Cincinnati (92.3 The Fan) – Much has been made by this writer about the patience of Indians hitters at the plate and how it may or may not be impacting the game.
The natural thought is that patience at the plate will lead to better pitches, better pitches leading to better at-bats and more solid hits. Terry Francona preaches it often, as would any person in a baseball leadership position. It is as common as common sense gets within the game.
But have the Indians become too patient?
Their 12 strikeouts on Monday would normally indicate heightened aggression, but the fact that half were by way of called strikes would potentially speak to the contrary.
It is not as if the pitches were all borderline, with the final of those six strikeouts being the only borderline strike to Daniel Robertson, the penultimate out of the game.
Francona seemed to think the time of day factored in to starter Scott Feldman’s day, and given his success early, there was some credence to the idea.
“Early, it’s hard to see, I think for everybody,” Francona said. “He went right through our first five hitters. You’ve got a guy who is pounding the zone low and calling it, so he kept doing it. I don’t blame him.”
The issue was that, of the five strikeouts to start the game for the Indians, four were swinging. While that does give credence to the idea that it was difficult to see early on, it makes it even more confusing as to why hitters could not identify called strike-threes in the 4th and 6th innings.
The location of the pitches and the fact that all six backwards-Ks came on fastballs take that idea to the next level.
Francona, not one to call his players out in any shape or form in the media, did give about as damning a review of Feldman’s outing as he will.
“We didn’t do a lot,” Francona said. “We had a couple of pretty good chances and didn’t cash in.”
While it seems as if there has been an increase of called third strikes against Indians hitters, there is no statistical evidence to prove that they have been affected a great amount one way or the other.
The team’s strikeout rate in May has actually dropped from 20.3% to 19.6% since the end of April, both marks good for 22nd in baseball.
What has changed drastically is the team’s wRC+, a cumulative, weighted measure of overall offense. That numbers has dropped from 106 in April, 4th in baseball, to an AL worst 87, which is 27th in baseball.
What remains true is that the team is the most patient in the league, with three players in the top-20 in swinging strikes (Jose Ramirez, Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana) and the highest team Z-Swing%-to-O-Swing% quotient in the game.
Michael Brantley also leads the team in Z-Swing at 68.8%, though that has him at just 79th in baseball, meaning that as a collective, no individual hitter is swinging at the lion’s share of strikes. The team is in the dead-middle, 15th, in Z-Swing%.
Where there may be evidence to the theory that the team has become “too” patient is that despite their patience, they are 22nd in baseball with a BABIP of .279. Therefore, while they are seeing more pitches and picking the best strikes, they have not done enough with the swings they do take.