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« How to strike out Josh Hamilton | Main | David Ortiz's Hidden Decline »
Saturday
Mar192011

Good Process

One of the points of the book Moneyball was that the Athletics tried to develop and sign players that went about the game with the proper process.  For example, they wanted hitters who took balls outside the strike zone and swung at good pitches inside the strike zone.  When they signed Hideki Matsui over the winter, they picked up a player with exactly that approach at the plate.

You can see this best by comparing when Hideki swings and takes.  When the count falls short of two strikes, Matsui zeros in on a very specific part of the strike zone:

Hideki Matsui, swings with less than two strikes, 2008-2010 regular season.Hideki Matsui, taken pitches with less than two strikes, 2008-2010 regular season.Pitchers work Hideki away, but he shows good plate discipline not only outside of the strike zone, but inside as well.  He let pitches he doesn't like go by, as he has room for error in these situations.

With two strikes, his approach changes, as it should:

Hideki Matsui, swings with two strikes, 2008-2010 regular season.Hideki Matsui, taken pitches with two strikes, 2008-2010.Note the big difference isn't that Matusi starts swinging at pitches outside the strike zone, he stops taking pitches inside the strike zone.  With two strikes, it doesn't matter if it's his pitch or not.  By swinging and making contact, Hideki has the chance of a hit.  So while Matusi only hits .205 with two strikes, his ability to judge balls and strikes gives him a .302 OBP.  The league as a whole averages just .249 in that situation, and Matsui's .302 mark puts him in the 89th percentile.  He should fit right in with Oakland.

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