A Quick Note on Plate Discipline

As mentioned in the post on Opening Day, the Phillies will lack plate discipline in 2011, especially without Chase Utley. Last night, when the Phillies scored 10 runs against the New York Mets, they walked just three times in 43 plate appearances (7 percent). In five games, they have walked a total of 17 times in 200 plate appearances (8.5 percent). Through five games last year, the Phillies drew 32 walks in 227 PA (14 percent). Overall, last year’s squad drew 560 walks in nearly 6,300 PA (about nine percent).

Kind of makes you appreciate Bobby Abreu, doesn’t it?

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  1. Shawn

    April 07, 2011 07:50 AM

    I say we package Lidle with Cole Hamels and bring Abreu back!

  2. Jeff T

    April 07, 2011 07:51 AM


    What is the median and distibution for this percentage? Just trying to figure out the context in which to take these stats.

    Also, while I am huge believer in pitch selectivity Ithink last nights walk percentage need to be taken in context. Yes, we didn’t walk very much, but we DID hit at a .410 clip and finished with a team OBP of .452. I think the argument about our low walk rate would have more creedence if they didn’t hit so well. A walk is better than an out, but there is nothing wrong with hitting the ball when its a good pitch to hit.

    I am kinda a novice at this, so please feel free to educate my ignorance.

  3. hunterfan

    April 07, 2011 08:06 AM

    Bobby’s still got it. Watched some of the Angels game yesterday and I think he personally accounted for 20-25 pitches the Rays’ pitchers threw. Also saw him work a walk and hit an RBI double. Oh yeah, and steal a base. Say what you will about his character and personality (I have no idea) he’s still a very good player.

  4. Richard

    April 07, 2011 08:26 AM

    While it’s true that, without Werth at all and without Utley for now, the Phillies’ overall walk rate is likely to decline, I don’t think it’s very useful to look at 5 games and draw any conclusions. They certainly didn’t sustain last year’s 14% walk rate from those first five games.

    Plate discipline is also not just about drawing walks. I see players (mostly) showing patience and waiting for pitches to hit. Thing is, they’ve been getting those pitches to hit, so far. I’ve been most encouraged by Rollins and Francisco in this regard, and even Howard, despite having drawn just one walk so far. If those players, and the teams as a whole, show the same kind of patience when they don’t get the pitches to hit, then the walks will come.

  5. Jesse

    April 07, 2011 08:35 AM

    Not just Abreu, bring back Pat “The Eye” Burrell!

  6. css228

    April 07, 2011 08:55 AM

    Seems to be early but Howard seems to be seeing more pitches per at bat. Any evidence to support that?

  7. Bill Baer

    April 07, 2011 09:26 AM

    @ css228

    Season Pitches PA Pitches/PA
    2004 186 42 4.43
    2005 1372 348 3.94
    2006 2863 704 4.07
    2007 2723 648 4.20
    2008 2785 700 3.98
    2009 2870 703 4.08
    2010 2421 620 3.90
    2011 84 23 3.65
  8. Nik

    April 07, 2011 09:31 AM

    Howard’s new approach (closer to the plate) is really paying off. I haven’t seen him chase the low and outside junk nearly as much.

  9. Mike B.

    April 07, 2011 09:32 AM

    I think Jeff T makes a good point; walk rate is nice, but OBP is really what matters. If they are walking less b/c they are getting good pitches to hit (and hitting them), so what? It would be one thing if they were flailing at junk, but so far, that’s not been the case.

  10. Bill Baer

    April 07, 2011 09:42 AM

    The problem is that the Phillies’ success on batted balls isn’t sustainable. They have a .400 BABIP; in previous years, it’s been in the .285-.290 area. Walks aren’t prone to nearly as much variance as balls in play. If the Phillies aren’t drawing as many walks, then they’re going to slump harder and potentially for a more prolonged period of time.

  11. Chris Spencer

    April 07, 2011 09:58 AM

    @Bill- guess I was flat out wrong on that. And yes the BABIP is ridiculously high right now, but the pitching should only pitch better than this. I don’t expect a ton of 10-7 games this year.

  12. MplsPhilsFan

    April 07, 2011 10:23 AM


    While I agree that a .400 BABIP is not sustainable, have they increased their line drive rate so far this year? While not accounting for the entire variance, a higher line drive usually correlates to a higher BABIP..

    We do need to be aware with all of this data that we are working off of an extremely small sample size, but I have to say I am not encouraged by how aggressive both Rollins and Victorino seem to be at the plate

  13. Bill Baer

    April 07, 2011 10:34 AM

    Line drive rate does correlate to a much higher BABIP, but again, it’s not sustainable. Hitters have very little control over their LD%.

    Per FanGraphs, the Phillies’ LD% is 26%, best in baseball. Last year, it was 18%; the year before, 20%; in 2008, 21%; in ’07, 19%.

    BABIP by batted ball type:

    Type: Phillies 2011 / NL average 2010

    Line drive: .722 / 719
    Ground ball: .338 / .235
    Fly ball: .171 / .137

    The Phillies are actually most fortunate on ground balls, not line drives.

  14. Brian

    April 07, 2011 11:03 AM

    Bill – do you have pitches/plate appearance over that same span as a team? I couldn’t easily find it on BR.

