Phillies Lacking Plate Discipline in NLDS

After the first two innings in Game One of the NLDS, when the Phillies made six outs on 12 Kyle Lohse pitches, you knew something was wrong. The Phillies aren’t a bad team in terms of plate discipline, though certainly not as good as they had been in years past. They ranked right in the middle of Major League Baseball during the regular season, averaging 3.8 pitches per plate appearance. However, in the NLDS so far, the Phillies have averaged 3.4, 3.6, and 3.4 pitches per plate appearance in Games One through Three, respectively.

Here’s a look at the individual hitters:

Hitter P/PA
Halladay 4.5
Utley 4.2
Howard 4.1
Madson 4.0
Rollins 3.4
Victorino 3.3
Ruiz 3.3
Mayberry 3.3
Ibanez 3.3
Pence 3.2
Polanco 3.1
Lee 3.0
Francisco 2.5
Hamels 1.5
Average 3.5

When Roy Halladay is leading the team in pitches seen per plate appearance, your team is not performing optimally. Only four hitters (two non-pitchers) are above the average, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.

The following chart plots the average number of pitches seen per batter in each inning along with the runs they scored in each inning. (Click to enlarge)

The Phillies have scored in three of the nine innings in which they averaged at least four pitches seen per batter; six times in 14 innings in which they averaged at least 3.33 pitches seen per batter; and just once when they averaged 3.25 or fewer pitches seen per batter.

Taking pitches doesn’t just help directly with run-scoring, though — it helps with tiring the opposing starter, forcing his team to dig into their bullpen earlier than they would prefer. That helps with both the game currently being played as well as future games with that team. The Cardinals, who have been working Phillies pitchers very well, have forced Ryan Madson into the game in each of the first three games in the series. Madson has thrown 43 pitches total, the most he has thrown in any three consecutive team games since August 8-10, all against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Madson didn’t pitch again for a week, but the Phillies don’t have the luxury of awarding time off in the post-season.

Although the Cardinals trail the series two games to one, it’s hard to argue that they haven’t been playing a more professional brand of baseball than the Phillies, even if they have been extremely BABIP-lucky (.403) throughout the series.

Leave a Reply

*

43 comments

  1. yiliu5

    October 04, 2011 09:14 PM

    BABIP’D

  2. Sean

    October 04, 2011 09:25 PM

    Madson being fourth on that list is less surprising than him batting lefty.

    I didn’t even catch it at first, and then I was like “Wait, is he on the wrong side of the plate?”

  3. tim

    October 04, 2011 09:57 PM

    its much easier to take pitches when the pitcher is throwing balls. the only driver of this outcome (low pitch ber ab) is not patience, the actions of the pitcher must be accounted for

  4. Richard

    October 04, 2011 11:14 PM

    Tim is right. I don’t think patience was a big factor today: Garcia was throwing strikes, and the Phillies were mostly taking first pitches, and thus falling behind.

  5. Nik

    October 04, 2011 11:25 PM

    Agree with Tim and Richard, not much you can do when the guys is throwing strikes. Give credit to Garcia and Lohse, they are following the Duncan blueprint.

  6. James

    October 05, 2011 12:31 AM

    Any idea what’s wrong with Placido Polanco? Even when he’s not hitting it, I kind of expect him to run some counts high

  7. Dani

    October 05, 2011 12:37 AM

    Yes, both Garcia and Lohse were getting across first pitch strikes like mad, and getting 0-2 or 1-2 counts. I keep looking for the pitches that the guys should look at but I’m not seeing them. I don’t know if there is something really wrong when they do make contact, but they can’t just sit and look at pitches that are strikes. Lohse and Garcia threw a lot of strikes.

    However, that comes back to bite them as soon as they tire even a little and start leaving pitches up, because the batters are now primed to hit those.

    Phillies pitchers have not been nearly as efficient getting strikes over the plate. Lee and Hamels both were inconsistent and the bullpen as well. The Cardinals get a lot of credit for not swinging at balls and getting good contact on strikes, making the Phillies pitchers pay for mistakes.

