Bobby Abreu is getting credit for setting an example for his teammates. Here’s how many pitches per plate appearance the Angel regulars have seen in 2008 and 2009:
Mike Napoli: 4.14, 4.15 Kendry Morales: 3.47, 4.02 Maicer Izturis: 3.76, 3.82 Howie Kendrick: 3.44, 3.81 Erick Aybar: 3.26, 3.47 Chone Figgins: 4.08, 4.21 Torii Hunter: 3.53, 3.80 Juan Rivera: 3.36, 3.63 Vlad Guerrero: 3.37, 3.23
Every Angel regular except Vladimir Guerrero saw more pitches per plate appearance in 2009 than in 2008. For Napoli, the change was minimal. For Hunter, Morales, and Figgins, it was significant. Rivera saw more pitches than in 2008, but his rate was about the same last time he was healthy and playing every day in 2006. For Aybar and Kendrick, it didn’t translate into a lot of walks, but may have resulted in them at least taking a few bad pitches and getting something better to put into play. It would be interesting to see if there’s a difference for Kendrick before and after he was demoted to AAA.
As a team, the Angel increase in walks over 2008 is almost entirely accounted for by the increase from having Abreu instead of Garret Anderson, as pointed out by Rob Neyer. Chone Figgins took many more walks, the rest of the team obviously must have taken fewer. This is because low walk players Kendry Morales and Juan Rivera received more playing time, and Vladimir Guerrero no longer gets walked intentionally. His IBBs have dropped from 28 to 16 to 3 from 2007 to 2009, and now other players are walked to get to Vlad.
The praise for Abreu is now coming from the mainstream media, and I’m sure you’ll hear plenty of it during the ALCS, but it didn’t start there. It has come from his teammates and manager for most the year.
Pitches per plate appearance can be found on baseball-reference.com player pages.