Plate Approach

I’m going to try something here. I’m not going to editorialize at all. I am going to give you some information. Below is a chart with every Red who hit at least 100 times this year. There are three columns after each name. the first is % of pitches outside the zone they swung at. The second is the percentage inside the zone they swung at. The third is the percent of time they made contact when swinging. I have also included the NL average (excluding pitchers) and Miguel Cabrera since he is widely regarded as the best hitter in baseball.

After the chart, I draw attention to particularly extreme or average performances. Do with it what you will. This post was prompted by a comment in the Joey Votto interview thread from yesterday. All of this information can be easily found on FanGraphs by searching any team or player and clicking the “Plate Discipline” tab.

Player O-Swing % Z-Swing% Contact%
NL Average 31.4% 66.9% 79.8%
Joey Votto 20.0% 67.0% 80.9%
Shin-Soo Choo 22.1% 63.0% 79.9%
Jack Hannahan 22.5% 68.3% 77.3%
Ryan Hanigan 25.4% 61.5% 90.8%
Jay Bruce 29.7% 76.1% 70.3%
Xavier Paul 30.5% 68.7% 72.6%
Zack Cozart 30.9% 65.4% 82.9%
Derrick Robinson 31.4% 71.4% 81.5%
Cesar Izturis 32.6% 72.7% 86.7%
Ryan Ludwick 33.6% 81.2% 73.8%
Todd Frazier 33.7% 70.9% 76.4%
Devin Mesoraco 36.6% 70.8% 80.9%
Chris Heisey 39.0% 70.4% 76.1%
Brandon Phillips 39.0% 74.8% 79.4%
Miguel Cabrera 34.1% 77.5% 80.8%
NL Average 31.4% 66.9% 79.8%

Swinging at Pitches Outside the Zone:

Most below average: Joey Votto (swings at 10.4% fewer balls out of the zone than NL average)
Most above average: Brandon Phillips (swings at 7.6% more balls out of the zone than NL average)
Most average: Derrick Robinson (exactly average)

Swinging at Pitches Inside the Zone:

Most below average: Shin-soo Choo (swings at 3.9% fewer balls in the zone than NL average)
Most above average: Ryan Ludwick (swings at 14.3% more in the zone than NL average)
Most average: Joey Votto (0.1% above average)

Making Contact:

Most below average: Jay Bruce (makes contact 9.5% less often than NL average)
Most above average: Ryan Hanigan (makes contact 11.0% more often than NL average)
Most average: Brandon Phillips (makes contact 0.4% less often than NL average)

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 87 Comments

  1. If you go by that it looks like Cozart seems to have a bit better than average working of the strike zone. I’d like to see the average pitches per at bat along side these stats to see how the hitter is working the pitcher for just sheer number of pitches.

  2. I just posted this on yesterday’s thread but I’m going to quote myself here, because I think it’s also relevant here, and if there’s a counterargument I really do want to hear it:

    The whole K-looking argument is so nonsensical. As Votto pointed out in the interview, his overall K rate was basically the same, so why do we care, whether those are looking or swinging? Actually, if I have to have one, I’d rather have more of his strikeouts coming from the looking category. Presumably, if you are laying off a pitch it’s because it’s a marginal pitch. Maybe it clips the outside the corner, or maybe you just don’t get the call, but if that’s the case, that’s probably not a ball you can drive anyway. Most of those balls are going to be outs anyway, even if you put them in play. On the other hand, A swinging strike means that you are up there hacking at junk, throwing away swings. An awful lot of those would have been balls if you’d laid off them. So are we really more upset because a guy laid off a bunch of pitches that more than likely would have been outs anyway than we would be if he struck out the same number of times by throwing away swings on balls in the dirt? That is insanity.

  3. Actually, here’s the stat I want to see, if someone has the time to dig it up.

    K-Looking % as a percentage of total Ks vs. BA, BABIP or OBP. This is totally un-empirical, but I would hypothesize that a high K-Looking per total K-rate has a strong significant positive correlation to all three, although BA is probably the weakest of the three.

  4. Do they have a tab for runner in scoring position? That is an important approach.

    • @Bubba Ho-Tep: Yes, actually. You can look that up. Last year, w/RISP, Votto had a .291/.477/.455 line. I mean, that’s not what this post was about at all, but if you’re looking for it, there it is.