  8. Bill Baer

    October 05, 2011 01:58 AM

    It’s a bit of a game theory thing, though. Lohse and Garcia threw strikes, but partially because of the Phillies’ approach. If the Phillies were a bit more patient, Lohse and Garcia wouldn’t feel comfortable painting low and outside all game long. If the Phillies didn’t swing at this pitches and ground out to second, they have to change their approach.

  9. hunterfan

    October 05, 2011 06:57 AM

    “If the Phillies were a bit more patient, Lohse and Garcia wouldn’t feel comfortable painting low and outside all game long”

    Do not understand this one. If Garcia et al. can paint the zone low and outside, there really isn’t much the hitters can do. Any pitcher who can paint the zone low and outside is going to have a great night. There isn’t much a hitter can do with that.

  10. Mark

    October 05, 2011 07:04 AM

    I might be missing something, but why did Manuel not bring Madson in with a double switch last night? With the pitcher’s spot coming up 4th in the top of the 9th, wouldn’t it make more sense to have a position player hit AND have Madson pitch the bottom of the 9th?

  11. Noah

    October 05, 2011 07:28 AM

    Manuel probably didn’t double switch because he would have significantly weakened the team’s defense, for the ninth, and offense, had the game gone to extra innings, his main double switch options being Victorino, Howard or Pence for Madson.

  12. mratfink

    October 05, 2011 08:18 AM

    It’s not just about throwing strikes and balls, the cardinals have also fouled off a ton of pitches this series and that plays into pitch counts as well. Hamels especially seemed to suffer from a lot of foul balls that extended the at bat.

  13. Phillie697

    October 05, 2011 08:24 AM

    It was bases loaded with one out. Come on guys, you give Manual too much credit. I don’t think the words “double switch” even crossed his mind. He was probably thinking “f—, I better bring in Madson before we lose this game. Using my closer for 4 outs. Yeah, I’m a genius!”

  14. Phillie697

    October 05, 2011 08:26 AM

    @mratfink,

    How is the Cards hitting more foul balls somehow make Phillies hitters take less pitches? Bill didn’t compare the Phillies and the Cards and said “Oh look we take less pitches than them.” That statement is certainly true for sure, but the Phillies are not taking enough pitches PERIOD, regardless of what the Cards did.

  15. Mark

    October 05, 2011 08:34 AM

    @Noah I think you’re right, and I hadn’t thought about that. Thanks.

  16. Drew

    October 05, 2011 08:39 AM

    Re: Double Switch. I thought the same thing. The only switch that made any sense to me was to bring in Martinez for Mayberry. Martinez would have hit in the 9 hole and Madson in the 6th. I believe the 7 or 8 hole led off the 9th inning. I can’t remember.

  17. Mark

    October 05, 2011 08:53 AM

    @Drew Mayberry led off the 9th in the 6 spot, so that switch wouldn’t work. It would have to have been either Howard, Pence, or Victorino.

  18. Nik

    October 05, 2011 10:22 AM

    If the Ruiz hit/trap stayed as a hit, does Charlie PH for Madson?

  19. Richard

    October 05, 2011 10:28 AM

    Nik: nah, I bet he would have bunted.

  20. Richard

    October 05, 2011 10:30 AM

    “Phillies are not taking enough pitches PERIOD”

    seriously, taking pitches to fall behind every at bat is not helpful.

    frankly, they would have been better off yesterday swinging first pitch more often, as those were the better pitches to hit… was this not how the Cardinals attacked Lee in game 2?

  21. Scott G

    October 05, 2011 10:34 AM

    Not to sound like too much of a jerk, Sean, but if you didn’t know that Ryan Madson bats LH,then you must be “FanSince07/08/09″.

  22. Phillie697

    October 05, 2011 11:20 AM

    @Richard,

    Yet, instead, the Cards still had 3.55 P/PA on Lee, despite your “astute” observation that they attacked a lot of the first-pitch strikes, yet somehow the Phillies, who supposedly didn’t last night according to you, had a LOWER (3.45) P/PA against Garcia. Please explain that then?

