McLaren uses numbers on hitters

DMZ · March 7, 2008 at 12:13 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

From the Times blog:

McLaren plans to hand out a sheet of paper to hitters with some figures to illustrate patience, or lack thereof, at the plate. For example, what each hitter did on the first pitch, what he did on a 1-1 count, 2-1 count, etc.

“It will paint a picture for each of our hitters and they’ll see that they don’t hit well in certain counts,” McLaren said. “Sometimes it tells you that they’ve got their minds made up for that pitch no matter what it is. It’s an ongoing process. It’s not going to happen overnight.
“You’d be surprised what some of our hitters hit in certain counts. There’s one in particular who just stands out, and you shake your head and don’t know how it happened,” McLaren added.

Raul Ibanez on 1-2? .177/.128/.156?
Beltre on 0-2? .151/.149/.342?
Betancourt on 2-0? .160/.154/.280? Or 2-1? Or 2-2?
Kenji on 1-2? .214/.236/.257?
Lopez on 2-2? .159/.171/.246?
Sexson on 1-2, 2-0, 2-1, 2-2?
Bloomquist on any count?

Vidro, interestingly, is generally fine.

Comments

50 Responses to “McLaren uses numbers on hitters”

  1. MarinerDan on March 7th, 2008 12:28 pm

    Seems like this could be a good strategy to really emphasize to hitters that working the count in their favor results in a massive increase in production. Hitting from 3-1 is a heck of a lot better than hitting from 0-1.

    Hard to believe that players wouldn’t already know that, at least subconsciously, but maybe it would help to show them in black and white.

    The Mariners emphasizing the importance of being patient??? What’s next — the Mariners realizing that defense does matter?

  2. Max Power on March 7th, 2008 12:29 pm

    Given the context, I’d assume he’s talking about Betancourt flailing when he’s ahead in the count. OPSing .434 in 2-0 counts is pretty impressive (in a craptastic kind of way).

  3. msb on March 7th, 2008 12:39 pm

    I think it was Mat Olkin the other night who said that it was next to impossible to get a hitter to change his approach at the plate …

  4. pygmalion on March 7th, 2008 12:55 pm

    3 I think that Dave or DMZ made a point about this last year. The Mariners go out and hire hitters who have been free swingers their whole life and then try to get them to change their approach at the plate. At that point, it is a little late to make the changes. It isn’t new for the M’s to emphasize patience at the plate with the hitters – to little effect. What would be new would be emphasizing patience at the plate in the front office.

  5. gwangung on March 7th, 2008 1:01 pm

    3 I think that Dave or DMZ made a point about this last year. The Mariners go out and hire hitters who have been free swingers their whole life and then try to get them to change their approach at the plate

    That’s their philosophy. They believe they can teach patience and judgement at the big leagues, because they think it’s better to get aggressive hitters and take the edge off them once they’ve shown they can hit.

    I wonder if they’ve show any success at this…

  6. terry on March 7th, 2008 1:13 pm

    When did the Ms start trying to teach patience and judgment to their hitters on any level?

  7. Philly M's fan on March 7th, 2008 1:15 pm

    On a GOOD note John Kruk picked the M’s to win the West this year!

  8. terry on March 7th, 2008 1:18 pm

    I certainly hope Mclaren orders Johjima to avoid 3-0 counts at all costs. He basically was the ultimate rally killer in those situations in ’07 given his lack of speed. Absolute base clogger.

  9. Mike Snow on March 7th, 2008 1:22 pm

    I liked a different kind of numbers better. “You get four questions.”

  10. joser on March 7th, 2008 1:35 pm

    Ah, but what are the numbers on how often Beltre points to the 1B ump?

    think it was Mat Olkin the other night who said that it was next to impossible to get a hitter to change his approach at the plate …

    It was, and this shows pretty conclusively how much impact he has on the rest of the organization.

  11. Steve T on March 7th, 2008 1:50 pm

    I think you’re way overthinking this, as usual. When McLaren says “figures”, he means he’s got some flash cards with single digits on them, “4″, “7″, “1″, etc., and he’s going to show give one to hitters in certain circumstances.

    “People keep telling me we should be looking at the numbers more, so I thought we’d try this. Next week, I might try showing capital letters to some of the more experienced veterans,” McLaren added.

  12. msb on March 7th, 2008 1:55 pm

    I wonder if he has some numbers about how successful aggressive base running has been …

  13. Evan on March 7th, 2008 1:58 pm

    On a GOOD note John Kruk picked the M’s to win the West this year!

    Unfortunately, since the sum of Kruk’s baseball knowledge is actually a negative value…

  14. eternal on March 7th, 2008 2:05 pm

    Vidro did seem to be one of the only ones last year with a bit of patience to work the count…

  15. SpokaneMsFan on March 7th, 2008 2:13 pm

    If only we had a team full of “professional hitters.” Too bad there aren’t any more Doyle’s to trade away.

