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Thread: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

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    Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    I felt there was a good discussion going on at the end of the "Discuss Reds 2006 Draft picks here" thread. But I didn't want to take a potentially archive-worthy thread completely off topic (and that's where it was headed) by continuing the conversation there.

    Let's start with a post I made about in response to this post:

    Quote Originally Posted by Redmachine2003
    And Dunn tries to break the strike out record every year so what the heck did his IsoD in Low A ball have to do with his development. I mean he wasn't a strike out machine in Low A. I mean is Bruce's strike out form being to aggressive, to passive at the plate, not have anyone protecting him in the line so he doesn't get to many good pitches to hit, is there a pitch he just can't layoff right now, Does he try to pull the outside pitch instead of going with it and can he improve what ever is causing his strikeouts (make the adjustment) because when he hits the ball he gets and extra base hit over 50% of the time.
    My response:

    I don't at all care about a young player's K rate.

    But you'll find that young players who produce very high IsoD numbers at young ages project very well because power- not plate discipline- is the last tool to manifest. Touting a player's power game while expecting that discipline will develop over time is thinking backwards. To be fair, Bruce did show a dash of plate discipline over 80-odd PA in Billings last season but he's been below-average since.

    Oh, and to answer your question - Dunn demonstrated well above-average plate discipline (read: high IsoD) from the get-go. It's why he always projected so very well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Redmachine2003
    How did Bonds and Ryan Howard project at that age or early in their careers.
    To that, I replied:

    Their IsoD numbers were VERY good. For the first two minor league seasons for each...

    Barry Bonds: 402 AB/70 BB (1 BB/5.74 AB)
    Ryan Howard: 662 AB/96 BB (1 BB/6.90 AB)

    Those 402 AB are the entirety of Bonds minor league career (High A and AAA). For Howard's minor league career, he produced a BB rate of 1BB for every 7.54 AB. Others (minor league career- BB per AB)...

    2. Jason Giambi: 5.44 AB
    3. Travis Hafner: 6.01 AB
    4. Jason Bay: 6.81 AB
    5. Jim Thome: 6.01 AB
    7. Carlos Beltran: 8.79 AB
    8. Joe Mauer: 7.99 AB
    9. Barry Bonds: 5.74 AB
    10. Manny Ramirez: 6.22 AB
    12. Kevin Youkilis: 4.32 AB
    13. Bobby Abreu: 7.66 AB
    17. Nick Johnson: 4.41 AB
    16. David Wright: 6.48 AB
    18. Grady Sizemore: 7.67 AB
    20. Lance Berkman: 4.93 AB

    1. Albert Pujols: 10.65 AB
    6. Jermaine Dye: 13.81 AB
    11. Miguel Cabrera: 10.90 AB
    14. Vernon Wells: 10.68 AB
    15. Alexis Rios: 15.90 AB
    19. Ichiro Suzuki: 9.42 AB (Japan)

    You may be wondering why you see numbers in front of those names and why they're put in two groups. It's because you're looking at the minor league walk rates of the MLB 2006 top 20 RC/27 hitters. Here are their current 2006 MLB Isolated Discipline numbers:

    2. Jason Giambi: .177 IsoD
    3. Travis Hafner: .146
    4. Jason Bay: .129
    5. Jim Thome: .132
    7. Carlos Beltran: .118
    8. Joe Mauer: .059
    9. Barry Bonds: .223
    10. Manny Ramirez: .131
    12. Kevin Youkilis: .113
    13. Bobby Abreu: .172
    17. Nick Johnson: .120
    16. David Wright: .074
    18. Grady Sizemore: .081
    20. Lance Berkman: .074

    1. Albert Pujols: .132 IsoD
    6. Jermaine Dye: .098
    11. Miguel Cabrera: .089
    14. Vernon Wells: .052
    15. Alexis Rios: .039
    19. Ichiro Suzuki: .049

    One thing you may want to note is that when we get down to slots 14-20, the players on that list- with only one exception (Nick Johnson)- are the guys who are posting the lowest Isolated Discipline numbers. There are exceptions the other way, of course (and there always will be). For example, Joe Mauer sits in the 8 slot with a .059 IsoD. That's great, but being that high BA hitting is the most difficult thing to do in all of sports (particulary without exceptional power) do we really think that Joe Mauer will finish the season with a .379 BA? But the beauty is that Joe Mauer demonstrated excellent plate discipline early on so he won't have to hit .379 to be mondo-productive.

