Orioles under Presley: Turning them all into a hackasaurus?

Greetings everyone,

By now we all know the narrative and have seen it play out. The Orioles rank dead last in the AL in walks taken this year, and all too often this year we've seen the other team's starter go deep into games because the Orioles aggressive approach limits pitch counts. Sure, it works sometimes if just isn't the opposite pitcher's night or something like that, but when he's doing just fine, it leads to getting dominated.

That's the narrative, but how true is it? Is there something about the 2011-present Orioles that hints at over-aggressiveness? So to test this theory, I've used two metrics. The first is number of pitches per plate appearance, the second is walk rate. I am using players who have had a significant number (~170) with the Orioles from 2011-present as well as with other teams or with the O's before 2011. There are 17 players that meet this criteria who have played in Baltimore over the last 3+ years, so let's see what the data says.

Number of pitches per plate appearance

This is fairly straight-forward- the more aggressive you are, the fewer pitches you'll see per PA. As a reference, last year the highest number of pitches per PA was 4.62 (Carlos Santana), and the lowest was 3.11 (Alexi Ramirez), with the average around 3.77. So, what's the difference in how many pitches the 17-player sample saw under Presley than someone else?

Under Presley Everything else % Diff
Markakis 3.845 3.852 -0.19
Hardy 3.817 3.892 -1.92
Jones 3.569 3.713 -3.88
Davis 4.003 3.867 3.53
Roberts 4.038 3.972 1.66
Wieters 3.854 4.029 -4.35
Andino 3.797 3.825 -0.72
Reynolds 4.244 3.989 6.39
McLouth 3.867 3.951 -2.12
Reimold 3.918 3.967 -1.22
Guerrero 3.222 3.253 -0.95
Scott 4.165 3.880 7.35
Lee 4.137 4.070 1.65
Betemit 3.858 4.008 -3.76
Pearce 4.026 4.056 -0.75
Valencia 4.153 3.685 12.69
Cruz 3.770 3.882 -2.89

I've arranged these in a rough order so the ones that should be considered more heavily are on top, since they have more PAs inside and out of the teams in question. As you can see, there really isn't a whole lot of difference, although if you look hard enough certain trends emerge. Eleven out of the seventeen hitters saw fewer pitches per plate appearance, although none by more than one pitch every 6 games or so. Those that did see more pitches tended to be power hitters who were striking out quite a bit. Davis and Reynolds still do strike out quite a bit, but did see their rates decline under Presley. To me there might be something to say here, but its impact does not seem to be specific.

Walk rate

So, if that isn't it, what about walk rate? How often are Presley's batters walking compared to when they had a different hitting coach? Survey says...

Under Presley Everything else % Diff
Markakis 8.398 9.852 -14.76
Hardy 5.394 8.118 -33.56
Jones 4.205 4.886 -13.95
Davis 8.944 6.716 33.18
Roberts 7.847 10.346 -24.16
Wieters 8.556 8.455 1.19
Andino 8.280 6.667 24.20
Reynolds 12.781 11.085 15.30
McLouth 9.047 10.092 -10.35
Reimold 7.782 10.886 -28.51
Guerrero 3.025 8.442 -64.17
Scott 10.169 10.484 -3.00
Lee 6.868 11.173 -38.53
Betemit 8.031 9.156 -12.29
Pearce 9.890 9.105 8.62
Valencia 4.706 5.784 -18.65
Cruz 8.140 7.857 3.60

Uh-oh. This points to something. There are some very large negative changes taking place, especially if you aren't a power hitter (or Robert Andino). This is further backed up this year by the aforementioned stat, that the O's as last in the AL in walks taken. It appears that Presley does not value walks enough, and that is seen in the above table.

Alright, so they aren't walking as much. Are they swinging at more pitches?

Why, yes they are. Here are the swing rates, from 2007 on:

Under Presley Everything else % Diff
Markakis 41.930 41.130 1.95
Hardy 40.950 39.080 4.79
Jones 55.578 52.974 4.92
Davis 52.384 52.432 -0.09
Roberts 42.733 41.511 2.94
Wieters 47.111 44.529 5.80
Andino 40.618 46.743 -13.10
Reynolds 44.910 46.725 -3.88
McLouth 39.956 38.566 3.60
Reimold 42.821 40.875 4.76
Guerrero 59.060 58.059 1.72
Scott 47.196 46.711 1.04
Lee 43.595 41.878 4.10
Betemit 45.699 44.805 2.00
Pearce 45.283 41.443 9.27
Valencia 42.854 41.471 3.33
Cruz 51.613 48.133 7.23

All but three. And two of those had a well-documented problems that did get better under Presley. Again, Andino is the exception. This combined with his increased walk rate makes me think he must have been doing something different with Andino compared with everyone else.

Great. So Presley really is turning them all into hackasauruses.

Well, before we write him off as someone who says "just keep hacking", we must look at the whiff rate. This will tell us if there's really something bad going on here, or if they are just being more aggressive with good pitches:

Under Presley Everything else % Diff
Markakis 4.930 5.950 -20.69
Hardy 5.870 6.770 -15.33
Jones 14.120 14.780 -4.67
Davis 17.000 18.012 -5.95
Roberts 5.000 5.520 -10.40
Wieters 9.560 9.350 2.20
Andino 7.570 10.880 -43.73
Reynolds 15.939 17.860 -12.05
McLouth 5.712 5.992 -4.90
Reimold 11.496 8.508 25.99
Guerrero 11.153 11.881 -6.53
Scott 12.381 12.402 -0.17
Lee 9.795 9.355 4.49
Betemit 13.558 11.693 13.76
Pearce 11.860 10.206 13.95
Valencia 9.265 9.059 2.22
Cruz 15.207 14.103 7.26

This paints a different picture. This shows that the more time Presley gets with them, by and large their whiff rate goes down, and in some cases by quite a bit. However, it is also interesting to note that it might take a while as the whiff rate increases with less experience using this approach.

What does it mean?

What these four charts are telling me is that the Orioles under Jim Presley are making a concerted effort to be aggressive in the zone. We hear it from the coaches and hitters, and this data backs it up. Sometimes it works wonderfully- it has shown to reduce swings and misses and they did lead the majors in HR last year, thanks in part to this approach. It also lowers the odds of falling behind in counts, and believe it or not they strikeout rate is below average so far this year. However, it does lower walk rates, lower pitch counts, and encourages swinging at pitches that, while strikes, may not be ideal pitches to hit which leads to those wonderful occasions when the bases are loaded and they end up popping up on the first pitch. Presley's system of turning hitters into hackasauruses is something that can, under the right circumstances, lead to an explosive offense, but at the same time can lead to a lot of free outs by being overly aggressive in the zone.

FanPosts are user-created content and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editors of Camden Chat or SB Nation. They might, though.

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