Some idle Holiday Internetting has compelled the author of this piece to point his web browser in the direction of National League MVP Ryan Braun’s player profile, which in turn has compelled the author to discover something about Braun’s plate-discipline numbers — namely, that they have improved in a decidedly regular fashion since his rookie season of 2007.
Here we can see that improvement in graph form:
In each of his four seasons since that rookie year, Braun has struck out less often and walked more often than the season prior.
It makes sense that striking out less often and walking more often would aid a player’s offensive production. By how much?, is the question.
Using Bradley Woodrum’s Should Hit Calculator, we can find out such a thing. Woodrum found back in August that hitting (as defined, in this case, by wRC+) was informed almost exclusively by four inputs: walks, strike outs, home runs, and BABIP. This is, more or less, FIP for hitters — except for that hitters are much more likely to have signature home-run and BABIP rates.
To find out exactly what sort of effect Braun’s plate discipline improvement has had, I’ve recast all five of his seasons with his career home-run rate (5.1%) and BABIP (.339). This allows us to isolate the effect of his improved plate discipline on his overall offensive production.
Here are those seasons (again, using career numbers for HR% and BABIP):
There are some caveats to make here. For one, Braun’s home-run rate has been up and down over the course of the past five years. For two, the changing offensive environment could possibly affect the Should Hit numbers.
Those comments made, however, it’s still very likely the case that Braun’s plate approach has both (a) improved and (b) improved Braun’s offensive production relative to the league by about 25%.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.