    You make it sound like the correlation between P/PA and better hitting results was invented by some magical elves just to annoy people.

  23. JB Allen

    October 05, 2011 12:12 PM

    So, basically Phillie697 is awarding Richard no points, and is asking God to have mercy on Richard’s soul.

  24. Jefft

    October 05, 2011 12:18 PM

    Not sure if this was brought up, but does anyone think the rampant inconsistancy of the umpires and thier strike zones could have a bearing on the team’s lack of selectivity?

  25. Phillie697

    October 05, 2011 12:48 PM

    The umpire was pretty atrocious last night. I blame him as the reason why the Cards had a billion baserunners in the last three innnings. Hard to pitch effectively when you basically HAD to pitch to the middle of the plate to get a strike called.

  26. hk

    October 05, 2011 01:21 PM

    “Yes, both Garcia and Lohse were getting across first pitch strikes like mad, and getting 0-2 or 1-2 counts.”

    Lohse was credited with 15 first pitch strikes, of which 10 were called and 5 were counted as strikes because the Phillie batter swung (whether or not it was in the strike zone) and 9 first pitch balls. Garcia was credited with with 17 first pitch strikes, of which 11 were called and 6 were counted as strikes because the Phillie batter swung or bunted at them and 12 first pitch balls.

    To me, 15 out of 24 and 17 out of 29 is not throwing first strikes like mad, especially when a large number of them were swinging strikes.

  27. LTG

    October 05, 2011 02:45 PM

    Phillie,

    Your analysis is mostly sound here, but your attack on mratfink seems unfair. MRF’s point is that taking pitches is only one of two ways to increase pitches seen; another is to foul them off. The Phils have done neither well while the Cardinals have. Both aspects are factors that lead to BB’s conclusion that the Cards have played more professionally than the Phils in this series. Yet, BB does not mention fouling off pitches. MRF’s contribution is not off-point given the content of the article.

    That said, I wonder to what extent batters have control over the number of foul balls they hit. Is fouling off a skill? Or if not a skill then a mere disposition? Is it something that Phils could be doing better? I don’t know of any studies on this. Can someone help?

  28. Phillie697

    October 05, 2011 02:58 PM

    @LTG,

    I agree with you, but I still stand by the point that what the Cards did has no bearings on what the Phillies did. That said, i recognize your point that perhaps he’s merely suggesting that it’s more than just about “taking pitches.” Again, perhaps another misnomer. I think when I say “taking pitches” I really meant waiting for good pitches to hit, which in essence include fouling off pitches to stay alive while waiting.

    Yes, there has been studies done showing that good hitters foul off more pitches in pitcher’s counts than not-so-good hitters, whereas not-so-good hitters foul off more pitches than good hitters in hitter’s counts. So yes, it is something of a skill.

  29. Duane

    October 05, 2011 04:15 PM

    Honestly, the entirety of Game 1 against Kyle Lohse, all I could think was, “stop swinging at this guy’s pitches.” Kyle Lohse is not throwing anything out there that’s getting by anyone, so you can take pitches until you get a 2 strike count, so there is no need for all of the aggressive swinging I was watching. It all worked out, granted, because we won in smashing fashion, but I too felt like the approach was a little too pressed. That said, who is to say sitting back and waiting for your pitch is always the best approach? Even if that seems like the best approach. Bill, you did a Post earlier in the season that showcases Jimmy has a better chance of getting a good hit when he swings at the first pitch, right?

  30. VANDERGRAAFK

    October 05, 2011 04:17 PM

    Well, as data ripped out of context, this seems truly striking indeed. And, last year wasn’t it ironic that the sole productive player – Jayson Werth – was the one batter who saw 4.5+ pitches per at bat. Now, contrast that with the problem Cliff Lee had the other night. Since Lee’s pitches are usually in the strike zone, Cardinal batters were first strike swinging and connecting. What was the Cardinal pitches per at bat data for that game?

