Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Smizik the Contrarian

Bob Smizik presents some contrarian argumentation this morning and does his best to tamp down the local lovefest with Jim Tracy and his mostly sensible talk about good hitter's counts. Smizik considers it a personal challenge whenever he perceives that other people are having fun.

It's always possible to cite exceptions to a general rule, but it's a fallacy to assert that in doing so, you've disproven the general rule. Yes, Clemente was great. Yes, I'd like to have Vladmir Guererro or Ichiro Suzuki on the Pirates and in fact, would accept either in a one-for-one deal for Craig Wilson. But a larger body of evidence than Smizik presents here suggests that the Earl Weaver style of managing, cited at Bucs Dugout, tends to produce more wins, all other things being equal. I expect that in a day or two, much of this evidence will be online at Baseball Primer in response to Smizik's column.

(Update: Yep, here it is.)

Here are the stats that Smizik presents to support his assertions:

But look what happened to the Pirates when they get two strikes.

With an 0-2 count, the Pirates batted .168.

With a 1-2 count, they batted. 159.

With a 2-2 count, they batted .172.

With a 3-2 count, when the pitcher has to come in with a strike, they batted .229.
The point, of course, is not what happens when the pitcher has two strikes on you, but what happens when you get deep in the count and he has one strike or no strikes on you. A balanced analysis would have to present those stats as well.

Patience and selectivity at the plate also seem to have a team effect. When you watch the Yankees or the Red Sox, you notice that almost all of them are patient and selective at the plate, and this has the cumulative effect of wearing down the opposing pitching staff, one pitcher at a time.

I mostly like what I am hearing from Tracy, but I'm not convinced that a patient approach to hitting is a skill that can be taught. I hope I'm wrong.

When I used to play APBA in the 80s, I always tried to draft Orioles bench players like John Lowenstein and Benny Ayala. They walked a lot and hit a lot of home runs, and my teams were usually successful.


Anonymous bill stiteler said...

Patience at the plate is deffinitly something that's hard to teach, but I think it has a lot to do with experience. The vetern player isn't going to swing at the first couple of pitches, which a young eager player would gladly take a crack at. The Pirates are a primaraly young team, and them getting into 0-2, 1-2 counts are something that is enevitable.

11:53 AM  
Blogger ezekiel2517 said...

That's not always true, dog. There are plenty of young prospects drawing walks at a faster rate than veterans. Jason Bay is only 26 and has been in the majors two years, and he draws walks better than most players in the majors. Whereas, Tony Womack has always hacked at every pitch. Players have to learn to walk at a very young age and the ones that do are the ones that turn into great players. Some of our young players know how to walk: Doumit, McLouth, and most notably Andrew McCutchen who we just drafted last year and has already amassed incredible walk totals.

In short, I don't think the connection between age and plate discipline is as strong as you do. Sure, veterans tend to be more confident and comfortable on the field, but it is by no means part of "adjusting to the majors" to be in the hole every at-bat.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous bill stiteler said...

I disagree, sure there are those that adjust to the majors faster than others, and vets that swing at everything around them. But when you have a young ball player stepping onto the field for his first couple of major league seasons, doesn't matter who he is, his numbers are going to be down a lot from what they're capable of achieving. Baseball is 90% mental, and when you have young players battling that mental game, you see a lot of early two strike counts, and blown walk opportunities thanks to the en-experienced voice in their head telling them what to do.

4:53 PM  
Blogger ezekiel2517 said...

Well I disagree; no real prospect should go through a two year adjustment period in my opinion. When young players struggle to make contact/adjust to major league pitching, they spend more time in the minors, as Eldred will do this year. When a player should be ready for the majors, based on the time he's spent at the lower levels and how he's performed there, if he has trouble with plate discipline for two straight years in the majors, then I think at that point you have to admit that that player is not a real prospect.

The ones who adjust to major league pitching and put up numbers similar to their minor league numbers are the real players. Random examples: Bay, MCabrera, David Wright, Chris Shelton (damn you Dave Littlefield). And some new guys that I think will solidify their "real player" status this year: Ryan Howard, Jeff Franceour, Prince Fielder. These are all real batters. Guys like Jose Castillo certainly MAY be real batters -- Jose mostly because he's battled injuries throughout his career -- but it's very hard to put much stock into them when they show little production in their first two years in the majors.

And then there are guys like Craig Wilson who have shown production, but for some reason that's not enough for management to just play them every day.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous bill stiteler said...

Two years was a bad time choice on my part, it was a little to long. Most of the youth in baseball just can't cut the major league level. Most likely none of them didn't succeed based their hitting. And their hitting is bad from not showing any plate presence, or patience, or maybe they just weren't that good. But still, there are probably 100 Brant Browns to every Jason Bay, just shows you how good you have to preform to be at the major league level, and how sparingly it happens.

5:55 PM  

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