Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Saturday, May 03, 2014

BtBS: Does the strike zone shrink in later innings?

John Smoltz suggested last week that the strike zone shrinks in the late innings. Is he right? [.

I never trust anything I see on Twitter (or the Internet, for that matter) without checking out the bona fides of the party involved, and after a rigorous vetting process, determined the tweeter involved could be trusted—indeed, they appear to be a stunningly bright group of men and women at the forefront of sabermetric research, but I digress. It poses a legitimate question, and the data exists to check the veracity of the statement.

Before showing the data, it’s important to draw an important distinction. When John Smoltz shaves, he loses more baseball knowledge than I’ll ever possess in my lifetime. In testing questions like this, my purpose isn’t to demean someone or show off my vast knowledge as much as check if the facts line up with the statement. There will never be an instance when my opinion should be given greater weight that John Smoltz’s.

http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2014/5/1/5668626/john-smoltz-strike-zone-baseball-pitchfx

bobm Posted: May 03, 2014 at 09:19 PM | 9 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: john smoltz, strike zone

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. boteman Posted: May 04, 2014 at 08:38 AM (#4699904)
tl;dr No, the calls are consistent across all innings of all games taken in aggregate since 2008. About 33% of pitches outside the strike zone are called strikes when they should be called balls.

Interestingly, there are much more egregious errors left and right of the strike zone than there are above and below the zone.
I expected the opposite since it's tougher to see especially the bottom border of the strike zone the way most umpires position themselves. I would have expected the inside and outside edges to be fairly accurate. I guess they want to speed the game along.
   2. Cblau Posted: May 04, 2014 at 08:49 PM (#4700117)
Trouble is, Smoltz claimed it happened in close games, and the research doesn't address that. The data used are for all games, and the tightened strike zone in close games could be offset by an expanded zone in other games.
   3. cardsfanboy Posted: May 04, 2014 at 09:09 PM (#4700130)
Trouble is, Smoltz claimed it happened in close games, and the research doesn't address that. The data used are for all games, and the tightened strike zone in close games could be offset by an expanded zone in other games.


Exactly, I've seen announcers mention in blowouts, that the umpire is going to expand the zone to speed up the game. It's very probable that the opposite happens, in which the umpire is trying to avoid having the call determine the outcome of the game (see NHL refs and lack of whistles in the post season for another example of this phenomenon)


   4. Greg K Posted: May 04, 2014 at 09:31 PM (#4700136)
Interestingly, there are much more egregious errors left and right of the strike zone than there are above and below the zone.
I expected the opposite since it's tougher to see especially the bottom border of the strike zone the way most umpires position themselves. I would have expected the inside and outside edges to be fairly accurate. I guess they want to speed the game along.

One thing that may be influencing things is framing. When a catcher wins or loses a strike for his pitcher I get the sense that it's usually inside or outside, not high or low. Though that could be wrong.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: May 05, 2014 at 12:14 AM (#4700182)
With 1-inning high-leverage relievers toting K/9 rates of 12, we're worrying that the strike zone in late, close situations is too small?

Anyway, K/PA rates are lower in high leverage for AL 2014 although as always it's a complicated picture -- more BB in exchange for a bit less power, especially HR.

high 260/339/395, 9.8% BB, 20.3% K, 2.0% HR
med 256/328/396, 8.9% BB, 19.7% K, 2.2% HR
low 253/322/402, 8.4% BB, 20.6% K, 2.5% HR

Those are pretty trivial, especially high vs. med. And most of that is IBB (1% in high, 3-4 times the others) -- issue IBB at the same rate in those two scenarios and the high walk rate is down to 9.2 while K rate is up to 20.5.

It's only 2014 data but is is about 17,000 PA already, 3500 in the high situation. For those who like it "late and close"

254/341/380, 10.9% BB, 21.8% K, 1.9% HR, 1.2% IBB rate. Bit more of a difference here and even the adjusted walk rate is pushing 10% but the K-rate is higher and the HR rate lower.

Doesn't mean umps aren't squeezing. But most likely means that Smoltz felt like he didn't get the calls as a closer that he got as a starter.
   6. Scott Lange Posted: May 05, 2014 at 07:17 AM (#4700198)
In addition to the problem in #2, another problem is that Smoltz could've been speaking figuratively. I've heard basketball players say that the diameter of the rim shrinks, or the distance from the free throw line to the rim expands, in pressure situations. I don't think they mean it literally.
   7. Sunday silence Posted: May 05, 2014 at 10:14 AM (#4700235)

Those are pretty trivial, especially high vs. med.