  5. Actually, I’m not sure it is. All the run expectancy stuff says trading an out for a base is a losing proposition in the long run. Now, an out for a run is a different matter, so maybe the proper qualifier is not RISP but rather “man on third, less than two out.” Even then though, I believe win expectancy still prefers runners on base to sac flies, except in late and close situations (not sure what the cutoffs are).

  6. I’d like to see the stats on that. It appeared Joey wasn’t as good this year as last.

    • @Bubba Ho-Tep: Well, he dropped a hundred points of OPS, so you’re not really going out on a limb with that observation.

      Situationally, he was better in ’12 also. With RISP, he hit .370/.560.781.

      My hypothesis is that he suffered from Insufficient Grit this year.

      Or, his BABIP (w RISP) dropped from .417 to .333.

      • @Chris Garber: It could very well be due to his lack of health early in the season. But it seems from his comments it was his approach. If it was his approach hopefully after Walt and Pric talk to him, it will get straightened out.

        • @Bubba Ho-Tep: See, this is what bothers me about it being open season on Joey Votto. All sorts of things get jumbled together into “Votto’s ‘approach’ is the problem with everything.”

          Walt Jocketty has implicitly (but clearly) criticized Joey Votto for, as the question was posed by Denny Janson, “the notion that a base on balls is as beneficial as a run scoring sacrifice fly.”

          The other comment was more cryptic, but can be interpreted as either the same thing as Janson was talking about (more sac flies) or a desire for Votto to hit for more power, even if it’s at the expense of OBP:

          “He (Joey Votto) has to fit better into the role we see for him, or he might have to hit in a different spot in the order….. that’s something Bryan will certainly approach Joey with, and something we will discuss. There are certain things he has to do.”

          But here’s the thing:
          * NOBODY has ever mentioned Votto’s hitting with RISP.
          * There’s NOTHING that could possibly tie the fall-off in his RISP numbers to his “approach.” Everything got worse – it’s not like he improved his OBP by taking more pitches.
          * As Votto said, his approach has been exactly the same. That’s why he kept saying he was confused about why he was criticized in 2013 but not 2012, when he did essentially the same things.

          • @Chris Garber: “Approach” is method; it isn’t results. It’s like solving math problems. You might be solving some math problems. But, then, the problems get harder, like bigger numbers, or fractions, or decimals. But, the method stays exactly the same.

            What I am sure Votto understands is that he will make his adjustments; he admitted in the interview that he does look to change some things. Just what? For, his adjustments could very well be countered by adjustments from the other teams again. The best adjustment, the team finds a real 4 hole hitter to protect Votto. The second thing, I would like to see him bat better early. It seems to me the other teams aren’t giving him anything to hit effectively once they have 2 strikes on him, which is what they should do. Thus, work on making contact earlier in the PA, before you get 2 strikes.

          • @steveschoen:


            But what does any of that have to do with RISP splits?

          • @Chris Garber: Hey, you mentioned approach. And, it simply sounded like to me that you were getting results and approach mixed up. For, some can have a sound approach but bad results, and vice versa.

            As far as I am concerned, Votto talked something about he would take a walk and give the bat to the guy behind him. Who would you rather trust with just making contact with the ball in order to drive in a run (aka batting with a RISP), Votto or BP? Votto or Bruce? Votto or Ludwick? Votto or anyone else on the team? I would think the name of the game or each is Votto. It sounds like to me Votto “may need” (aka adjust) to tweek that approach a bit. The only way he could defend it would be if the pitcher wasn’t giving him anything to hit. But, given these numbers, it seems obvious that the pitchers are giving some balls to Votto in the zone that he isn’t swinging at.

            I mean, when one considers the numbers, not that I would want a hitter to swing at absolutely everything in the zone, possibly throwing off their swing somehow, unless their swing is geared to be able to cover the entire zone well. But, when it comes to swinging or not swinging at balls in the zone, I would rather have more swings at balls in the zone than not swinging; no need to simply let a strike just go by and dig your own hole. And, according to these numbers, Votto is pretty much league average. The best hitter in the league, no better than league average at swinging at balls in the Kzone?

