Hello darkness my old friend. The offseason is back and this cruel bitch seems like she’s never going to leave. The one advantage to this time of year is that we finally have time to reflect on what happened during the whirlwind grind of playing 162+ games in 180 days. Today, I want to hearken back to something I spent too little time upon. GAGR and it’s ugly twin sister, BABR, are something that I developed that I think can help us begin to draw a line between those that are patient and those that are passive. If you’ve read me at all you know that I like batters that don’t swing at balls, but are still able to rope strikes. Well, let’s dig into this a little bit and you’ll see that that’s exactly what we’re looking at with GAGR.
The plate discipline statistics at Fangraphs are an incredibly powerful tool to use whether you are analyzing players or teams. For this instance I want to look solely at the team level, but down the road we can break down 2013’s best and worst hitters with an emphasis on the Rays. The idea here is that we can use the O/Z-Swing and O/Z-Contact ratios in collaboration to not only see whether a batter swung at a pitch in or out of the zone, but also to see if they actually made contact. I mean I could go up there and swing at 100 pitches in the zone and I doubt I’d put more than a couple flukes in play so knowing swing rate is only half the equation we also want to know whether anything good came of it.
The actual formula for GAGR isn’t all that complicated:
Out of Zone Takes + In Zone Contact
((1-Zone%)*(1-O-Swing%)) + (Zone%*Z-Swing%*Z-Contact%)
So if a batter saw 51.2% strikes, swung at 20% of pitches out of the zone, swung at 67% of pitches within the zone, and made contact on those pitches 86.8% of the time it would look like this:
((1-.512)*(1-.2)) + (.512*.67*.868) combine terms and you get a GAGR of 71%. This batter is Joey Votto who is pretty well renowned for having a great eye and the ability to mash a liner on a pitch in the zone. You could say that 71% of all pitches thrown to Joey Votto are either out of zone takes or in zone contact which is just an incredible rate. Let’s check out the other side of the coin:
Batter B is someone that saw 39% strikes, swung at 41.2% of pitches out of the zone, swung at 79% of pitches in the zone, and made contact on those 81.7% of the time. Again, we can plug all this stuff in:
((1-.39)*(1-.412)) + (.39*.79*.817) for a GAGR of 61%. This batter is Josh Hamilton who I think most would agree is a complete hacker with no idea of what a strike looks like. Now that you should have a frame of reference of what we’re looking at and what scale might look like let’s dig into 2013’s teams:
Obviously, Votto is a freak and a team of Votto’s would auto-impregnate baseball fans nationwide, but how about a team where you’re always going to have weaker hitters no matter how good your lineup? Well the Rays had the best GAGR in MLB this season at 65.4%. They were followed by the Athletics, Reds, Cardinals, Tigers, Indians, and Dodgers all of whom made the playoffs. The Rays showed a good approach (taking out of zone pitches + swinging at in zone pitches) 69% of the time which was second in all of baseball trailing only the Reds.
The other categories might be of some importance to you so I’ll break those down quickly with the Rays score and rank:
Good Approach (GA): Out of Zone Takes + In Zone Swings 69%, 2nd
Bad Approach (BA): Out of Zone Swings + In Zone Takes 31%, 2nd
Good Approach Good Result (GAGR): Out of Zone Takes + In Zone Contact 65%, 1st
Bad Approach Bad Result (BABR): Out of Zone Whiffs + In Zone Takes 21%, 9th
Good Approach Bad Result (GABR): Out of Zone Takes + In Zone Whiffs 44%, 1st
Bad Approach Good Result (BAGR): Out of Zone Contact + In Zone Takes 26%, 4th
O Swings: Out of Zone Swings 15%, 1st
O Takes: Out of Zone Takes 40%, 1st
Z Swings: In Zone Swings 29%, 19th
Z Takes: In Zone Takes 16%, 22nd
Z Contact: In Zone Contact 25%, 20th
Z Whiff: In Zone Whiffs 4%, 20th
O Contact: Out of Zone Contact 10%, 30th
O Whiff: Out of Zone Whiffs 5%, 2nd
Basically, this is a manual on the Rays approach which I believe is directly attributable to their primary batting coach Derek Shelton. Take balls and try to do damage on strikes. The former is where they really excel and if the latter can come up even a little bit you’re going to look at a really fearsome approach that translates to fantastic results.