Plate discipline stats in action

Above, I posted an article introducing four new plate discipline stats. It was necessary to explain these (in my opinion) really cool new stats, but I you’d like to see them in action. Let’s look at a few interesting players using our four new stats.

First use of our new stats

Note: Contact rate (CT%) here is the same contact percentage we’ve always used at THT Fantasy Focus. It’s simply the inverse of strikeout rate (K%) and uses at-bats as the baseline, not pitches.

Craig Monroe

+------+-----+--------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | AGE | LAST   | TPA | BA    | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+-----+--------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2005 |  28 | Monroe | 623 | 0.277 |  83 |        106 | 0.42 |          88 |       52 |
| 2006 |  29 | Monroe | 585 | 0.255 |  77 |        101 | 0.60 |          84 |       46 |
| 2007 |  30 | Monroe | 427 | 0.219 |  73 |        104 | 0.54 |          80 |       53 |
| 2008 |  31 | Monroe | 179 | 0.202 |  71 |         97 | 0.60 |          78 |       51 |
+------+-----+--------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

Monroe isn’t a player many fantasy owners care about anymore, but he is a great example of a player who has just fallen off a cliff and how these stats explain that fall.

His peak year for contact rate was in 2005 as a 28-year old (83 percent), and it has been all downhill from there. It now sits at 71 percent. The culprit? Loss of bat control. It was league average in 2005 (his contact rate was league average as well), and it has fallen every year since, along with the contact rate. His judgment hasn’t fallen off too badly—though it now is in below-average territory—and he has become less passive since 2005, though still too passive.

Vladmir Guerrero

+------+-----+----------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | AGE | LAST     | TPA | BA    | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2005 |  29 | Guerrero | 594 | 0.317 |  91 |        127 | 0.83 |          91 |       67 |
| 2006 |  30 | Guerrero | 665 | 0.329 |  89 |        123 | 1.45 |          91 |       68 |
| 2007 |  31 | Guerrero | 660 | 0.324 |  89 |        109 | 1.10 |          90 |       71 |
| 2008 |  32 | Guerrero | 568 | 0.300 |  86 |        107 | 1.13 |          91 |       70 |
+------+-----+----------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

Now a more interesting batter.

Vlad has never hit below .300 in his career, but, boy, is he flirting with the mark in 2008. We see that his bat control is still fine, and his usual free-swinging bias continues. His judgment index, however, has fallen, and has been falling since 2005. It’s 20 points lower than it was then and is now just seven percent better than league average. It’s possible he’s made adjustments the past two years after noticing that his judgment was lacking, as he’s much less aggressive than he was in 2006 (though in 2005 he was actually more passive, so perhaps 2006 was just an outlier).

His bat control and bad ball hitting are both solid and stable, so that should help him even if his judgment falls a little more. These two skills also would help compensate if he continues his aggressive approach or even reverts to his 2006 aggression levels.

If his judgment does continue to worsen and his bat control and/or bad ball hitting ever fall off, he will need to stop being so aggressive or he could be in trouble. Lack of judgment means more mistakes. If those mistakes are of the swinging variety, his fantasy owners had better hope he can still swing the bat well or he’s going to be whiffing a ton. This is sort of worst-case scenario, but it’s not a completely outlandish one for a year or two down the road.

Andruw Jones

+------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | AGE | LAST  | TPA | BA    | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2005 |  28 | Jones | 672 | 0.263 |  81 |         96 | 0.56 |          83 |       45 |
| 2006 |  29 | Jones | 669 | 0.262 |  78 |         95 | 0.40 |          84 |       40 |
| 2007 |  30 | Jones | 659 | 0.222 |  76 |         97 | 0.45 |          80 |       54 |
| 2008 |  31 | Jones | 238 | 0.158 |  64 |         77 | 0.45 |          80 |       48 |
+------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

I think we all know the story with Andruw, but here are his plate discipline numbers. As you see, his bat control fell off last year and didn’t bounce back in 2008. His judgment and bad ball hitting were actually the best of our four-year sample last year, but the poor bat control dragged his contact rate down a couple of points. This year, not only has his bat control remained poor, but his judgment has fallen off the table, to 23 percent worse than league average, which explains the enormous drop in contact rate.