            Where, exactly what Votto is probably getting ready to do right now, what some on here can’t seem to understand or don’t want to understand, Votto is probably going back now to look at films and stats to see what balls he is being beat on (or, hopefully he is doing it), and making a training plan to keep from being beat on those balls ever again, aka making adjustments, what all players do or should be doing, anyhow. For, once the books out on you, all the teams are going to pick it up and you are going to be beaten and left behind. And, if I can see the book on Votto, it’s not that hard a book to read. It may even be something Votto can’t beat. Then, like Walt said, if these are going to be Votto’s numbers, then we look to change him in the batting order, aka make an adjustment, what all clubs do as well. That wouldn’t be a bad thing necessarily. Lord, what we would have done with a #2 hitter the last two seasons with a 400+ OBP.

          • Who would you rather trust with just making contact with the ball in order to drive in a run (aka batting with a RISP),

            You’ve mixed up all sorts of things. I’ve watched A LOT of baseball, and “just making contact with the ball” doesn’t drive in runners. You generally need to get a base hit. (And you can actually drive in runs with a BB.)

            Your hypothetical is an utter, nonsensical mess, which leads me to think it was crafted only as an excuse to complain about Joey Votto.

            The best hitter in the league, no better than league average at swinging at balls in the Kzone? … I would rather have more swings at balls in the zone than not swinging

            Maybe, just maybe, this means that “swing at every pitch in the strike zone” is not an ideal approach to hitting. Since the leaders in this category are Marco Scutaro, Andrelton Simmons, Austin Jackson, JJ Hardy, and Zack Cozart…

            For, once the books out on you, all the teams are going to pick it up and you are going to be beaten and left behind. And, if I can see the book on Votto, it’s not that hard a book to read.

            Yes, he sure sucks. At this rate, his OPS will be under 800 in 15 years.

  7. If Hanigan isn’t hitting 8th in the order, could we project his numbers differently? Seems like he’d less likely to walk in that spot in the order.

    • @Johnu1: Definitely. As the number 8 hitter they pitch around Hanigan, and he’s willing to take the walk, which is generally what you want him to do. His OBP would decline in another spot. I’m not putting him down, he has a good eye and is patient.

      • @pinson343: is that necessarily true, though? wouldn’t a pitcher ideally want to get the #8 hitter out, especially if he is weak, and leadoff the next inning with the pitcher? I just wonder if the whole “#8 hitter has inflated OBP” is a little overstated sometimes

        • @CincyGuy: Depends on the game situation. With nobody on base, you really want to go after that 8-hole hitter. If you have RISP, especially with 2-out, and if 1B is open, you walk the 8-hole hitter or work around him. So, while the OBP numbers are inflated, they aren’t extremely inflated. Generally drop his IBB out and a handful of his other walks and recalculate his OBP to get a rough estimate of what his OBP will be in another spot in the order. If you want more accuracy, drop his IBB, add those ABs as PA, then use his new BB% to figure out a BB total and use that to calculate his OBP.

  8. I think on the K-looking, the strike zone seemed more bizarre to me this year than in years past. I saw a lot of called K’s on pitches that were technically unhittable, usually below the knees or, worse, up around the armpits.

    • @Johnu1: There is a traditional bias about K looking because as a player the notion of protecting the plate with 2 strikes is drilled into you since childhood. So strikeouts looking really get under people’s skins. “Put the bat on the ball good things might happen.” Or “If you swing the bat you’re dangerous.”

  9. Interesting data, Jason. More on that later but

    Remember that call: O Jonny, O Jonny, O Jonny !

    The surprising thing was the Gomes walk after the Ortiz double. Lynn got ahead of him with 2 strikes and, with Lynn’s slider, I expected to see Gomes strike out on a slider away. Instead Lynn keeps throwing him one fastball after another, Gomes fouled them off until taking a walk. I guess Molina was afraid he’d hang the slider ?
    Anyway that lead to a run.

    When Gomes came up with 2 runners on, I was hoping the Cardinals would replace Lynn with Seth Maness. Maness has that sinking fastball but Gomes loves fastballs and all it took was for one pitch to not sink.

  10. This is good stuff! Thanks for posting this. It tells me that lots of folks who post here seem to be perfectly normal human beings with particularly normal confirmation biases.

    And that many of us are at least willing to cosider new information and/or accept different interperatations.

    Bhrubin; I think you have an excellent point about the called third strike. It is making me question something that I have accepted as fact most of my life.

  11. The thing that jumps out to me is that Cabrera is significantly more aggressive both in and out of the zone than the the two guys most would consider the reds best batters this year (Votto and Choo) while making contact at essentially the same the rate as those two. Cabrera also had better OBP than either of them and serious better slugging that either of them.

