Throughout the years certain stats have been considered to be on the forefront or more highly regarded by experts. For the longest time Batting Average, Home Runs and Runs Batted In were thought of as the gold standard for judging a player’s ability, hence the Triple Crown. Now I am not downplaying these stats and especially not this achievement, as any person who leads or is near the top in these categories would most likely be successful according to any of the advanced metrics. Still there is some benefit to looking beyond the basic statistics in attempt to predict future performance as it pertains to contributions to their team.
Over the next few weeks I will be looking at a specific advanced stats and discusing how the Pirates stacked up against each other, as well as the rest of the league, in each category. Since most conversations start on the offensive side of the game, because chicks dig the long ball, it makes sense to begin with the Pirates batters; although the statistic I wanted to start with is not nearly as exciting.
BB% is just as simple as it looks. Walk Rate or Percentage is the number of walks that a batter earns on a per plate appearance basis; calculated by dividing the number of walks but the number of plate appearances. If a player is able to draw walks on a more consistent basis, they are likely better at differentiating between whether a pitch is a ball or a strike. This often leads to not only getting on base more, which Billy Beane has taught us is important, but also has a direct correlation to swinging at pitches that they can make effective contact with.
This past season in Major League Baseball it is no surprise that the three players with the best BB% were Mike Trout (18.3%), Yasmani Grandal (17.2%) and Alex Bregman (17.2%). These players not only have advanced plate discipline, but have also earned the respect of pitchers that may use a less direct approach with them; pitching around them or issuing intentional/unintentional walks. The players with the worst BB% were Kevin Pilar (2.8%), Tim Anderson (2.9%) and Hanser Alberto (2.9%). This deficiency can be counteracted by other skill sets, which is something that will be addressed in future articles, but can be used to predict difficulty in maintaining success.
For the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2019 there was some surprising information that I discovered when looking at the BB%, as to the players that had a higher rate than I expected based on the good old eye test. However, some of the numbers proved what I already believe to be true. For the purpose of this being a prediction of future performance I will not be addressing player who are not longer on the Pirates roster.
Top 3 Pirates-BB%
1) Josh Bell (12.1%): This is extremely encouraging to see considering my personal assessment of Bell falling victim to the low outside pitches and his inability to lay off of them. With Bell showing his power potential it is very possible that pitchers have also started to give him the respect he deserves and have started to pitch around him at times. I look forward to seeing how Bell continues to adjust and grow as a hitter.
2) Bryan Reynolds (8.4%): It is nice to see a young hitter exhibit patience at the plate. Reynolds’ BB% is slightly below the league average of 10.55%, but can always improve as he becomes more comfortable at facing MLB caliber pitchers. On the other hand pitchers will also be adjusting to Reynolds’ approach so it is possible that this rate will remain the same.
3) Jacob Stallings (7.6%): Stallings is another player that is still getting used to MLB pitching on a consistent basis after being a regular September call up. His performance is also below average, but still has the capacity to improve. Even if this becomes the norm for Stallings it is promising in predicting his abilities to be an every day player for the Pirates.
Bottom 3 Pirates-BB%
1) Kevin Newman (5.3%): As the player that became the main leadoff hitter for the Pirates last season this brings up some concerns moving forward. Successful leadoff hitters by their nature have an above average ability to get on base. If Newman is unable to improve upon these current struggles, it could possibly be an indicator of an inability to maintain the accomplishments he experienced in his rookie season.
2) Erik Gonzalez (5.8%): Due to his injury Gonzalez did not have the opportunity to receive consistent plate appearances until the end of the season. It is possible that he was more anxious in his approach at the plate in an attempt to prove himself and justify his spot on the roster. However, if this becomes a pattern it will become more difficult to defend his place on the Pirates 26 or 40 man.
3) Colin Moran (6.0%): For the opponents of Colin Moran as the everyday 3rd Basemen for the Pirates this is just another statistic for them to use to defend their position. Improvements can always be made, but as time passes this ability to change becomes less likely and takes more effort on the part of the player to make the adjustment. It is very likely that Moran is the player we have come to know.
Obviously this is just one small glimpse into the type of hitter that each player is or could be. Many other statistics go into making an informed assessment of a player’s ability or potential and the last thing I want to do is overemphasize the importance of simply getting on base. As we look at more advanced statistics over the coming weeks a more complete and clear picture of each Pirates player will start to develop.