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May 17, 2013

BP Unfiltered

The Longest Plate Appearance of the Week, 5/17

by Ben Lindbergh

Last Friday, I started a new series in which I'll be breaking down, marveling at, and ruminating on the longest plate appearance of the preceding week. This is the second installment of that series. The inaugural edition featured a 12-pitch showdown between Mike Moustakas and Chris Sale that remains exactly as interesting as it was when it was published, so if you want to watch that plate appearance, click this link. If you’ve already seen it, or you’re interested only in the latest longest plate appearance, read on.

Longest Plate Appearance of the Week, 5/9-5/15
May 12, Pirates at Mets
Starling Marte vs. Bobby Parnell, 13 pitches (tied for longest of 2013)
Marte’s longest previous plate appearance:
9 pitches (twice)
Previous longest plate appearance vs. Parnell: 11 pitches
2013 League-average P/PA: 3.86
Marte P/PA: 3.76
Parnell P/PA: 4.05
Previous match-up history: 0-for-1, 1 K

Parnell recorded four outs and faced seven batters in this outing. He threw 13 pitches to Marte, and a combined 17 to the other six batters. Marte is off to an excellent start on offense, but plate discipline isn't his strong suit, so he's not the sort of hitter one would extend to have a super-extended plate appearance. Earlier this year, R.J. Anderson speculated that batting in the leadoff slot might improve Marte's plate discipline, and the outfielder's BB/K ratio has risen slightly. However, he hasn't become any more selective; in fact, he's swinging more often at pitches both inside and outside of the zone, but he's also making more contact and thus striking out less.

The plot:

The sequence:

1. 0-0: 85-mph slider, ball

Parnell starts Marte off with a slider off the inside part of the plate for a ball.

2. 1-0: 96-mph four-seamer, foul ball

This one's in the same general location—just slightly more centered—but it comes in 11 mph faster. Marte gets jammed a bit by the 96-mph heat but fights it off the other way.

3. 1-1: 96-mph two-seamer, called strike

Now Parnell goes low and to the outside corner, and he gets the call. According to Brooks Baseball, this one was in the strike zone, but Buck's presentation of the pitch helped make sure that it was called that way.

4. 1-2: 85-mph curveball, ball

Parnell misses low, and Marte doesn't chase.

5. 2-2: 98-mph two-seamer, ball

The mirror image of the previous pitch (but faster), and again Marte lays off . He's now seen five pitches, and we've come to a full count. 

6. 3-2: 97-mph two-seamer, foul ball

Marte is down to his last strike, but that's not a tentative, stay-alive swing. Its violence is unchecked, and he times it correctly, fouling it straight back. PITCHf/x says this was a ball, which suggests that Marte could have taken his walk after only six pitches and saved  everyone some time.

7. 3-2: 97-mph two-seamer, foul ball

Even though Marte was synched up with the previous blazing sinker, Parnell comes back with another only slightly faster. However, he does vary its location, and Marte spoils another borderline pitch.

8. 3-2: 98-mph two-seamer, foul ball

This is just gas, as Parnell gues up in the zone in search of a swinging strike but couldn't miss Marte's bat. Again, Marte takes a pretty ferocious hack. His two-strike swing is far from restrained.

9. 3-2: 97-mph two-seamer, foul ball

These pitches look so similar that for a moment I thought I'd embedded the same GIF twice. In last week's long plate appearance, Chris Sale didn't throw any two consecutive pitches of the same type and speed to the same spot. Parnell breaks the "vary velocity or location" rule here, but he has enough heat that Marte still swings late.

10. 3-2: 96-mph two-seamer, foul ball

This pitch is the closest to the center of the strike zone, but Marte can't keep it fair.

11. 3-2: 88-mph slider, foul ball

Since he can't blow a fastball by Marte (and since he's shown him three straight heaters), Parnell goes back to the slider to try to get a whiff. Instead, he gets a sixth consecutive foul ball.

12. 3-2: 87-mph slider, foul ball

Another slider, a little lower and farther toward the outside corner. This is the pitch Parnell threw farthest outside of the zone without a corresponding take, as Marte swings at what probably would've been ball four. He's made more contact on on out-of-zone pitches this season, but it's in this case, it's not quality contact.

13. 97-mph four-seamer, ball

After seeing two sliders, Marte gets another fastball, and he takes it for a walk. Buck desperately tries to frame the pitch, but home-plate umpire Andy Fletcher is unmoved.

You might've liked to see Marte take a couple of pitches that he swung at instead, and of course the outcome might have been even better if he'd put one of those fouls into play. On the whole, though, it was an impressive performance from the 24-year-old outfielder, who wore Parnell out with his above-average ability to put the bat on the ball.

Ben Lindbergh is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Ben's other articles. You can contact Ben by clicking here

6 comments have been left for this article.

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