  0  1   3  2 13 .222 .263 .389  .652 14   1  .318    84    80
30   SFG vs
SP 4th2014  .570  33 30  2  7  1  0  0   2  2  5 .233 .303 .267  .570  8   0  .280    69    62 


While here is the ranking of pitches per plate appearances sorted by most vs less...

Tm       R/G     PA    Pit Pit/PA
MIN     4.28   3640  14720   4.04
BOS     3.86   3678  14820   4.03
NYY     3.99   3600  14077   3.91
TOR     4.49   3650  14232   3.90
CLE     4.44   3639  14139   3.89
HOU     3.83   3587  13957   3.89
NYM     4.03   3693  14335   3.88
MIA     4.21   3651  14125   3.87
OAK     4.91   3734  14455   3.87
CHC     3.89   3564  13752   3.86
LAA     5.09   3670  14155   3.86
PHI     3.86   3661  14132   3.86
PIT     4.12   3706  14250   3.85
SDP     2.94   3400  13106   3.85
TBR     3.89   3742  14408   3.85
LAD     4.16   3699  14193   3.84
CHW     4.28   3640  13945   3.83
LgAvg   4.14   3617  13861   3.83
DET     4.80   3467  13230   3.82
STL     3.75   3619  13775   3.81
SFG     3.89   3552  13496   3.80
WSN     4.16   3569  13566   3.80
ARI     3.92   3639  13807   3.79
CIN     3.97   3572  13532   3.79
TEX     4.12   3562  13504   3.79
BAL     4.31   3599  13546   3.76
ATL     3.81   3605  13486   3.74
KCR     4.07   3559  13233   3.72
SEA     3.98   3523  13123   3.72
COL     4.76   3618  13411   3.71
MIL     4.41   3664  13326   3.64
        4.14 108502 415836   3.83 


Sea, Col, Mil and KCR are among the most aggressive teams at swinging and are in the top half in facing the starting pitcher four times through the order(it doesn't help everyone though, as a few of them don't have impressive numbers in that situation)
   4. dr. scott Posted: July 14, 2014 at 05:46 PM (#4750285)
edit... delete.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: July 14, 2014 at 06:12 PM (#4750309)
The results cited in the excerpt seem odd. Higher P/PA is associated with more hits, more walks, therefore fewer outs per PA ... but the increased OBP doesn't increase runs? This suggests less power for patient teams or a much bigger positive effect for "productive outs" than we've detected before.
   6. Moeball Posted: July 14, 2014 at 06:40 PM (#4750338)
"Patience" can have different definitions, I suppose. I always thought of it simply as swing at the strikes and don't swing at the balls. Easier said than done, obviously. Pitchers in this game have been fooling hitters for over a century now. Some hitters that swing at a lot of pitches out of the strike zone aren't necessarily overly aggressive, they may just not be able to track the pitches as well as other hitters. We already know a lot of umps can't tell the difference between a ball and a strike; neither can some batters.

Plus, even the guru of extreme patience, Ted Williams himself, said he wouldn't push Tony Gwynn to take more pitches, even though Tony never really walked that much. Williams also said he wouldn't tinker with Kirby Puckett's approach, either, even though Puckett was so aggressive that Frank Viola swears he once saw Kirby hit a HR on a pitch that was aimed at Kirby to buzz him.

Batters may also have varying reasons to take a lot of pitches or to have high pitch-count PAs; it's not always about someone trying to work the pitcher for a walk. One of the strengths of the late-90s Yankee teams was that their lineup was full of guys that would really work a pitcher; the results often led to games where the Yanks had the opposing starter over 100 pitches by the 4th or 5th inning, forcing opposing teams to go deep into their bullpens and really wear them out.

In general I would say patience is a virtue at the plate; if you swing at anything and everything pitchers throw they will quickly figure out how to get you out by not throwing strikes (Ruben Rivera was a batter whose career was short-circuited by an inability to adjust to this, among other obvious flaws as well).

I don't subscribe to the "never swing at the first pitch" approach. It works for some batters, I suppose, but they are few and far between and it also misses out on some golden opportunities to get some really fat pitches to crush.
   7. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: July 14, 2014 at 07:08 PM (#4750357)
So from the chart in #3 you can see the teams that have a great top of lineup. LAA with Trout, LAD with Puig, Oak with their collection of "who the hell are these guys, but holy cr*p they are good" and the Jays These teams are just killing tiring SPs.
   8. theboyqueen Posted: July 14, 2014 at 08:23 PM (#4750400)
The Angels offense is freaking scary right now.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: July 14, 2014 at 09:51 PM (#4750441)
"Patience" can have different definitions, I suppose. I always thought of it simply as swing at the strikes and don't swing at the balls.

Agreed ... but over the course of a season, a team is seeing about 50,000 pitches. Teams are simply not going to vary much in terms of the balls/strikes that they are seeing given those sample sizes. So team-level differences in p/pa should track quite closely to team-level differences in swing decisions.

But, yeah, along those lines, I might like to see any connection between p/pa and BA/SLG on-contact. Even if there is a positive relationship, that still might not work out to a team's advantage overall because they'll be making less contact (more Ks, more BBs) but at least it would show they are making good decisions on pitches to hit. Then maybe we can start to find the "break-even" point.

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