The Approach: How Much Correlation Exists Between Patience & Performance?

Is patience actually a virtue? Or even a factor?

Plate discipline, like basically everything in baseball, is not merely a black-and-white concept. Much like cake, ogres, and the feudal system of the medieval era, it has layers to it. Too often, we see plate discipline translated simply into patience. That is, of course, one facet of it. Even that, though, operates heavily in shades of gray.

Baseball at any level has this long-held belief that a player who sees a high volume of pitches is automatically a better producer of offense than someone who presents as aggressive at the plate. At the highest level, we know that this isn’t necessarily always true (the amateur levels still have some work to do there).

For example, someone like Trent Grisham could be characterized as being too patient. While routinely sitting among the league’s lowest swing rates, he works himself into deep counts on a constant basis. He’s also without the contact ability to compensate when he’s at 2-2 or 3-2. Conversely, Luis Arraez — who may very well be the best pure hitter the game has to offer — isn’t anywhere near the top of the leaderboard in swing rate or pitches per plate appearance (P/PA). Surely we don’t think less of him because he doesn’t see a high volume of pitches.

There are myriad ways in which we can quantify plate discipline. A low swing rate. A high pitchers-per-plate appearance. Minimizing chase percentage. A high swing percentage inside of the strike zone. Even a high contact rate, regardless of swing rates, can be representative of quality plate discipline. For my purposes here, however, the patience aspect is of the greatest interest.


The Watchers on the Wall in the Box


Patience mainly hones in on two components of plate discipline: Swing% & P/PA.

Here are the five lowest swing rates in baseball thus far:

Lowest Swing% Through June 5th

And here are the five highest P/PA:

Highest P/PA Through June 5th

Randy Holt

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Pitcher List & a depth charts analyst for Baseball Prospectus. He's a self-identified Cubs fan who has become more agnostic, instead obsessing about quality defensive baseball wherever he can find it. Randy has a sport management degree from the University of Florida, as well as degrees from Embry-Riddle & Arizona State. When not wasting away on the husk of Twitter/X, Randy is a high school English teacher & a baseball and golf coach.

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