Carlos Quentin

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | AGE | LAST    | TPA | BA    | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2006 | 23  | Quentin | 191 | 0.253 |  80 |        111 | 0.70 |          83 |       44 |
| 2007 | 24  | Quentin | 263 | 0.214 |  76 |        101 | 0.76 |          80 |       41 |
| 2008 | 25  | Quentin | 263 | 0.288 |  83 |        108 | 0.41 |          87 |       59 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

Perhaps the breakout story of 2008. We all know he’s hitting for power, but how many of you knew that this came with a huge increase in his contact rate? This becomes even more astounding when you notice his A/P. When he makes errors, he’s actually making more passive errors than aggressive ones. You’d think a guy with such gaudy power numbers would be making more swinging errors. He would certainly benefit from being less passive.

The contact rate spike this year has come from three sources: a seven percent jump in judgment index, a seven percent jump in bat control, and an 18 percent jump in bad ball hitting. These are huge gains and might not be able to be fully maintained, but Quentin will certainly be one of the most interesting players to watch in 2009.

Ian Kinsler

+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | AGE | LAST    | TPA | BA    | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2006 |  23 | Kinsler | 474 | 0.286 |  85 |        104 | 0.16 |          93 |       66 |
| 2007 |  24 | Kinsler | 566 | 0.263 |  83 |        107 | 0.18 |          91 |       66 |
| 2008 |  25 | Kinsler | 518 | 0.319 |  87 |        106 | 0.20 |          93 |       67 |
+------+-----+---------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

If I mixed up the contact rates for Kinsler, would you be able to tell which belonged in which spot using the four plate discipline skills? I couldn’t. I could probably peg 2007 by the bat control, but there is very little variation among the three years. The spread in contact rate, however, is four points. Kinsler had a great year, no doubt, but I’m not convinced his shiny new 87 percent contact rate is for real.

I hope to be conducting some studies in the offseason to see what happens to guys like this who see an increase in contact rate without gains in one of the plate discipline skills. My guess would be that they regress to their old levels the following year. For now, just be a little wary of Kinsler, and don’t pencil him into your first or second round yet.

Rickie Weeks

+------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| YEAR | AGE | LAST  | TPA | BA    | CT% | JUDGMENT X | A/P  | BAT CONTROL | BAD BALL |
+------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+
| 2005 |  22 | Weeks | 414 | 0.239 |  73 |         89 | 0.29 |          82 |       39 |
| 2006 |  23 | Weeks | 413 | 0.279 |  74 |         79 | 0.28 |          83 |       41 |
| 2007 |  24 | Weeks | 506 | 0.235 |  72 |         86 | 0.23 |          85 |       48 |
| 2008 |  25 | Weeks | 536 | 0.233 |  76 |         97 | 0.19 |          85 |       55 |
+------+-----+-------+-----+-------+-----+------------+------+-------------+----------+

Weeks takes a lot of bashing, but he is definitely a guy I have on my 2009 radar. His contact rate jumped up four points this year to 76 percent, and this was accompanied by significant skills growth.

Weeks is clearly improving. His bad ball Hitting has improved every year since 2005 with significant, seven point gains the past two years. His judgment made a huge leap this year as well, now approaching league average territory. He also sustained his gains in bat control this year, although he clearly is too passive.

If Weeks can manage a .280 batting average and stay healthy, he has the power and speed to be a nice pick late in your draft next year. Of course, he may need to worry about playing time initially.

On another note, look at his 2006 contact rate and plate skills compared to his 2007 contact rate and plate skills. The skills are clearly worse in 2006, yet in 2007 he had his lowest contact rate. What happened in 2007? He bounced back. Of course, this is mostly due to the skills gains we talked about earlier, but this is an analogous case to what we discussed earlier with Kinsler. It seems pretty apparent now that the 72 percent contact rate in 2007 was bad luck.

Calculate our four plate discipline stats on your own!

To make things easier, here is the link again to the Plate Discipline Calculator I provided in the original article introducing these stats. You can use it throughout next season to see which player’s are changing their approach or getting better in terms of their plate skills.

Again, all you need to do is copy the “Plate Discipline” section of stats from any FanGraphs player page and paste it into the corresponding section in the worksheet (make sure not to copy the headings or it screws things up). Everything else should be taken care of!

Concluding thoughts

If you have questions or would like anything clarified, please feel free to let me know.

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