Statistic of the day: Daric Barton swinging

By Jason Wojciechowski on May 24, 2012 at 8:20 PM

Check this out:

I feel like I should make a Barton Springs joke, but I don't know. Is there even a joke to be made? I guess we could talk about how Daric Barton hit his head on the bottom of a swimming pool that one time.

Anyway, context, as always:

Those are the swing rates for Daric Barton and for all lefties in baseball who've amassed at least 50 plate appearances on the year. Isn't that interesting? The guy fans love to yell at for taking pitches "right down the middle" and for being too passive is actually, if TruMedia knows what they're doing, swinging more at pitches in the heart of the plate than the league does as a whole.

So why does Barton rank 156th out of 172 batters with at least 50 PA in terms of overall swing rate? Check the PITCHf/x Plate Discipline section of his FanGraphs page. Make sure you click "Averages." Look under "O-Swing%." What you see is Barton swinging less than half as often at pitches out of the strike zone compared to the rest of the league.

TruMedia has a slightly different figure than FanGraphs does, saying he's chased just 12% of the pitches out of the strike zone that he's seen. That's an unbelievable number, really. The next-best batter (again, 50-PA cutoff) is George Kottaras, at 14%. After that is Joey Votto, at 16.4%. Dudes are lumped in a little closer once you get there.

Now, the caveat is that these statistics are based (I'm pretty sure) on the rule-book strike zone, which, as we all know, is not the strike zone as it's actually called in major-league baseball, for better or for worse. This is why Barton's Called Strike Percentage as reported by TruMedia (that's called strikes divided by total takes -- note that this isn't a PITCHf/x stat, but just a pitch-by-pitch one that we could have access to, theoretically, for every baseball game ever) is around 31%, which is slightly worse than the median batter.

That said, not every called strike is a bad take. Taking a great pitcher's pitch on 0-0 or 0-1, or certainly on 1-0 or 2-0 or 3-1, is probably a better idea than putting it in play weakly. Even with two strikes, you might be better off spitting on a pitch and hoping it's called a ball rather than run the risk of bouncing into an easy double-play. If you strike out, that's bad. But you were probably going to make an out on that pitch anyway, and you might make two, while if the umpire sees it your way, maybe the next pitch is a mistake and you can get a good rip on it.

I could show you some other images that illustrate Barton's inability to hit the high pitch and to hit for any power at all, but you probably knew those things. There's an element of Barton's game that's limited by the simple fact that his body is not as powerful as that of Joey Votto or pick who you like. He never really grew into being that kind of hitter. He doesn't swing like Ryan Sweeney, but he doesn't have a whole lot more power than Capt. Swingles, either. But all of that is to one side of the point here, which is that Daric Barton does not appear, contrary to popular wisdom, to let pitchers throw fastballs right down the chute without offering at them.

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