OK, I'm sticking my neck way out here with m first FanPost. So if you guys are going to chop it off, please use the sharp knife...
We've been talking a lot here about about how Larry Parrish is coaching the Braves hitters to be aggressive at the plate and not take a lot of pitches. Why is he doing this? I went back and looked up Parrish's stats as a player. Turns out he didn't walk much -- 529 walks in 6792 PAs, for a walk rate of 7.8%, or about one walk every 12 PAs. He struck out 1359 times, almost exactly 1 out of 5 plate appearances.
So it looks like he really focused on being a contact hitter. He had what appear to be some pretty productive years in his career, with slugging percentages of .551 in 1979, .474 in 1983, and .509 in 1986. In those same three years, the home runs were 30, 26, and 28 -- those are not bad numbers for the era. This was all despite Parrish's batting and on-base averages not being that great; his .307/.357/.551 line in 1979 was the only year that he batted above .300 or had an OBP above .350. His career average OBP was .318.
So how was this possible? Here's my theory. Parrish played from 1974 to 1988. What was different about baseball then? Two things: (1) bigger ballparks, and (2) artificial turf, both of which benefitted contact hitters. Larger outfields meant that a fly ball had a bigger chance of dropping in between outfielders, and a line drive had a better chance of finding a gap and going to the wall. Artificial turn meant more speed on ground balls, meaning that they had a better chance of sneaking through the infield. Also, artificial turf meant faster baserunning, meaning that fielders had fewer chances to get the lead runner on a ground ball.
There was also a difference in pitching in that era, in that there were far fewer pitchers who relied primarily on a fastball. Things like the split-finger and the various two-seam and four-seam fastballs had not really been developed. Big breaking pitches were in vogue, and many more pitchers dealt mainly in big curves, sliders, and oddball pitches like screwballs that you don't see today. I conjecture that this made the ball and strike calls less reliable, and so a hitter was less likely to leave the outcome of an at-bat in the hands of an umpire by taking a pitch that appeared to be anywhere close.
To sum it up, Parrish is preaching what worked for him when he was a player. Unfortunately, the game has changed. These days, if pitchers have you pegged as a free swinger, you won't see anything within five miles of the strike zone. And if you make anything less than solid contact, then unless it goes out of play, it's likely to be an unproductive or counter-productive out. Parrish has to realize that it isn't 1979 anymore.