Joel over at Reds (and Blues) has an interesting post up about the Reds philosophy of “pitching to contact.” It’s definitely worth a read, as usual.

3 Responses

  1. Greg

    Thanks for the link. Some interesting comments and analysis there. A couple of thoughts off the top of my head on what I read:
    (1) What is the impact of this quote “92.7% of the time, if you throw a strike [on the first pitch] to the opposing hitter, you get either a 0-1 count or an out.” on the Reds minor league hitting philosphy of taking pitches until a strike is called. On one hand, the OPS for 0-1 counts is terrible, so you wouldn’t want the player to take that first pitch, but on the other hand, only 7% of first pitch strikes become a hit, which is an even worse OPS outcome.

    (2) AB’s less than 3 balls vs exactly 3 balls. It is written “hitters are not any more likely to get a hit or hit for more power.” The numbers presented show a 4% decrease in AVG, but a 4.7% increase in SLG…this gives a net increase in the SLG/AVG ratio of 8.78%. This would seem to indicate that there are more meatball pitches on a 3-ball count.

    (3) I’m surprised to see that large of a difference between the “at bat with 3 balls” and the “5+ pitches” statistics. Except for 4-ball walks (which only affect OBP), the “at bat with 3 balls” should be a subset of the 5+ pitch category.

  2. Joel

    Good comments Greg, some of my thoughts on what you wrote:
    (1) I was wondering the same thing, it almost seems like a damned if you do, damned if you don’t kind of situation. The one thing I will point is this quote from Burley’s article, “Now if the hitter manages to hit your first strike in fair territory, he does pretty well, as hitters batted .341/.348/.555 on 0-0 counts in 2003.” So if you are comfortable swinging at a first pitch strike, then go for it. As for the Reds minor league philosophy, I think their intention is more to get their hitters better equipped to recognize pitches, rather than rushing through an at bat by swining at the first pitch.

    (2) I hadn’t really thought about the increase in ISO power – I was a little too ambitious with the article at some points – but you make a great point. Power is somewhat increased (.188 with 3 balls vs. .158 with fewer balls), but there are 4x as many at bats with less than 3 balls than with, so I wonder if those numbers would come closer together in a larger dataset.

    (3) You would think that the 5+ pitch count numbers would be closer to the 3 ball count numbers, but actually here is the break down of the 5+ pitch at bats:

    less than 3 balls (31761 batters)  .195/.196/.303
    3 balls (32606 batters)            .255/.531/.440

    As you can see there were nearly as many 5+ pitch at bats with less than 3 balls are there were those that had 3 balls. More importantly, batters lost most of the battles with less than 3 balls. Thanks for your input or else I probably never would have broken the data down this way and it definitely shows that if the pitcher can remain ahead or even in the count, he keeps the advantage, regardless of how long the at bat goes. That is, except for the 18-pitch at bat by Alex Cora where he homered off of Matt Clement last May on a 2-2 count.