Wednesday, August 10, 2011
The value of patiencePosted by Tom Palacios
If you ask anyone who follows baseball particularly closely what Daric Barton does best offensively, he or she will respond that patience is his most powerful virtue. Yes, the man who drew 110 walks for the punchless Oakland A’s offense in 2010 does seem to have a gift for taking pitches and working the count. This is useful because it invariably leads to either him a) getting a better pitch to hit or b) walking, and always drives up a pitcher’s pitch count. To assess his value, yet not adequately reference how exceptional he is at forcing pitchers to throw pitches, is an injustice to Barton and the exercise in general.
The question becomes: "How does one measure this ability to work over pitchers and its impact on run production?"
In order to find this out, it is necessary to first determine when an average pitcher is most strongly affected by his pitch count. Using Baseball-Reference’s League splits page, one can determine the wOBAA of the average pitcher sorted by the amount of pitches thrown in intervals of 25. In 2010:
- From pitches 1-25, wOBA was .326 (wRAA -87.29)
- From pitches 26 to 50, wOBA was .321 (-183.63)
- From pitches 51 to 75, wOBA was .329 (59.25)
- From pitches 76 to 100, wOBA was .341 (299.54)
In calculating each value for the individual states per game and season, it was found that the difference between a pitcher who has thrown between 51 to 75 pitches (1.99 wRAA) and one from 76 to 100 pitches (10.90 wRAA) was 8.9 weighted runs above average. In essence, every 75 pitches a hitter sees generates roughly 8.9 additional runs for his team.
Examining the data reveals a glaring problem, though. Of what use are the extra pitches Barton made an opponent's closer throw in the 9th inning? Unless the game is tied or becomes so, the pitcher will not pitch beyond that inning. Even if he did, he certainly wouldn’t be asked to throw 75 pitches (this isn’t college baseball, after all).
So in calculating each hitter’s worth from a "pitches seen" perspective, each batter’s total number of pitches seen was reduced by one-third, so as to accurately reflect the amount of innings thrown by starting pitchers as opposed to relievers. These new totals of pitches seen from starters were multiplied by the total of wRAA per PA, and 162, to show the total number of runs each player added to his team. The top 10 for the 2010 season are as follows:
Daric Barton OAK 43.98 Rickie Weeks MIL 43.12 Chone Figgins SEA 42.38 Jose Bautista TOR 41.98 Bobby Abreu LAA 41.81 Nick Markakis BAL 41.78 Jayson Werth PHI 41.56 Dan Uggla FLA 41.25 Albert Pujols STL 41.15 Mark Teixeira NYY 41.06The final two months of the 2011 season will be very interesting because, for the first time in several years, it appears the difference between the quality of a pitcher at 51-75 pitches and one at 76-100 pitches has lessened considerably. After a fairly consistent 30-point OPS difference in the previous three seasons between the two states, this season it has fallen to just about seven points. Whether this is an anomaly or perhaps the result of the league becoming more pitching-dominant remains to be seen. Further, it is possible that this will correct itself over the season’s last two months.
All in all, it seems certain that the ability to drive up a pitcher’s count has a strong value to an offense. I hope that this lends some clarity to the subject, perhaps helping to pave the way for an even better look at what appears to be an ambiguously-valued part of run construction.
Tom Palacios is a college junior, stats geek and Yankees fan. He welcomes all feedback, and discussion, on Twitter @tjap12 or by e-mail at thomas.palacios22 AT gmail DOT com.