Atlanta Braves’ Pedro Ciriaco Is Chasing A Record
By Chris Jervis
Aug 4, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Braves third baseman Pedro Ciriaco (13) hits a RBI single against the San Francisco Giants in the seventh inning at Turner Field. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Atlanta Braves utility man Pedro Ciriaco has shown flashes this season of being a potentially valuable piece for this team in the future, especially when coming off the bench. He can play multiple positions, and generally plays them well. His hitting has not been overwhelming, but he has had some very timely hits that have helped lead to Braves victories. While those hits have been helpful, it is his lack of walks that is putting Ciriaco on pace for a record-setting season.
Pedro Ciriaco so far this season owns a slash line of .259/.259/.366. While the batting average is above the National League average for 2015, Ciriaco’s .259 OBP is well below league average, meaning he makes outs at a greater rate than the average hitter in the NL. Ciriaco has acquired that low OBP by walking exactly ZERO times this season, which is quite an accomplishment given how many plate appearances he has.
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How much of an accomplishment? So much so that, with another 31 plate appearances without a walk, Ciriaco can tie the major league record for most plate appearances by a position player without drawing a walk. If the Braves follow the advice of Tomahawk Take’s Jeff Schafer and delay on calling up Hector Olivera, then Ciriaco will certainly have a chance to break the record.
Since 1901, only nine position players have accumulated at least 100 Plate Appearances in a season without drawing a walk. Pedro Ciriaco currently sits at 6th on that list:
Pedro Ciriaco’s inability or unwillingness to take a walk is not exactly new. Prior to coming to the Atlanta Braves, Ciriaco rarely walked. He now has a 2.9% BB Rate in his career, which is extremely low. In fact, it is so low that Ciricao is in the Top 5 all-time in fewest Walks by position players with at least 600 career plate appearances:
The Atlanta Braves don’t need Ciriaco to be a major contributor with the bat. His value lies in his ability to play several positions fairly competently. He also has enough speed and smarts to not hurt the team on the base paths. With the emergence of Jace Peterson and the impending arrival of Hector Olivera, Ciriaco will likely be the Atlanta Braves’ ‘super utility’ player off the bench, much like Omar Infante or Martin Prado early in his career.
But given that he will likely be used late in games as a pinch-hitter, oftentimes as part of a double switch, Ciriaco’s lack of walks does hurt at times. A hit is always better than a walk, and Ciriaco has done relatively well in that regard. However, being able to draw a Walk or a HBP is a valuable skill, as it puts a runner on base without the possibility of an out. In 118 plate appearances in 2015, Ciriaco has only had a three-ball count nine times. He has been behind or even in the count the other 109 times. Fewer than 48% of the pitches he sees are in the strike zone, and he leads the team in swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone, with 50.8%.
By adopting a slightly less aggressive approach, Ciriaco could very likely increase his value to the team. He isn’t expected to be one of the primary offensive contributors, but increasing the number of times he reaches base (and therefore making fewer outs) will help the team every bit as much as his positional versatility. Becoming even marginally better at the plate could turn him into a viable short-term option in the event of injury to Olivera, Peterson, or Andrelton Simmons.