After watching the first seven games of the season, it has seemed to me that the Royals have had better approaches at the plate. I felt like they were seeing more pitches than they have in years past. I know we are only looking at a handful of games, and therefore some small sample sizes but I can’t wait until the All Star break to start digging into the stats.
First, is it actually better to see more pitches in a plate appearance? My intuition says yes, but let’s investigate the numbers to confirm. The following graph plots the 2009 MLB teams with the x-axis being pitches per plate appearance and the y-axis being the runs scored per game. The Royals are denoted by the red marker.
While it isn’t an absolute rule, the trend does show a good correlation of seeing more pitches and scoring more runs. It makes sense. The more pitches you see, the more likely you are to see a hittable pitch and then to face bullpen pitchers rather than starting pitchers.
So are the Royals actually seeing more pitches so far this year than last? According to Baseball Reference, the 2010 Royals are seeing 3.97 pitches per PA while the 2009 Royals saw 3.79. It doesn’t seem like a huge difference, however 3.79 was good for 23rd in the MLB last year and 3.97 would have been 2nd.
Finally, which players are seeing the most pitches individually.
Aviles and Maier only have a very small handful of plate appearances, but it’s still another reason to want them in the lineup. The top of the list is dominated by good patient contact hitters like Callaspo, Dejesus and Butler. I’ve been very impressed with Chris Getz so far this season and part of that has been his good approach at the plate. The bottom of the list is filled with free swingers like Ankiel and terrible hitters like Betancourt. Hitters with power can overcome seeing fewer pitches by hitting the few that they do see out of the park. Guys like Betancourt just end up hurting your team.
There is always talk of doing the “little things” right in baseball. Usually that phrase refers to moving runners, playing smart defense and good baserunning, but I believe that seeing more pitches is in some ways a much more important “little thing”. With only four percent of the regular season in the books, we cannot have a definitive confirmation that this team actually has a better approach at the plate on offense. It is something to watch throughout the season though.
Nick hosts a podcast about the Royals at Broken Bat Single and welcomes feedback via Twitter (@brokenbatsingle) and e-mail (brokenbatsingle [AT] gmail [DOT] com)