Saturday, June 10, 2006

Learning from Mistakes

The Tigers' Minor League system has suffered a huge blow this year. Yes, after the graduation of the two most talented pitchers the organization has produced in ages will go a long way towards leaving a system relatively barren. Throughout the system, an even bigger, more troubling hit has been delivered: players thought to be top hitting prospects have stopped hitting.

Just shortly after debuting by telling how pointing to strikeouts for an otherwise productive Major League player can lead to false conclusions, I want to preface this by pointing out that strikeouts can be a serious problem for a hitter when not combined with walks to show that they are a byproduct of some degree of plate discipline. High strikeouts without production or walks show that a hitter is overmatched, struggles with breaking pitches, or cannot identify what pitches he should swing at.

What does this have to do with recent Tigers news? In conjuntion with several prospects including Clete Thomas, Jeff Frazier, and almost the whole Erie Lineup appearing to hit a wall as their K/BB ratio caught up to them this year, Tigers' Scouting Director David Chadd and company conducted a draft that almost seemed to right this organizational wrong.

Check out the BB:K ratios from this season of the first five college hitters taken in this draft.

Ronnie Bourquin: 32 BB/24 K
Brennan Boesch: 20 BB/23 K
Ryan Strieby: 46/39
Scott Sizemore: 28/26
Jordan Newton: 45/43

Note how all five of these players have exception BB/K ratios. What this shows is that players with great plate discipline were taken in Rounds 2-6. It almost seems that players without this skill were completely disregarded by Chadd and his crew. Can you blame them? This side of Cameron Maybin and Jeff Larish, there really aren't any offensive players in the system that you can look at and say "I can see him in the Major Leagues someday."

For a comparison, I will look at three college hitters whose stocks have really dropped this year: Clete Thomas, Jeff Frazier, and Tony Giarratano. Below are their BB/K ratios from their final year in college.

Clete Thomas: 33/61
Jeff Frazier: 28/27
Tony G: 24/33

Uh oh. While Thomas struggled in college, Frazier and Giarratano both had fared pretty well with their plate discipline in college, but have struggled of late in the pros. All of a sudden, it appears likely that this year's draft picks may not have as smooth of sailing as their statistics may suggest. Time will tell, but it may be the case that there is still an unsuspected hurdle for these guys to get over on the way to Detroit.


Brian B said...

Its all about pitch recognition as well as plate patience.

That is where scouting comes into play. While you can tell if a player is or isn't swinging and missing a lot in College that doesn't always tell you everything about their ability to transfer it over.

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