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The Logic of Hackery
by Derek Smart
One of the issues I, and a lot of others, have with Juan Pierre is the fact that he doesn't walk a lot, thus making his OBP - the thing that drives his offensive value - subject to the relatively capricious whims of batting average. But today in the Daily Herald, he has an interesting quote on that subject buried in the obligatory puff piece.
"I'm not going to be a guy probably to walk a lot because it only makes sense that they want me to swing a bat," Pierre said of opposing pitchers. "You don't walk me to get to Lee or Ramirez or walk me for me to get on and steal. So they're going to try to make me swing the bat.
"I've got to be a guy to zone up a lot of pitches. Don't swing wild. Whether it's a walk, hit, hit-by-pitch, the ultimate goal is to get on base. Being a guy who doesn't walk a lot, I know that I've got to put the ball in play and bunt and do those type things."
It's an interesting idea, and one that has some merit, at least when thinking about it in the abstract. Here's a guy who has no power, so there's no need to be careful with him from that perspective, and he doesn't strike out a lot, so there's not as much to be gained by trying to whiff him with stuff off the plate. It, therefore, makes some sense that pitchers would be more likely to come right at him, since the lowest risk method they'd have of getting an out would be from a ball in play.
Now, I don't think it's that simple, as there's a "chicken and egg" idea looming in the background, and the answer is way more complicated than "pitchers control walks," or "hitters control walks." It's a symbiotic relationship with huge complexities, not a simple "input A produces output B" scenario.
Besides, it's not like Pierre sees a lot of pitches - the 3.69 he saw per at bat last year was his career high by a wide margin, and even that would only put him in the Jacque Jones patience class - so one has to wonder how many "pitcher's pitches" he's putting into play early in the count simply because he doesn't think the guy will walk him anyway.
After all, if the hitter can't hurt you with the longball, you as the pitcher can afford to get behind in the count early if your attempt to make him swing at your pitch fails, which is where I think Pierre's logic breaks down - they don't have to be careful, but they can afford to get cute. So, yes, Juan, they want you to swing, but that doesn't mean it's a good pitch to hit, and really, just because they're trying to make you swing the bat doesn't mean you have to oblige them.