I tip my hat to Heath Klein who made the following comment in the AZ Snake Pit Game Thread on 23 August.
“ ‘An inning isn’t built until the fifth man comes to the plate.’ Well, that’s the third inning where the fifth man has come to the plate. This is currently “Downtown Phoenix Roadwork” levels of construction efficiency.” — Heath Klein
When I asked who said the quote, he replied, “That quote was Banister (if I’m not mistaken) the night that he was covering for Torey’s ejection.”
I tip my hat to Jack Sommers who sent me the full quote:
“The idea of building innings right, offensively… where an inning really doesn’t get built until you have the fifth hitter come to plate. There’s no magic to it. You can’t score multiple runs until that fifth hitter gets to the plate. You’ve got to have that plate appearance. So how do we continually try to build our innings that way? That offensive mindset is there.” — Jeff Banister, August 13, in the dugout before the game @COL
A related and insightful quote follows.
“We may put together an inning where we send 5 guys to the plate and come away with no runs but we’ve done some damage to that pitcher out there based on our approach, and that pays dividends further down the road.” — Jeff Banister
When looking at innings that have been built (a fifth man comes to the plate), what characteristics are meaningful? In April, Jeff Bannister provided insights when he said the following:
“More importantly, we need to stay stubborn in our approaches, about what has worked for us in spring training: the ability to get on base, take our walks, keep the ball in the middle of the field, [short pause] making loud outs on the pull side that’s one thing, the ability to drive the ball from foul pole to foul pole. So, I think you are going to see that. These guys proved to us that they have the capability of doing that.” — Jeff Banister
Four insights from built inning data.
All data were from Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted.
How important were built inning for scoring runs? This season through 23 August, how many runs were scored in built innings compared to unbuilt innings?
The Diamondbacks scored 467 runs in built innings compared to 55 runs in unbuilt innings. That surprised me because that means 89% of runs scored happened in built innings. A spot check of data confirmed the accuracy. Starkly, there were only 2.93 built innings per game. Built innings are a powerful way to score runs.
Did built innings stress opposing pitchers? This season through 23 August, what was the average pitches per built inning? And the average pitches per batter?
Against the Diamondbacks, the average pitches per built inning was 23.3. The average pitches per batter in built innings was 4.0. That average was 2.8% higher than the league average 3.89 pitches per batter faced, and 1.8% higher than the Diamondbacks batters average of 3.93 pitches per batter. The extent to which built innings stress opposing pitchers is largely proportional to extra batters faced.
This season through 23 August, in built innings what percentage of first batters reached base or hit a home run?
In built innings, the first batter reached base, or hit a homer, in 55.2% of PAs. That compared favorably to the Dodgers who led the Majors with 33.9% On Base Percentage (OBP) (leader data from FanGraphs). For 55% of built innings, the first batter reached base or hit a homer. Likely the first batter’s success led to more success by following batters.
This season through 23 August, did the number of built innings in each game matter?
Let’s group games by the number of built innings in each game. The average built innings per game was 2.9.
Let’s look at winning percentages:
- For games with 2 or less built innings, the Diamondbacks won 31.3% of their games. (included 2 games with zero built innings).
- For games with 3 built innings, the Diamondbacks won 43.3% of their games.
- For games with 4 or more built innings, the Diamondbacks won 66.7% of their games.
Reaching at least 4 built innings per game greatly increased the chances of winning games.
The following table shows the groups and their winning percentages.
Building an inning is one way the Diamondbacks win games. At the top level, building an inning means sending 5 men to the plate. On a more detailed level, building an inning means getting on base, taking walks, keeping the ball in the middle of the field, and driving the ball from foul pole to foul pole
A summary of four insights from the data:
- Built innings are a powerful way to score runs.
- The extent to which built innings stress opposing pitchers is largely proportional to extra batters faced.
- For 55% of built innings, the first batter reached base or hit a homer. Likely the first batter’s success led to more success by following batters.
- Reaching at least 4 built innings per game greatly increased the chances of winning games.