Do Teams That See More Pitches Win More Often and Perform Better Overall?

Jason Miller

The ability to work the count and be patient at the plate is a highly praised skill in baseball. But does it actually lead to more wins?

A while back I explored a topic that provided us with another avenue to increase your odds of winning, something called "The Rule of 39". While I won't go through every single detail of it I will explain that the rule of 39 stipulates that if a team has 39 or more plate appearances against the opposing pitching staff they are likely to win an average of 69% of the time. That got me thinking about pitch count and pitches per plate appearance for a batter.

Do teams that see an average or higher number of pitches per plate appearance win more games than those that do not and do they also perform better offensively?

First and foremost, we will need to identify the P/PA numbers for each team. I utilized data from FanGraphs to show me total pitches seen and total plate appearances per team. I pulled data from as far back as I could, which was 2002, and ran it through the 2012 season. What we're provided with is 330 teams worth of data.

The average P/PA from 2002-2012 is 3.79

There are 173 teams in our 330 team sample (52.4%) that averaged 3.79 P/PA or more with the remaining 157 teams falling below that mark. The first thing we are going to look at is the average number of wins and then the distribution of those wins where the team was at .500 or better.

P/PA

AVG W

AVG W .500 or >

100+ W

95-99

90-94

85-89

81-84

.500 or >

3.79 or >

81.6

90.7

6

22

24

20

18

90

3.78 or <

80.4

89.6

6

12

18

32

17

85

We can see that there really isn't any significant change in the number of wins for a team that see more pitches per plate appearance overall than a team that sees less. We can also see that teams who see more pitches per plate appearance at an average or better rate tend to be in the 90-99 win range more often than any other range, while the teams that see less than average are sticking around the 85-89 win range.

Just to satisfy my own curiosity I decided to look at the teams that were .500 or better to see what their average win totals were for the sample of 175 teams that managed that and there's just a 1.1 win difference between the two. Can one win make the difference between making the playoffs and not? Absolutely!

But can we say with the utmost certainty that optimizing your team, in a sense, to be patient and see more pitches overall will guarantee you that type of success? Not so much. The reason is because trying to optimize your offense is only part of the equation. You may get yourself an extra win with this strategy but you still need to be able to pitch well enough to have it make that difference and mean something for you.

How does seeing more or less pitches impact a team's offense overall?

P/PA

BB %

K %

wRC+

wOBA

RS

3.79 or >

8.85%

18.32%

97.3

0.326

751.4

3.78 or <

8.02%

16.67%

95.1

0.324

739.9

It shouldn't be any surprise to find that teams who see more pitches overall have a tendency to walk and strikeout at a higher rate than those that do not. We can also tell that offensive performance tends to go up a notch the more pitches a team sees overall with wRC+, wOBA, and total RS going up a bit. Again though, we're really only talking the difference of a win. However, that win can be critical if you have an average or above average team.

We've taken a look at how a team performs when they are average or better, or below average, with the number of pitches they see per plate appearance. What about the teams which are closer to that top tier? How do they perform?

The average number of games a team wins if they are in that top tier of P/PA seen goes up to 84 and for teams that finished at .500 or better they went up a tick in average number of wins as well. We are dealing with a small sample size at this point though, or at least a much smaller one, because we only have 84 teams that averaged 3.85 P/PA in this study and just 51 (60.7%) of them were .500 or better.

P/PA

AVG W

AVG W .500 or >

100+ W

95-99

90-94

85-89

81-84

.500 or >

3.85 or >

84

91.5

2

16

16

10

7

51

I'm inclined to believe that the results we're seeing do indicate there's something worthwhile about seeing more pitches overall but we must remember that there's more that goes into winning or losing then the number of pitches you see or how many runs you score. The other side of this, which this study isn't looking at, is pitching. But if you have an adequate pitching staff than the one or two win increase you could see utilizing this strategy could very well be meaningful.

Offensive performance also increases the better a team is at seeing more P/PA as those top teams scored an additional 7.2 runs overall, had a higher wOBA, and a higher wRC+. Walk rates and strike out rates increased as well but that's to be expected.

P/PA

BB %

K %

wRC+

wOBA

RS

3.85 or >

9.18%

18.74%

98.9

0.328

758.6

Another thing worth pointing out is that the average wOBA and wRC+ for all of baseball from 2002 to 2012 was .326 and 96 respectively. Teams that did very well with P/PA were better than the MLB average in those categories just as they were with total runs scores -- the MLB team average during this time period is 745.9.

How easy would implementing a strategy such as this be for a major league organization? That's a question best left to those that would want to utilize it or introduce a philosophical shift in the way they build their team.

Do you think that teams could implement this with great success or is it more trouble than it's worth?

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