    Second, when Jaime Garcia is getting strike one on the first pitch (for most of the first six innings), the batter is automatically at a disadvantage. Wouldn’t that negatively affect pitches per at bat?

  31. Dick Alldred

    October 05, 2011 04:47 PM

    For years the often successful Yankees have been Disciplined to RUN UP THE PITCH COUNT AND DRAW THROWS TO OCCUPIED BASES to achieve maximum amount of “arm use” on the starting pitchers. Getting to the opposition’s bullpen early USUALLY amounts to high scoring opportunities in later innings. I’m surprised Jayro has that HIGH a number. He is not a good “Leadoff Hitter”, he needs to Look More for the benefit of those that follow him!If their starter is “grooving the first pitch” I can see letting “Good Hitters” sit on it and hammer it with men on base. In the long run tired pitchers lose! Me, I put the blame on Charlie and the Hitting Coach! Maybe a bit of Nonchalance too.

  32. Jeff

    October 05, 2011 04:54 PM

    Am I living on another planet or are the Phillies ahead in the series?

  33. Jeff

    October 05, 2011 04:59 PM

    I relocated to Houston from Philly in 1981 and am still a die hard Phillies fan. To be up 2 games to 1 and writers are wasting time and space counting pitches?? Really?? Can’t the fans ever enjoy an exciting series?? Hard to believe after 102 wins we are now counting pitches? Many people thought Cholly didnt know what he was doing but Ben comes in and hits a 3 run homer.
    Lets enjoy this!!

  34. steve

    October 05, 2011 05:05 PM

    Alot of what to do depends on the pitcher. With a high strike pct pitcher like Lee you often do want to jump on first pitch. Toronto and Texas over past couple of years have very high powered offense and they had highest 1st pitch swing pct in majors.

    Often the best pitch to hit is the first pitch.

  35. TommyA

    October 05, 2011 06:54 PM

    Thats fine if you aren’t getting the calls or can fight off pitches.

  36. HARRY

    October 05, 2011 08:30 PM

    HOWARD IS SO DISAPPOINTING ?

  37. frankj

    October 05, 2011 09:47 PM

    Look at the pitch counts of each starter in Game 4. The fact that after four innings Hamels threw 77 pitches, while Garcia only threw 39 (almost 2-1), must be factored into this whole argument as well.

  38. CT Phillie

    October 05, 2011 10:46 PM

    how many 1st strike fastballs down the middle
    of the plate can they take? all night (game 4) they LOOKED at fast balls. Howard watches
    a pitch down the middle then swings at two off speed pitches down out ofthe strike zone!
    taking pitches works if you work the count
    not when you take strike one and then swing at junk balls. terrible discipline at the plate!!!!

  39. Tim M.

    October 06, 2011 05:09 PM

    How can I get a note to Manuel? I have armchair managing to do:

    Put Pence back in the 5 spot!!! The team was on a scoring tear with Pence batting behind Howard. Why change what worked? Proposed lineup:

    1 Rollins
    2 Utley
    3 Victorino
    4 Howard
    5 Pence
    6 Ibanez
    7 Ruiz
    8 Polanco

    Let’s score some runs!

  40. hs

    October 06, 2011 05:20 PM

    Only one post bringing up what to me has been the underlying theme of this series: two different strike zones for the Cardinals and the Phillies. I would love to see the actual breakdown of PitchQuest (or whatever they call it) in comparison to what the umps are calling. I might be wrong, but it CLEARLY seems to me that midway through Game 2 Cardinal pitchers are getting 3-4 inches off the plate (remember Utley’s 3-2 called third strike?), while the Phils are getting snubbed on pitches that actually catch the corner. Am I wrong? I am up for going through each pitch in this series to compare what PitchQuest shows as a strike and the actual call… just don’t have the time. Maybe I could do one game if anyone wants to help with the others…

  41. hs

    October 07, 2011 10:18 AM

    Thanks Mark… exactly what I was looking for.

  42. George

    October 07, 2011 02:22 PM

    Great stuff, very interesting read.

Next ArticlePhillies 2011 Season Ends in Agony, Defeat