We have a new podcast for you! It is available here, and also right below this post on the front page! That is one fact that is irrefutably fun!
Now on to today's second fun fact. And this is actually something I mentioned to Matthew while we were recording the podcast, in case you've listened, are listening, or plan to listen later on. The Seattle Mariners, to date, have not drawn a lot of walks. To be specific, they've drawn 12 walks, and they've played eight games, so that's no good. Their walk rate is the second-lowest in baseball and the lowest in the American League by a fair margin. They didn't draw a single walk on Thursday. They didn't draw a single walk on Wednesday. Their strikeout-to-walk ratio is well over four.
What that suggests is that the Mariners are in trouble, because the Mariners don't have real disciplined hitters. That might still be true, but there's something else that needs to be taken into consideration. To proceed, we need to put our faith in the plate-discipline statistics available at FanGraphs. People quibble with these sometimes, but they're the best we've got since there wasn't any PITCHfx data for the Mariners' first two games of the season. That's also 25 percent of the season.
According to those plate-discipline statistics, the Mariners' rate of swings at pitches out of the strike zone is the fourth-lowest in baseball. Their rate of swings at pitches in the strike zone is roughly average. Looking at walks and strikeouts suggests that the M's have been hacking. Looking at the more granular stuff suggests that they haven't, at all.
Here's the issue: the Mariners have seen the second-greatest rate of pitches in the strike zone in the league. On average, 47 percent of pitches so far have been in the zone. Against the Mariners, 55 percent of pitches have been in the zone. You want a team offense to be able to draw walks, but you can't just make walks happen if the pitchers are throwing strikes. I guess you could keep fouling pitches off until the pitcher screws up, but that's not a strategy. You can only work with what the pitchers are providing, and pitchers against the Mariners have simply not provided a lot of good walk opportunities.
We saw the Mariners take a disciplined approach against Yu Darvish. That was just a few days ago. Darvish was wild, and the Mariners kind of took advantage. Outside of that, they've seen a lot of strikes. There's not a lot you can do about walks under those conditions. It'd be nice if the Mariners would hit those strikes harder, but then that's a different issue.
We know that Miguel Olivo is an uncoachable hacker. That's never going to change. Jesus Montero is aggressive, and Ichiro has shown aggressive tendencies. But I wouldn't worry too much about the team walk rate just yet. The Mariners won't go on to lead the league, but they'll draw more walks when they're given a chance to draw more walks. Hitters can't control where the pitches are going. Hitters can only try to make the best of those pitches.