24 April 2008
Eating Crow 2.1: Crowley's Affect on the Orioles '85-'88
Posted by Jon Shepherd
Terry Crowley was the hitting coach during the dark stretch between the '83 World Series win and the '89 Why Not? season (of course the answer to that question was because after Bob Milacki and Jeff Ballard . . . we had awful, absolutely dreadful starting pitching). Anyway, Crowley, fresh out of retirement, plied his trade and tried to mold Oriole hitters. If he has influenced his teams, we should see a decrease in plate patience measured as pitches per plate appearance. We may also see an increase in contact rate as he teaches hitters to actively pursue pitches on the fringe of the zone, which are often poorly hit.
The null here would be:
There is no difference between Crowley-influenced Orioles and non-Crowley-influenced Orioles.
This section will be handled simply. Crowley's team hitting will be compared to Ralph Rowe's teams (81-84) and Tom McCraw's (89-91). The measures will be P/PA and contact rate. These measures are explained more in depth in the first entry on Terry Crowley. This study will assume that the player's are relatively uniform in quality and openness to be taught.
Pitches Per Plate Appearance
Ralph Rowe's years with the Orioles are notable in that his teams we slightly above the league average in pitches per plate appearance. The differences are not great, but are significantly above the league average (Rowe = 3.71 +/- 0.02; MLB = 3.67 +/- 0.01). Crowley's team only had one year noticeably above the MLB average and it was his first season. I wonder to what extent Rowe's hitting concepts were still being applied as it was Crowley's first year coaching and hitters typically stick with what works until they struggle. It appears as if, under Crowley's watch, the hitters are getting less patient. It is also interesting to note that in 1986 and 1987, there is a weird blip in terms of P/PA. I have no explanation. I know 1987 was the year in which an uncharacteristic number of homeruns were hit. Finally, McCraw's first and second year were typified by a major correction in P/PA. His third and final year had the team back at league average. The main explanation here would be Mickey Tettleton leaving, Worthington replaced by Gomez, and Ripken changing his approach. It appears McCraw also professed being patient. I am actually quite surprised by what this data seems to say.
The metric seems to relate well with P/PA. They should be inversely related to each other. As plate patience decreases, contact rate should increase. This is due to coaching encouraging the utilization of balls located on the boundary of the strike zone. Likewise, batted balls are more likely to become productive hits as plate patience increases. I have a feeling Rowe's results that are above average might be due to the team being more talented offensively during his strand. During Crowley's tenure, it is a bit all over the place. McCraw's time is characterized by below average contact rate. This all makes sense with what the data seems to be suggesting, but the data here is hard to parse.
These are in no way conclusive results, but strangely . . . it seems the Crowley might have an effect on team batting behavior. It appears, maybe superficially, that his teams are less patient than Rowe's or McCraw's and that his hitters go after pitches that may not best utilize their at bats. It seems that the head coach does not seem to affect these metrics as Weaver/Rowe did not have the same result as Weaver/Crowley. Although, Rowe's teams were superior and this may be affecting the data. I'm not sure how to normalize talent level.
I am going to still keep at Crowley's first tenure with the Orioles. I will analyze his affect on hitters at different career points and see if there are any tendencies.