How Important Are Repetitive At Bats?
We often hear that "X" player would do much better if he just got repetitive at bats. That thought always conflicted with what I was told as a player years ago by my old baseball coach – that good players hit, no matter what.
So I went over to Baseball-Reference.com and looked up the statistics on our main position players from 2001-2006 to see what I could find out. I decided to use 3 plate appearances per game as the key and then made my cut at 10 consecutive games.
I ended up with two groups.. the first group had the stats for each time period a player played 11 or more consecutive games where he had 3 or more plate appearances per game, and the second group had all the time periods with less than 3 appearances or less than 10 consecutive games played.
To give you an idea of what I ended up with, between 2001-2006 Jason Bay had 7 time periods where he didn’t get 11 or more consecutive games of 3 or more plate appearances, and 6 where he did [link].
This first chart shows the overall batting average for each player, in each group.
For instance, when Freddy Sanchez had 11 or more (>=11) consecutive games of 3 or more plate appearances, he batted .327 in 796 at bats.
When he didn’t get 3 or more plate appearances in 11 or more games, or didn’t play in at least 11 consecutive games, his batting average fell to .286.
So with Freddy, my coach’s statement that ‘good hitter’s hit no matter what’ seems true. But the repetitive at bat theory holds water here too.
However, look at Jason Bay. He hit .290 or better in both groups, despite having only 85 at bats in the <=10 group. So much for the repetitive at bats theory with him but my coach’s theory still held water.
How about Adam LaRoche.. in his case, repetitive at bats significantly enhanced his batting average. If my old coach is right about good hitter’s, then perhaps there is some bias in the >=11 games at bats LaRoche did get, like against mainly right-hand pitching? It’s certainly possible because he was obviously platooned a lot based on the at bat splits in the two groups, and he didn’t hit anywhere near as well in the <=10 games group.
No matter, even when not getting consecutive at bats, LaRoche’s .268 batting average was still as good or better than 6 of the remaining 10 players who did get repetitive at bats. For the Pirates, anyway, it really doesn’t matter.
So the repetitive at bat theory seems to be true for marginal players, and the statement that good hitter’s hit no matter what seems to be true for better hitters. At least that is what the first chart seems to indicate.
What’s going on with Duffy above? I haven’t a clue except to guess his split is due to how often he was platooned when first called up. And poor Nate McLouth, he has yet to play 11 consecutive games getting three or more plate appearances.
At this point I threw away the <=10 group and concentrated on the >=11 games group to see who the leaders were in various categories. Remember now, each player had multiple time periods of >=11 games, so the chart below lists the top 5 and bottom 5 time period results for each category.
Realize that a consecutive time period can end the last game of the year and continue with the first game the next year. The start and end columns are the time period dates.