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Batting By Pitch Count

April 22nd, 2008 by Melvin

Matt and Mud were wondering on the air today about a batter’s propensity to foul pitches off on full counts.  Baseball-Reference PI can calculate by player, unfortunately I don’t know how to do it inclusively.  Individually, the contact percentage in my informal study seems to vary wildly by player and batting count.

I’ll take this opportunity to ignore their question and talk about something I find more important: expected outcome by count.  Tango has some work on the subject.

Expected outcome at 3-2 count:

wOBA BABIP AVG OBP SLG
.403 .303 .230 .470 .380

Think of wOBA as something like OPS, an all inclusive type stat but set to the scale as OBP.  So .340 would be about average, etc.

The predicted outcome of wOBA and OBP on a 3-2 count makes sense inherently.  A batter won’t be as productive overall with fewer than three balls, and will be more productive with 3 balls and fewer strikes.

What strikes me as odd, is the slugging drop off on a 3-2 count compared to 2-1, or even a 1-0 count.  You’ll have to click over to Tango’s site to see the entire table.

My thinking is that hitters are so asked to attempt to make any kind of contact (protect the plate) with two strikes.  This means they’re more likely to just toss the bat in front of the pitch, even with 3 balls and a walk imminent.  Hitters face a seemingly irrational scorn for looking at strike three, which appears especially strange on full counts.  This may correlate with Matt and Mud’s theory of more foul balls on counts that are full.

One note from Tom Tippett: be careful to differentiate between the “through” count data with the “at” count data.  The advantages to hitter friendly counts and disadvantages to pitcher friendly counts are skewed all funky like unless you look at the “through” count data.  Otherwise the context and meaning of the rest of the at bat is lost.

Tough loss today for the Padres.  On the plus side, Brian Giles is off to a fantastic start.

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