The Plesac Effect…on Tom Verducci.
Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals swings at a 3-and-0 pitch and when he grounds into a double play he invites howls of scorn about how could he have done such a dumb thing. Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds is hailed as an on-base machine because he takes more walks than anybody, though he has yet to get an extra-base hit with a runner on base and he lets more strikes go by with each passing year.
Welcome to the state of the art in hitting these days, where aggressiveness is disdained and passivity is exalted. The modern hitter is guided by the accepted wisdom in catchphrases such as “driving up pitch counts,” “taking pitches” and “quality at-bats.” There is one serious flaw in this groupthink strategy.
It isn’t working.
Hitters are striking out more than ever before in baseball history while runs, walks, hits and home runs have been on the decline for years. And while teams still preach the religion of driving up pitch counts to “get into the bullpen” of the other team, they may be pushing an outdated agenda. So fortified are major league bullpens these days, especially with hard throwers, that last year relievers posted an ERA more than half a run lower than starters and averaged almost one strikeout for every inning.
(The best idea is to strike quickly; teams that get a lead after as little as two innings win 70 percent of the time.)
The proliferation of measurables in baseball is helping a generation of hitters turn offense into a passive aggressive pursuit. While batting average rightly has lost much of its inflated value, the flip side is that ubiquitous pitch counts, pitches per plate appearance, walks and on-base percentage are influencing how hitters go about their jobs.