Nick Markakis’ 2009 Drop In Walks (Part Two)

In part one of these series of posts, I took at look at what factors affect player’s walk rate. The most important component seemed to be the rate at which batter swung at pitches outside the strike-zone, so I suppose that’s a good place to start investigating.

Let’s take a look at the pitches that Nick swung at in 2008 and 2009, first by their height. 2008 is in red; 2009 is in blue, the black lines give an idea of the top and bottom of the strike-zone, and the numbers at the bottom are the percentage of pitches at which he swung.

On lower pitches it’s pretty close, but on the high ones Nick swing a good deal more in 2009 – at the expense of those pitches in the middle zone that one would think would be better to hit. Pitchers did elevate the ball a bit more against Markakis in ’09, but not nearly to this degree – and they didn’t exactly force him to swing, either. Doesn’t seem like a positive development. It might explain Nick’s increase in flyball rate though, with almost 41% of his balls in play being flyballs compared to 33% in 2008. If he’s putting the bat on the ball higher in the zone, then it would make sense that he’s hitting it into the air more.

The horizontal look:

He chased pitches inside off the plate more (remember; this is from the catcher’s perspective, so Nick would stand on the left there), as well as those outside (though not to the same degree). Again, while swinging at pitches in the middle of the plate less.

I was going to do further break-downs using graphs, but figured that there were so many splits that it wasn’t worth it. Instead, a table!

The rates don’t exactly match FanGraphs since I simplified things a bit, but it’s close. Lots of stuff to look at there. Takeaways?

  • Swung at pitches in the strike-zone less and pitches out of the strike-zone more. That was consistent both against right-handed and left-handed pitchers. It’s kind of bizarre actually; did his pitch recognition get messed up or something?
  • Swung at strikes less with no one on bases, but balls more.
  • Chased pitches out of the zone more with runners on.
  • I thought that maybe lefties were getting Nick to chase breaking-balls more, but that didn’t really happen. There was the increase on change-ups, but that was on a very small number of pitches.
  • Swung less at fastballs in the zone but more at those out of the zone, which probably explains the height graph above. He wasn’t able to lay off of those pitches as well as he did in 2008. Perhaps he was feeling some pressure as the team’s main run producer and was looking to drive those high pitches.

In part three I’ll look into the fastball issue in a little more detail.