In the two seasons that Freddy Sanchez has been an every day starter, he has been one of the Piratesí best hitters. He was the National League batting champion in 2006, and again had the teamís highest batting average last season. But how much does his aggressive approach at the plate hurt him?
Freddy has an amazing ability to put the ball in play. It is very difficult to get a pitch past him, but this hinders him to some degree in the box. I attended a game in 2006 that Sanchez won with an extra-inning single. He came to the plate in the bottom of the 11th with two outs, bases loaded and the Bucs down by one. The first pitch was slightly off the outside corner. Freddy went after it and dribbled one just outside the first base bag. The second pitch nearly bounced six inches outside. Freddy chased it and tapped it foul. After taking a ball, he lunged for a pitch near the outside corner and punched it into right field. Two runs scored and the Pirates won. This was a thrilling victory, one of the best games I have attended. It was another example of Sanchez doing a great job of putting a tough pitch into play and making something happen. He has a tremendous ability to do that.
However, these types of occurrences only reinforce in Freddyís mind the notion that he can hit any pitch. Because he feels that way (and donít get me wrong; I love that kind of confidence), he is willing to chase pitches well out of the strike zone. As a result, in 2006 and 2007 he had the lowest BB% on the team (4.9% in both years) and pitches per plate appearance (3.43 in 2006, 3.38 in 2007).
Obviously, those numbers would improve if Freddy were not swinging at everything. In addition, it is easy to assume that his batting average and on-base percentage would also increase with a less aggressive approach. Hitting strikes with authority is much easier than putting good wood on a pitch six inches off the black.
Better patience would eliminate at-bats like the one Freddy had in the first inning tonight. He went down swinging on an outside pitch that bounced in the dirt. He chases pitches like that because he can often make contact with them. It is the rare instance where a playerís talent hurts his performance. If he could blend his amazing hitting ability with an improved patience, his entire offensive game would improve.