    And look at the second half of the list. Pujols is the freak of course. He always is. That being said, I doubt that Pujols minor league BB rates are a true reflection of his actual plate discipine considering how few minor league AB he was given and that he immediately manifested excellent IsoD rates when he hit the Show. The rest of that second group have been highly volatile during their MLB careers excepting Cabrera. But then Cabrera demonstrated he had a clue at age 17 (Walk rate better than 1 BB/10 AB) and while he was rushed through the Marlins organization he demonstrated the same thing as a 20-year old AA player (1 BB/8.58 AB).

    The rest of that second list is as volatile as volatile can be. Neither Dye nor Wells have been able to string together two really productive seasons together so far. Suzuki is actually good about every other year or so. And that's a guy who had his PR folks tell the world that he'd learn to take more walks. Rios? Um. Yeah. No.

    The flashpoint for young hitters who demonstrate power potential is about 1BB for every 9.00 AB. And frankly, I'd prefer to see a BB rate lower than 1 BB per every 8 AB because that's where the gold is. To be fair, Jay Bruce doesn't have a ton of AB this season and is putting up very good power numbers. And yes, it's possible that he can raise his IsoD numbers over the course of this season. And I hope he does because that'll do a lot to allow us to figure out how likely it is that he'll be able to handle MLB pitching.

    <end response>

    I'll quote a very good response by Outshined_One next post which should be the jumpoff point for an interesting thread.
    "The problem with strikeouts isn't that they hurt your team, it's that they hurt your feelings..." --Rob Neyer

    "The single most important thing for a hitter is to get a good pitch to hit. A good hitter can hit a pitch that’s over the plate three times better than a great hitter with a ball in a tough spot.”
    --Ted Williams

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Outshined_One
    I agree with much of what has been said, although I think that looking at a guy's K/BB is quite important when attempting to evaluate his numbers in the low minor leagues. This is especially true of power hitters.
    I've never used K/BB rate. Ever. The reason I won't use it is that half of the equation (Strikeouts) is irrelevant. Knowing that, I choose to avoid potential red herrings in the data.

    That being said, knowing the Isolated Discipline (IsoD) and Isolated Power (IsoP) is crucial because both speak directly to quality of non-Out behavior (as does Secondary Average).

    Secondly, IsoD analysis allows us to look at both low and high SLG hitters in order to project across the board. Both the lower SLG and higher SLG hitters project better should they have high IsoD rates independent of their K/BB rates.

    Case in point- Ryan Freel (1.21 K/BB) actually projected better than Juan Pierre even though Pierre (0.82 K/BB) posted the lower K/BB rate at the minor league level. And Freel came into this season with a higher career MLB OBP than Pierre.

    Then let's take a look at another player who profiles low SLG- Luis Castillo.

    Luis Castillo minor league K/BB: 0.93

    Now let's take a look at the minor league IsoD numbers:

    Luis Castillo: .101
    Ryan Freel: .085
    Juan Pierre: .047

    And here are the MLB OBP and IsoD numbers:

    Luis Castillo: .369 OBP (.077 IsoD)
    Ryan Freel: .371 OBP (.094 IsoD)
    Juan Pierre: .349 OBP (.049 IsoD)

    All three produced above-average MLB K/BB rates during their respective stays in the minors, but the lowest K/BB rate hitter of the three (Pierre) has also produced the lowest MLB career OBP thusfar. The highest K/BB hitter (Freel) has assisted himself in producing the highest OPS among the three because he also produced the highest Isolated power number (.128 IsoP) among the three (Pierre- .062 IsoP, Castillo- .055 IsoP). But if isolated to K/BB rates, we'd know little to nothing about how those players projected.

    It is incredibly hard for a high K/BB player to change that profile over the course of his minor league days, much less his career. There have been a few guys who managed to change that (Sammy Sosa, for example), but those guys are the outliers. In the years I've been following the minors, it seems to me that the hardest tool to teach any young hitter is the ability to take a walk, especially one who is predisposed to taking swings conducive to strikeouts.
    On that, you're correct. A player who cannot walk is difficult to project positively. But that can be identified using IsoD rather than K/BB rate.

    A power hitter who posts high K/BB numbers in Low A is dicey. In recent years, names like Brian Dopirak (2004) and Ryan Harvey (2005) come to mind. Both were prolific power hitters in the Midwest League, but both had issues with taking walks and striking out while there. IBBs helped to inflate those numbers, to boot. Unfortunately, both went into the Florida State League and completely tanked (Harvey even moreso than Dopirak thus far). Dopirak was promoted to AA this season (despite hitting .235 last year), but broke his foot early in the year and hasn't seen much time. Harvey is down in the Florida State League and hitting under .200 last I saw. (Edit: I just checked and he's hitting .203 at the moment. Ouch.)
    Dopriak: .060 IsoD
    Harvey: .054 IsoD

    That's where the gold is.

