Much was made last season about the Rays’ approach as they tended to work deep into counts that seemingly often resulted in a walk or a strikeout. After all, the club did lead the American League in both categories last season despite scoring more runs than anyone but Boston and New York.
If you watch enough television broadcasts, you will hear Joe Buck, Tim McCarver, one of the ESPN talking heads, or even Dave Wills and Andy Freed talk about how patient teams like Boston and New York are and how they consistently work counts, spoil pitches, and frustrate pitchers. That certainly applies to someone like Brett Gardner who saw more pitches per plate appearances (4.62), than any other hitter in the American League East as well as the entire American League. However, there is a little more patience in this division than one might think.
The table below shows the lineups below that mlbdepthcharts.com projects for each team in 2011 and each player’s average pitch per plate appearance last season.
Surprise! The Rays were the most patient team in the division last season at 4.08 pitches per plate appearance. It should also not surprise anyone that the Blue Jays come in a distant last at just 3.66 pitches per plate appearance which the league average in 2010 was 3.68. It is worth noting that the lowest P/PA total in the Rays’ lineup is 3.9 and it is shared by Evan Longoria, Reid Brignac, and B.J. Upton. That total would have been the second highest on the Toronto roster last season.
The bottom column helps highlight how the patience can play out over a full game between a patient and impatient team. The Rays could get a Toronto starting pitcher to the 100 pitch count nearly three at bats quicker than the Jays lineup can do the same against a Rays starting pitcher if both teams held to their average pitch amount per plate appearance.
Rays fans are also quite familiar with big pitch counts in the first inning as the young hurlers in recent years have seen just about every starting pitcher put up 20+ pitch count in the first inning. The good news is that, on paper, the Rays have a good chance of being on the giving end of that event rather than the receiving end of that event. If we look at the average P/PA for the top four batters in each team’s lineup, things look even better.
- Rays: 4.11
- Yankees: 3.92
- Red Sox: 3.92
- Orioles: 3.90
- Blue Jays: 3.66
Frankly, it does not matter whether John Jaso, Johnny Damon, or even B.J. Upton are leading off in 2011 as the club as a whole does an excellent job of working counts and the Rays could chase starting pitchers more quickly than they did last year. Last season, the Rays averaged 3.93 pitches per plate appearances so the addition of Manny Ramirez and Johnny Damon is immediately seen in the team’s P/PA for 2011 and it bears watching to see how the increased patience in the lineup effects opposition pitchers this season.