Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

The Curious Case of Corey Patterson

Posted by Mike on May 2, 2006

Now that Corey Patterson has decided to look like a major league hitter again, I figured we better take another look at him.  It's no secret that Patterson has an unreal combination of atleticism, speed, and power.  It's also painfully obvious that he has little idea what a strike zone is.  Let's look at a few indicators over the past four years:

              AB/BB            AB/K

2003-       21.9                4.3

2004-       14.0                3.8

2005-       19.6                3.8

2006-       54.0                6.0

Keep in mind that 2003 and 2004 were Patterson's lone successful major league campaigns.  He still didn't walk and he still struck out a ton.  Looking at his performance thus far in 2006, his strikeouts are down a bit but he is walking less than ever.  Since his 2006 results are based on 54 AB's, we might be better served to just keep them as a reference point, rather than try to draw any meaningful conclusions from them.

Instead of trying to figure out if Patterson will develop a modicum of strike zone control, it might be worth exploring how many players have been able to contribute with a similar approach- just in case he doesn't spontaneously learn a new skill that he has never shown the slightest inclination towards learning.  Below is the criteria I used to find a comparable group of major leaguers, followed in parentheses by the resulting sample size:

1) Offensive seasons  that occurred in 1980 or later (n=29,949)

2) Player had at least 400 AB's (n=3,949)

At this point, here are the median batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage of the sample:

.276/.343/.434

3) Player had 19.0 AB/BB or more (n=373)

4) Player had 4.3 AB/K or less (n=15)

Of the remaining 15 player seasons, 2 belong to Corey Patterson (2002 and 2005). 

The new median BA/OBP/SLG looked like this:

.253/.291/.404

It's no surprise that this line looks much worse than the 'everybody' line.  But don't forget that there is an inherent selection bias here.  What do I mean by this?  Well, how does a player get 400 AB's while being completely unable to control the strike zone?  Like Patterson, they must have other things in their favor.  They could have been top prospects, have great tools, play a key defensive position, or play on a team run by Jim Bowden.  Whatever the reason, there is something working in their favor that counteracted the strike zone issue enough to allow them to get 400 AB's.  Considering this, the difference in the two median lines gets even more pronounced.

If you've read this far, I'm sure you're wondering what types of names are appearing next to Patterson's on this list of futility.  Here they are:

1981 Tony Armas

1984 Tony Armas

1984 Juan Samuel

1986 Jim Presley

1986 Juan Samuel

1986 Cory Snyder

1988 Dale Sveum

1989 Cory Snyder

1990 Cory Snyder

1991 Dante Bichette

1996 Orlando Miller

1998 Todd Dunwoody

2001 Marquis Grissom

The very best offensive season anyone has ever recorded while meeting the above criteria was Tony Armas's 1984:

.268/.300/.531

With Patterson's defense and speed, that sort of production could certainly be useful.  But keep in mind that the above line, historically, is the ceiling for a player that walks as little, and strikes out as much, as Patterson. 

Even if he is able to defy the odds, it should be noted that Patterson is already eligible for the arbitration process and will head into 2007 with a baseline of almost $3 million to work with (this year's salary- arbitration almost always results in a raise for the player).  Considering that his stat line is likely to be the type to fetch more than it is worth, his salary could quickly outpace any potential usefulness.

Final verdict:  If there is ever a player that will be able to have a solid major league career with this degree of strike zone ineptitude, it will be one with Patterson's complementary skillset.  But that is really masking the point that it is unlikely such a player will ever exist.  Put simply, if Patterson wants to come within spitting distance of his potential, then he'll have to learn to take a walk more than once a month.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to write a similar piece on Todd Dunwoody for my late 90's Marlins blog.

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61 Responses to “The Curious Case of Corey Patterson”

  1. Nate said

    Patterson is indeed quite a mystery. If I could have seen the future back when we crossed paths in 2001 I would have clued him in on the fact that it is not in the best interest of a blazing fast, excellent baserunning centerfielder to take Cecil Fielder’s approach at the plate.

    The thing I don’t get is his attitude whenever I have heard the issue brought up to him. He has been such a free swinger since he broke in you would think somewhere along the line, instead of enabling him, some coach would have sat him down and said cut this shit out or else. Maybe that did happen, but I’m quite sure Terry Crowley hasn’t been doing so. He continually talks about “just doing his thing” up there. Maybe knowing a strike zone is somewhat innate, but going up there with a plan to take more pitches is something anyone could do. And with his unbelievably high strike out rate added to his incredible speed, you would think this idea may have crossed his mind over the years, rather than doing his thing.

