One hears about certain players, normally vets nearing the end of their career, giving the team professional at-bats. What exactly does this mean? Do professional at-bats lead to a high OPS? I decided to look at the 2007 Reds since this team has a number of veteran players on it. Four categories were looked at.
1)Does the at-bat end up in getting a 'good' pitch to hit? In an attempt to answer this a I calculated the percentage of balls put into play on hitter's counts. (as Jojo pointed out in another thread, a hitter's count is any count other than 0-2, 1-2 or 2-2) Hitting the ball on a hitter's count a high percentage of the time seems to be a fair way of assessing whether it was a 'good' pitch or not.
2)Did the batter swing at the first pitch? There is quite a bit of grumbling when a batter goes up hacking at the first pitch he sees. Aside from the occasional fast ball right down Broadway, swinging at the first pitch doesn't seem to be an attribute of the professional at-bat. It doesn't work the pitcher and it only exposes a batter to one of the pitcher's pitches.
3)Did the batter work the count? Working the count is said to both tire the pitcher and allow your teammates to see more of what that pitcher is throwing on any given night. Working the count may not pay be immediately beneficial, but should help out in the long run. How many times did the batter go deep into the count is looked at here.
4)Does the at-bat end up in not making outs and acquiring bases? In the end results are what matter.
Hitter's count percentage: This is all over the map. Hatte leads this category and is noted for his professional approach. It interesting to note that a free-swinger such as Phillips ends up with the exact same HC% as Dunn, since their approaches at the plate are fairly different. As can be quickly seen a number of hitters who put the ball into play on a high percentage of hitter's counts are not getting the results that one might expect.Code:Player HC% Player 1ST-P Player L-ABS Player OPS Hatte 78.2% Moeller 4.7% Ross 42.1% Junior 0.960 Valent 77.4% Ross 9.4% Junior 41.3% Dunn 0.937 Conine 72.8% Hatte 9.8% Dunn 40.3% Hambo 0.879 Hopper 71.8% Junior 10.0% Freel 35.2% Hatte 0.823 Junior 71.4% Dunn 10.5% Hatte 32.6% B.Phil 0.801 Castro 67.4% Freel 10.7% Hambo 32.4% Conine 0.781 Hambo 64.5% A.Gonz 10.7% EdE 30.8% A.Gonz 0.758 EdE 63.5% EdE 12.2% Conine 28.3% Valent 0.738 Freel 63.3% B.Phil 13.1% Valent 25.9% EdE 0.723 A.Gonz 62.5% ROT 14.0% B.Phil 23.2% Freel 0.676 Dunn 61.6% Castro 14.6% A.Gonz 22.0% Hopper 0.643 B.Phil 61.6% Hambo 16.6% Castro 20.2% Ross 0.643 Ross 58.9% Hopper 18.8% Hopper 18.6% Moeller 0.476 Moeller 51.2% Valent 19.0% ROT 16.3% Castro 0.427 ROT 51.1% Conine 20.3% Moeller 14.9% ROT N/A TEAM 65.0% TEAM 12.5% TEAM 29.9% TEAM 0.756 LEAGUE 65.4% LEAGUE 12.4% LEAGUE 29.7% LEAGUE 0.737 CIN-OPS 64.5% CIN-OPS 12.1% CIN-OPS 23.8% CIN-OPS 0.774
First pitch hackers: Does Chad Moeller think that Dan O'brien is still the GM and he isn't allowed to swing at the first pitch? Maybe it is due to limited PAs but he is one odd duck. He rarely swings at the first pitch and yet rarely has a long at-bat. He must have excellent hand-eye coordination. Conine really hacks at the first pitch. Wow. Just the opposite of what I would think a seasoned vet would do. Since 0-0 is a hitter's count you can see that the players that put the ball into play on the first pitch also rank highly on the HC% list. Although this may not be the best hitting approach.
Long ABs: These are the percentage of ABs that went at least five pitches. (I had no way of tracking foul balls so this category might be skewed slightly)
Aside from Moeller there are no big surprises here except one might have thought Jeff Conine would work the count more. But he doesn't. A quick note is that EdE is pretty much in the middle of the pack in all four categories.
Results: In the end this is the only category that matters. And it really can not be predicted very well using the first three criteria. Adam Dunn and David Ross are very similar in their approaches at the plate, and yet the results are near the opposite ends of the spectrum.
If you were to pick out the professional hitters using all four criteria, Reds' Junior and Hatte would be logical choices. They score well in all four. For being young players, both Hamilton and Encarnacion show promise.