    • @OhioJim: Cabrera, when healthy, is both incredibly quick and strong. He’s the most talented hitter in the major leagues. Any comparisons with him should take that into account.

      • @OhioJim: Cabrera, when healthy, is both incredibly quick and strong. He’s the most talented hitter in the major leagues. Any comparisons with him should take that into account.

        Cabrera absolutely is the most talented hitter in the majors but, right or wrong, Reds fans have the expectation that Votto is in the top 5 and that the drop off ought not from a Cabrera to a Votto ought not be that great.

        • @CaptainTonyKW: Well, Votto IS in the top 5. It’s just that Cabrera had a great 2013, and Votto had a (for him) off year.

          • In all farness to Miggy but he has great seasons each year for a while now.

            I do not disagree with the view that Votto is top 5. My point was that Reds fans expect there to be little drop off between Votto and Miggy. Perhaps that expectation is too much. Or perhaps Miggy is just ahead of the learning curve and has learned to adjust to life as one of baseball’s feared hitters. I do not criticize Votto’s hitting approach but some folks around here do not seem willing to acknowledge that he might actually have room for improvement (from both mental and physicaly perspectives).

            @CaptainTonyKW: Well, Votto IS in the top 5. It’s just that Cabrera had a great 2013, and Votto had a (for him) off year.

      • And to think that Cabrera came up in the Reds system.

      • The thing with Cabrera also is having Fielder behind him caused the pitchers to be much more cautious to him and, thus, he is given more to hit.

  12. This is great stuff, kind of a sanity check on our perceptions.

    The ordering of O-Swing% – lowest for Votto, Choo, and Hanigan, highest for BP, Heisey and Mes – among regulars is what one would expect from reputation.
    Bruce and Cozart chase less than average, I wonder if Bruce chases less than previous years, as many thought, will look that up.

    Cozart chases less than reputed and also has a good contact rate.

    The low numbers on Z-swing for Hanigan and Choo are also as expected. Ludwick doesn’t take strikes, not a surprise.

  13. Is there a Z-BABIP and O-BABIP stat for each player out there somewhere? I think that would be a really interesting addition to this table.

    • @AlphaZero: Well, it took me a minute but I figured out what you were wanting to see. I think you are asking how often a ball put in play result in a hit when the ball was hit from out of the strike zone as opposed to in the strike zone. In other words, does putting the bat on the ball on a pitch outside the zone result in a lower or higher BABIP.

      As far as I know that stat doesn’t exist. But I think the stat would tell us what we already know, all players BABIPs will be lower on plays where a ball it put in play by swinging on a ball outside the zone. Pitches hit from balls outside would be hit off the end of the bat reducing the hitters power producing more fly-outs, or if hit inside off the hands would produce more ground-outs.

      • @TC: Yeah, you’ve got the right idea. I probably should have explained that a bit more clearly. In general, you’re obviously right. BABIP on balls outside the zone should be much lower than for balls inside the zone. I just wanted to see if guys who are often anecdotally identified as good “bad ball” hitters (like Frazier) are actually appreciably better than average when making contact with balls outside the zone.

  14. I was looking at mlbtr last night and they had a piece on the projections some Free Agent OF’s would sign for. Choo had a 6 yr./$100 Million projection.
    Can the Reds even remotely afford that?
    Corey Hart had a 1 yr./$8 Million projection, but said at 32 and coming off surgeries on both knees that OF might be out of the question for him. He hits LH pitching very well and RH pitching pretty good too. Hope the Reds at least kick the tires on him.

  15. Good post. The view from 40,000 feet says the Reds right handed hitters was the main drag on the offense. Lo and behold, BP/Mez/Frazier/Heisey were the biggest hackers on the team. The money question is whether those guys have the ability to become more disciplined. That’s the ‘ceiling’ Price talked about last week. If these guys can’t make the adjustments, our offense will be the same if not worse than last year.

    To that end, I think it’s imperative to make the qualifying offer to Arroyo (we need the pick), convert Chapman, and trade Leake to acquire a young cost controlled position player, preferably at 3B or LF. Trading Phillips should be the last thing the Reds prioritize this winter.

  16. The chart maps this year. Look back to Votto’s 2010 MVP season. His BABIP in the two years was nearly identical, so we can ignore the “luck” factor.

    His O-Swing% (30.3) was 10 points higher in 2010, and he made contact with balls outside the zone at a better rate.
    His Z-Swing% (68.2) was nearly identical to this year, but this year he made contact with balls in the zone at a better rate.

