Patience at the Plate

So a lot has been made about the poor offense as of late.  Since I don't watch many games due to where I live, I can't say for sure but it seems like the Rangers are not showing much patience at the plate.  So I decided to look up some stats, and compare them to 2008.

2009 Swing at 1st Pitch:

According to B-Ref, the league average for swinging at the first pitch is 26% of the time (Mauer only swings at 6% of first pitches, that's crazy).  The '09 Rangers have a team total of 33%.  Now, that does include pitchers which is not a great way to get a good feel for plate patience for an AL team.  Regardless of the pitchers, there are only three position players who fall below the league average.  They are: Boggs 17%, Murphy 17%, and Vizquel 21%.  None of these guys are full-time players.  On the other end of the spectrum, Hamilton swings at 50% of first pitches, Byrd 41%, Salty 40%, Jones 38%, Davis 36%, and Cruz 34%.

2009 Pitches per Plate Appearance:

As far as pitches per plate appearance, the league average is 3.83 and the Rangers see 3.79 pitches (pitchers included).  The only players who best the league average are: Boggs 3.89, Cruz 3.87, Davis 4.00, Jones 3.94, Murphy 4.13, Salty 3.85, and Teagarden 4.01.  

2008 Swing at 1st Pitch:

For the sake of brevity, I am only going to look at those players who were on the team both in '08 and '09, though Milton Bradley will be included.  League average for swinging at the first pitch was 27% and the team swung at 30% of the first pitches.  Those players who were below the league average were: Boggs 20%, Salty 27%, and Teagarden 27%.  Bradley swung at 39% of first pitches.

2008 Pitches per Plate Appearance:

The league average was 3.85 pitches, and the Rangers saw 3.80 pitches.  The Rangers who were above the league average were as follows: Bradley 3.99, Boggs 4.33, Salty 4.36, and Teagarden 4.15.


The 2008 Rangers were not a team that was patient with the first pitch.  While the current team is also above the league average for swinging at the first pitch, the difference between the team and league average has grown by 50%.  Also, both teams were below league average for pitches per plate appearance, and the difference between the two teams is negligible.  So while the offense is sputtering along, they are still hacking away at the first pitch just like last season and they are not seeing a lot of pitches.  My experience is limited, but it certainly feels like last year's team didn't do this.  Across the board, there have been bumps in this year's team with regards to swinging at the first pitch; Salty is foremost among these players.  With regards to these two stats in particular, Bradley did not stand out as much as I had expected.  He jumped on a lot of first pitches, but still managed to see quite a few pitches overall.  Also, Boggs is a patient hitter who can work the count, draw a walk, and play stellar defense.  Too bad he has been injured.


There is, however, a big difference with regards to walks.  In '08 the league average for walks was 8.6% of the time, and the Rangers managed to draw a walk 9.2% of the time.  The team leaders were: Bradley 15%, Boggs 13.2%, Vazquez 11%, Byrd 10%, and Hamilton 9.1%.  In 2009, however, the league average is 8.9%, but the Rangers are only drawing a walk 7.9% of the time.  The team leaders are: Jones 14%, Murphy 11.5%, and Cruz 9.4% (Kinsler is right at league average).  With regards to this stat, Bradley is a beast.  The problem is, however, Murphy and Jones are not going to get regular playing time, and sometimes Washington has benched Cruz for reasons I don't understand.  There is no batter with regular playing time who draws a walk with regularity.




Without looking up the exact quote, I remember some discussion about how there has been a philosophical change in the way the current Rangers approach an AB.  Namely, the hitters are too aggressive and not drawing enough walks.  I kind of figured that drawing more walks would mean that the hitters would stop hacking at the first pitch and work the count.  As such, the walks would start to appear.  However, the 2008 Rangers were not prudent at swinging at first pitch strikes, nor did the see more pitches per plate appearance than the average team.  This holds true for the 2009 team (though they are swinging at more first pitches), and yet there is a big difference in walks.  I believe that Adam said that this change is mostly accounted for by the departure of Bradley.  Is it really that simple?  This is nothing more than a cursory glance at B-Ref, am I missing something?  How does this team start drawing more walks?

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