    If he had the mindset of so many other similar guys of simply getting on base he would have been a manager’s dream. I find it hard to believe that swinging at some of the garbage he does is a habit that he is incapable of breaking. But I would have to agree that unless something miraculous happens, he is probably going to be of minute usefulness to the birds.

  2. kilbs said

    Patterson is quite intriguing. One wonders if he could only return his walk rates to his Cub days what kind of a player could he be? I’m not suggesting that he learn Giambi-esque control of the zone, but something where he was would be nice.

    Also, you have to wonder if swing is different. Over the weekend, when he drove the ball the swing appeared compact, when he didn’t it looked as long as the day.

    I’ll also add this…I think he’s more interesting than watching Conine and Millar age.

  3. Sam said

    Nate,
    How dare you compare Patterson to Cecil “Big Daddy” Fielder. Cecil took walks, his OPB was generally 80 to 100 points higher than his BA.

  4. Nate said

    Sidh,
    I stand corrected. The daddy was just the first large homerun hitter that came to mind. Now if Corey Patterson gambles away all his money, starts up fraudulent businesses as tax scams, and completely alienates his son / family, I will have to reinstate the comparison.

  5. Mike said

    The comparisons to Patterson’s approach at the plate are few and far between, as demonstrated by the 15 out of 3949 player seasons where someone has struck out as much and walked as little does.

    Even as Patterson has startd to hit this year (and when he has hit in the past), his approach remains the same. So I think it might be unrealistic to expect a player who is historically bad at distinguishing balls from strikes to all of a sudden learn plate discipline. Factoring into this is the fact that every quote of his I see on the issue has him wanting to do his own thing, as Nate said.

    So the real questions becomes, can Patterson be useful without improving his BB and K rates? The answer, despite his recent success, is no (I think).

  6. bradley said

    the numbers are the numbers, but i have to confess that watching hos plate approach, he doesn’t look nearly as haphazard as i thought he might.

    i also have to say, it’s kind of cool watching patterson in the field. it’s amazing how much ground he covers so quickly and effortlessly. he really seems to pick up a lot of slack for markakis.

    i’m honestly more concerned at how high gibbons k totals are in comaprison to his bb.

  7. Sam said

    Mike,
    Didn't you have some quote of his up here before where he said he saw himself as the type of guy that gets on base and makes things happen? If so, pull that up because that's hilarious. Honestly, who the crap does this guy think he is? I'm going to make the Marcus Vick because both think they're better than they are. Although, it would help if Patterson shot up a McDonalds

  8. Mike said

    “‘I’m a guy who can get on base, and if I can steal bases and get into scoring position, that would really help the team,’ [Corey] Patterson said.” –Source: Yahoo News

    https://oriolesthinktank.wordpress.com/2006/01/12/c-pat-on-c-pat-and-more/

  9. pauls said

    i’m honestly more concerned at how high gibbons k totals are in comaprison to his bb.

    Obviously at 6, his K:BB is super-high, but I suspect that’s a result of sample size more than anything. If he’s not near his usual 2 after May, then I’d be much more concerned.

    I’m going to make the Marcus Vick because both think they’re better than they are. Although, it would help if Patterson shot up a McDonalds

    Invalid comparison in that Patterson isn’t hampered by the poorest set of off-the-field decisions to ever beset a player since Doc Gooden or Darryl Strawberry, nor has he ever exhibited the talent of Vick. Vick probably would’ve been better than his brother were he not a complete pile of shit.

  10. Sam said

    “Vick probably would’ve been better than his brother were he not a complete pile of shit.”

    I’ll argue that Patterson probably has more talent than Vick. At least Patterson will stick somewhere as a bench player in the major leagues. Marcus isn’t even close to Mike in terms of talent. His arm is slightly more accurate, but not nearly as strong. He’s also nowhere close to as good of a runner, and he’s probably 2 inches shorter and 20 pounds lighter. Even without the off-field problems Marcus wasn’t going to be an NFL quarterback. I don’t even think Mike is really all that good either.

    Patterson has all the raw tools you could ever ask for in a baseball player, just no plate discipline.

  11. pauls said

    I will have to disagree with you that Marcus “isn’t even close” to Michael. His arm is both more accurate and stronger, he was a pass-first QB, and while he’s not as elusive, we’ve all seen what that’s gotten Michael. If it weren’t for his antics on (the Gator Bowl) and off (too many to list) the field, he most certainly would’ve been a QB in the NFL.

  12. kilbs said

    Quick thought re: Patterson’s BB numbers…how many of his walks were due to him being walk intentionally out of the 8 hole?

  13. Mike said

    Obviously at 6, his K:BB is super-high, but I suspect that’s a result of sample size more than anything. If he’s not near his usual 2 after May, then I’d be much more concerned.

