Fun With Numbers, or, the Rangers Couldn't Hit Water if They Fell Out of a Freaking Boat

So I'm looking at B-R's pitch breakdown for A.L. teams this season, and I discover a couple of interesting items...

First of all, the Rangers are in the middle of the pack in terms of pitches seen per plate appearance.  This surprised me, because of how hacktastic the offense has been this year.

But drilling down in the data reveals that that number really isn't as positive as it seems...the Rangers are 4th in the A.L. in percentage of pitches that they see that are strikes (that is, are either swung at and missed, taken for a strike, fouled off, or put into play).

That's not good, obviously.  But it gets worse.

The Rangers are dead last in percentage of pitches taken for strikes, at 24%.  The top three teams are at 32%, 31%, and 30%, respectively, and everyone else is at 27 to 29 percent.  The gap between the Rangers and the 13th team in the A.L. in percentage of pitches taken for strikes is as large as the gap between the 13th team and the 3rd team.

The Rangers are first in swinging strikes, and again, this is by a mile.  20% of strikes for Rangers batters are swings and misses.  The Devil Rays are 2nd, at 16%, and the Yankees are last, at 11%.  Everyone else is between 12 and 15%. 

The Rangers are 5th in foul ball percentage, and 12th in in play percentage, which means that, while they are swinging at a ton of pitches, they are putting a lower percentage of them in play than almost any other team.

Boil it down, and the Rangers are swinging at 48% of the pitches that they see, again the highest percentage in the A.L. by a healthy margin.  Boston and New York swing at the lowest percentages, at 41% and 42%, respectively.

The Rangers only make contact 74% of the time when they swing, as well.  This is, once again, dead last in the A.L.  Tampa is next to last, at 78%, and Toronto is tops in the A.L., at 84%.

Swinging at the first pitch?  The Rangers are first again, swinging at 33 percent of first pitches.  Once again, Boston and New York have the lowest percentages, at 21% and 23%, and Tampa is 2nd, at 28%. 

The gulf between Texas and whoever is next in each of these categories is amazing.

Not surprisingly, the Rangers have seen fewer 3-0 counts (111) than any other team in the A.L..  The next closest team is Seattle, which has seen 124 3-0 counts.

So you'd expect the Rangers to also be dead last in 3-0 count swings, right?  Wrong...they are 3rd in the A.L., swinging 11 times on 3-0.  Only the Angels (17) and Twins (12) have swung more often on 3-0.

Not surprisingly, the same pattern emerges on 2-0 counts...the Rangers have seen the fewest 2-0 counts in the A.L., and have swung on 2-0 the second-highest number of times.

This blows me away.  I mean, I've been watching the games, and it has certainly seemed like the Rangers are swinging away way too much...but I had no idea that the 2009 Ranger offense was such an outlier in that regard.

And it is particularly remarkable when you compare it to last year's offense.  The 2008 Rangers made contact on the highest percentage of swings in the A.L., at 82%.  They were near the bottom of the league in percentage of strikes, at 61%.  And in the course of a season, that has completely turned around.

So yeah, when you hear all the talk about the team wanting to be patient and work the counts and all that, understand, so far, it has all been b.s.  This team has dramatically regressed in regards to plate discipline, and appears to have abandoned the Ron Washington "work the count" philosophy in favor of swinging at anything that moves.

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