You know what I’m talkin’ about.
(10 points to whomever gets the movie reference)
After writing a little yesterday on Fred Lewis and his patient approach at the dish, BCB commenter Delorean reminded me of the great plate discipline data you can pull from FanGraphs. I’ve briefly touched on these stats here at BCB but nothing serious. Today, we’ll examine them in a little more detail. Plate discipline stats are fascinating because you can see when hitters are swinging outside of the strike zone and when they are swinging in the zone, and when they are making contact — both in and out of the strike zone.
We learned yesterday that Fred Lewis sees a lot of pitches when he takes an AB. Just seeing a lot of pitches is only a scratch on the surface, it’s also important to know when he swings and how often he’s making contact from within and outside the strike zone.
I did a few plots for the plate discipline data. Let’s look at the O-Swing and O-Contact numbers first.
O-Swing% is how often a hitter takes a swing outside of the strike zone and O-Contact% is how often a hitter makes contact outside of the strike zone.* Remember, swinging outside of the zone isn’t always a bad thing if you can consistently make contact. Hitters like Vlad Guerrero have made a good living by having awesome plate coverage. My cutoff for these plots are hitters on the Giants that have had at least 150 PA’s. For this plot I’ve sorted our data by O-Swing%, or the most likely to swing at pitches outside of the strike zone.* A quick note: Here are the major league averages for each plate discipline stat that we’ll be using today. League averages are important because we want to know how our hitters stack up against what your league average player will do.
Season O-Swing Z-Swing Swing O-Contact Z-Contact Contact Zone 2005 20.3% 68.0% 46.0% 51.8% 88.3% 80.8% 53.8% 2006 23.5% 66.6% 46.1% 57.4% 88.5% 81.0% 52.6% 2007 25.0% 66.6% 45.9% 60.8% 88.2% 80.8% 50.3%
Like we noticed yesterday, Molina loves to swing the bat. He’s the Giants hitter that’s most likely to go outside of the strike zone when hitting. We can see from our league average numbers above that from ’05-’07 your league average hitter went outside of the zone 20-25% of the time. If we use that as a baseline for our hitters, we can see that Molina (36.67%), Bowker (33.04%), Castillo (31.05%), Rowand (30.35%), and Rich Aurilia (27.01%) will all swing outside of the zone more times than your league average hitter. Molina, Bowker, Castillo, and Rowand are especially likely to go outside of the strike zone, they all have O-Swing percentages of 30% or greater. Vizquel (21.35%), Winn (20.73%), Durham (20.16%), and Lewis (18.27%) are less likely than your league average hitter to go outside of the strike zone.
Swinging outside of the zone is one thing, but how often do these hitters make contact when they venture outside of the strike zone? Even though Molina was the most likely Giant to go outside of the zone, he was also the most likely to make contact outside of the strike zone. The league average contact percentage outside of the zone from ’05-’07 was 51.8-60.8%, that’s almost a 10% spread over three years but if you look at the last two years, hitters have been making more contact outside between 57-60%. Molina (78.79%) and Vizquel (75%) are both excellent at making contact outside of the strike zone. Durham (70.54%), Aurilia (69.42%), Winn (66.9%), Castillo (62.11%), and Lewis (60.9%) all posted above league average percentages — if you use the ’07 league average of 60.8% as your cutoff — for contact outside of the zone.
What about our new center fielder? Aaron Rowand is a free-swinger — 4th likely on the team to swing outside of the zone — but his contact percentage outside of the strike zone is 48.70%. That’s the worst O-Contact on the team and almost 10-20% below league average. Rowand swings like a power-hitter, but he might do well to refine his approach some and lay off of pitches outside of the zone because he’s had trouble making contact with them. Rowand has always been below average on his contact outside of the zone. His 0-Contact for the last three years stands at 48.19%, 54.04%, and 53.52%
Because I was interested in Lewis yesterday, let’s review his numbers quickly. He’s less likely than your league average hitter when it comes to swinging outside of the zone. His O-Swing this year sits at 18.27% and that’s below the 20.3-25% league average from ’05-’07. He’s right at league average for contact outside of the zone when he decides to swing the bat. Lewis appears to be very patient and he’s not struggling like Rowand is to make contact outside of the zone when he chooses to swing.