    His LD% was 7 points better this year, but his FB% was 5 points lower. GB% was about the same.

    He had nearly an identical K%, but walked 44 more times this year. Yet, his OBP was only .010 points higher. He had a .276 ISO compared to .186 this year. This was the first year Votto had an ISO below .200. He had 18 fewer extra base hits this year. Yes, RBI were less – 40 less.

    There is a clear difference in the approach of 2010 Votto and 2013 Votto. 2010 Votto was far more aggressive. He expanded his stike zone and hit for far more power. Votto is still an elite hitter but in a much different way. Whether the change was for the better is up for debate. Personally, I prefer the 2010 version.

    • @David: Great stuff. The evidence is shaping up to show that (for whatever reason) Votto was being more selective this year, with a result being more solid contact (LD% and Zone Contact) but less power.

      I’m not sure how you reconcile that stuff. I really want to keep blaming the knee. Who knows – maybe Votto has actually perfected his approach, but is still waiting for the knee to come around. If he turns 15 singles into doubles, and 5 doubles into HR (SLG is now .530), are we still having this conversation?

    • @David: @Chris Garber: I had the same interpretation of the data as Chris, Votto’s higher selectivity resulted in a higher LD% at the expense of hi FB%. That is a good thing. I also fo back to his BABIP of .326 during the last 2 months of 2013 when Votto was simply stinging the ball, compared to his career BABIP of .359. If those hard shots he was hitting during the last 2 months found holes at the frequency expected, his final AVG & SLG (and OBP!) would have been better.

      I also hope that the earlier results durng the first 2/3 of the season were attributable to changes Votto made in his approach to compensate for his knee that wasn’t 100%.

      Mesoraco, Frazier, Phillips & Heisey have some work to do this offseason if they are going to make the necessary adjustment to their approach at the plate in order to contribute to the team’s success in 2014. I don’t think that comes as a surprise to anyone. Ludwick is what he is at the plate, an aggresive, free swinger and slugger. If he can regain his strength and stamina during the off season and start barreling up the ball this spring, he will provide the middle-of-the-order offense the Reds need.

  17. I prefer the 2010 version as well. In fact, seeing that Cabrera has 10 percentage points higher than Joey when it comes to swinging at pitches IN the zone tells me what he needs to improve in 2014. What a difference to our lineup if Joey could/would swing at even 5% more strike pitches.

    • @tpteach: Just because a ball is in the zone doesn’t mean it was a good pitch to hit. If Votto has less than 2 strikes on him, he’s looking for one pitch in one spot because he’s confident in his two strike approach. It’s easy to make the blanket statement that Votto would be better if he swung at more pitches in the zone, but the reality is actually much more complex and nuanced, as is usually the case.

      • @AlphaZero: Yeah, and Cabrera is really a unique case. Very few people can replicate his in-zone aggression AND quality contact.

        • @AlphaZero: Yeah, and Cabrera is really a unique case. Very few people can replicate his in-zone aggression AND quality contact.

          So, as was stated earlier, Votto is well below Cabrera in that “top 5” rung. Okay. Either way, I’d like 2010 Votto back in the lineup next season. I think that version best helps our lineup overall.

          • So, as was stated earlier, Votto is well below Cabrera in that “top 5″ rung. Okay. Either way, I’d like 2010 Votto back in the lineup next season. I think that version best helps our lineup overall.

            The problem is Votto is being paid to hit like Cabrera. Votto’s contract is an albatross unless he can bang out 2010 seasons every year.

          • The problem is Votto is being paid to hit like Cabrera. Votto’s contract is an albatross unless he can bang out 2010 seasons every year.

            This is simply false.

  18. Another breakdown of the data that would be interesting is how the Pitch f/x data regarding ball/strike (which I assume this is based on), compares with how umps actually call the pitch.

  19. I haven’t had time to read the entire thread, so perhaps I’m duplicating other comments. If so, my apologies.

    Without commenting on the meaning of this information, it seems that the characterization of the variations are a bit misleading. To say that Brandon Phillips (at 39.0%) swings at pitches 7.6% more often than league average (at 31.4%) is misleading. Rather than giving the arithmetic difference, which isn’t very meaningful, I’d rather see the ratio as a better measure. Which is to say, Phillips actually swings at pitches out of the strike zone 24.2% more frequently than the average NL batter. That’s a big difference. To give a more extreme example, if Phillips were Valdimir Guerrero and swung at 5 of 8 potential balls (62.5%), he would be swinging at pitches out of the zone basically TWICE as often as league average, not 31.1% more often. I think there are some eye popping numbers in the chart if you look at them that way.