    Will this happen to Bruce? No, he is his own man. He will continue to develop and mature as a hitter. But, I think people should be wary about him. He still is down in Low A and is mostly potential at this point. Guys who share his profile have had their share of problems advancing through the minors.
    I agree, but his K rate and/or K/BB rate has nothing to do with my warning. The IsoD isn't anything resembling good right now. That's a real issue if it stays constant. And yes, there aren't a lot of hitters of that type (high IsoP/low IsoD) who end up being productive at the MLB level.
    "The problem with strikeouts isn't that they hurt your team, it's that they hurt your feelings..." --Rob Neyer

    "The single most important thing for a hitter is to get a good pitch to hit. A good hitter can hit a pitch that’s over the plate three times better than a great hitter with a ball in a tough spot.”
    --Ted Williams

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Oooooooooo...this will be a fun topic.

    I agree with a lot of what you said about IsoD being a helpful resource in terms of looking at prospects. OBP is one of the most important stats available to us today and it stands to reason that it should be put to use when called upon. Walks are critical to a player's offensive output because of the importance inherent in not making an out.

    However, I think strikeouts can be quite important in evaluating a prospect and his potential down the line, especially in terms of projecting his usefulness when in the lower portion of the minor leagues. Power hitters especially come to mind when it comes to this topic. This should be even more fun to go over because of the arguments that will likely come along with Drew Stubbs, who fits nicely into this thread.

    I would argue that the single most important thing a power hitter has to do is make consistent and hard contact. A power hitter is incredibly valuable in that he can be counted on to make extra base hits. It's much better for a guy to hit a double than to take a walk, then steal second base. A double advances other runners and carries with it a greater likelihood of allowing the guys on base to score. A walk does that to a lesser degree, while a stolen base rarely results in a run scoring play. SLG is quite helpful in this regard, seeing as how it measures a hitter's ability to acquire those hits.

    However, the next most important thing a power hitter has to do is not make an out, or in other words, take a walk. This is where I think IsoD is a useful stat in measuring most hitters because it shows their effectiveness at not making outs. A guy could be hitting .300 could have an OBP of .300 and ergo not be an ideal hitter when it comes to not making outs. This is all old news, so I will not go any further into this explanation. Bottom line, it is good for power hitters to take walks.

    Yet...there is a matter of preference at work here. Let's take two hypothetical Players, A and B. Player A is a high contact hitter who does not take a lot of walks. He does not have very much power, but his BABIP is nothing extreme and the majority of his singles are not cheapies. His line is .300/.340 (AVG/OBP) over the course of a season. Player B, on the other hand, profiles exactly like Player A in terms of power, projection, age, salary, position, and so on. Yet, unlike Player A, Player B takes more walks and makes less contact. His line over the course of a season is .275/.340 (AVG/OBP). Given these factors, which player would you prefer over the course of a season: Player A or Player B?

    My personal selection would be Player A for the reasons I mentioned above. A single allows for men already on base to advance farther and also allows for more run-scoring plays if men are on base. He may not wear out a pitcher in his ABs, but he still gets the same results as Player B in terms of his ability to get on base. However, because of his numerous singles, he will likely drive in more base runners and put more runners in scoring position.

    Cont'd in my next post...

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Why is this important? Because it is that ability to make consistent contact that is critical to the advancement of power hitters through the minor leagues.

    In the case that I was discussing above, I was talking about Jay Bruce. I said that Bruce was worrying me because of the number of strikeouts that he has accumulated during his time in the Midwest League so far (along with a few other points, including his lack of walks).

    As I mentioned in some of my posts, power hitters typically employ a swing that is conducive to strikeouts. If you look at the majority of the best power hitters in recent memory, they have racked up a lot of strikeouts during their time in the majors. It is a byproduct of their game. The really good power hitters have an ability to select zones and swing at balls that are in or near those zones. However, a number of them can be fooled into chasing pitches or they have a hole in their swing that pitchers can exploit for strikes.

    In the minor leagues, these guys are not nearly as advanced. There are usually plenty of power hitters up and down every team's farm system, but a number of them might never see the majors for a variety of reasons. Others might never live up to the potential placed on them because of gaudy power numbers they put up in Low A. Injuries and other factors can be at fault, but I believe there is a reason that comes up time and again: Strikeouts.

    When evaluating a power hitter in the minor leagues, I take a look at his strikeout numbers. This is important because strikeouts are a very good way of telling just how often a player makes contact. I grant you all, it is not without its flaws, but no statistic is perfect. As I said above, I believe the single most important thing a power hitter can do is make consistent and hard contact with pitches. This will increase the likelihood of that hitter getting a base hit, if not an extra base hit. A hard hit ball is much harder to field than a soft one, plus a hard hit ball is much more likely to make it into the outfield, which can advance baserunners (as in the case of a sacrifice fly).

