Who Gets Better & Who Gets Worse?
The question for today is: how do Royal hitters far against a pitcher throughout a game? I thought this a mildly intriguing question at first, but as I assembled the stats my interest rose. What we are looking at is batting against a pitcher the first time in a game, second time, third time...you get the picture. There are two flaws in these stats: first it does not take into account if the hitter had faced the pitcher previously in his career and second, by the time you get to facing the same pitcher 4 times in one game your statistical sample is rather small. Mark Teahen, for example, has NEVER faced the same pitcher 4 times in the same game and John Buck has done so only once. While DeJesus has 27 at-bats in this scenario and Berroa 22, no one else on the Royals has more than 13 (Sweeney). So, keep these factors in mind as we move on.
OPS vs Pitcher 1st time in Game
No big suprise at the top, with arguably the Royals 4 best hitters performing best. Oddly, Graffanino leads the team on on-base pct in this category at .366, however his slugging percentage the first time against a pitcher is a paltry .298. Matt Stairs ranks 4th despite a .248 batting average, thanks to 18 walks (a trend that continues the second time around).
OPS vs Pitcher 2nd time in Game
Yeah, Angel Berroa at .908 (329/376/532) and that's with a decent sample of 85 plate appearances. Stairs sports an on-base pct of .393 the second time he faces the same pitcher, but only a .229 batting average. Once again, Graff has an odd lack of power in this category (.289 slugging, .289 average).
OPS vs Pitcher 3rd time in Game
Hmmm, the four veteran hitters in the lineup are all dramatically better when they get a third crack at a guy - what a shock! What I find interesting in this category is Ruben Gotay who suddenly jumps from not very good to a major threat. Does this mean all he really needs is to gather more experience?
OPS vs. Pitcher 4th time in Game
Remember, by now these numbers are pretty thin. Brown, Graff, Stairs have just 10 appearances like this and Long only 11. You can draw some conclusions from DeJesus, who is 8-27 and Berroa, who is 3-22 (that's 136/174/227 fans). What it does tell us if that given the opportunity to bat a fourth time against a pitcher, our veterans + DeJesus and Gotay, will light them up.
Essentially, the Royals can be boiled down into three groups for these categories. Guys who are pretty consistent the 1st time they see a guy all the way through the 4th time they see a guy. Players who get better the more they face one pitcher and finally, players that get worse.
The Consistent Ones (1st through 4th time vs. Pitcher OPS)
Emil Brown (807/750/747/1300)
David DeJesus (749/911/666/826)
Matt Stairs (737/768/1059/282)
Mike Sweeney (908/825/940/1038)
I give Stairs a pass on the 4th time through as he has just 10 at-bats and DeJesus, while hitting just .250 the third time up does still have a .338 on-base percentage. Again, these four have been our most consistent hitters, so this is no suprise.
Ruben Gotay (681/551/892/762)
Tony Graffanino (664/608/1233/1500)
Terrance Long (660/488/906/818)
Interesting how Graff not only improves the more he sees a pitcher, but hits with more power (7 extra base hits in 45 appearances). Does he change his approach once he gets familiar with a pitchers stuff on that particular day? Gotay has just 6 at-bats in the 4th time category, but his 11-34 with 2 homers the third time he faces a pitcher are encouraging numbers.
Angel Berroa (660/908/497/401)
John Buck (702/589/488/000)
Mark Teahen (654/723/584/na)
Angel is a freaking all-star in his 85 plate appearances against pitchers he is facing for the second time in one game (329/376/532/908) and an absolute minor leaguer after that (17-89, 3 BB, 18 K). His first time up numbers pretty much mirror his career numbers, so I have no idea what this means. Does it mean that the second time up, Angel sees the pitcher better, but by the next time the pitcher knows what Angel will swing at (anything)? Or does it mean that bad ball hitters get their bats on the ball 1 out of 4 times and it just happens to occur the second time around?
I am slightly discouraged by Buck and Teahen, who unlike Gotay, decline in performance as the pitcher sees them more. Those numbers indicate to me that there is a flaw in either their approach or swing that is being consistently exploited as pitchers work deeper into games.
Overall, these numbers simply reinforce what we already knew. Sweeney and DeJesus et.al can hit. Graff and Long are veteran journeymen that get better if they can get a two or three hacks at a guy (that might also explain why they are journeymen and not regulars). Berroa is Berroa and Gotay has a chance to get a lot better. As for Buck and Teahen, well, the jury is still out on them. Here's hoping for a better second half.