The Most Passive Tribe Hitters

This weekend at Beyond the Box Score, Jacob Peterson introduced a series of great new statistics that offer a different way of looking at hitters’ pitch selection skill. Thanks to Peterson’s innovations, we have a new way to measure the “passiveness” and “aggressiveness” each batter displays when he steps to the plate.

We’ve already mentioned two of the most notable Indians-related results—Michael Brantley and Matt LaPorta each appeared on one of Peterson’s leaderboards—but these new stats are intriguing enough that I thought their applications to the Indians deserved more than just a quick summary.

So I crunched the numbers for each Cleveland position player’s Passiveness in 2011. Peterson’s formula for calculating it is:

Passiveness = (1 – Z-Swing%) * Zone%

It’s the frequency with which a batter takes pitches in the zone times the percentage of pitches he sees that are in the zone. Or, in less mathy terms, it’s the number of called strikes he takes for each 100 pitches he sees.

Without further ado, here are the results: (the plate discipline data come from FanGraphs, so these numbers will differ somewhat from Peterson’s, which were based on numbers from Baseball Prospectus)

Before we dig too deeply into these numbers, keep in mind that a high Passiveness score isn’t inherently good or bad. Taking a called strike doesn’t help the team, but most of the time it’s better than a batter swinging at a pitch he can’t do much with. It could reflect a lack of confidence or subpar strike zone judgment, but it could also signify that the hitter is selective and knows his own limits.

Seeing Brantley at the top of the list is no surprise given that he finished sixth in all of baseball. The ever-patient Carlos Santana and Kosuke Fukudome were also pretty clear candidates to finish highly, and I figured that Austin Kearns and Jack Hannahan would be up there too.

Beyond them, though, most of the top half didn’t come out the way I would have expected. I don’t think of Ezequiel Carrera and Jason Kipnis as particularly patient hitters, and definitely not Jason Donald and Orlando Cabrera, both of whom finished with walk rates south of 5 percent. I definitely didn’t expect to see any of them finish ahead of Cord Phelps or Jim Thome, who walked or struck out in more than 40 percent of his plate appearances.

That Asdrubal Cabrera finished near the bottom is no surprise given his newly aggressive approach at the plate, and given his impatience problems it figured that Sizemore would fall pretty low. But I would have expected Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner to climb much higher.

Over the next few days we’ll be following looking at more of these numbers and what they can tell us about Indians hitters.

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