Let’s check out the plot for Z-Swings and Z-Contact, or the percentage of swings a batter takes inside of the zone and the percentage of contact he makes in the zone.
Like I’ve done with the 0-Plot above, I’ve ordered the hitters by Z-Swing%, or by who was most likely to take a swing at pitches in the zone.
The league average hitter swings at pitches inside of the zone anywhere from 66-68% over the last 3 years. Molina (74.05%), Castillo (73.43%), Rowand (72.45%), and Winn (69.24%) are more likely than your league average hitter when it comes to swinging in the zone at pitches. Aurilia (65.34%), Bowker (64.43%), Lewis (62.86%), Vizquel (62.43%), and Durham (62.29%) are less likely to swing at pitches in the strike zone as opposed to your league average hitter. This is where the Giants would like Lewis to swing a little more, when the pitch is in the strike zone. Only Durham and Vizquel took more pitches in the strike zone than Fred Lewis.
From ’05-’07 the percentage of contact that’s made when a hitter swings inside of the zone has held steady at 88%. Vizquel (96.68%), Bowker (90.97%), and Molina (90.44%) all made contact at 90% or greater when they swung inside of the zone. I wasn’t surprised to see Molina and Vizquel in this group because they seem to be able to get their bats on anything. I was however, surprised to see Bowker in this grouping. Bowker ranked second on the Giants when it came to swinging outside of the strike zone and only Aaron Rowand was worse at making contact outside of the zone. This is where I think Bowker’s next step to becoming a better player — if he takes this step — will occur. If Bowker can swing less outside of the zone and keep himself in the strike zone more, he’ll really benefit as a player. When he swings in the zone he’s making great contact. His tendency to go outside of the zone and miss is what’s hurting him. We all love his swing and the quickness of his bat seems to play well in the zone, the key for him will to be more selective and try not to chase pitches outside of the strike zone.
After Molina, Vizquel, and Bowker, Rich Aurilia was the only other Giants hitter to make contact in the zone at a league average or better percentage. Aurilia made contact within the zone at 89.46%. Winn (86.82%), Durham (86.40%), Rowand (85.68%), Lewis (85.03%), and Castillo (83.55%), all made slightly less contact within the zone than your league average hitter. If Lewis wants to continue to cut his K’s like the Giants wish, it should start with him making more contact within the strike zone. Another reason to not like Castillo is that he doesn’t make good contact inside of the strike zone.
Finally, let’s check out the Zone% for our hitters, or the percentage of strikes they see in the strike zone.
Name Zone% Omar Vizquel 54.60% Fred Lewis 52.26% Randy Winn 52.10% Rich Aurilia 51.67% Bengie Molina 50.50% Jose Castillo 50.36% John Bowker 49.78% Aaron Rowand 49.24% Ray Durham 48.47%
From ’05-’07 the league average Zone% looks as follows: 53.8%, 52.6%, 50.3%.
It’s clear that major league pitchers are challenging Omar Vizquel. He’s seeing the most strikes on the Giants. Pitchers obviously aren’t respecting his (.159/.228/.179) line. It also makes sense that with Lewis’ K problems — 90 punch outs at the half — that he’s seeing the 2nd largest amount of strikes on the Giants. You have to get strikes to strike out and with Lewis being as patient as he is, he’s watching some of those strikes go by. Bowker and Rowand are receiving less strikes than our top hitters because of their tendancy to go outside of the zone and miss. Why throw in the zone — where the league average contact percentage is higher — when you can go outside of the zone and make a batter — in most cases — reduce his chance of contact by nearly 20%?
It’s interesting that the Giants have two young hitters who are basically opposites of each other. John Bowker could use a little more discipline because when he goes out of the zone, he’s probably going to miss. Meanwhile, Fred Lewis isn’t making great contact inside of the zone and he’s not swinging in the zone as much as you would like to see. Because each player in his first full season at the MLB level, we can hope that through coaching, god given abilities, and maybe some luck, they’ll make the needed adjustments.
If you really want to blow your mind, check out Barry Bonds’ plate discipline statistics for the last few years. Just amazing numbers, from ’06-’07 he only swung at pitches outside of the strike zone 13% of the time. He also made contact within the zone 90%+ of the time. I’d LOVE to see the plate disicipline stats from his peak years of ’00-’04.