Hispanic players swim don't walk

We have all heard the baseball cliche, "you can't walk your way off the island, but you can swing". This obviously refers to hispanic baseball players' propensity to be free swingers. The names Soriano, Guerrero, and Pudge come to mind as players to whom the regular strike zone does not apply. I wanted to do a crude analysis to determine the validity of this statement; however, being a medical student with no time to breath, this will be a very crude examination. Instead of breaking down the entire league into ethnic groups groups and finding significant variations, I will instead just look at the composition of extreme values within statistics I deem important to the topic.

Firstly, I looked at the top and bottom 20 players in terms of walk percentage with a minimum of 350AB. That represents a respectable 3-4 months of baseball and a good way to weave out bench players.

In 2009, 16 of the 20 lowest walk rates belong to latin american born players ranging from Bengie Molina 2.8% to Vlad Guerrero 4.8%. In 2008, 14 of bottom 20 were hispanic. And in 2007, 9 of bottom 20 were latin. The field in 2oo7 was constituted by really bad/old players who slightly disrupted the trend. They included Barfield, John McDonald, Jay Payton, Corey Patterson, and Craig Biggio.

Sorting by highest walk rates, 2009 featured 6 of top 20 being hispanic. However, this included several players who were born in the United States like Arod and Carlos Pena. 2008, 5 of top 20. And 2007 featured 3 of the top 20 walk rates.

Second, I looked at what fangraphs describes as swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone(0-swing%). 12 of top 20 swing percentages in 2009. 10 of top 20 in 2008. 12 of top 20 in 2007.

Lowest O-swing% break down: Only 3 of the top 20 in this list included hispanic players each of the last 3 years. It should be noted that Bobby Abreu and Luis Castillo were in the top 20 each all 3 years with Castillo leading baseball every year.

Considering the ethnic breakdown of the current state of major league baseball: 60% White, 30% Hispanic, 8% Black, and 2% Asian, the trends at the extreme values of walk rate and plate discipline appear to confirm the propensity of Latin American born players to "swing" their way off the island. To rephrase an old Chris Rock joke about african americans, "we're 10% of the population, yet we're 90% of the final 4". The same applies to baseball, "Hispanics are 30% of the baseball population, yet they're 80% of the if you see it you can hit it club"


David "MVP" Eckstein said...

haha. thank you for definitively proving this stereotype.