Graphing the Hitters: Plate Discipline
Last week, I published Graphing the Hitters: Productivity with a focus on OBP and SLG. Today's version of Graphing the Hitters is on Plate Discipline, which I introduced in this format just over a year ago.
The graph below plots walk rate (BB/PA) on the x-axis and strikeout rate (SO/PA) on the y-axis for every qualified batter in 2010. The intersection of the MLB averages for BB% (8.50%) and SO% (18.49%) created quadrants that classify players as better-than-average in both (lower right), worse-than-average in both (upper left), or better-than-average in one and worse-than-average in the other (lower left and upper right).
Unlike Fangraphs, I believe the denominator for strikeout percentage should be plate appearances (rather than at-bats). For whatever reason, Fangraphs defines walk percentage as BB/PA but strikeout percentage as SO/AB. As a result, while the raw numbers were downloaded from Fangraphs, the BB% and SO% were calculated separately.
Note: You can download a spreadsheet containing the BB, SO, BB%, SO%, and BB/SO of the 151 qualified hitters here. This information can also be used to locate the 124 players not labeled in the graph below.
Pujols had the fourth-highest BB% (14.71%) and the 20th-lowest SO% (10.86%). No one else comes close to matching that combination of BB% and SO%. Joe Mauer was 36th in BB% (11.13%) and 7th in SO% (9.08%).
Daric Barton (16.03%), whose name is situated between Bautista and Pujols on the graph above, edged out Prince Fielder (15.97%) for the highest BB% in the majors. A.J. Pierzynski (2.98%) had the lowest BB%.
Mark Reynolds (35.40%) had the highest SO% by a wide margin, beating out Adam Dunn by nearly five percentage points. Reynolds struck out over 200 times for the third straight season. He now holds the top three spots on the all-time single-season list for strikeouts. No other player has ever whiffed 200 times in a campaign. The top nine in SO have all occurred since 2004 with Reynolds (3), Dunn (3), and Ryan Howard (2) manning eight of the nine places. As it relates to Reynolds, if one wants to look for hope and change, he has increased his walks and BB% every year since his rookie season in 2007.
Jeff Keppinger (6.26%) had the lowest SO%, squeezing past Juan Pierre (6.40%) for top honors. He also generated the No. 1 BB/SO ratio with an impressive 1.42. Adam Jones (0.19) had the worst BB/SO. The toolsy center fielder is far from a finished product. By the same token, Carlos Gonzalez, firmly in the top left quadrant with a 6.29% BB and 21.23% SO, may not be the superstar-in-making unless he improves his dismal BB/SO ratio of 0.30. With or without better plate discipline, the 25-year-old outfielder is unlikely to ever approach the rate stats (.363/.412/.679) he put up in the second half last year.
Just five qualified hitters had a BB/SO ratio of 1.0 or better (vs. 13 in 2009). Pujols and Mauer were the only players to repeat.
Combining the features of the Productivity and Plate Discipline graphs allows us to determine the players who had above-average BB% (> 8.50%), SO% (< 18.49%), OBP (> .325), and SLG (> .403). The 29 hitters in the table below are ranked by OPS.
As I concluded last year with no particular revelation, "Pujols is the most disciplined and productive hitter in the game today." Albert may still be the "most disciplined" hitter but might not be the "most productive" anymore. You see, there is another guy out there who is a lot more like Pujols than not. In fact, this impostor had a higher AVG (.328 vs. .312), OBP (.420 vs. .414), SLG (.622 vs. 596), OPS (1.042 vs. 1.011), OPS+ (179 vs. 173), wOBA (.429 vs. .420), and wRC+ (170 vs. 165) than the three-time NL MVP (who, by the way, also has FOUR second-place finishes). No, it's not Joey Votto. It's none other than Miguel Cabrera, who sits atop the list above.