Tracy on Swing and Misses

"One of the things Dave and I talked about in October was the way I viewed the Pirates — and this isn’t just about Craig Wilson — from my time in Los Angeles. One thing I noticed was the number of swings and misses. If you swing and miss that much, it really limits the pressure you put on the other team. If you play against another team that’s not very good defensively and you’re not putting the ball in play, you’re not exploiting an area of weakness." — Jim Tracy, January 26, 2006; emphasis added

I love it when the Post Gazette dumps these tidbits in the paper like they are supposed to mean something and we are to believe them just because the manager said it and the PG reported it.

Swings and misses, eh Jim? Ok.. let’s just look at the Pirates swings and misses in 2005. First, a simple table showing how many strikes Pirate batters swung at and missed in 2005:

# Pitches % of NP
Called Strike 3736 17%
Swing Miss 2216 10%

Pirate batters saw 22,569 pitches in 2005 and 10% were swing and misses, which was close to league average. In 2004, they ranked 13th in the NL. So maybe Tracy meant swing and miss on the first pitch? Let’s see:

Firstpitch

Hmm.. just 6% swing and miss strikes on an 0-0 first pitch count. That is very low. Maybe he was thinking of just one player? Or, maybe he was thinking of the Dodgers? Or maybe he was remembering something he read about the Rangers and their unbelievable 21% first pitch swing and miss rate?

Could be Tracy was thinking more about putting the ball in play? The problem with that is, the Pirates were 5th best in the NL last year with a 31% BIP average. They also had the 7th best BABIP at .301. Shh.. don’t tell Tracy, but the Pirates even beat the Dodgers in both categories.

If I was Tracy, I think I would be more worried about the amount of called strikes the batters are taking as 1 in 6 pitches buzzed by them to be called a strike last year. That is a lot of pitches to be behind on.

For the record, the Pirates saw 60% first pitch strikes in 2005. By strikes I am talking about the bat hit the ball, a strike was called, or the batter swung. That percentage has creeped up every year for the last 3. If I am a player, I am laying for 1st pitch fastballs next year. To heck with Tracy. But that’s my take..

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