  16. Churchill on March 7th, 2008 2:16 pm

    IIRC, Kruk was more accurate picking division and wildcard winners last year than any so-called expert.

    It’s a guessing game, sure, but maybe he’s just a good guesser.

  17. thefin190 on March 7th, 2008 2:26 pm

    7, 13, 16 – Steve Phillips also predicts the Mariners to win it as well. Or atleast he believes with the additions of Bedard and Silva that the Mariners are contenders now. I think he has always been high on the Mariners, atleast when I’ve watched baseball tonight. Which worries me because I don’t think many people here see him as a credible source.

    Was he similar to Bavasi back when he was GM of the Mets?

  18. Carson on March 7th, 2008 2:30 pm

    So, in the last line did McLaren wake up to the fact that mystery hitter sucks, or that stats lie?

  19. 6-4-3 on March 7th, 2008 2:48 pm

    I don’t know. It seems like you’ve got guys who are free-swingers because they have great bat control, and then you’ve got the free-swingers who just have a bad eye for balls and strikes. Some of the guys with great bat control would probably benefit from taking more pitches, but I’m not sure about the other guys. They’re probably just as likely to takes strikes as they are to take balls.

  20. fetish on March 7th, 2008 3:37 pm

    This is OK if:

    This illustrates to hitters that they need to wait for “their pitch” and work the count in their favor

    This is not OK if:
    The stat says “So-and-so hits .450 in a 1-2 count in day games. If you get a 1-2 count, swing no matter what!”

    Why do I suspect we’ll be debating if this is OK or not?

  21. Max Power on March 7th, 2008 3:49 pm

    So, in the last line did McLaren wake up to the fact that mystery hitter sucks, or that stats lie?

    I think he’s saying that there’s a stat line that looks weird to him:

    “You’d be surprised what some of our hitters hit in certain counts.

    There’s one in particular who just stands out, and you shake your head and don’t know how it happened,”

    McLaren added.

    I’m assuming he’s talking about Betancourt in favorable counts. It’s not surprising that most of the hitters would suck with 2 strikes and Sexson was just plain bad, so there’s no situation that would really stand out.

    Betancourt’s ridiculous 2-0 line definitely jumped out at me. I don’t think this is actually a terribly valuable stat, just that I think this is what McLaren is getting at.

  22. Ralph_Malph on March 7th, 2008 3:51 pm

    Yuni is liable to take these numbers as a reason to never take a pitch, so he will never get to 2-0.

  23. Evan on March 7th, 2008 3:58 pm

    Where can I find data like this for specific players?

  24. Max Power on March 7th, 2008 3:58 pm

    I don’t think this is actually a terribly valuable stat, just that I think this is what McLaren is getting at.

    Actually, perhaps it’s at least helpful in the Yuni case.

    Maybe he assumes that all 2-0 pitches are going to be fastballs so he just whales away at anything that comes along. If these stats made him recognize that he’s still getting a steady supply of breaking balls 2-0, then he’d be less likely to offer at everything.

  25. argh on March 7th, 2008 4:51 pm

    The flash cards must be working. Yuni hit a home run in the 1st inning today. I tell you that McLaren is shaping up to be a genius, a veritable Daniel come to baseball judgment, a giant among managers, a…Oh, never mind.

  26. joser on March 7th, 2008 4:59 pm

    Where can I find data like this for specific players?

    B-R has it by season or for the career (just choose the appropriate option for “Split”). Here’s Ichiro’s career line, for example (scroll down to the “count” section) — he bats .392 on a 1-0 count, and .399 with a 2-1 count. Do not get behind pitching to Ichiro. Oh, and you start out behind: he bats .395 on the first pitch.

  27. Mr. Egaas on March 7th, 2008 6:24 pm

    Brad Wilkerson has only put a ball in play once in 107 PAs.

    He’s walked 6 times and the one time he put the ball in play, he hit a grand slam.

    Put that on in your media guide and smoke it!

  28. Mr. Egaas on March 7th, 2008 6:25 pm

    Er, I should say, in a 3-0 count. Missed that post up mightily without that juicy little tidbit.

  29. Mr. Egaas on March 7th, 2008 6:25 pm

    106 Times. Not 6. Wow. Fail.

  30. jblack12 on March 7th, 2008 6:58 pm

    So this is finally the thing that got me to register at USS Mariner after being a long time lurker. Mainly because I wanted to say it doesn’t matter. Being down 0-2 is not really up to the hitter. If the pitcher throws two great strikes, so be it. If he throws any good hitting strikes, your job as a hitter is to hit them and hit them well. After he has you 0-2/1-2, its your job to “defend” the plate. That doesn’t mean hit into double play, but it does mean not make yourself an easy out. Obviously people are not going to hit as well on a “pitchers count” as on a “hitters count” but obviously a major league hitter knows this. This whole thing by McLaren seems irrelevant.