    As a hitter moves through the minor leagues, he will start facing more and more advanced pitching. Both the hitters and the pitchers make adjustments as they go through their leagues. Pitchers learn how to change speeds, hit their spots, throw their breaking pitches for strikes, not give hitters easy pitches, and so on. Hitters have to learn how to adapt to those things.

    However, if a hitter has trouble making consistent contact in Low A, he will likely have a much harder time adjusting to the pitching in High A. Thankfully, he has coaches who can help him in making these adjustments, but as I mentioned in my quoted post above, hitters typically stay within their profiles. A guy who strikes out 120 times and walks 50 times a season in the minors will likely to continue to do so in the majors. It is rare for a player to make a radical change to those numbers. He could improve on them, but reversing them is incredibly difficult to do.

    This is what I find particularly worrying about Jay Bruce. His K/BB tells me that he is trying very hard to make consistent contact, as do his power numbers. He is attempting to put the ball into play and doing so with good success. However, he is not taking walks, and ergo not preventing himself from making an out. Plate discipline is necessary in trying to make that consistent contact, hard because hitters will rarely see more than one or two pitches in an at bat that they can convert into an extra base hit. Guys who strike out in around or more than 25% of their ABs raises a red flag if they do not boast guady walk numbers.

    So, as he continues to move up the ladder, he will have to work very hard no that facet of his game because pitchers will use his eagerness or holes in his swing against him. Strikeouts are actually a preferable out for a defense to get because it does not advance base runners, reduces the likelihood of errors, and it creates an out. For a hitter, it might not necessarily be a bad thing as long as he does a very good job of getting on base (e.g. Adam Dunn). This is why you see a lot of people screaming about Dunn's lack of clutchiness, needless to say.

    So, this is why I use K/BB. I am of the mindset that a player has to be able to maintain a reasonable K/BB as he advances through the minors. Names like Russ Branyan and Dave Kingman come to mind in terms of high K/BB guys who actually made it to the majors. That's not an illustrious group. Those guys did not make consistent and hard contact and they also were not good at preventing themselves from making an out over the course of their careers (although Kingman had his moments).

    I think that is something the Reds would like to avoid with Stubbs and Bruce. Strikeouts are not something that should be ignored in their cases.

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Outshined_One
    Oooooooooo...this will be a fun topic.
    Agreed, and I think it's important to note that you and I agree on many key points. Let's isolate where we agree and where there may be a gap.

    I agree with a lot of what you said about IsoD being a helpful resource in terms of looking at prospects. OBP is one of the most important stats available to us today and it stands to reason that it should be put to use when called upon. Walks are critical to a player's offensive output because of the importance inherent in not making an out.
    Yep. 100% agreement.

    However, I think strikeouts can be quite important in evaluating a prospect and his potential down the line, especially in terms of projecting his usefulness when in the lower portion of the minor leagues. Power hitters especially come to mind when it comes to this topic. This should be even more fun to go over because of the arguments that will likely come along with Drew Stubbs, who fits nicely into this thread.
    There's a gap. I think we can use IsoD (along with IsoP) independent of K rates without needing to isolate hitter "type".

    I would argue that the single most important thing a power hitter has to do is make consistent and hard contact. A power hitter is incredibly valuable in that he can be counted on to make extra base hits. It's much better for a guy to hit a double than to take a walk, then steal second base. A double advances other runners and carries with it a greater likelihood of allowing the guys on base to score. A walk does that to a lesser degree, while a stolen base rarely results in a run scoring play. SLG is quite helpful in this regard, seeing as how it measures a hitter's ability to acquire those hits.
    Small gap here and let's address it from a global perspective. The second most important thing any hitter needs to do is acquire as many bases as he can when he's not making Outs. This may show up in SLG, but it WILL show up in Isolated Power rates (IsoP).

    However, the next most important thing a power hitter has to do is not make an out, or in other words, take a walk. This is where I think IsoD is a useful stat in measuring most hitters because it shows their effectiveness at not making outs. A guy could be hitting .300 could have an OBP of .300 and ergo not be an ideal hitter when it comes to not making outs. This is all old news, so I will not go any further into this explanation. Bottom line, it is good for power hitters to take walks.
    Very tiny gap and only at the point where I'd propel the concept of not making outs to the top of the "hitter function" list. And that includes both Hits and Walks. Otherwise, we're in total agreement.

