On the Virtue of a Good At-Bat: Enter the MUNE

Tom Szczerbowski

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When we want to evaluate a good at-bat, looking at pitches per plate appearance (P/PA) is a good start. We like it when a batter battles a pitcher. We love a 12-pitch at-bat. But we like a 12-pitch walk or single even better, and we're not mad at Reyes when he hits the first pitch for a single. P/PA doesn't tell the full story of a good at-bat.

In comes MUNE. MUNE (Mean Until Next Exit... wonder where we got the name from?) is the stat we invented for the total number of pitches seen between outs. Both a long at-bat and a quick single contribute to a good MUNE.

The formula is very simple: pitches seen divided by outs.

MUNE = Pitches Seen / (PA - (H + BB + HBP))

So... Who's a good MUNE? Which batters are a pitcher's BFF? Which batters have better at-bats than you might think? Which batters waste a half-hour of our lives, only to return to the dug-out?

First things first: the top 10 leaderboard (for minimum 200 plate appearances)! (the full spreadsheet is downloadable)

MUNE Pitches/PA Rank in P/PA
Mike Trout 7.14 4.45 3
Joey Votto 7.1 4.33 7
Mike Napoli 7.1 4.47 2
Russell Martin 7.01 4.21 20
Jayson Werth 7 4.24 14
Matt Carpenter 6.98 4.37 5
Justin Turner 6.97 4.16 33
Andrew McCutchen 6.91 4.07 64
Mookie Betts 6.87 4.36 6
Jose Bautista 6.82 4.08 62

A trivial first observation is that a MUNE is always greater than a P/PA. The MUNE - P/PA differential accounts for all those plate appearances that ended up with the hitter getting on base. And that's what makes MUNE a better judge of the quality of an at-bat! It's somewhat reassuring to see Mike Trout at the top of the leaderboard. In fact, plenty of big names show up, including our very own Jose Bautista.

Speaking of the Jays, this is where they ranked:

MUNE Rank in MUNE Pitches/PA Rank in P/PA
Jose Bautista 6.82 10 4.08 62
Adam Lind 6.44 25 3.99 98
Edwin Encarnacion 6.4 27 4.13 42
Munenori Kawasaki 6.06 70 4.14 38
Melky Cabrera 5.68 150 3.7 263
Colby Rasmus 5.64 164 4.02 82
Dioner Navarro 5.56 189 3.8 202
Juan Francisco 5.52 197 3.92 133
Anthony Gose 5.48 208 3.8 200
Brett Lawrie 5.29 272 3.7 264
Jose Reyes 5.23 283 3.52 323

So, it turns out that Kawasaki isn't living up to the acronym that was named in his honour, as although he's consistently the best in P/PA for the Jays (and 38th overall!), a few teammates (but not many!) are better than him when it comes to MUNE.

Also, we'd probably like our leadoff hitter to be a bigger pain in the neck of the pitchers he's facing.

On to the bottom 10...

Rank in MUNE Player MUNE Pitches/PA Rank in P/PA
340 Eduardo Nunez 4.82 3.53 318
341 Adeiny Hechavarria 4.8 3.34 344
342 A.J. Pierzynski 4.78 3.41 339
343 Jonathan Schoop 4.77 3.62 295
344 Reed Johnson 4.72 3.48 333
345 Salvador Perez 4.71 3.35 342
346 Kevin Frandsen 4.69 3.3 346
347 Andrelton Simmons 4.68 3.35 343
348 Wilin Rosario 4.64 3.22 347
349 Wilson Ramos 4.55 3.19 348

It takes on average 2.5 more pitches to get Mike Trout out than Wilson Ramos. This gives us another, very intuitive, way of looking at MUNE: on average, to complete a game against a team of 9 Mike Trouts takes 27 * 7.14 pitches (about 193 pitches). Contrast that with a team of Wilson Ramoses: 27 * 4.55 (about 123 pitches).

Other notables: would you say Jose Altuve has bad at-bats? According to P/PA, he's literally the worst (of 349 batters with a minimum of 200 PAs): 3.11. MUNE re-evaluates him quite a bit, and places him at 320, with a MUNE of 4.99.

The player who gains the most from MUNE is Troy Tulowitzki (differential of 2.90). This is because he gets on base a lot. Conversely, the player who is most overvalued by P/PA is Jose Molina (differential of 1.10). See? He's not as tough on a pitcher as he might seem at first glance.

Back to the Blue Jays. Over the 2014 season, it was our feeling that under Seitzer, the Jays were having better at-bats -- was this true? Well, comparing 2013 with 2014, actually, the team MUNE was almost identical (about 5.70 both years). And this despite JPA (4.98), Melky's tumour (5.50), Izturis (4.94) and Bonifacio (4.91)!

Future work: is MUNE a good indicator of a good hitter at all? Is MUNE a team philosophy? Is it a repeatable skill? Or is it just a cheesy, far-fetched acronym? Is this a new market inefficiency? Should AA hire us? ;-)

(Co-written with V.M. Bell: @VictoriaMBell)

Editor's Note: This is a FanPost written by a reader and member of Bluebird Banter. It was not commissioned by the editors and is not necessarily reflective of the opinions of Bluebird Banter or SB Nation.