Did Ensberg REALLY gain more patience at the plate?
As part of ESPN’s Fantasy Baseball Draft Kit, Guy Lake (part of the "Talented Mr. Roto" team) advised on the draftability of certain players who were injured during 2006 (see below)
One comment about the Astros’ Morgan Ensberg made me sit up and take notice (emphasis mine).
"Ensberg suffered through a horrible year after injuring his shoulder
diving for a foul ball. Note that despite the injury Ensberg actually
improved his plate patience (101 walks) from 2005 (85) in 13 fewer games."
Now, if you were battling a shoulder injury, wouldn’t you want to limit the number of pitches you actually swung at … be more selective as a way of protecting against tweaking the shoulder again?
Ensberg’s walk rate actually started to skyrocket in 2005 (perhaps not-so-coincidentally, his first season of 500+ plate appearances), His number of pitches per plate appearance took off then too, which also leads to his higher K rate:
Let’s look at 2006, before the shoulder injury on June 9, during his fight to play through it (6/10-7/9), and then his return from the inevitable DL stint and rehab (8/1-9/29).
I don’t have number of pitches per plate appearance for these three sections, but for the year, he saw an average of 4.23 pitches per PA. Here are the rates by month:
Interestingly, he was at his MOST patient during September, when he was supposedly fully healed, and the Astros needed his bat in the race for the division. He wasn’t swinging at more/bad pitches (his K rate being consistent throughout the year), he was just more selective.
(For comparison sake, of those with enough PAs for the batting title, only 7 players saw a higher average of pitches per PA, and they are the typical names of patience and OBP: Giambi, Nick Johnson, Frank Thomas, Abreu, Burrell, Youkilis and Thome.)
He started the season on a torrid homerun pace, and though his BA slipped, he improved on his 2005 BB rate. The month in which he fought through the injury saw him walk roughly 3 out of every 10 PAs, a Bondsian rate. Upon his return, his XBH power didn’t come back at anywhere near 100%, but his walk rate was still at a career high.
So … this may in fact be the growth in one aspect of Ensberg’s "skill set", but 2006′s BB rate needs to be seen in a certain perspective.
We’ll see what the addition of Carlos Lee does for the continuance of this positive trend.