    Yet...there is a matter of preference at work here. Let's take two hypothetical Players, A and B. Player A is a high contact hitter who does not take a lot of walks. He does not have very much power, but his BABIP is nothing extreme and the majority of his singles are not cheapies. His line is .300/.340 (AVG/OBP) over the course of a season. Player B, on the other hand, profiles exactly like Player A in terms of power, projection, age, salary, position, and so on. Yet, unlike Player A, Player B takes more walks and makes less contact. His line over the course of a season is .275/.340 (AVG/OBP). Given these factors, which player would you prefer over the course of a season: Player A or Player B?

    My personal selection would be Player A for the reasons I mentioned above. A single allows for men already on base to advance farther and also allows for more run-scoring plays if men are on base. He may not wear out a pitcher in his ABs, but he still gets the same results as Player B in terms of his ability to get on base. However, because of his numerous singles, he will likely drive in more base runners and put more runners in scoring position.
    Gap here. Assuming that all else is equal (including projected SLG), I'd go with Player B pretty much every time for the following reason(s):

    A 40-point IsoD is well below average meaning that it's very BA-dependent. Projecting a high MLB BA for a prospect is the most dicey of all propositions and players who rely on such extreme BA-driven OBP totals are the most volatile of all player subsets. They're more prone to slumps and their hit quality tends to be less productive per hit. The higher IsoD player will tend to be the more stable of the two and thus, more projectible.

    Basically, high BA hitting is the most difficult thing to do in all of sports and of all offensive behaviors, it's the one that's most affected by randomness (particularly for low IsoP players) and holds the lowest correlation with offensive production. Yet often we see folks go giddy over high-BA/low-IsoD prospects (not saying you do, of course) without realizing that they're "succeeding poorly". Instead, I'd much rather hone in on the more reasonable BA/higher IsoD player because that player generally has the best shot of reproducing said reasonable BA while also reproducing a solid IsoD at the MLB level.

    Cont'd in my next post...
    Ditto.
    "The problem with strikeouts isn't that they hurt your team, it's that they hurt your feelings..." --Rob Neyer

    "The single most important thing for a hitter is to get a good pitch to hit. A good hitter can hit a pitch that’s over the plate three times better than a great hitter with a ball in a tough spot.”
    --Ted Williams

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    CRAP! I typed out a nice long response and it crapped out on me when I wasnt logged in becuase I had been typing for so long. I will try to get back some of it and shorten it up.

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Bryan Smith at Baseballanalysts.com did an article last month on 19 year olds playing in the MWL since 2002. The average statline of all of them is .265/.334/.391. Jay currently has a line of .282/.335/.551. Which puts him ahead of the average 19 year old in the MWL in all categories and especially in slugging, where he is ahead by .160. ( you can read the entire article here )
    As for his strikeouts and walks, I am not so worried. Kearns for examples walked 50 times and struck out 120 times as a 19 year old. As a 20 year old, he struck out 93 times and walked 90. He was the first guy I looked at and well that is where I stopped looking, but all I was looking for was an example of what can happen from season 1 to season 2 of minor league baseball and well there we go.
    Comparisons to Harvey and Dopirak are poor in my opinion. Both were older than Bruce, while in the same league as Bruce. They had more time in the minors, more instruction etc.
    My last post had a lot more than this, but I lost it all, so this is what I am leaving now. It covers most of my last post, just in a shorter, abbreviated version.

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    By using this does that Chris Denorfia projects as an all-star player in the Bigs?

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Lets all relax, Jay Bruce has walked today............ahhhhhhhhhhhhh

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Outshined_One
    Why is this important? Because it is that ability to make consistent contact that is critical to the advancement of power hitters through the minor leagues.
    Not sure how true that holds. IsoD doesn't only help project OBP rates, but it also assists us in identifying hitters who tend to have better pitch recognition skill sets. That's pretty important because hitters who have better recognition skill sets are more likely to adjust quicker as they move up the ladder. Evidence of pitch recognition may manifest itself somewhere in K/BB rates, but only when applied to high K rate hitters while K/BB misses the mark across the board. IsoD, however, can tell us something about pitch recognition and plate discipline regardless of who we're looking at.

    In the case that I was discussing above, I was talking about Jay Bruce. I said that Bruce was worrying me because of the number of strikeouts that he has accumulated during his time in the Midwest League so far (along with a few other points, including his lack of walks).
    I'm not concerned about Bruce's K rate. What I'm concerned about is that Bruce's low IsoD may indicate that he might not continue to produce high-quality Base Hit events as he moves up the ladder because his low IsoD indicates that he'll have issues with pitch recognition as the competition gets better. That may manifest itself as a higher K rate and lower BA, but are symptoms. The disease is low IsoD.