I agree w/ your general pt. about closers and strike outs. But I am not sure those numbers are trivial. For instance since bat avg as well as reach on error increases with men on base doesnt this call into question the accepted linear weights of singles, doubles, etc?

if hits are occurring in bunches (well statistically they are slightly more bunched) then that means their value for scoring a run is greater than if they occur at a rate that never changes.
   8. Danny Posted: May 05, 2014 at 11:37 AM (#4700317)
Those two quoted paragraphs are cringe-inducing.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: May 05, 2014 at 06:04 PM (#4700671)
#7 I'm not sure I follow but I'll try ...

The BA diff between high and low is 4 hits per 1000 AB or about 3.6 hits per 1000 PA. There have so far been 3500 high PA so that's about 13 more hits.

On the other hand, the HR/PA is 2 per 1000 PA in the favor of "high" so that's 7 fewer HR. I think I'll take that trade. Question is how the IBB play into it.

Does the value of a hit vary on context. Of course it does. But until it can be established that certain hitters perform better in certain contexts, there's no reason to move away from the standard linear weights.

So sure, the 260/360/395 line in high is doing more damage than the exact same line would do in med -- that's just the definition of leverage. What that says about the strike zone or the quality of pitching is beyond me. But note that the "late and close" numbers are quite different than the "high" numbers. BA and ISO are both well down late and close and clearly some walks are (intended to be) strategic.

The other high leverage situations I assume must be something like 5th inning of a tie game, a couple of guys on.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Jim Wisinski
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOT: Politics, October 2014: Sunshine, Baseball, and Etch A Sketch: How Politicians Use Analogies
(3761 - 12:08pm, Oct 25)
Last: Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip

Newsblog9 reasons Hunter Pence is the most interesting man in the World (Series) | For The Win
(19 - 12:06pm, Oct 25)
Last: Pat Rapper's Delight

NewsblogMLB - Royals' Ned Yost keeps managing to win - ESPN
(8 - 12:05pm, Oct 25)
Last: Justin T., Director of Somethin

NewsblogOT: The Soccer Thread, September 2014
(930 - 12:04pm, Oct 25)
Last: Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site

NewsblogPhils' philospophy beginning to evolve | phillies.com
(6 - 11:49am, Oct 25)
Last: Gonfalon Bubble

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 1959 Ballot
(7 - 11:46am, Oct 25)
Last: lieiam

NewsblogRoyals get four AL Gold Glove finalists, but not Lorenzo Cain | The Kansas City Star
(17 - 11:46am, Oct 25)
Last: BDC

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - October 2014
(391 - 11:43am, Oct 25)
Last: Tom Cervo, backup catcher

NewsblogYost's managerial decisions make for extra-entertaining World Series | FOX Sports
(2 - 11:13am, Oct 25)
Last: Everybody Loves Tyrus Raymond

NewsblogDave Dombrowski: Injury worse than expected, Miguel Cabrera 'is as tough as you can possibly be' | MLive.com
(8 - 11:05am, Oct 25)
Last: Mayor Blomberg

Newsblog2014 WORLD SERIES GAME 3 OMNICHATTER
(517 - 10:40am, Oct 25)
Last: RoyalsRetro (AG#1F)

NewsblogBoston Red Sox prospect Deven Marrero enjoying turnaround in Arizona Fall League | MiLB.com News | The Official Site of Minor League Baseball
(2 - 10:32am, Oct 25)
Last: Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer

NewsblogBuster Olney on Twitter: "Sources: Manager Joe Maddon has exercised an opt-out clause in his contract and is leaving the Tampa Bay Rays immediately."
(82 - 9:30am, Oct 25)
Last: TerpNats

NewsblogGambling Bochy creature of habit when it comes to pitchers | CSN Bay Area
(1 - 9:25am, Oct 25)
Last: JJ1986

NewsblogCurt Schilling not hiding his scars - ESPN Boston
(23 - 7:32am, Oct 25)
Last: Merton Muffley

Page rendered in 0.2489 seconds
52 querie(s) executed