Sports Outside the Beltway

Robinson Cano’s plate discipline

Using BR’s phenomenal library of stats, we can determine how disciplined (or undisciplined) Cano is at the plate, and whether he’s improving or not. I believe several stats tell us how disciplined a hitter is: pitchers per plate appearance, total pitches swung at, 1st pitch swung at, plate appearances per walk, and contact rate – although this is more a stat of hitting ability, not necessarily discipline, there’s definitely some discipline involved (it allows a hitter to foul off those borderline two-strike pitches that can’t be hit well).

Cano, for his career:
P/pa – 3.14
Total pitch swings – 52%
1st pitch swings – 37%
Contact rate – 87%
Pa/bb – 32

P/pa – 3.41
Total pitch swings – 49%
1st pitch swings – 23%
Contact rate – 86%
pa/bb – inf (0 walks so far)

The most promising increases are seen in p/pa (up .27) and 1st pitch swings (down 14%), and he’s still maintaining about the same high contact rate. Unfortunately, he has yet to take a walk this season, but it will happen, and I predict more often than last year.

For comparison, who are perceived as disciplined hitters? Off the top of my head: Bobby Abreu, Kevin Youkilis, Barry Bonds, Frank Thomas.

Abreu career:
P/pa – 4.28
Total pitch swings – 36%
1st pitch swings – 13%
Contact rate – 80%
pa/bb – 6.3

Great discipline. No question there.

Youkilis career:
P/pa – 4.46
Total pitch swings – 36%
1st pitch swings – 10%
Contact rate – 85%
pa/bb – 7.3

Another extremely disciplined hitter, maybe more so than Abreu. He’s not taking as many walks probably because pitchers aren’t scared of him.

Bonds career:
P/pa – 3.88
Total pitch swings – 37%
1st pitch swings – 26%
Contact rate – 85%
pa/bb – 5

He takes a shitload of walks, but doesn’t necessarily have stellar discipline. His walks are more a product of pitching around him rather than his actual discipline.

Thomas career:
P/pa – 4.1
Total pitch swings – 37%
1st pitch swings – 19%
Contact rate – 85%
pa/bb – 6

Good discipline, but not as good as Abreu or Youkilis.

And who’s known for being undisciplined? Jose Valentin, Adam Dunn, Delmon Young, Vlad Guerrero.

Valentin career:
P/pa – 3.94
Total pitch swings – 46%
1st pitch swings – 28%
Contact rate – 78%
pa/bb – 10

Dunn career:
P/pa – 4.25
Total pitch swings – 39%
1st pitch swings – 26%
Contact rate – 72%
pa/bb – 6

Both are more disciplined than I expected, but had fairly low contact rates (as expected).

D. Young career:
P/pa – 2.91
Total pitch swings – 67%
1st pitch swings – 63%
Contact rate – 75%
pa/bb – 76

Wow, even less disciplined than Cano. By a lot too.

Guerrero career:
P/pa – 3.23
Total pitch swings – 56%
1st pitch swings – 47%
Contact rate – 80%
pa/bb – 11.3

So far in his career, Cano has poor discipline (although not as poor as Young or Guerrero), but his most promising attribute is his contact rate, which is higher than anyone on this list. Therefore, he should be more inclined to take pitches, knowing that he is unlikely to strike out due to his incredible contact ability.

Now comes the search for the game’s highest contact rate (minimum 1000 pa).
J. Pierre 94%
Eckstein 93%
P. Polanco 91%
L. Castillo 91%
Lofton 90%
B. Giles 90%
Kendall 89%
M. Cairo 89%
Ichiro 89%
C. Counsell 89%
Dmint 88%
Cano 87%
Melky 87% (only 563 pa)
Damon 87%
Mauer 87%
Helton 87%
Furcal 87%

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