    Unfortunately, too many hitting coaches attempt to treat the symptoms by focusing on contact rate rather than attempting to cure the disease by working diligently on plate discipline and pitch recognition skill sets. Better plate discipline and pitch recognition skill sets can be taught, but it's difficult and it needs to begin very very early in a player's career. I'm a firm believer that far too much attention is given to a player's stance and swing mechanics when many issues could be solved by better instruction as to what NOT to swing at. And I have no doubt that, in many cases, well-intentioned instructors have screwed up a promising baseball player by telling him to fix what isn't broken rather than focusing on the simple concept of "Don't swing at that".

    As I mentioned in some of my posts, power hitters typically employ a swing that is conducive to strikeouts. If you look at the majority of the best power hitters in recent memory, they have racked up a lot of strikeouts during their time in the majors. It is a byproduct of their game. The really good power hitters have an ability to select zones and swing at balls that are in or near those zones. However, a number of them can be fooled into chasing pitches or they have a hole in their swing that pitchers can exploit for strikes.
    Yep. That's true. And I think the focus needs to be on showing them what they shouldn't be swinging at.

    In the minor leagues, these guys are not nearly as advanced. There are usually plenty of power hitters up and down every team's farm system, but a number of them might never see the majors for a variety of reasons. Others might never live up to the potential placed on them because of gaudy power numbers they put up in Low A. Injuries and other factors can be at fault, but I believe there is a reason that comes up time and again: Strikeouts.
    I'd offer an alternative cause: Low IsoD

    When evaluating a power hitter in the minor leagues, I take a look at his strikeout numbers. This is important because strikeouts are a very good way of telling just how often a player makes contact. I grant you all, it is not without its flaws, but no statistic is perfect. As I said above, I believe the single most important thing a power hitter can do is make consistent and hard contact with pitches. This will increase the likelihood of that hitter getting a base hit, if not an extra base hit. A hard hit ball is much harder to field than a soft one, plus a hard hit ball is much more likely to make it into the outfield, which can advance baserunners (as in the case of a sacrifice fly).
    Yeah. That's where we diverge. Ignore the Strikeouts, hone in on the IsoD and you'll get sounder information about how a hitter projects and won't need to break down hitters into subsets because it applies across the board.

    As a hitter moves through the minor leagues, he will start facing more and more advanced pitching. Both the hitters and the pitchers make adjustments as they go through their leagues. Pitchers learn how to change speeds, hit their spots, throw their breaking pitches for strikes, not give hitters easy pitches, and so on. Hitters have to learn how to adapt to those things.

    However, if a hitter has trouble making consistent contact in Low A, he will likely have a much harder time adjusting to the pitching in High A. Thankfully, he has coaches who can help him in making these adjustments, but as I mentioned in my quoted post above, hitters typically stay within their profiles. A guy who strikes out 120 times and walks 50 times a season in the minors will likely to continue to do so in the majors. It is rare for a player to make a radical change to those numbers. He could improve on them, but reversing them is incredibly difficult to do.
    And on that we agree. Hitters, for the most part, tend to end up being who they are. That being said, the 120 K's aren't the issue. The IsoD is.

    This is what I find particularly worrying about Jay Bruce. His K/BB tells me that he is trying very hard to make consistent contact, as do his power numbers. He is attempting to put the ball into play and doing so with good success. However, he is not taking walks, and ergo not preventing himself from making an out. Plate discipline is necessary in trying to make that consistent contact, hard because hitters will rarely see more than one or two pitches in an at bat that they can convert into an extra base hit. Guys who strike out in around or more than 25% of their ABs raises a red flag if they do not boast guady walk numbers.
    We're real close excepting the fact that I leave K rate out of it.

    Basically, what you're saying is: "I don't like how a guy projects if he posts low IsoD numbers while striking out 25%+ of the time."

    Basically, what I'm saying is: "I don't like how a guy projects if he posts low IsoD numbers regardless of how often they strike out."

    On that point, I don't care if the K/BB rate is 3/1, 2/1 (about MLB average), or 1/1. Nor do I feel it's necessary to break hitters out into hitting type subsets. If a hitter cannot produce non-Hit non-Out events at a reasonable-to-better rate, I'm just not all that interested. That's what concerns me about Jay Bruce (as well as a couple of the college Infielders the Reds just drafted). Low IsoD.

    So, as he continues to move up the ladder, he will have to work very hard no that facet of his game because pitchers will use his eagerness or holes in his swing against him. Strikeouts are actually a preferable out for a defense to get because it does not advance base runners, reduces the likelihood of errors, and it creates an out. For a hitter, it might not necessarily be a bad thing as long as he does a very good job of getting on base (e.g. Adam Dunn). This is why you see a lot of people screaming about Dunn's lack of clutchiness, needless to say.
    Yet we've been able to identify that K rate when applied to individual and team performance is pretty much irrelevant. Knowing that, we run the risk of poisoning the analysis if we include them.

