Orioles Think Tank

Orioles Coverage for the Information Age

Corey Patterson Redux

Posted by Mike on June 15, 2006

Every once in a while, I am wrong.  I normally don't make a whole post about it, but I do usually get an email or two. 

About six weeks ago, I wrote a piece on Corey Patterson that concluded, among other things:

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.

As if to mock my very existence, Corey Patterson has answered by hitting a respectable .289/.337/.454 through his first 194 at bats.  Moreover, he's leading the league with 27 stolen bases in 30 attempts.  He's second on the team with a 17.8 VORP and fourth on the team with a .287 EQA.  Plus, he's yet to hit into a double play. 

To make my point in my previous article, I displayed his walk and strikeout rates over the past three seasons:

              AB/BB            AB/K

2003-       21.9                4.3

2004-       14.0                3.8

2005-       19.6                3.8

Not inspiring.  But so far this year…

2006-       14.9                5.5

Neither of those figures are anything resembling ideal and he will still be hideously miscast if forced near the top of the order, but both represent improvements on his career established levels.  What seems to be most important is that he's been able to make more consistent contact and make better use of his exceptional speed. 

One statistic that I find particularly interesting is that he's actually decreased the average amount of pitches he's seen per plate appearance.  In the past three years, he's seen 3.5, 3.4, and 3.1 pitches per plate appearance, respectively.  I'd hypothesize that this has as much to do with his proclivity to bunt for a hit as anything else, but that would also have some impact on his personal best AB/K rate. 

Looking at his batted ball data, provided by the Hardball Times, provides some additonal insight:

                 LD%      GB%     IF/F%      HR/F%

2004         19.1        40.0       N/A           12.5

2005         17.7        46.1       24.1          10.7

2006         23.5        36.8       18.5          12.9

The thing that stands out to me is that Patterson has increased the amount of balls he has hit for line drives while decreasing his production of groundballs over previous years.  Unlike with pitchers, batters do have a high correlation of batted ball types, including LD%, so the improvement looks genuine.  Not only is Patterson putting the ball in play more, he is also hitting with more authority than in recent seasons.  This improvement is even more pronounced if you buy into my theory that Patterson's high number of bunt hits may be affecting the data.

So, while I am looking foolish in my pessimism about Patterson's chances to get back on track, improving his contact rate has played a role in his turnaround.  And it certainly doesn't hurt that he is arguably the best athlete in professional baseball, which provides him with a pretty nasty complementary skillset.

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2 Responses to “Corey Patterson Redux”

  1. bradley said

    well, i know terry crowley is criticized alot for taking a very hack first, ask questions later approach to caching, but do you or anyone else around here know of his reputation in terms of spotting and correcting mechanical flaws? the broadcasters talk a lot about crowley shortening patterson’s swing.

    ?

  2. Mike said

    Good question Bradley. It makes sense that Patterson and Crowley would work well together. Throughout Crowleys near two decade reign with the Twins and Orioles, he’s shaped a lot of lineups into high-contact little-patience approaches. And making more consistent (and better) contact is exactly how Patterson is succeeding. Chalk one up for the Crow.

    The problem, of course, is that even the majority of professional ballplayers don’t have the secondary skillset that Patterson does.

    So, I am willing to give Crowley credit for turning Patterson around. But I’m not rescinding my pessimism about his track record nor my encouragement for him to find a more appropriate line of work.

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