Baseball, much like life, is about evolving, adapting to an ever-changing environment, finding new, innovative ways to win. And the Indians have seemingly taken a step towards that without so much of a mention from most pundits, analysts, or talking heads.
Carlos Santana, along with recently acquired Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds, give Cleveland three of the top nine players that averaged the most pitches per plate appearance last season. And while I’ve subtly mentioned some of the impact that will have on the team as a whole, a little snippet in Joe Lemire’s latest article at SI.com provides the concrete to my analytical foundation, the mortar to my brick.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon, according to Lemire, acknowledged that there is direct correlation between the number of pitches a lineup sees during a game and the team’s winning percentage.
If a team sees 145 or more pitches in a game it wins “roughly 70 percent” of the time, while fewer than 145 equates to a winning percentage about half of that.
So, in an average game how close would the Indians come to that magic number?
First, the average AL hitter saw about 4.22 plate appearances per game. That’s the total we’ll assume for each lineup position.
Then we’ll use three-year averages for each projected starter — or however long they’ve been in the big leagues — and multiply it by 4.22 — easy, simple math.
Outside of Santana (4.26 P/PA), Swisher (4.11), and Reynolds (4.26), the team also had three other players to crack the top 50 in 2012: Michael Bourn (4.02), Drew Stubbs’ (3.97), and Jason Kipnis (3.93). Finally, rounding out the projected lineup are Michael Brantley (3.78), Asdrubal Cabrera (3.71) and Lonnie Chisenhall (3.71).
Add it all up, and the Indians should see about 151 pitches every game.
Now, of course, this doesn’t mean the club’s going to win 70% of its games — the pitching will need to show up and there will be injuries and replacements involved — but it does show some very forward-thinking on the organization’s part. And it should bode well for the team’s success in 2013.
Photo of Carlos Santana Courtesy of Mangin Photography.