    So, this is why I use K/BB. I am of the mindset that a player has to be able to maintain a reasonable K/BB as he advances through the minors. Names like Russ Branyan and Dave Kingman come to mind in terms of high K/BB guys who actually made it to the majors. That's not an illustrious group. Those guys did not make consistent and hard contact and they also were not good at preventing themselves from making an out over the course of their careers (although Kingman had his moments).
    Actually, Russ Branyan is a great example of a hitter who was able to make it to the Show and have a productive MLB career because of hit Isolated Discipline (.100 IsoD) at the minor league level. That kind of IsoD projects very well and Branyan has produced above-average results in the Show.

    But Branyan is also an extreme case. The vast majority of players we'll analyze fall toward the middle of the K/BB range and that's really where K/BB falls short. While hints of IsoD may be present in a K/BB analysis, K/BB will consistently hide low IsoD players that don't project. That's a scenario of too many false positives and those false positives can be almost completely weeded out by jumping straight to an IsoD-based analysis.

    I think that is something the Reds would like to avoid with Stubbs and Bruce. Strikeouts are not something that should be ignored in their cases.
    And that seems to be the biggest gap we have. In an attempt to close that gap, let's take a look at who we'd like these young hitters to be. Here's the correlation to Runs Created per 27 Outs (RC/27) for the 2006 top 40 NL run producers:

    K/AB: 0.008
    BB/K: 0.280
    IsoD: 0.409
    IsoP: 0.696
    IsoD+IsoP: 0.741
    Secondary Average: 0.776

    Looking at that, what we want are hitters who produce consistently high Secondary Average numbers and SECA (and IsoD+IsoP) speak directly to non-Out event quality. And as applied to prospects, the behavior leading most directly to continued Isolated Power production as they move up the minor league ladder is high IsoD behavior. It's a better indicator than BB/K rate (we can see that even at the MLB level) and it's infinitely better than K rate.

    Low IsoD/high IsoP hitters are going to have a more difficult time because their production is going to be SLG-heavy. But without acceptable discipline and pitch recognition skill sets, it's less probable that those types can continue to produce high IsoP numbers versus better competition. That's my concern with a Jay Bruce and it has nothing to do with his K rate.
    Last edited by SteelSD; 06-11-2006 at 04:02 PM.
    "The problem with strikeouts isn't that they hurt your team, it's that they hurt your feelings..." --Rob Neyer

    "The single most important thing for a hitter is to get a good pitch to hit. A good hitter can hit a pitch that’s over the plate three times better than a great hitter with a ball in a tough spot.”
    --Ted Williams

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by Redmachine2003
    By using this does that Chris Denorfia projects as an all-star player in the Bigs?
    Denorfia projects well. His career minor league IsoD was .085 (above average) coming into this season and we've seen seasonal peaks from him at or near 100 points. An IsoD around there and it generally means he'll be able to translate his overall numbers (including solid gap power) to the MLB level.

    Not an All-Star level performance most likely, but an undervalued commodity capable of consistent above-average performance if given the opportunity.
    "The problem with strikeouts isn't that they hurt your team, it's that they hurt your feelings..." --Rob Neyer

    "The single most important thing for a hitter is to get a good pitch to hit. A good hitter can hit a pitch that’s over the plate three times better than a great hitter with a ball in a tough spot.”
    --Ted Williams

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    I am not concerned about a 19 yr old Bruce putting up low walk numbers, at this point. Stubbs on the other hand, is older and more experienced and I am going to need to see higher walk rates out of the gate from him.

    Fascinating discussion guys. It is tremendously fun to watch two extremely knowledgable posters debate topics like this in this level of detail in a constructive and respectful fashion. Thanks

  14. #13
    Member SandyD's Avatar
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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Steel, how do you apply these measures to college players?

    Different levels of competition in different conferences.
    College baseball is about winning, while the minor leagues focus on development. So, a college coach isn't concerned about how his player projects. He wants his players to contribute here and now.

    Just curious.

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Quote Originally Posted by SteelSD
    Gap here. Assuming that all else is equal (including projected SLG), I'd go with Player B pretty much every time for the following reason(s):

    A 40-point IsoD is well below average meaning that it's very BA-dependent. Projecting a high MLB BA for a prospect is the most dicey of all propositions and players who rely on such extreme BA-driven OBP totals are the most volatile of all player subsets. They're more prone to slumps and their hit quality tends to be less productive per hit. The higher IsoD player will tend to be the more stable of the two and thus, more projectible.

