It’s no secret that the Rays are a patient team that tries to extend counts until they get a walk or a hit, perhaps in that order of priority. They seem quite adept at this with several batters showing great knowledge of the strike zone and the discipline to stay within it’s amorphous edges. The biggest reason to drag out at bats and make a starter throw a ton of pitches should be fairly obvious. The more pitches a guy throws, the less innings he’ll be out there. The higher the number of outs required to be made by a pen, the greater the likelihood of scoring against said bullpen. It’s a kind of waiting game that doesn’t involved paint or boiling water, but if you can keep your eyes open long enough, you might just get to see a rally. Let’s take a look at the Rays batters and pitchers through the lens of PPPA.
The chart above (click to open in new window) shows the number of pitches and plate appearances that each batter has seen over the course of the year according to Fangraphs. It’s pretty easy to come up with the PPPA once you compile this data, and I think the results speak for themselves, but I wanted to take it a step further and turn these into an index. An index allows us to compare each player to the average (100) and lets us see the percentage away from average that each player is. For instance, Matt Joyce has a PPPA+ of 111. That means he has seen 11% more pitches per plate appearance than league average. You can see in the next column (projected Pitches Per Plate Appearance, pPPPA) that that equates to 59 extra pitches thus far. Zobrist has seen an incredble 164 extra pitches this year, each one a chance to see a fat cement mixer or thigh-high fastball. You can debate the merits of being patient, but you can’t deny that this must be a part of the Rays philosophy when you have all but two contributors above league-average. Oh yeah, about that.
I reached the league-average by looking at all pitchers with at least 50 IP as a starter. This yielded a list of 155 pitchers. Check out the above link if you would like to see the workbook and which pitchers have a tendency to throw long or short at bats. Hint, you’ll notice an old friend unsurprisingly checking in at #12. Jered Weaver leads all pitchers with 4.2 PPPA. This shouldn’t be a total shocker since he does lead the world in strikeouts. The lowest PPPA belonged to Nick “Here it is, please don’t hurt me” Blackburn at 3.4. The average of all 155 came out to be 3.8 PPPA. Here’s a look at where the Rays starters placed:
Holy cow, Jeff Niemann is basically a Jugs gun. His PPPA checked in at 3.6 good for 139 out of 155. You can see that Davis, Price, and Garza are all not quite as efficient as Old Man Jamie and the Giraffe (great idea for a sitcom, btw). We can index these again and get values of 104, 103, 102, 97, and 94, top to bottom. Again we can extend these out to see pPPPA where we see Davis throwing 72 extra, Price throwing 80 extra, Garza throwing 53 extra, Shields throwing 69 less, and Niemann throwing 127 pitches less than average. That’s almost a full start extra that Price has thrown, while Niemann is well over a full start saved due to his efficiency. Check out the workbook as it is chock full of information for all pitchers. You might like to know that according to this, Cliff Lee has “saved” himself from 220 pitches, but who would have guessed that Jeff Karstens checks in in second at 188 pitches less than the average PPPA at his number of innings. On the other side of the coin, Jered Weaver leads the pack with 267 “extra” pitches, while a couple of Tigers nip at his heels in Verlander and Scherzer (199).