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Royal Blues


May 25, 2010 2:46 PM

Jordan Parraz and the importance of the first pitch

Jordan ParrazI'll start with a cute story, because I can.

 

Sunday before the O-Royals took the field against the Salt Lake Bees, I sat near the Omaha dugout and got the camera ready for the game. Next to me was a little girl, maybe 5 years old, collecting Royals autographs. As each new player came toward her perch at the end of the dugout, she'd look up at her dad and ask, "Do I have him already?"

 

The little girl was especially excited to get Jordan Parraz's autograph, because her name is also Jordan. So when Parraz came toward the dugout after stretching out in the outfield, the girl called out to him: "Jordan! Jordan! Will you sign my autograph?"

 

Parraz paused, then smiled. "Sign your autograph?"

 

He did sign for her, of course, amidst chuckles from the girl's parents and the teammates who heard. No word on whether he signed his autograph or hers, though.

 

*******

Now, on to the meat:

 

Jordan Parraz is not a disciplined hitter. If you've watched him for even one game, odds are good that you've noticed his free-swinging ways. A running joke among people who watch Omaha often is that Parraz swinging at the first pitch is as certain as death and taxes. Whether he's leading off an inning or up with the bases loaded, it seems that he's ready to hack at whatever is thrown at him.

 

Because he's my irrational favorite player, and because I have way too much time on my hands (sort of), I decided to see exactly how true that little truism really is.

 

In the month of April, Parraz had 54 plate appearances. He swung at the first pitch 26 times, which is kind of astounding. Seventeen plate appearances were decided on the first pitch - or, in other words, on an 0-0 count. That's a 31.5% chance that the pitcher won't have to throw a second pitch to Parraz.  He only reached base on two of those - a single and an error. There was a sac fly in there somewhere too, but still.

 

Seventeen out of 54 plate appearances. Good lord.

 

Perhaps more incredibly, Parraz only saw a 3-ball count three times in the entire month of April. He walked on two of those occasions, and struck out in the other.

 

That was April. Jordy-poo has been an almost totally different hitter in May.

 

In his 86 PAs so far this month, he has already taken 51 first pitches, including a stretch last week where he took 15 of 17 first pitches. The number of PAs decided on the first pitch is also way down - 15 so far this month.

 

And he's making pitchers throw a lot more this month, too. He has reached a 3-ball count 20 times, including 13 walks. This month he's had plate appearances of 10 pitches, 9 pitches, 8 pitches a few times.

 

Taking just one pitch every now and then has made a massive difference. I'm not saying Parraz should leave the bat on his shoulder for every single first pitch. But clearly, being patient enough to take even one pitch has made opposing pitchers throw him more stuff he can hit - and he can hit, you know.


Let's compare. (Shoot, I hope this table works.)

Month

1st pitch swinging %

1st pitch

take %

3-ball count %

AVG

OBP

SLG

April

.481

.129

.056

.156

.202

.273

May

.407

.593

.247

.333

.489

.530


What a difference a month - and one pitch - makes, eh?

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