Last night in Anaheim, a strange thing happened. A strange thing that seemed to validate this media report from before the game:
The Royals held an extended hitters’ meeting prior to Wednesday’s game. The message was clear: Enough of what former Royals outfielder Mark Quinn once termed “brain-dead hacking.”
The strange thing? they took pitches and they didn't make Barry Enright look better than he was.
The Angels threw 175 pitches last night, 104 were strikes. The Royals swung at 74 pitches and took 101 pitches. Which was good for 5 walks and cycling through 6 Angels pitchers in 9 innings. Good start to the plan.
While it was the 2nd highest pitch total thrown to the Royals this year. It wasn't even the highest take percentage of the year.
The five most takes per game in 2013-
Game 9 was the final game v. Minnesota, where the Royals won 3-0 over Liam Hendriks. Game 4 was the first game against Philadelphia where the Royals won 13-4. Game 22 was the 2nd game of the Cleveland doubleheader, Game 36 was the Tuesday game.
You can go here to keep track of which games are which.
The game that may have convinced Ned about patience had one of the highest take rates of the year?
I noticed something unusual in the 8th inning of the Tuesday game. The Royals weren't swinging. The Royals saw 18 pitches, took 15 pitches and the 3 pitches they swung at were all outs. Then in the 9th, Hosmer swung at most of the pitches, working an 8 pitch PA after he went down 0-2 after 2 pitches. Perez had a 6 pitch at-bat where he took 4 pitches. Then Moustakas had a 2 pitch at-bat and Francoeur closed with a one pitch at-bat.
But it's pretty obvious, if the other guy isn't expected to throw strikes, it'd be a good idea to let him throw non-strikes and then go for whatever he had to throw to get in the zone. The plan worked last night, and they probably could have scored over 10 easily if not for a few breaks against them (Perez being out at home, Escobar hitting everything to the same spot in left field). But even more importantly, the approach didn't deteriorate too much after the 3rd inning. They had a long 6th inning. They managed to have more takes than swings through the entire game.
All in all, they saw 4.07 pitches per plate appearance last night, Which isn't actually a season high either.
Game 9 (v. Minnesota) topped last night in pitches per PA and takes. Most of the games appear to have run up a high pitches/PA count due to a large number of foul balls (Game 28, Shields v. Sale 2, is the Season record for foul balls/balls put into play, and was notable for an approach that occurred during the first inning or two and disappeared afterwards).
Another interesting note is that last night cracked the top 10 of lowest percentage of strikes looking out of pitches taken. So that list:
Game 10 was against Toronto wasn't exactly notable. Two Philly series games are on the list. The 9-0 win over Cleveland is on the list. The highest "Strikes Looking/Takes" percentage was the 2nd game v. Minnesota (73 takes/33 strikes looking)
On average, Royals hitters games go like this
- Opponent throws 143 pitches
- 93 strikes
- 50 balls
- 54 foul balls/balls in play
- 26 strikes looking
- 13 strikes swinging
- 76 pitches taken/67 swings
- 3.78 pitches seen per PA
Overall percentages of 65% strikes and 52.9% takes.
While I am not rigid on the "draw more walks or it's all for naught" front. I just want them to have solid plate appearances with a minimum of mistakes. Last night was great in doing something like that.
Royals pre/postgame host Josh Vernier indicated a desire to see if they could do the same thing v. a pitcher better than Barry Enright. Can't blame him for wanting to see that. It could work against some good pitchers but there is no one size fits all approach. The effectiveness of taking pitches obviously would be slightly diminished if the pitcher was actually throwing strikes, which some good pitchers tend to do on occasion. But I wouldn't diminish the idea of feasting on bad pitching because the Royals will see some bad pitching on occasion and it's a good sign to beat the pitchers you should beat.
This Friday, the Royals are facing Jarrod Parker. Parker had a promising 2012, but in 2013, he has walked almost 4 per 9 and managed to have a bad start to his year in home games. Parker has thrown 60% of his pitches for strikes. A percent above the strike percentage of Angels pitching last night.
Something interesting can be spotted for the top 10 list of least strikes seen in a game.
it's like if a pitcher doesn't throw strikes, he's more likely to lead his team to a loss. The only losses on that list were the blown save in Philadelphia, the start where neither Davis or Scherzer could throw strikes in Detroit and the second game v. Baltimore.
Will the Royals stay patient and keep having smart plate appearances? too soon to say, obviously. Will the Royals win a lot of games in the next week if they stay patient? yeah. Unless Parker returns to 2012 form, he's going to give free passes to a team wanting those free passes. The Houston pitching is also terrible, giving out the most walks in the American league and the Astros pitching is like if 2012 Luke Hochevar made up an entire pitching staff. Milone and Griffin throw their share of strikes though. We will see if this can stick.
Heck, maybe Jeff Francoeur will have a long at-bat or two. He did see 3.92 pitches per PA last year mainly thanks to foul balls (he saw more strikes than the usual hitter, fewer strikes looking, more strikes swinging, more foul balls). Francoeur has seen more pitches than he did before 2011 (3.42 before KC, 3.76 with KC). It's just a matter of him taking the junk pitches and maybe having an idea of what he can drive for a hit. The second might be a giant question mark that only he can answer
Jarrod Dyson had a good six pitch PA where he took all 6 pitches and walked and hopefully his ankle will be good to go very soon to maintain the non-platoon platoon
When it comes down to it, take take take baseball is something we've seen from a lot of other franchises. If these guys can keep letting non-strikes fly by unimpeded, then we're going to have an offense that will be good enough to make this summer very magical.
The 8th inning on Tuesday. The 3rd inning on Wednesday. The foundations might be there. Let's hope so. Smart baseball for once