There has been some discussion about how Dusty Baker's preaching of a more aggressive approach at the plate has not really helped move this team along offensively. Basically, it has been written that the majority of this team's offensive struggles can be placed at Dusty's feet. Both his lineup and his aggressive approach stink according to many. The lineup issue has been discussed quite a bit so this post will deal mainly with Dusty's preaching to players to be aggressive, especially early in the count. These are obviously just my opinions and all dissenting opinions are more than welcome.
First I will post a chart that I created using numbers obtained from fangraphs.com. Then I will make some observations. One note:I tried to keep things as consistent as possible so I only looked at the numbers from the players who were on the Reds in both 07 and 08. Same players, same hitting coach, different manager.
What I expected from a more aggressive approach was basically two things:Code:player 07-p/pa 08-p/pa 07-apiz 08-apiz 07-os 08-os 07-zs 08-zs 07-ts 08-ts dunn 4.18 4.23 0.47 0.45 0.21 0.14 0.68 0.64 0.43 0.37 griffey 3.99 4.01 0.47 0.46 0.21 0.23 0.67 0.68 0.43 0.45 edwin 3.70 3.99 0.50 0.47 0.28 0.24 0.73 0.63 0.51 0.43 brandon 3.85 3.96 0.52 0.48 0.34 0.33 0.74 0.75 0.55 0.55 kepp 3.44 3.52 0.52 0.54 0.20 0.21 0.58 0.63 0.40 0.44 freel 3.93 3.82 0.54 0.56 0.21 0.27 0.63 0.66 0.44 0.50 votto 3.81 3.49 0.45 0.50 0.32 0.25 0.74 0.76 0.51 0.50 hatte 3.90 3.53 0.48 0.50 0.16 0.15 0.56 0.63 0.35 0.39 hopper 3.54 3.20 0.54 0.55 0.32 0.23 0.69 0.59 0.52 0.43 valentn 3.37 4.26 0.48 0.49 0.25 0.22 0.69 0.62 0.46 0.41 ross 4.14 4.00 0.48 0.60 0.24 0.10 0.71 0.71 0.47 0.46 castro 3.23 3.55 0.58 0.51 0.23 0.11 0.70 0.75 0.50 0.44 total 3.84 3.85 0.50 0.49 0.24 0.23 0.68 0.67 0.46 0.45
1 - a hitter would see less pitches if they attacked earlier in the count.
2 - a hitter would swing at more pitches - both outside and inside the zone.
As far as seeing less pitches because of the new approach, that does not seem to be the case. Seven of the 12 players are seeing more pitches per plate attempt and not less. Edwin is seeing significantly more. Javier Valentin is seeing almost a pitch more per PA in very limited at-bats. Hatteberg is seeing quite a few less pitches and this approach appears to be hurting him - once again in limited trips to the plate. Joey Votto's P/PA are way down also, but since he has started walking more lately I would expect the number of pitches he sees to rise. Overall, this group is seeing just a tick more P/PA this season. One surpise to me was how few pitches Keppinger sees in each at-bat. One look at the numbers on Fangraphs provides the clue. He has a remarkable contact rate. He sees less pitches because when he swings he seldom misses.
Skipping over the next two columns we get into the second expected aspect of what one might find if a batter is more aggressive. This group, as a whole, has swung at slightly less pitches both in and out of the strike zone. Naturally they have swung at the total number of pitches at a lesser rate as well. I would have thought it would be the opposite, but it's not. Dunn and Encarnacion are swinging much less often to date in '08. Brandon Phillips keeps on hacking away swinging at 55% of the pitches thrown to him.
Columns three and four are what I call Actual Pitches in Zone (apiz). These are the number of pitches that were actually in the strike zone as opposed to the number of strikes listed for each player on Fangraphs. A player can turn a ball into a strike by swinging at a bad pitch (a pitch outside the strike zone). Using some simple algebra adjusts for that. Only an umpire can turn a strike into a ball and I am assuming here that bad calls by umpires even out over the course of time.
Using Adam Dunn as an example (but not picking on him) if someone simply looked at the balls and strikes listed at Fangraphs it would show him as having seen dropping from .58 to .53 from '07 to '08. That would lead to the natural conclusion that AD is seeing a lot less strikes. However, Dunn turned a lot more balls into strikes in '07 by swinging at pitches outside the zone much more frequently. When that is adjusted for he is still seeing less strikes in '08 (.47 to .45), but the margin is much less than one might think. And the less power a player has the more times a pitcher will attack the strike zone.
The big four - Dunn, Griffey, Encarnacion and Phillips - are all seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone so far this year. Pretty much everyone else is seeing more. The opposing team's strategy seems to be to make someone besides the big four beat you. And to this point that strategy seems to be working.
One more point. Dunn and Encarnacion are seeing fewer pitches in the strike zone and swinging at less pitches overall. This would seem to lead to more walks, which it has.
If anyone draws any differing conclusions from the numbers in the chart please feel free to disagree.