Patience is an issue that the Pirates have seemed to struggle with at the plate for years. Unfortunately, it did not get much better in 2009. Here are the Pirate position players, along with their O-Swing%. O-Swing% is simply the percentage of balls outside the strike zone in which a batter swings. League average was 25.01% in 2009. The players still with the team are in bold.
I would expect Andrew McCutchen and maybe Andy LaRoche to improve some with experience. Ramon Vazquez’s patient approach is essentially the only positive thing about his 2009 performance, as it helped propel him to a respectable .335 on-base percentage. I was surprised to see Steve Pearce so high on the list. His major league O-Swing% has steadily dropped over the past three years (29.3% in 2007, 24.8% in 2008), indicating that he might be improving his plate discipline.
Among the below average players, it is not encouraging to see how often Garrett Jones, Lastings Milledge and Ryan Doumit expanded the zone. Jones could struggle in his sophomore season if pitchers hesitate to challenge him. Milledge’s free-swinging ways are a continuation of his career trend. His lack of patience was the only reservation I had about the Nyjer Morgan trade at the time, and it has not improved in his short time with the Pirates. Doumit has always had a low walk rate, relying on high BABIP’s to stay productive over his career.
If the Pirates are going to be successful with this group moving forward, it would be nice if they became a bit more patient at the plate. As a team, they were tied for 24th in baseball in 2009, at 26.8%. That was a slight regression from the 25.4% that the team posted in 2008.
Here are the numbers in graphical form, if you prefer to view them visually.