Lance Berkman: The Anti-Josh
Before you can hit, you need a pitch capable of hitting.
The ability to better drive a ball with authority can be taught, as can the skill to take a pitch to the opposite field. Plate discipline, however, is not an easy skill to teach. And perhaps that is why I look forward to Lance Berkman’s at-bats so much.
Or perhaps, it’s how diametrically opposed the approach of the Big Puma to that of his former-Devil [Ray]-turned-Angel predecessor.
Admittedly, until Tuesday, I looked forward to any at-bats I could catch between tax returns. But that’s just one of several reasons I enjoyed this at-bat, most of which do not require explanation:
Sticking with the theme of tax accounting and nerd-dom, there are the numbers that can be assigned to plate discipline. Not just on-base-percentage, but numbers that specifically target the player’s ability to control the strike zone and do not focus on the result (a hit, and error or a walk).
Outside Swing Percentage refers to the percentage of pitches a player swings at pitches that are outside of the strike zone – whether they make contact or not. For example, had Josh Hamilton hit a home run on the pitch in the above gif, it would still be a pitch that was outside of the zone that he swung at. The value of a low O-Swing %, and it’s relation to a player’s ability to get on base, is rather obvious; the less time you spend swinging at pitches in the dirt, the more time you spend walking to first base, putting the pitcher behind in the count, and driving strikes into the gaps.
Of course, if Josh Hamilton were only capable of hitting strikes, he wouldn’t be Josh Hamilton. Another way to contrast Josh’s formerly-frustrating-now-amazing trend of swinging at pitches he has very little chance at driving anywhere and Berkman’s elite recognition of the strike zone is to look at how often each player swings and misses.
Speaking of small sample sizes, Josh Hamilton is hitting .200/.258/.382 to Lance Berkman’s .389/.500/.611. Again, small sample size. But that doesn’t mean it’s a fluke, either.
Josh Hamilton now resides in California.
Lance Berkman still lives on base.
It’s time to embrace the guy ahead of Beltre that actually embraces his own at-bats.
Robert Pike is a Staff Writer for ShutDowninning. He can be reached at Robert.Pike@ShutDowninning.com or on Twitter @Bob_Pike