No, it may not be doing this team any good in terms of scoring runs this season, but I'm always a supporter of hitters who work counts. They knock the starting pitcher out of games both by ratcheting up his overall pitch count and because large pitch count innings decrease a pitcher's effectiveness, leaving him open to big offensive outputs. In war metaphor terms, having hitters who see a lot of pitches is akin to having more troops at your disposal. It's an endurance advantage.
Suffice to say that the Mariners over the past few years have not been the greatest practitioners of said strategy. Bill Bavasi seemed to care nary a whit about plate discipline and our team was "blessed" with such free swingers as Yuniesky Betancourt, Kenji Johjima, Jose Guillen, Adrian Beltre and others. Those four are gone and have been replaced by slightly more patient bats by Jack Zduriencik. All through the lineup, plate discipline has been paid attention, with the results speaking for themselves.
In 2007, at 3.63, the Mariners ranked 30th in pitches seen per plate appearance (P/PA)
In 2008, at 3.69, the Mariners ranked 26th in P/PA
In 2009, at 3.78, the Mariners ranked 24th in P/PA
In 2010, at 3.95, the Mariners rank 6th in P/PA
It gets even more apparent when you look at one of the key benefits to taking more pitches: drawing walks.
In 2007, at 5.8%, the Mariners ranked 30th in BB%
In 2008, at 6.0%, the Mariners ranked 29th in BB%
In 2009, at 6.3%, the Mariners ranked 29th in BB%
In 2010, at 9.1%, the Mariners rank 11th in BB%
Some further miscellaneous P/PA facts continue below.
- Among hitters with at least 50 plate appearances in 2007, not a single hitter had a P/PA above 3.89. The average 2010 Mariner is at 3.95.
- Yuniesky Betancourt saw an average of 3.19 P/PA in 2007.
- That went down to 3.15 the following year.
- Among hitters with at least 50 plate appearances in 2008, only Ichiro Suzuki and Jose Lopez remain two years later. 16 of the 18 hitters have been replaced.
- The 2009 team leader in P/PA was Jack Hannahan at 4.29.
- Mike Sweeney was third-worst at 3.43, ahead of only Yuni and Kenji, and worse than Loafie and Beltre.