During Jim Leyland’s post game presser, he made some interesting comments regarding the Tigers approach against Josh Beckett. Leyland thought the Tigers weren’t aggressive enough on first pitches and settled for too many first pitch strikes. The actual quote was:
“That just makes it easy for him,” Leyland said. “I know how good he is. I know it’s not that easy. But for you to get a guy like him, he basically is going to come right at you. He has very good stuff, and then, he’s a very intelligent pitcher. He’s going to come at you, and if he can get you to stand there and take a strike-one fastball, that’s really playing into his hand.”
It wasn’t really a take I expected (and not just because I spent a chunk of my recap praising the Tigers for making Beckett throw more than 5 pitches per plate appearance through the first 4 innings) because the Tigers aren’t really noted for their patience at the plate.
Detroit ranks 7th in terms of percentage of pitches swung at (46.5%). They are often criticized for swinging at the first pitch too often and making too many quick outs. Their walk rate is middle of the pack. They have the fewest pitcher per plate appearance in the American League (3.75 and the league average is 3.84). Swinging the bats has never been a problem for the Tigers this year.
As for last night’s game Beckett recorded first pitch strikes on 19 of the 24 batters he faced. Here is the breakdown:
- Called Strike: 12
- Foul: 1
- In Play – Out: 5
- In Play – Hit: 1
- Ball: 5
The Tigers actually only swung at 30% of the first pitches that Beckett threw. For the season they swing at 28% of first pitches, and the league average is 26%. Last night they had 1 favorable outcome out of the 7 times they swung at the first pitch. Maybe the Tigers get more hits the more they swing away at the first pitch against Beckett, and this is a VERY small sample. But looking at this I don’t see how you can say that the Tigers made things easy for Beckett by laying off the first pitch and if anything their uncharacteristic patience and ability to foul off pitches early in the game made Beckett work harder. And if anything, I think you just need to tip your cap to a very good pitcher.