    Basically, high BA hitting is the most difficult thing to do in all of sports and of all offensive behaviors, it's the one that's most affected by randomness (particularly for low IsoP players) and holds the lowest correlation with offensive production. Yet often we see folks go giddy over high-BA/low-IsoD prospects (not saying you do, of course) without realizing that they're "succeeding poorly". Instead, I'd much rather hone in on the more reasonable BA/higher IsoD player because that player generally has the best shot of reproducing said reasonable BA while also reproducing a solid IsoD at the MLB level.
    I believe you misread my hypothetical there. I was attempting to indicate which player would have been more productive over the course of that season as opposed to which player you would rather have on your team at the beginning of a season.

    Secondly, there is a key difference between the two players that you did not pick up on. Player A will have a higher SLG than Player B. Remember, SLG takes into account singles, doubles, triples, and home runs. Walks are not a factor in calculating it.

    I will tend to agree that batting average can be a misleading statistic at times due to such factors as BABIP, luck, and so on. However, a power hitter who hits .300 will be much, much more valuable to a team than a David Eckstein-type who hits .300. As I mentioned above, being able to put a charge into the ball will likely result in a guy who gets more extra base hits.

    There is another thing that I think should be addressed here. Until recently, walks were thoroughly underrated and neglected to a fault. Even today, a number of organizations refuse to accept the walk as being an important facet of the game and will instead rely on other metrics (AVG, HRs, RBIs, etc) in creating an offense. Naturally, there is plenty of crossover, as there is nothing keeping a player from hitting 40 HRs a year and having an IsoD over .100.

    However, I think in the past few years, a number of people have been focusing on the walk to a problematic degree. It's getting to the point where it overshadows other tools in terms of its importance.

    Simply put, what is the most important offensive play in baseball?

    The home run. It automatically scores at least one run, it creates no outs, and it scores all runners on the bases. After that, I would put the triple, double, single, and walk in that order.

    This does not detract from the importance of the walk, far from it. However, I think a lot of people have attained a preference for the walk over those other plays. There is nothing wrong with it; plenty of guys who post excellent walk numbers are fine offensive players. The best players in baseball are the ones who are able to incorporate all of those into their game.

    Power is a highly coveted tool in baseball for a very good reason. In the MLB draft, guys who rate 70 or better in the power category are going to be very likely to be picked in the early rounds. Teams love the idea of finding guys who can drive the ball a mile and who can do it consistently. A power hitter is especially effective because he is able to drive in baserunners and put himself into scoring position. That is a trait that I think gets overlooked.

    I think it's detrimental to evaluate all players universally in a number of cases. There is a very good reason why I tried my best to use the term "power hitter" in these discussions. If Juan Pierre and Adam Dunn hit the exact same pitch in the exact same way, Adam Dunn would hit the ball farther and harder than Pierre would. Juan Pierre is not a power hitter by the stretch of any imagination, no matter how delusional or psychotic a person may be. His value comes from his speed, ability to make contact, and ability to beat out ground balls. He takes a different approach at the plate than Adam Dunn does because he simply is unable to play the power game.

    A power hitter will have a different swing and a different mentality at the plate. The basics of it should be the same ("I do not want to make an out here"), but a power hitter will instead be looking for a pitch in his zone that he can drive a long way. Ideally, if he does not get any pitches in that zone, he will either be able to draw a walk or make contact with a bad pitch for a hit.

    There is something I did forget to address in my recent post in regards to not making an out as something a power hitter should do. I overlooked a hitter's ability to change his swing as necessary. As I mentioned above, as a hitter advances through the minor leagues, the number of pitches that he can drive with ease will drop with each level. If he employs the same powerful swing at each level, pitchers will be able to exploit it since powerful swings (while effective for HRs) often have holes in them.

    In order to succeed, a hitter has to learn how to employ different swings in order to get on base via contact. Shortening up a swing, using quick wrists to turn on inside pitches, and so on will be helpful in this regard, but it is not as likely to result in an extra base hit as that powerful swing mentioned above. However, it will instead result in more base hits and ergo result in a higher average.

    Average and strikeouts are important statistics for hitters, in spite of their flaws. Some hitters do a much better job of making contact for hits than others do. A stronger a hitter is, the more likely he is to have extra base hits when making contact with the ball. If that guy cannot make consistent contact, then what good is his power?

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    Re: Isolated Discipline and Prospect Evaluation

    Jay is 2-2 today with 2 walks. Maybe he read this and wanted to show us something?
    Just noticed one of his walks was intentional.


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