Brandon Marsh took an 85mph curveball from Josiah Gray who was an inch from the inside corner in the fourth inning on Saturday night, the Angels left the outfielder’s ability to lay off the 1 and 1 pitch putting him in front instead of behind in the count.
Marsh drove the next pitch, a 95 mph fastball to middle, 429 feet to center field for a two-run homer, one of his team’s highlights in a 7-3 loss to the Washington Nationals and yet another example of the types of at-bats that helped fuel the Angels’ rise to the top of the American League West.
The Angels rank among the top four teams in baseball in runs, home runs, field goal percentage and walks.
It’s no coincidence that they also entered Saturday with a 26.9% chase rate, the lowest in the major league, according to FanGraphs, their percentage of shots swung outside the strike zone a bit lower than the Dodgers and a huge improvement over last season, when the Angels ranked 25th with a 33% chase rate.
“I think it’s all correlated,” Angels hitting coach Jeremy Reed said. “It’s definitely early – it’s a category you want to lead at the end of the season – but I think our scouting reports are better, our game plans are better and the player-to-player communication is better. supportive, is better.”
So is the staff. Two sharp-eyed veterans who have missed most of 2021 through injury have injected more plate discipline into the roster, with Anthony Rendon (20.5%) and Mike Trout (22.4%) possessing two of 14 Lowest chase rates for hitters with at least 80 tackle appearances.
But the biggest difference-maker was Taylor Ward, the right fielder who moved to the No. 1 spot on April 25 and entered Saturday with a 19.2 percent chase rate, the third-lowest in baseball. Ward, who walked three times in Friday night’s 3-0 victory, had a 29% chase rate in 237 plate appearances last season.
“He’s okay to take a walk,” manager Joe Maddon said. “It doesn’t hurt his ego not to be touched or at least try to move on [in the count]. He has this chip that was inserted at birth, and it’s working well now. And he’s still a good hitter. He has the power. But he really looks over a lot.
The discipline of the plate is not synonymous with passivity. Trout, who bats .321 with 1.096 OPS, six home runs and 13 RBIs, and Ward, who is .356 batting with 1.169 OPS, six home runs and 15 RBIs, did significant damage in the box.
“It’s not just about removing land,” Reed said. “It’s being ready to hit when they throw it where you’re looking to hit it.”
Benefits of suppressing bad pitches include increasing the number of pitches from opposing starters, putting men on base with walks, and moving ahead in the count, which could lead to more fastballs, such as the showed the Marsh at bat which resulted in his home run on Saturday. night.
The Angels emphasize discipline every season – “It’s not like the message is any different this year,” Reed said – but they seem to have made it a bigger focus this season.
Shohei Ohtani’s 27.9% chase rate is better than the 30.1% chase rate he had in his 2021 AL Most Valuable Player season. Jared Walsh, who homered solo in Round 4 on Saturday night, went from 34.4% last season to 30.4% this season. Tyler Wade (25.6%) and Max Stassi (26.0%) have respectable chase rates.
Even Marsh, who was mired in a two-for-25 slump with 17 strikeouts and no forward walks on Saturday, had a decent chase rate of 27.6%.
David Fletcher is an outlier, the infielder known for his bad-ball swing carrying a 41.9% chase rate through Saturday, down from 32.7% in 2021.
The Angels have drawn attention for their home run celebrations, in which a cowboy hat is placed on the head of the batter who has gone deep, and that player gallops through the dugout accepting high- five of his teammates.
But just as important to their success — and their better discipline at home plate — were the low-key conversations in the circle on the deck and on the boat carrier.
“We may have talked at a meeting about what a pitcher does, and then maybe he does something a little different there,” Reed said. “They communicate it here in a way where it’s very noticeable.
“You’ll see a guy come back after an out and talk to the batter on the deck about the shape of the pitch and what the pitcher was doing. So the guys work together, help each other.
Angels starter Michael Lorenzen allowed five runs and five hits, including solo homers from Josh Bell and Yadiel Hernandez and a two-run single to Maikel Franco, in 4 2/3 innings Saturday night. Reliever Elvis Peguero gave up a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz in the fifth. … Wide receiver Kurt Suzuki was placed on the disabled list without designation, and wide receiver Chad Wallach was activated. Left-hander Jhonathan Diaz was picked for triple-A, and right-hander Kyle Barraclough, who pitched two scoreless innings Saturday night, was called in to bolster the bullpen.