Ben Revere admitted this week in Clearwater that plate discipline is an area of his game that needs improvement. Though Charlie Manuel conceded that he hasn’t seen his new centerfielder enough, the manager would like Revere to walk more, too.
Let’s face it, 57 walks in 1,064 career plate appearances in the majors is far too little. It’s a walk in five out of every 100 trips to the batter’s box.
But at 24 and in a new lineup in a new league, Revere could certainly turn that trend around.
See, it’s not that Revere swings at too many pitches. Not at all, actually. He swung at 41 percent of the pitches he saw last season. Only 21 major-leaguers swung at fewer. (Delmon Young led all of baseball by swinging at 59 percent of pitches.)
The problem Revere ran into last year when it came to working walks is that when he did swing, he made contact at a higher rate than just about any player alive. On pitches he swung at in 2012, Revere made contact 92 percent of the time. Only Marco Scutaro and new Nationals centerfielder Denard Span had higher rates.
And Revere barely fouls anything off. Just 22 percent of the total strikes he saw were foul balls. Only one player, Martin Prado, had a lower percentage.
Revere actually ran more 2-0 counts (65) than Brandon Phillips, A.J. Pierzynski and Carlos Ruiz. But only 10 of those 2-0 counts ended up in walks, because Revere swung at that 2-0 pitch 23 times and put the ball in play 15 times.
Revere also worked a 3-1 count 40 times. That’s more than Adrian Beltre, Ichiro, Matt Kemp, Brett Lawrie and Torii Hunter. But again, Revere swung on that count 21 times, and 15 of those times he put the ball in play.
If you’re swinging at that 2-0 or 3-1 pitch half of the time, and making contact on that pitch 60 percent of the time, not too many hitter’s counts are going to turn into walks. And if you’re in the midst of a .294 season, you’re probably not going to change your approach too much in July or August.
It’s not as if Revere is getting up there and swinging at the first pitch every time. He did that just 37 times last year, hitting .357 on the first pitch with six sacrifices. To put that into context, Jimmy Rollins swung at the first pitch 62 times last year and was far less successful, hitting .217. Shane Victorino, another free-swinger, offered at the first pitch exactly 62 times, also.
It’s not that Revere swings too much. It’s that he doesn’t swing and miss enough to work deep counts, nor does he foul off enough pitches to prolong an at-bat. When he swings, he makes contact. From a discipline standpoint, Revere is way more Juan Pierre than Jimmy Rollins.
We get hung up a lot on OBP, and for good reason. But with players like Revere, it's best to let them play their game. As long as he's hitting .290, let him be. If he were hitting .265 it would be a different story. Any team would have taken Pierre in his prime, when he hit .300 with a .347 OBP. Give Revere two or three more hits last year and that's where his line would have been.
It’s not that Revere's eyes are poor. It’s that his wrists are too quick. And that's not as bad a thing as everyone wants to make it.