  20. bhrubin1 nailed it towards the top:

    If it’s a marginal pitch, why swing? I’ll take the chance the umpire calls it a strike against the weak ground out to shortstop. This would especially apply early in the count, but could still apply late in the count as well. If there are two strikes and the pitcher throws one at the knees near the corner, I’d rather the batter take the gamble it’s called a ball than put it in play and get out 80% of the time.

  21. This only gets about half the discussion of batting. “Where” the ball is is one half, as what this measures, in the zone or out of the zone. “When” is the other part, as in what was the count when you did swing and didn’t swing.

    For instance, again, it was fairly obvious that Votto likes to go long into counts. Thus, it isn’t that difficult to get 2 strikes on him. Right at that point, it would be interesting to know how much Votto swung at balls outside the zone, inside the zone, and made contact, before he got 2 strikes then once he got 2 strikes.

    No one said Votto doesn’t have a good eye. But, it could even be considered fairly common, including for Votto, to let 1 or even 2 strikes go by that are in the strike zone. But, then, with 2 strikes, batters get more protective, start fouling off pitch after pitch, swinging at anything near a strike, swinging at pitches that the batter just laid off of. That’s what I would be interested in looking at.

    Not exactly the same, but Votto’s BA with 2 strikes? 0.174. Of course it would be bad, he has 2 strikes on him. 0.174 ranks him as 74th best BA in the league with 2 strikes on him. Now, his OBP 0.316 was better, 7th in the league, which would mean he’s getting a lot of 3-2 counts. SLG of 0.243, 70th best in the league. (all when min 150 AB with 2 strikes)

    Want numbers on his “full count”? 0.184/0.517/0.276. Where’s that in the league? With a min 20 AB with full count, 106th/28th/97th.

    Not necessarily out of the ordinary for Votto? 2012, two strikes, .256/.394/.390. Full count, .290/.581/.484

    2011? Two strikes, .199/.304/.350. Full count, .265/.523/.590

    Again, this past season, two strikes, .174/.316/.243. Full count, .184/.517/.276

    Run with these where you like. I specified what I would like to see. I specified these are “not exactly the same” but similar.

  22. Part of the analysis makes me want to ask: The strike zone, as defined by the computer or as defined by the hitter?

    Or the umpire?

    I would surmise there’s a happy compromise there but, for the hitter, the definition of the “strike zone” would be what he presumes is a pitch he thinks is a strike — or precisely, one he thinks he can handle. The data show trends but don’t really measure the attitude of the hitter, given any number of variables. The main one is, I assume, how he “feels” when he gets in the box.

  23. I’m sure that JV is watching video of every at-bat he had this season and is breaking it all down. He’ll formulate a strategy and follow through with it this winter. He’ll work on the things he needs to or make the necessary adjustments. He’s a student of the game. I believe we’ll see a much better Votto both physically and mentally next year.
    There are 3 things that can have a effect on his hitting that the front office can help him with, and all 3 are unsettled at this time. Those 3 things are who hits 1st and 2nd in the lineup directly in front of Votto. And who hits 4th directly behind him so he isn’t pitched around as often. It’s going to be very interesting to see what the Reds do for these 3 places in the lineup.
    Pitching is winning the LCS’s and WS so far, but a team has to be able to score about 4 runs to win a game as we have seen.

  24. Jay Bruce’s low contact rate is interesting. If you look at his contact rate in the strike zone (Z contact%), it is a little low at 79% (average around 87-88%). His contact rate out of the zone (O contact%) is awful at 53% (average is about 67-68%). He obviously struggles to make contact with pitches out of the zone. This may be why he seems to get himself out often. His low contact rate out of the zone would suggest that he needs to improve his ability to lay off bad pitches to take the next step in his development, if there is a next step.

  25. Look, we get it.

    Joey Votto had a great year, but for Joey Votto, ‘great’ isn’t good enough.

    Hopefully next year he will reintroduce slugging to his game to compliment his on base skills, then everyone will be happy.

    Now, how about the rest of the team?

    • @CI3J:

      …then everyone will be happy.

      I doubt it, but maybe happier.

      Now, how about the rest of the team?