  31. DaveValleDrinkNight on March 7th, 2008 8:12 pm

    Mmmm… yeah, did you get that Memo Peter?

    If you want your Hitters to be more patient at the plate you don’t send them a mash note, you sit them until they comply. I know Managers today don’t have the leverage they once did but if your name isn’t Ichiro and you swing at a pitch in the dirt with a 2-0 count?

    Meet the Bench my friend.
    It’s Big Willie time!

  32. DaveValleDrinkNight on March 7th, 2008 8:15 pm

    P.S. Nice to see Yuni put one over the fence today.

  33. fortysixntwo on March 7th, 2008 10:45 pm

    Of all the useful stats that he could possibly look at, McLaren chooses this?

    He buys into the stats of players in certain counts, but refuses to look at the stats of our DH as compared to other DH’s. Nice.

  34. Breadbaker on March 8th, 2008 1:04 am

    Rather than acting as though they were a starting pitcher away from the World Series, McLaren is pretty much proving the whole team needed to be taken apart and rebuilt from scratch. You can’t take free swingers and turn them into patient hitters, and three years of Hargrove telling them they would only see one good pitch an at-bat, and they’d better swing at it, has screwed up anyone who had a chance to be better.

  35. msb on March 8th, 2008 8:24 am

    McGrath talks Bill James with Mac:

    “McLaren, in any case, not only is familiar with Bill James, he recognizes
    and appreciates analysis from a different angle

    “We’re at a point now,” McLaren said, “where we’ve even got some defensive
    statistics.””

  36. msb on March 8th, 2008 8:30 am

    oh, and Drayer was more specific in her blog yesterday, of the actual Olkin quote I referenced in #3:

    “Mat Olkin, the Mariners numbers guy (numbers guy better explains
    what he is than what his title listed in the media guide) would love to see
    the team take more walks but told us on the Hot Stove League Show that
    players historically do not improve their walk numbers. You either are a guy
    who can walk, or you are not. Mac is well aware of this and rather than try
    to turn his free swingers into walkers, would simply like to see them hit
    better in the count.”

  37. JMHawkins on March 8th, 2008 8:56 am

    Mac is well aware of this and rather than try
    to turn his free swingers into walkers, would simply like to see them hit
    better in the count.”

    Why, there’s the solution to our problem. Hey! All you hitters. Hit better! Okay, got it? Fine, the offense should be on track now.

    Tune in next week, when Norm tells the pitchers to pitch better.

  38. pygmalion on March 8th, 2008 9:11 am

    I know that we often speak as if it was something going on with the hitters that explains why they hit poorly in 0-2 counts. But if a pitcher gets a hitter to 0-2, doesn’t this usually indicate that he is pitching well? And isn’t it likely to be the better pitchers who get those 0-2 counts more often than the others?

    That is: How much of the responsibility for league-wide bad hitting in 0-2 counts should be ascribed to the hitters facing that count, and how much should be ascribed to the pitchers who have gotten them there?

    Obviously, in some cases a guy may psyche himself out in those situations. But if guys were really just trying to “protect the plate” when they were down 0-2, wouldn’t we expect a drop in slugging and an increase in batting average? The league-wide trend of crappy hitting in 0-2 counts suggests to me that the trend is due to pitchers, not hitters.

    It seems to me that one way to test this would be to examine the top 20 pitchers’ results on 0-2 and compare those to both the mean and the bottom, both to see who had the most 0-2 counts and who made the best use of them. And the other method would be to examine not the top pitchers, but the top pitching performances, and see how the results of those 0-2 counts compared to the 0-2 results that occasionally occurred in bad pitching performances.

  39. terry on March 8th, 2008 2:26 pm

    “We’re at a point now,” McLaren said, “where we’ve even got some defensive
    statistics.””

    Unfortunately McLaren was referring to errors…. :-)

  40. abender20 on March 8th, 2008 2:58 pm

    wow defensive statistics. maybe in the coming years the M’s staff will develop cost analysis

  41. Typical Idiot Fan on March 8th, 2008 3:54 pm
  42. rea on March 8th, 2008 4:22 pm

    I know that we often speak as if it was something going on with the hitters that explains why they hit poorly in 0-2 counts. But if a pitcher gets a hitter to 0-2, doesn’t this usually indicate that he is pitching well?

    Well, but the hitters have to be a big factor, otherwise how do you explain a guy like Placido Polanco, who hits .366 (.409 OBP) with an 0-2 count?

