Q: Hey Scan….outside of Headley should the Padres start looking to swing on 1st pitch? We are leading the league in walks and we are in last place…..has moneyball hurt our offense? – Ras
A: Hey Ras – Interesting question. Of course, one of the philosophies of “Moneyball” (totally misnamed in my opinion, but that is a different article), is to be patient, take pitches, work the count, take the walk if it is given to you, but swing if you like the pitch. Those who ascribe to this philosophy in its purest form like to see batters either walk, or hit home runs.
Chase Headley, who you mentioned, is considered by many to exhibit the quintessential Moneyball approach to hitting with his extreme patience at the plate. In fact his 4.10 average pitches seen per plate appearance are tied for 7th most in the N.L. (tied interestingly with teammate Nick Hundley).
Furthermore, the Padres as a team seem to be practicing their Moneyball approaches at the plate by leading all of MLB with 132 BB’s so far. There is nothing wrong with this in and of itself. It’s great to get runners on base, and good to force opposing pitchers to throw a lot of pitches.
However, if you are not driving those runners in, it is all for naught. That is where the Padres have fallen short. So short, in fact, that they are second to last in runs scored, and dead last in all of MLB in batting average with runners in scoring position at an anemic .181. To put that in perspective, the lowest average for a team with RISP since 2000 is .221, stumbled to by the Brewers 2004.
So, has “Moneyball” hurt the Padres, despite the fact that it was effectively flushed out with the departure of Sandy Alderson, Grady Fuson, and the rest of the draft and development department that left upon Jeff Moorad’s arrival ? That is probably a debate that would have to take into account how having that philosophy preached throughout the organization influenced draft picks, determined development philosophies, and shaped young Padres players’ indoctrination into professional baseball, and whether the affects of those influences (good or bad) are still rippling under the surface of the organization.
The bottom line is this: You can walk all you want, but if you can’t swing the bat and drive guys in when they are in scoring position you will probably end up in a similar place as the 2004 Brewers – dead last in your division.