  15. SJHaack

    April 07, 2011 11:10 AM

    @ Jeff T-

    The average walk rate for MLB last year was ~8.5% with a high of 10.7% Rays and low of 6.9% Astros.

    In 2010, 6 Phillies with more than 250 PAs had above average walk rates. Even Ryan Howard (9.5%)!

  16. Richard

    April 07, 2011 11:30 AM

    “I have to say I am not encouraged by how aggressive both Rollins and Victorino seem to be at the plate”

    I can see why you would say this about Victorino, but I don’t see how you can say Rollins has been especially aggressive. He’s been showing excellent discipline, I think, and taking walks.


    April 07, 2011 11:33 AM

    I think the sample size is too small to really know what the walk rate will be like this year, although it is certainly reasonable to expect it to be lower than last season with the absence of Werth, and Utley missing at least a sizable part of the season.

    The real thing I want to watch for is if any of the other players can make steps forward in regards to plate discipline, and I certainly don’t think that’s entirely out of the question. We’re only through 6 games in the season, so it’s far too soon to know if anyone will make any positive steps forward.


    April 07, 2011 09:12 PM

    For all of Pat Burrell’s flaws as a player, he’s an extremely patient hitter…I kinda hoped the Phillies would try to bring him back over the off-season, but San Fran signed him back instead.

  19. Rob

    April 07, 2011 09:24 PM

    Wait…you guys don’t think Ryan Howard’s .643 babip will hold?

  20. Css228

    April 07, 2011 10:47 PM

    @Rob – It will if he keeps hitting oppo when opposing teams use the shift

  21. bernie

    April 08, 2011 06:07 AM

    It’s not like they were facing the Giant’s staff. Why sit on a 88-91 mph fastball coming right down the pike? 6 games is not much of a sample size.

  22. Jeff T

    April 08, 2011 09:25 AM

    Thanks to SJHaack for the info.\

    I LOVE this site and Bill’s statistic based posts. My caveat is shouldn’t we wait until our babip regresses toward the mean before we analyze and criticize our walk rate? Isn’t it the same as seeing Jesus walk on water and criticizing Him for not being able to swim?

  23. Bill Baer

    April 08, 2011 09:41 AM

    Walk rate stabilizes at 200 PA for individual hitters, so we really need to wait until about 1/3 of the season is done before we can make any definitive conclusions.

  24. Phil11

    April 08, 2011 10:35 AM

    I would think that pitches per plate appearance would be a better measure of plate discipline. The Reds are the number 1 offense in the NL this year (and last year) so far and they have seen 909 pitches in 247 PA and the Phillies have seen 881 pitches in 240 PA. That’s 3.68 pitches/PA for the reds and 3.67 pitches/PA for the Phils. I had to go game by game to get the pitches seen data so I don’t have league averages or league best stats for Pitches/ PA.

  25. Leo

    April 10, 2011 02:11 AM

    No, Bobby ain’t still got it! As decent an offensive player as it was/is, one thing you keep forgetting when talking about Abreu. He was never willing to get the outs! He’d let a ball drop in for a hit or give up a double by not busting after it. If they turned into runs, and they did, I watched every home game at the Vet from 2001-2008 from my perch at the field, and I watched runs score that when Werth was there, he’d cut off balls in the gap. As would Victorino. If Abreu gave up 50 runs a year by not hustling and drove in 100 runs at the plate that’s a net gain of only 50 runs. You can’t count his homers as scoring runs either since you already count them in the RBI column. It’s one or the other you can look at for actual info. Too many times people look at RBI AND RUNS scored without subtracting the homers which are counted in both columns.

    And consider that they are NOT relying on the homer to drive in these runs they’ve been scoring, but they always threaten to hit them. THAT threat level will only continue to be in opponents’ heads going forward. If they keep banging out singles and doubles regularly, those homers will come with warmer weather and at bats. Mistakes by pitchers will increase as they keep watching offensive numbers pop up on the scoreboard. They scored 10 more today! After a bunch of hits, they then get a big blow from Ruiz. The threat is always there. And they only needed a single for 2 runs in that spot late in the game. And on an 0-2 count nonetheless. That was 3 pitches right there to Ruiz. I don’t know if there was a foul ball before that swing for yet another pitch.

    I think they will prove to be the better offense but their power numbers will be lower just because Utley is missing. But Valdez is wanting to play and so are the rest of the bench. Rollins seems to be swinging more to set up Howard and hitting what they pitch him instead of trying to drive everything. He’s going away with the outside pitches and pulling inside ones and taking the middle pitches up the middle. He’s spreading out his hitting well so far.

    I think their approach has changed as a team. Rollins is more like Polanco who always hits high averages and rarely strikes out. Howard is determined to hit balls hard and let his talent put balls over the fence.

    I know stats take into consideration the long haul of a season and their timing and approach can falter. But so will the other teams in the league as they feel less and less in the picture for playoffs. If your team knows the Phils have been picked to win it all or win at least the NL crown, and they get off to a 10 game + lead, are you going to concentrate as much in July/August when it’s blistering hot out on those fields? And the Phillies are a second half team. And Utley may be back by then. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  26. Danny

    April 10, 2011 09:06 AM

    I totally agree with Leo and think he should be on Baseball Tonight.

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