Last Saturday's issue of Pravda:
Of all the things center fielder Franklin Gutierrez brings to the Mariners, patience at the plate might be the most important.
I think most educated readers will respond to this in one of two ways:
(1) What? Really? I mean - what? Really?
(2) Only the Mariners could bring in a guy with 27 walks and celebrate his patience
The article goes on to talk about how the Mariners need to see more pitches - which is probably true - but uses Gutierrez as an example - which is questionable. Yeah, he rarely swung at the first pitch of an at bat last year, but the suggestion that this trait made him "a pitcher's worst enemy" is more than a little bit laughable, considering his .307 OBP and .691 OPS. That Gutierrez made opposing pitchers throw one or two more pitches to him per game than they would've to an average hitter means basically nothing given that he also made a ton of outs.
Honestly, you hear people talk about raising the other guy's pitch count and getting to the bullpen all the time, but the merit of the whole idea is overstated. For one thing, relievers are better than starters, especially starters who've already thrown a bunch of pitches. If anything, you shouldn't be in any kind of hurry at all to chase a starter from the game once he's racked up a decent pitch count, because the guy who relieves him is probably going to be harder to hit. And for another, if part of making the starter work means you find yourself in more 0-1 and 1-2 counts, then that's bad, because it puts the hitter at a severe disadvantage that more than cancels out whatever benefit there may be to getting into the bullpen.
Forget making the other guy work. Forget building up pitch counts. While there are upsides to that approach, there are also downsides that call into question whether or not it's the right thing to do. Rather than going out of their way to work the count, all I really want to see the Mariners do is swing at more strikes and fewer balls. It's not about taking pitches so much as it's about taking the right pitches, and this is an area in which the Mariners have been sorely lacking for half of a decade.
There's a big difference between patience and discipline. It's my hope that the team is focused more on the latter than the former, because successful execution of the latter is going to be far better correlated with the consistent production of runs.