The Mockingbird

A Quick Fix for JP Arencibia’s OBP

with 10 comments

Some players simply will never have the ability to recognize and lay off tough pitches that start in the zone and wind out of it. I get that. It is entirely possible to have a reasonable career that is based on hitting first pitches and mistakes very, very, far, and accepting that once you get behind in the count it’s going to take a miracle to get on base.

But other times, the balance between taking strikes and chasing balls becomes so lopsided that opposing pitchers can adjust their entire pitching strategy to take advantage of a player. Without the fear of a potential walk, there isn’t the same need to get ahead with the first pitch, or ‘give in’ in a hitter’s count with a fastball, and a hitter just stops getting reasonable pitches to hit, ever. In the same way that it pays sometimes to bunt or else the opposition will play way back on the grass and gain more than you lose by bunting, sometimes you just have to take a close pitch that might very well be a strike just so the league knows you’re capable of it.

Case in point: J.P. Arencibia. On 3-2 counts, most hitters are going to see somewhat more strikes with the threat of a walk looming. But now that every scouting report on him is just a giant yellow highlighter down his walk, swing, and miss rates, only 46 percent of full-count pitches have been in the strike zone (down from 55% last year — and not surprisingly, he’s missing them at 48%, up from 32%). Which brings to mind a novel way to “make the adjustment” back at the league: never, ever, swing with the count full.

Using his current strategy of “attempting to use his baseball skills to avoid striking out” in full counts, JP has struck out 19 times and walked 6. He also has three singles and two doubles. If he was instead using the revolutionary approach of “keeping the bat on your damn shoulder at all times”, of the 46 pitches he saw in those counts, 21 were in the zone and 25 of them were out. So, if we forget that some of those pitches happened in the same at-bats due to foul balls:

Using skills to reach base: 19 strikeouts, six walks, 10 outs in play, three singles and two doubles, vs:
Doing absolutely nothing: 21 strikeouts, 25 walks, zero balls in play.

OF COURSE THIS IS AN ABSURD SUGGESTION. But no more than the fact that not using his bat in full count situations would not seriously affect how often Arencibia strikes out on 3-2, and that somehow convincing the league that he was in the batter’s box ready to do his thing when he was actually watching the payoff pitch from his usual position crouched behind the plate would more than double his walk rate overall. His average would fall from .218 to .215, but his OBP would soar from the current league-worst .253 up to .295. And with JP’s pop, that’s a major-league catcher!

Written by halejon

July 21, 2013 at 4:04 pm

Posted in Seriousness

10 Responses

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  1. […] as always, from Jon Hale at the Mockingbird, as he suggests a delicious quick fix to raise J.P. Arencibia’s […]

  2. I’ve recently grown to enjoy watching J.P. strike out looking instead of swinging for this very reason. Sigh…


    July 23, 2013 at 4:42 pm

  3. I have definitely had this thought before. Remember the other day when he came up with bases loaded in 7th (or 8th) in front of a packed house? 3-2 curve in the left-handed batters box.


    July 23, 2013 at 4:43 pm

  4. Yep. It was the eighth. I almost mentioned it because that was the inspiration for this post…I was sitting there with my head in my hands going oh no, JP’s worked the count full…now he thinks he’s going to get a fastball. And with Molina behind the plate I would have bet the farm on some kind of cutter/slider away despite the “risk” of him letting it go and a run coming in (vanishingly small IMO compared to JP running into a fastball for the game-winning slam and they’d still have the lead if he took the walk). But in this case the “strategy” wouldn’t have worked because Peralta threw a screaming fastball on the very bottom-inside corner (still, clearly corner picking and not exactly a “here it is, try to hit it” pitch you might throw to a normal hitter in that situation) that he fouled off. It was the NEXT pitch that he struck out on a curve/ball.


    July 23, 2013 at 5:08 pm

  5. If he did this, it’d take weeks before scouts noticed. Then pitchers would throw more strikes. Then he could start hitting those pitches. Rasmus could do the same with every pitch above his belt. Of course, easier said than done, but not the least bit absurd.

    J. B. Rainsberger

    July 23, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    • Yah, I really do think there is a grain of truth in all this. Remember in April when Adam Lind walked 4 times? I’m not sure exactly, but it felt like he didn’t even take the bat off his shoulder that entire game…in kind of the same way, I was joking that they ordered him not to swing for one game just to prove to him that he wasn’t getting any pitches in the zone. Then he walked six times in the next six games, but still wasn’t hitting much. Then he stopped walking and went on FIRE as the league started throwing him strikes. Now he’s back to normal. Sigh.

      I know it’s not as easy as all that, but sometimes guys get into ruts where it’s like they don’t realize how predictable they are and just keep trying to do what got them to the big leagues harder and harder and becoming more and more predictable. See it all the time in poker — sometimes for the sake of game theory you have to see the big picture and do something short-term nuts.


      July 23, 2013 at 5:55 pm

  6. Good article…jps pitch rec sucks the big one. My honest advice to jp on full count situations would be treat it as a 2-0, 3-1 count…sit dead red on 1 pitch lock into a half of the zone amd otherwise lay off.

    1 of the things which aggrevates me most about jp is how is so grossly fooled in hitters counts…theyre hotters counts bc if u dont get what u want u lay off..he seems to have missed that memo…as a little league coach i preach til im blue in the face that in hitters counts if its not theigh high out over he plate let it go….sometimes i think jp is swinging regardless of where the ball is thrown.

    Hopefully this season is a wake up call that hes not the ruthian homerun god he thinks he is and basic priciples of the game do in fact apply to him. Im one of the few people that havnt given up on jp…but he needs to wake u and start playing the game the right way.

    tyler b

    July 23, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    • I hear yah…I think he’s so set on mashing the ball he gets the “swing harder” part of a hitter’s count, but doesn’t adjust his selection whatsoever. Maybe he’s tried, but it seems like he’s just hoping they give in most of the time.


      July 23, 2013 at 6:18 pm

  7. […] like a more likely scenario. Over at the Mockingbird, Jon Hale suggests rather sarcastically that J.P. Arencibia would fare markedly better if he never swung when faced with a 3-2 count. Sad, but true. John Lott takes a look at the struggling Anthony Gose, who is himself growing […]

  8. […] suggestions here won’t be quite as delicious as the one made the other week by Jon Hale of the Mockingbird, who figures J.P. Arencibia can improve his on-base by simply never swinging when the count is […]

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