Carlos Quentin Is A Hacker

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

When Carlos Quentin first came over to the White Sox all I really knew about him was that he was a top prospect, he had been injured a few times, he had a high on base percentage in the minors and he got hit by pitches a lot. (Although I didn't realize just how much impact all those HBPs had on his OBP**) I assumed he was a patient hitter. I was wrong.

Sometime early last season I, among other people, noticed that it seemed Q had a penchant  for swinging at the first pitch. As the season progressed, other than making the occasional comment about it, I did not attempt to verify this observation. Sometime just before his return from the disabled list (on July 20th) I decided I would look into it.

I kept track of Q's plate appearances from July 20th through the end of the season. With some additional research on not only did I confirm that observation to be true, I ran across a few other numbers I found interesting which I will present after the jump...

Now let's not bicker and argue about small sample sizes. It is what it is.

Let's start with his first pitch swing percentage numbers

In 2008, Q swung at the first pitch 36% of the time. (MLB average was 28%)

In 2009, Q swung at the first pitch 41% of the time. (MLB average was 26%)

2009, however, breaks down this way: In 156 PAs before he hit the DL, he swung at the first pitch 48.1% of the time. In 243 PAs after the DL he swung at the first pitch 37% of the time. (See? 48.1% is Vladimir Guerrero territory. He was swinging at the first pitch an awful lot at the beginning of last year! (Maybe because of his injury. Hard to say for certain.))

When he swung at the first pitch, in either year, he did just fine.

2008     .382/.421/.831          (MLB avg .337/.342/.546)

2009     .277/.338/.492          (MLB avg .339/.345/.558)

A brief disclaimer here: As I discovered recently on on this page, in 2009, on only 3 of the 12 possible counts a batter can face was the average OPS for MLB batters under .800. (Those counts are 0-2, 1-2 and 2-2)

How about looking at his numbers on the second pitch

2008     Q                  on 0-1     .292/.333/.479          (MLB avg .315/.324/.475)

2009     Q                  on 0-1     .333/.368/.806          (MLB avg .317/.325/.482)

2008     Q                  on 1-0     .383/.396/.1.021        (MLB avg .339/.340/.558)

2009     Q                  on 1-0     .343/.361/.600          (MLB avg .340/.341/.564)

Carlos Quentin and the catbird seat

One anomaly I noticed was Q's record on a 2-0 count in 2009. Look:

2008     Q saw 86 2-0 counts in 569 PAs                 on 2-0     .429/.429/.929     (MLB avg     .355/.353/.622)

2009     Q saw 44 2-0 counts in 399 PAs                 on 2-0     .111/.100/.111     (MLB avg     .368/.366/.667)

What is interesting (to me anyway) is not how poorly Q hit on 2-0 in 2009, but the fact that he saw 26.67% fewer 2-0 counts relative to his plate appearances in 2009 than he did in 2008. The MLB average in 2009 for batters seeing a 2-0 count was 15%. In 2009 Q saw a 2-0 count in only 11% of his plate appearances. (I don't think I'd be going out on a limb to say it is obvious that the more 2-0 counts a batter sees the better off he will be. Q's miserable line on 2-0 in 2009 notwithstanding, his numbers after 2-0 in 2009 were .241/.477/.483 which was pretty reasonable but a bit below the MLB average line after 2-0 in 2009 which was .293/.521/.502.)

Carlos Quentin after returning from the disabled list

Now we've arrived at my specialty. I didn't need any fancy computers to gather this data, I did it the old fashioned way, with my eyes. And a pen and paper. (Okay, if you want to get technical about it I probably did not watch about 5 to 10 games and for those I had to rely on MLB gameday)

The following numbers are from July 20th-October 4th.(61 games and 243 plate appearances, not counting 2 intentional walks except when specifically noted)

  • 892 pitches seen. 3.67 pitches per plate appearance.
  • .239/.358/.454 (including the 2 intentional walks)
  • 37% first pitch swinging.
  • On first pitch      13/36, 4 HBP, 2 doubles, 3 home runs. .361/.472/.667
  • On second pitch 16/42, 2 HBP, 2 doubles, 5 home runs. .381/.423/.786
  • Totals on first and second pitch .372/.449/.731
  • Totals on all other pitches         .164/.307/.300 (including the 2 intentional walks)
  • HBP in 2.8% of PAs. (MLB average was .85%)

What's that? You want more numbers?

Jeez, okay. Calm down. I'll just leave you with a few further frivolities.

  • In 2009 A.J. Pierzynski was the only non-pitcher on the Sox who saw fewer pitches per plate appearance than Q . 3.29 for AJ, 3.53 for Q
  • Gavin Floyd swung at the first pitch in 100% of his plate appearances in 2009.
  • Tyler Flowers was the only Sox non-pitcher in 2009 to swing at the first pitch more often than Q. 45% for T-Flo, 41% for Q.
  • Over their careers, Q has swung at the first pitch 29% more often than Alfonso Soriano.
  • Joe Mauer swung at the first pitch 7% of the time in 2009. (Tied for lowest in baseball with Dustin Pedroia for any player with at least 400 plate appearances. Jamey Carroll was at 6% in 358 PAs)
  • The lowest first pitch swing percentage Frank Thomas had in a full season was 14% in 1991, his first full season.

I really have to stop now

But there's this site that I've heard exists called fangraphs where you can find some more information. This page will tell you all sorts of things. Things like: Q swung at 12.6% more pitches outside the strike zone in 2009 than 2008. His contact rate on those pitches went up 3.9%. (Please note that a lot of really good hitters swing at more pitches out of the zone than Q, but in general their contact rate is better as well. Players like Robinson Cano, Miguel Cabrera and Ichiro Suzuki). Or that overall he swung at 7.7% more pitches in 2009. His contact rate went up 1% overall. Or that his fly ball percentage went up 9.26% while his HR/FB percentage went down by 28.5% (not that anyone thought he would sustain a 20.7% HR/FB ratio).

I'm afraid this all might be getting a little confusing, at least as far as what I am trying to convey. I guess what I'm saying is that generally speaking, in his White Sox career Q has swung early and often, and when he has he often knocked the crap out of the ball.

OK. I'm done

Good day.

** In his 1092 plate appearances over 3 years at AAA Tuscon Q was hit by 69 pitches. That is 6.3% of the time. The MLB average percentage for being hit by a pitch in 2009 was .85%. If Q was hit at that rate over those 3 years, he would have been hit 9 times. If you were to take away his 69 HBPs and give him 9 instead, then take the remaining 60 PAs and give him close to his average numbers plus a league average HBP% (I gave him a .300 avg and an 11.67 BB% which was 18 hits and 7 BBs and also added 1 HBP) his on base percentage would drop from .424 to .393.

So far, in his Sox career, Q has been hit in "only" 3.6% of his plate appearances.

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