      Yes, THIS ❗

  26. Isn’t it fair enough to say…if his power returns (whether it be the knee recovering or whatever) he’s a #3 hitter, if it doesn’t, he’s a number #2?

    • @Bill Lack: Thank God for you Bill.

    • @Bill Lack: So there’s a reason why a No. 2 hitter can’t also hit for power?

    • @Bill Lack: But it makes a huge difference to the team. Because of the money they have sunk in Votto as a #3, they don’t have the resources to go out and get another #3 hitter..

      Cabrera’s numbers would suggest that for a special hitter like himself and one would presume Votto, it may well be worth the risk to be less cautious and trust his BABIP skills to deliver more value to the team (as measured by OBP and Slugging%) by expanding his hitting zone by being more aggressive on borderline pitches without as much concern for whether they are technically balls or strikes.

    • @Bill Lack: In the traditional sense of 2 and 3 hitters, yes. Though it is worth noting that only 10 NL players slugged over .500 this year.

      • @Jason Linden: Only 8 NL players who had enough PA to qualify for the batting title. And two of those 8 did it with the help of the Coors Field effect.

  27. So if, as is continually stated on this thread, we cannot rightfully compare Joey to Cabrera (because Cabrera is just so other worldly) than can we see the numbers comparison with Votto and a few other team’s MVPs? Say McCutchen, Ortiz, Posey, etc?

    And, I agree, more pop means #3 justified. Less pop means a shift to #2 would be helpful to the lineup. Why is it so awful to even consider this? Other great teams have shifted great players into that position in the lineup.

    • @tpteach: In addition to the names you gave, I grabbed a bunch of the top OPSs in the NL, along with Trout. I’d get more, but my wife is telling me it’s time for bed 😉

      O-swing/Z-swing/Contact %, followed by the standard triple slash line (all 2013 numbers):
      Joey Votto: 21.0%/61.6%/81.0%, .305/.435/.491
      Andrew McCutchen: 23.7%/70.5%/80.4%, .317/.404/.508
      David Ortiz: 27.2%/71.9%/80.4%, .309/.395/.562
      Buster Posey: 24.8%/59.8%/87.1%, .294/.371/.450
      Mike Trout: 23.2%/53.5%/87.9%, .323/.432/.521 (goodness gracious, that kid is ridiculous – also check out how low his Z-swing % is – clearly taking too many strikes isn’t a problem for him)
      Paul Goldschmidt: 22.8%/62.4%/84.3%, .302/.401/.551 (another one with a Z-swing rate on the lower end)
      Troy Tulowitzki: 24.6%/59.9%/87.5%, .312/.391/.540 (low again)
      Matt Holliday: 31.7%/76.1%/80.9%, .300/.389/.490
      Jayson Werth: 25.1%/58.5%/82.0%, .318/.398/.532

      This was an interesting exercise. If you look at some of the best numbers (Goldschmidt, Trout, Tulo, Werth, Ortiz), you’ll notice that, except for Ortiz, they all had rather low Z-swing %, just like Votto. When you are patient, and wait for the pitch you can hit, good things happen.

      • @Omri: Sorry for the horrendous formatting on this – I don’t think tables are allowed in comments. Maybe someone can do a feature on this if they deem it worthwhile?

        • @Omri: Awesome, thanks! It’s the second numbers I am trying to compare. And, as expected, some of the big wigs on other teams have a higher “percentage inside the zone they swung at” than Votto.

          For example, with Votto at 61.6% we can compare his in the zone swing % to other star players in our division like McCutchen: 70.5% (+8.9 higher) and Holliday: 76.1% (+14.5 higher) or in the World Series like Ortiz: 71.9% (+10.3).

          My point all along is that we desperately need Votto to swing at more strikes in the zone. Holliday and Ortiz (guys not named Cabrera) are showing how important it is for your best hitters to get actual hits.

          • @tpteach: Trout, statistically, is the 2nd best hitter behind Cabrera and he swings at fewer pitches in the zone than Votto.

            See, I can cherry-pick, too.

            And it’s important for Votto to get “actual hits?” He got more than anyone else on the team.

          • tp

            What exactly has been cherry-picked? The chart shows that, compared to the top players from other teams, Votto seems to keep his bat on his shoulder on thrown strikes more than many others. Since Votto’s not quite hitting with the same power as before, I’d prefer that instead of taking those strikes, our best hitter at least put the ball in play.

