Question of the Day 6/24

Brilliant Reader Trent asks an overall question about this story, written by old pal Jeff Flanagan, where Royals GM Dayton Moore seems to blame the Royals lack of walks through the years, at least in part, on the size of their ballpark, Kauffman Stadium.“We have the largest ballpark in terms of square footage of any ballpark in baseball,” Moore told Flanagan. “When pitchers come here, they have the mindset to use that park -- put the ball in play, throw strikes, attack the zone. There isn’t the same fear factor of getting beat deep that you might have elsewhere … I think that plays a huge factor in the walk statistic.”OK, well, obvious things first: This explanation is ridiculous on its face when you consider that while Royals hitters have not finished top half in walks since 1989 (this is one of the most ridiculous stats I’ve ever seen, by the way) Royals PITCHERS have had the most walks the league four times and finished bottom five in walks 12 times over that same span. Those pitchers, best I can tell, work in the same stadium. So apparently that fear factor works only one way.But rather than harp on that quote, it might be better to delve into a deeper issue, that the Royals -- and I do believe Dayton Moore would like them to walk more -- seem to think that walking comes down to something trite and vague as “fear factor.” Lots of people seem to think this, the theory being that hitters with power draw more walks because pitchers tend to pitch them more carefully (and hitters without power draw fewer walks because pitchers are happy to challenge them).I’ve thought a lot about this, and to be blunt about it I don’t believe it is true. Well, yes, it is true that hitters with power often walk more. Not always -- Dave Kingman, Juan Gonzalez, Orlando Cepeda, Ernie Banks, Andre Dawson, et. al -- but as a general rule power hitters do walk more than non power hitters. But I think the cause and effect is way off. I think the idea that hitters walk because of a pitcher’s “fear” is, for the most part, hopelessly misguided.What I think -- and admittedly I’m making this up as I go along, so cut me a little slack here -- is that people mostly got the order wrong. I don’t think hitters walk because they hit with more power. I think hitters hit with more power because they walk. That is to say, I think that plate discipline often (again, not always) leads to power. And not the other way around.Look, we all know that Major League Baseball players hit with a lot more power on favorable counts -- 1-0, 2-0, 3-1 -- than any other time.This year is pretty typical -- here are slugging percentages when ahead in the count:1-0: .5442-0: .5903-1: .662And here are the slugging percentages when behind in the count:0-1: .4650-2: .2171-2: .246Now, obviously those two strike numbers are skewed by strikeoutss, but even if you take those out of play here are the percentages of home runs hit on balls put into play:

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