Have hitters become too passive, or is there something else going on?
Last week, in an article in Sports Illustrated, Tom Verducci put forth an argument that the modern game of baseball has a problem. Hitters, he claimed, have become too passive in their approach at the plate as they attempt to drive up the pitch counts of the opposing pitcher. He mixes together a couple of case examples (Joey Votto, Jayson Werth) with some data that appear to show that hitters have become more passive in their approach over time, and are paying for it in declining run production. Maybe Joey and Jayson, and by proxy the rest of the baseball players out there, should swing the bat a little more.
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Does it matter that Joey Votto isn't driving in runs?
Something is amiss with Joey Votto. Sure, he’s getting his walks, but as the Big Bat in the lineup paid to drive in runs, he’s struggling tremendously. He has just eight runs batted in—fewer than hardly noted run producers like YunieskyBetancourt, Brett Gardner, Marlon Byrd and notoriously light-hitting teammate Zack Cozart. Clearly, with the overly passive Votto, there’s trouble in River City.
That’s one way to look at the first 22 games of the best player on the National League Central favorite Cincinnati Reds. Maybe how we would have evaluated him in 1980.
Has Yuniesky Betancourt left his free-swinging ways behind?
When the Phillies offered Yuniesky Betancourt an invitation to spring training, we wondered why a team would give even a non-guaranteed contract to a player whose career stats suggested he was without any upside. When Betancourt hit .446/.450/.625 in spring training and landed a major-league contract with Milwaukee, we wondered A) why teams allow themselves to be seduced by spring statistics and B) what it is about Betancourt that makes teams who’ve already seen him firsthand for full seasons decide to bring him back for more. When we last saw Betancourt in the big leagues, he was getting released by the Royals. It was fair to wonder why he’d be any better at age 31 than he was during his replacement-level prime.
How does the plate discipline of Dominican players compare to the league as a whole?
If you read Jorge Arangure Jr.’s great guest piece on Dominican players and plate discipline today, you may have wondered, as I did, whether we could see any difference between Dominicans and non-Dominicans in the data. Jorge mentioned how few Dominicans are among their respective leagues’ leaders in walk rate, but I wanted to see how DR-born players stacked up as a group. I asked BP data dude Dan Turkenkopf to run the numbers, and this is what he found for major leaguers in 2012. (Note: pitcher hitting is included, and the “league” rates include Dominican players.)
Are Dominican hitters hurting themselves by focusing on raw skills at the expense of a patient approach? And can anything be done about it?
Most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Jorge Arangure has been a baseball writer since 2003. He has worked as a senior writer for ESPN and The Washington Post. He's got #want and is #wet and will probably spend his BP freelancing money drinking with Jason Parks.
Jim Thome's return to the American League leads the new VPs this week as the All-Star break looms ahead.
We’re almost to the traditional midway point of the season, and Value Picks has already alerted you to early-season bargains like Adam LaRoche, Chris Davis, Will Middlebrooks, Matt Carpenter, and Todd Frazier. As the teams meet their own midway points and decide on their near- and long-term futures, we could see more high-profile call-ups like the departing Anthony Rizzo or trades like the one that brought Jim Thome back to the American League. Stay tuned to Value Picks for all the latest developments to keep your fantasy team ahead of the pack!
If Emilio Bonifacio can't hit for power, why are pitchers walking him so often?
On Wednesday, Albert PujolsEmilio Bonifacio finally got his first extra-base hit of the season. It was his 138th plate appearance, which is fortunate, in that it kept him from matching Juan Pierre (144 plate appearances, 2010) for the longest such streak to start a season during this century.
Reporter: Did you know you just matched a record set by Pierre?
Bonifacio: Wow! Awesome!
Bonifacio: Oh, Juan Pierre?
Bonifacio: Oh ok
Bonifacio: This is a trick, right?
Bonifacio: Juan Pierre.
On teaching patience, a nice old lady and a hilarious inning to a near-gem.
CHICAGO—One-four-four-five-four-one. No, that's not a Tommy Tutone update, it's the game-by-game run totals for the Cubs in their first six outings of the season. They broke out with eight runs off Milwaukee ace Zack Greinke on Thursday, but questions still abound about Chicago's offense.
How to get through the season's first month without panicking.
Albert Pujols is on pace to hit into 486 double plays in 2011. This would shatter the record of 36 double plays that Jim Rice grounded into in 1984. Meanwhile, Robinson Cano is going to have problems hitting over .300 again, as he is on pace to strike out 324 times this season.
To be patient is to endure, but should your team endure this outfielder's patience?
Brett Gardner has a plan. It’s a simple one, and it was rather effective for him in 2010. The plan is this: he waits until he gets a pitch to hit. Hey, I told you it was simple. Last year he swung at the first pitch he saw in just seven percent of all plate appearances. No batter in baseball watched the first pitch go by more often than Gardner. The top five in that regard, as well as the league average that Gardner was miles away from, are below:
Michael Street swaps Indians teammates on the VP list and looks at some undervalued options for the season's second half.
Heading into the All-Star Break, we'll split our attention between the VP list and some undervalued second-half possibilities. The VPs had an underwhelming week overall, and in the World Cup spirit, a few players receive yellow cards, warning them to improve their play or find themselves on the sidelines.
Travis Hafner gets the only red card, since his BA and OBP haven't balanced his low-power ways. Last week was his strongest performance in a while, picking up four singles in 19 PAs. But he also whiffed 7 times and walked twice; those two walks represent half of his free passes in the past four weeks. He's struck out 20 times over the same 62-PA span, for a limp .236/.323/.345 slash line, not strong enough to hold onto a VP spot.
The big Cuban came up big in 2009 for the Halos, but were his improvements at the plate a sign of things to come?
Everyone knew the Angels planned on using Kendry Morales at first base to replace Mark Teixeira this year, but the number of people who thought it would be a good move was much, much lower. Morales had put up great numbers in the minors, and was highly regarded when he first came to the United States from Cuba, but his talent had not translated into major league production. But finally given his opportunity to play every day this year, he came around, turning in one of the Angels' most productive seasons. How did Morales get to that point, and what does his future hold for him?