    I agree. I actually wrote something similar to this in a writeup on Gibbons for InsiderBaseball this Monday.

    I’ll argue that Patterson probably has more talent than [Marcus] Vick.

    I’d have to agree with this too. If you were ranking mlb players in terms of pure athleticism, Patterson would be near the very top. I think there is a reason that Luis Castillo still went in the first round and Marcus Vick didn’t get drafted at all. Although, my knowledge of the NFL is only slightly more advanced than my knowledge of hip-hop.

    Quick thought re: Patterson’s BB numbers…how many of his walks were due to him being walk intentionally out of the 8 hole?

    Good question. I think Patterson only saw significant time in the 8 hole in the second half of last year and, at that time, they probably would’ve pitched around the the pitcher to get to him. Honestly, though, I have no idea what the answer to this question is. Plus, there’s no idea how to tell how many “unintentional” intentional walks he received as a result of batting in front of the pitcher.

  14. Kilbs said

    The unintentional intentional walk question is pretty interesting. I do wonder how open he is to learning different ways to approach each AB. Of course, one walk thus far is pretty damn discouraging. OTOH, considering how bad the Oriole outfield has been for SO long, maybe there is hope that he could at least be league average.

  15. Mike said

    I was thinking about writing another article on this, but the point seems pretty self-evident: If Corey Patterson is going to learn a more refined approach at the plate, he is in the wrong organization.

    I'm not familiar with every hitting coach in the majors, so I'll avoid any grandiose statements, but Terry Crowley has at least proven to be among the least effective out there.

    The O's hit their share of HR's and post their share of decent BA's, so many fans fail to realize that the O's consistently score less runs than the average AL club. That's gonna happen when, like in 2005, only three position players can hope to approach an average walk rate (Mora, Roberts, Palmeiro).

    Come to think of it, given his awful BB:K numbers, he really should spend 2006 in the minors.  Let him rework everything in a low pressure environment.  I don't care is he's a 25/25 guy.  All that is going to do is make him more expensive in arbitration while the O's get below-average offense out of CF.  Making an out 70% of the time is unacceptable.

  16. Eddie said

    …good points.

    …I loved seeing Patterson bunt the other game. personally I think it was no accident that the game where he bunted for a hit sort of sparked his hot streak. The thing that’s clear with Patterson is that in spite of having some fast players on the Orioles in the recent past, I don’t think any of them compare to the raw speed CPat has. So to me, that immediately brings to mind blazers like Otis Nixon, who in his better years, after he figured out his game, learned how to bunt for basehits with regularity…

    …I’m not saying that Corey should do that all the time because he obviously does have surprising power for a guy his size…but, he should use that weapon regularly enough that defenses have to respect it…if he becomes a threat to bunt, it affects how defenses play him…if corner infielders have to play in and have a wheel play on, I’d place my bet on Corey’s wheels over most players most of the time…and, having to play in, it puts them out of position to field balls that they normally would get at normal or DP depth…to me, that alone could give his AVG a healthy boost…

    …of course, this would never address his strikezone issues…but maybe the higher contact game of bunting could rub off into other areas?…in my opinion, the main problem here is that Corey needs to hit for contact more…seeing him on this hot streak makes me think he is still young enough to pull out of the nosedive…and, he could eventually have some pretty good years…perhaps as an Otis Nixon type with slightly more power…but, again, with Corey, the power game is a fine line to tread…I think targetting HRs is what gets him into the off-balanced swings we see him do…it’s very possible that by hitting for more contact eventually nets him more HRs than he’s ever had in a season…good wood is worth more than hard hits in the long run…

  17. Sam said

    An aside from this post, but watching the game tonight I have some real strong doubts as to whether Bruce Chen can be an effective starting pitcher this season. You can say what you want about the sample size, but with stuff like his you have to be able to locate your pitches. He’s not doing that, leaving everything up in the strikezone and getting belted. The guy just gives up way too many home runs. Looking back, I think his success last season was exception rather than the norm. To have the success he had last year despite giving up 33 home runs in just under 200 innings seems fluky. More concerning is the fact that he’s given up home runs at that rate throughout his career, if not at higher rates.

    Also, if anyone just saw that brad wilkerson catch and subsequent double play, I feel safe in saying that Corey Patterson is retarded.

  18. Mike said

    I just posted about your first point but…

    re: Patterson on the Wilkerson catch, I look forward to seeing his stupified expression on ESPN for the next week. If he was unsure, he should have just gone back to first. That said, where was Trebelhorn? He should've realized the situation and been screaming at him to get back.

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