            Is it important for Votto to get “actual hits”? Yes. Yes it’s important for him to get actual hits. Those hits can actually knock in a run. Those hits can actually clear a fence on the bounce or on the fly. Those hits can be bobbled for extra bases. Yes…it’s important.

  28. I do not care about much more than the eye test, unless something does not look right with the player. We would all like Votto to have more MVP seasons, but we also have to realize that is not going to happen every season. He was pretty good in ’12 until injured, and at the time I did not think he would be back totally for about a year. He has said he did not feel back until the last third of the season. There was a lot of talk during ’13 about his lack of power, but didn’t he hit for more power toward the end of the season? Give the guy somebody who hits for power and average to hit behind him and a full season to rehab and IMO he will be just fine.

  29. Totally off the subject, but enjoying the former Reds on the Red Sox, who are contributing to the effort in the WS. Weren’t they both on the Reds when the brawl happened? GO REDS (Sox)

    • @redmountain: I came on just to post about this topic. Gomes is the hero last nite, Ross tonite. I’m enjoying watching them help put the Cardinals down. Not that the Reds should have kept either, I just like them both and am happy to see them doing well.

      Ross was with the Reds from 2006-2008 and Gomes from 2009-2011, so Gomes was there for the brawl.

  30. Could the Reds find a RH hitting LF to bat 4th in Anahiem??


    Trumbo is entering his arbitration years. He is also a native of Anahiem, so I thought there would be no way the Angels trade him. Nonetheless, the Reds could use him. Who could they give up to get him?? Leake? Chapman?

  31. Trumbo is interesting, but I worry about putting ANOTHER low OBP guy in the Reds lineup. He definitely has some power.

  32. If I’m neither hallucinating nor misinterpreting (both possible), then Jack Hannahan has the third best plate discipline on this Reds team and I just fell out of my chair.

    • @John: Well, like with anything, you need to take all stats with a grain of salt, including advanced metrics. These don’t measure plate discipline, necessarily, only percentages of swings in the zone, out of the zone, and contact. But, like I mentioned, if you get a batter who let’s balls go by a lot, likes to work the count until they get 2 strikes on themselves, then they are going to start swinging at most anything that is close to being a called strike. Before they had 2 strikes, their swing% would be rather low anywhere. After they get 2 strikes, their swing% would be rather high most anywhere. In short, you have to consider when they swing (what the count is) as well as if they make contact or not and if the ball is in/out of the zone to measure plate discipline.

      So, it would probably be better to say that the O% and Z% could be a reading of how good an eye they have. And, the contact% would be how good their Hand/Eye coordination is.

    • @John: Hannahan has an OBP 100 points higher than his BA. That’s great plate discipline. He’s just not a very good hitter. I was very frustrated last season when both Hannahan & Izturis were in the lineup and Izturis always hit in the #2 hole with Hannahan’s OBP 50-60 points higher than Izturis.

      • @Shchi Cossack: I agree, Cossack. Makes it hard to believe for me to consider that anyone will give Dusty another managing job after seeing things like that.

  33. I loved the pep talk Big Papi gave to the team during game 4 and now the BoSox are up 3-2. That’s the kind of clubhouse leader the Reds need.

  34. Shouldn’t Hanigan be the most below-average for swinging at zone pitches? He’s lower than Choo.

  35. BP’s contact rate when swinging at pitches in the zone is the best on the team. Think about how much more productive he would be if he were to cut down on chasing. I have to think that Dusty’s hitting philosophy only made matters worse. As noted, he chases more pitches out of the zone than anyone on the team, and he ranks 12th in the majors in that category.

  36. Let Joey be Joey

    Great stats and discussion

    When Joey is having MVP season he hits 50-60 doubles. That is where his power lies. He is a 30 hr guy, not a 50 hr guy

    I submit that this team has plenty of power.what they need are MORE players to adopt Vottos style, not a change in Vottos. Jay Bruce is adopting Vottos style and is now an all star. Yet if Jay and Todd both strike out 30 less times each, we win the division

    I would like to see Price work with them and Phillips to strike out less and we can replace Choo with those players we have. Not with how they executed last year, but with a Joey approach

    How good could have Stubbs been with Joey s approach…

    And if Heisey does not change his approach he should not play for the Reds

    • @reaganspad: Doubles are more likely and just as useful. As evidence, submitted earlier, the Cardinals double teams to death.

Comments are closed.

About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.


2013 Reds, 2014 Reds


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