Monday, March 9, 2009

To Fred or not to Fred

Moving Lewis to the third spot will free him to swing with abandon.

From Chris Haft's 3/8/09 piece "Lewis ready to slug from third spot" on the team website.

Lewis did what was required from him last season, ranking fourth in the National League by averaging 4.23 pitches per plate appearance.

Does the number of pitches per plate appearance correlate with hitting? That is, do guys who see a lot of pitches have higher batting averages, slugging percentages, and on-base percentages? When I see a stat like that I think (1) who is ahead of him? and (2) what is the league rate?

Intuitively, it would seem that good hitters see more pitches. In order to get a walk, you have to see 4 pitches, which is higher than the league average (3.81 in 2008 for the NL--stat from THT team pages). We all watched Bonds take pitches, and many of the big sluggers (McGwire, Frank Thomas, Jack Clark) also walked a lot.

But is there are correlation? The Giants seem to believe that taking pitches is good in the leadoff spot and bad in the three-hole. Is that the case? Certainly Fred Lewis struck out a lot last year. It would be nice to see more hits and fewer called third strikes. But patience and selectivity seem like important qualities in your "best hitter" (Lansfordian for no. 3 guy).

. . . if he's going to hit third, we need him to hit home runs . . .

I can't argue with that, Carney. But what made Lewis a guy to get excited about last year, at least for me, was his cerebral approach. He seemed to make a conscious effort to learn the strike zone and learn the umpires. It seemed like he was taking the long view--that he would be a better hitter down the road if he took a few more pitches. I guess the road has come to an end in 2009. He's "da man" now, and will have to provide our dink-dink-dink lineup with some pop. I'm confident he will show improvement and continue to impress. He's a bona fide major-league starter now, and the team expects a lot from him. I hope he continues to be Fred, though. We've already got Bengie "how-quickly-can-I-get-this-AB-over-with" Molina. I'd like to at least get a sip of brew in when my "big hitters" come to the plate.


Bob said...

So, um, who's the guy in the photo on the left? When I click on it it tells me he's Matt Cain.

M.C. O'Connor said...

Jesus Guzman.

I left the link to B-R just for fun.

Chris said...

Hey Mark,

I'm a big Freddie fan, too. But, am I the only one who's a little worried with the BE MORE AGGRESSIVE tinkering that the Giants are trying to do with Flew? Fred's modest OBP skills have always been one of his strengths as a hitter. I fear that trying to change his plate approach will only end in tears.

He's never really posted huge power numbers, even in the minors. He's athletic as hell, but I think expecting him to develop power just by changing his batting position (Poof! You're now a power hitter!) is a little, um, how do I say it nicely...insane?

Am I overreacting here? Talk me down off the ledge, buddy.

(Great post, RMC has been rocking my word lately, keep it up guys)

M.C. O'Connor said...

Don't jump. Think of the mess.

AND you're a newlywed!!

So--step back from the ledge, son. It'll be all right.

(I, too, am terrified about this Dusty Bakeresque fear of taking pitches. And this weird notion that moving a guy's lineup spot changes him in deep, fundamental ways.)

allfrank said...

Man, talk about an over reaction. Not just you, this is the 3d or 4th blog I have read this on. Oh, and I like your blog, too.
But, there are differences in the role of the leadoff hitter and the 3d place hitter. Fred did what he was supposed to do last year, take pitches, see pitches, make the pitcher throw pitches, work him for a walk, if possible. It is just true that his role is different this year. It's sort of like saying there are differences playing LF vs RF. But if your RF goes to LF for some reason, it is not necessary to panic. FLew, in the interview about this subject didn't have a problem with it - he is more looking for a pitch to drive as opposed to seeing as many pitches as he can. To me, that is not a problem. Instead of working the count, if he is looking for an inside FB and gets it on the 1st pitch, he's gonna be whalin.' And I'm all for it.
Next, I think the 'low power' throughout his career could be misleading. FLew, really, has just learned to hit. Now may be the time to learn a different style of hitting. I think you sell him short if you say he is "only" a high OBP, leadoff type. I think he is good for 11 triples and 17 HRs. Let him develop that part of his skill set.

M.C. O'Connor said...

I'm not concerned about Fred. He seems like a smart guy and I agree that his development is different than most prospects. I think he can hit 20 HRs in a full season.

What bothers me is the stupid talk emanating from the brain trust. We don't appear to have any organizational philosophy, or, if we do, we are stuck in the "walks clog up the basepaths" mentality. Arrrgh!

And thanks for dropping by.

Theo said...

The real problem is much like there is no natural fourth hitter on this team there isn't a natural fit for the three hole either.

I was content with Pablito taking that spot, and letting Fred grow into his power lower in the order.

Not to imply F-Lew is mentally fragile, but I think Sandoval is more capable of hitting in that all important three spot.

Your right, this organization has no philosophy. Perhaps that's the "Giants Way."