  43. Kazinski on March 8th, 2008 4:39 pm

    That stat on Yuni is pretty meaningless for two reasons, one its a small sample size, only 25ab last season. His 3 year numbers are .375/.379/.571 in 57ab, which of course is just fine. What really matters is his numbers for what happens for his AB’s after he reaches a 2-0 pitch those #’s are .293/.417/.466 in 133ab.

    The lesson Yuni should be taking from those numbers is not “don’t swing on a 2-0″, that is a hitters count, and Yuni will always be hitter first and seldom a walker. What does stand out on those numbers is that Yuni only gets to a 2-0 count in about 10% of his AB’s, more typical numbers would be about 15% of AB’s. That is significant, the average hitter will see 33% more 2-0 counts than Yuni will.

  44. Mat on March 8th, 2008 4:48 pm

    Well, but the hitters have to be a big factor, otherwise how do you explain a guy like Placido Polanco, who hits .366 (.409 OBP) with an 0-2 count?

    Near as I can tell, Polanco hits .233/.251/.319 with an 0-2 count. Last year he happened to stumble upon a .366/.409/.415 line with an 0-2 count, but that was over a measly 44 plate appearances.

  45. pygmalion on March 8th, 2008 6:17 pm

    43 First, what I said doesn’t rule out that some freaks of nature could exist. But as Mat pointed out in 44, Polanco isn’t actually a counterexample anyway. Even if he was, it wouldn’t really matter. The question is whether it is usually due to hitters or usually due to pitchers. To me it seemed like a lot could be due to pitchers: After all, what is one of the chief signs of a good pitcher? Throwing strikes and missing bats. Pitchers who get hitters down 0-2 with regularity are generally good ones…so why shouldn’t averages be low against good pitchers?

    However, I’ve now spent a little time checking on my numbers, although I haven’t the time to do the more important part of it (checking out individual game performances…and I’m not sure how to do that either).

    Anyway, consider the following:
    PAA = Plate Appearances Against
    PC = 0-2 counts
    OPSA = OPS Against
    PC% = Percent of PAA that are PC at some point

    Santana: 892 PAA, 109 PC’s, .356 OPSA, 12.2% PC%
    Peavy: 907 PAA, 83 PC’s, .410 OPSA, 9.2% PC%
    Moyer: 886 PAA, 35 PC’s, .514 OPSA, 4.0% PC%
    L. Hernandez: 939 PAA, 40 PC’s, .561 OPSA, 4.3% PC%
    Contreras: 861 PAA, 72 PC’s, .607 OPSA, 8.4% PC%

    I’m worried that five guys might not be a good sample, but that’s what 30 minutes of research will get you on a slow connection.

    In favor of my thesis: Guys like Santana and Peavy produce a good majority of the 0-2 counts in the league. Hence, most hitters 0-2 counts are coming against pitchers who are tough. Contreras seems a bit of an outlier here; not knowing him well I would guess that he throws a lot of strikes, but apparently he doesn’t have much else.

    Against my thesis: Even the mediocre pitchers see their OPSA against drop substantially when the count is 0-2 (Contreras drops from .811 to .607). The OPSA still varies wildly with the counts for the pitchers. Santana for example has an OPSA above 1.000 when he falls into 2-0 counts. Still, this might be because he only hits 2-0 counts during rare moments of suckiness.

    This suggests that my theory that the trend is more due to pitchers than hitters is true ONLY IF there is some kind of correlation between the quality of the last two pitches and the next pitch. Otherwise…probably some kind of combination, just like everything else.

  46. Breadbaker on March 8th, 2008 7:41 pm

    There’s some great analysis in the Bill James Gold Mine (for which Mat Olkin did a lot of the statistical work) about how Craig Biggio’s postseason failures weren’t a fluke. Rather, in his entire career, Biggio had feasted off bad pitchers and had performed poorly against good ones. Thus, when he got to the postseason, he performed exactly as expected, only he was facing the competition he couldn’t dominate.

    And with Biggio, of course, weren’t not talking about a guy with small sample sizes.

    It’s an interesting and fresh way of looking at career stats.

  47. terry on March 8th, 2008 7:58 pm

    All pitchers enjoy tremendous leverage on two strike counts excluding the only truly “even” count(full count) and this is true even for guys like Rick White and HoRam.

  48. thefin190 on March 8th, 2008 11:01 pm

    All pitchers enjoy tremendous leverage on two strike counts excluding the only truly “even” count(full count) and this is true even for guys like Rick White and HoRam.

    Really? Rick White managed to get an 0-2 count?

  49. Kouvre on March 9th, 2008 7:29 am

    41

    Lay off AJ, he’s just been SO excited to be an Oriole that it’s worn the poor guy out.

  50. OscarTehGrouch on March 9th, 2008 10:30 am

    Am I the only once who noticed that McLaren is spelled wrong in the blog title?

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