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Monday, October 22, 2012

BtBS: Gentile: Does a long at-bat create an advantage for the hitter?

Michael the Kay just broke off CenterStage negotiations with The Genbaku Onanies to read up on his favorite yap point!

But how uncommon is it for a hitter to ultimately tattoo this 13th pitch into the bleachers after such a lengthy stand-off with a pitcher? Well, honestly, I’m glad you asked. In the 1015 plate appearances that went at least 12 pitches in that same time period, batters homered 3.84% of the time. In the 50858 plate appearances that went less than 12 pitches long, batters homered only 2.68% of the time.

...To put that into perspective, a 1.16% increase in HR/PA over the course of a 650 PA season is the difference of about 7 HR.

But HR rate isn’t the only aspect of the pitcher-batter matchup that seems to benefit from the extended plate appearance. In fact, in the 245 plate appearances that have gone exactly 13 pitches long from 2002-2011, the wOBA of those outcomes is a startling .381!

Whoa, whoa, whoa there. 245 PA? Isn’t this a Small Sample Size?

Good question. That is probably too small a sample to draw any significant conclusions from, yes. So let’s attempt to increase the sample size of these extra-deep at-bats by expanding the reach of our data set back to 1988—the year retrosheet’s pitch counts first became available. With the new data, our 13-pitch sample nearly doubles to 460 PA, while the wOBA in those at-bats remains steady at .380. 460 PA may still not be an ideal number to work with, but consider that Batters also happened upon some of their best results in 12-pitch at-bats with an even more shocking .415 wOBA in just over 1300 PA.

...Another possibility is that better hitters are more likely to work these extra-deep counts. As it turns out, Batters may have a slightly higher tendency to regularly work an at-bat into a +10-pitch count. Using the same 500 PA criteria from 2002-2011, I found 13 batters that worked extra-deep counts at least 1% of the time. But other then Jeremy Giambi, that list isn’t all that impressive:

So is there a bias in the wOBA increase in these long at-bats? Maybe. But, I’m willing to entertain suggestions on how to test for it.

Repoz Posted: October 22, 2012 at 09:14 AM | 34 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. BDC Posted: October 22, 2012 at 09:28 AM (#4278777)
Small sample indeed (though an interesting study). I was trying to think of the longest PA I'd ever scored. I use the old Project Spreadsheet forms that have eight pitch boxes; you'll have to draw a ninth only every few games. I seem to remember scoring a 12-pitch PA once, but truly have no memory of one going 13.
   2. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: October 22, 2012 at 09:29 AM (#4278778)
The link is circular, comes right back here.

I've always been curious about this and the limited data in the excerpt makes sense intuitively. One thing about the HR rate increase is I would expect hitters with less power to have these sorts of at bats. Obviously a guy like Dunn is more likely to have a 6-7-8 pitch at bat but I wouldn't expect him to foul off 5 or 6 pitches to get to a 13th pitch while a guy like Scutaro would. So I wonder if the increase in expected HR is actually greater than it initially appears.
   3. boteman Posted: October 22, 2012 at 10:28 AM (#4278816)
The sample was taken from more than 50858 plate appearances. The result set was the 245 which then became the input to the next function. Seems adequate, unless you're talking percentages.

Anecdotally, it seems that the longer an AB drags out, the more likely it is that the batter wins. FWIW.
   4. TomH Posted: October 22, 2012 at 10:40 AM (#4278834)
home runs 40% more often is large!

It could be better batters going long counts.
It could be pitchers without a good KO pitch going long counts.
It could be batters who refuse to walk or pitchers who refuse to walk hitters going long counts.
Better than just HR/PA would also be HR/BIP; how often does a 13th pitch PA when the count is full result in a KO and BB as opposed to a 6th pitch full count?

   5. SoSH U at work Posted: October 22, 2012 at 10:46 AM (#4278842)
But HR rate isn’t the only aspect of the pitcher-batter matchup that seems to benefit from the extended plate appearance. In fact, in the 245 plate appearances that have gone exactly 13 pitches long from 2002-2011, the wOBA of those outcomes is a startling .381!

Whoa, whoa, whoa there. 245 PA? Isn’t this a Small Sample Size?


Extra-long at-bats also tend to feature a lot of 3-ball counts, which would seem to help inflate the ol' wOBA.

   6. spycake Posted: October 22, 2012 at 10:52 AM (#4278849)
Extra-long at-bats also tend to feature a lot of 3-ball counts, which would seem to help inflate the ol' wOBA.

I was thinking this too. Should we be comparing only plate appearances that reach a 3-2 count here? Like, how do batters perform on 3-2 counts that end on the 6th pitch? How do they perform on 3-2 counts that end on the 10th pitch? Etc.
   7. dr. scott Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:03 AM (#4278865)
I remember Frank Thomas having a 16 pitch at bat that ended with some kind of hit. I forget who the pitcher was or if it was on the Sox or As. That's all I got.
   8. Random Transaction Generator Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:08 AM (#4278869)
I'd love to know why the 14 pitch ABs seem to be such an outlier to the trend.

Should we be comparing only plate appearances that reach a 3-2 count here? Like, how do batters perform on 3-2 counts that end on the 6th pitch? How do they perform on 3-2 counts that end on the 10th pitch? Etc.


Yeah, I'd like to see that chart.
   9. Biff, highly-regarded young guy Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:13 AM (#4278879)
Anecdotally, it always seemed to me that long at bats tended to end in favor of the hitter. It sort of makes sense intuitively because if they're capable of fouling off that many pitches, they probably have a decent read on the pitcher.
   10. Bug Selig Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:13 AM (#4278882)
Extra-long at-bats also tend to feature a lot of 3-ball counts, which would seem to help inflate the ol' wOBA.


The 2 strikes probably don't help, though.
   11. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:14 AM (#4278884)
I think this whole approach of analysis kind of misses the forest for the trees. The advantage of long at-bats to the batter's team is what's really unmistakable, especially in the first time through the lineup. It not only gives the other players more information about the pitcher's current form that day, but it also helps to shorten the pitcher's innings and puts more stress on the bullpen. This is particularly advantageous when the pitcher is a nibbler who's likely to produce a high pitch count to begin with. It doesn't work so well when the batter quickly falls into an 0-2 or a 1-2 count.
   12. bobm Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:48 AM (#4278926)
From BR PI event finder

2012: PA with 3-2 counts:
Pitches.      PA.  BA. OBP. SLG. OPS BB/PA
      All 23,094 .221 .452 .364 .816 0.30
      6   12,736 .215 .449 .350 .799 0.30
      7    6,144
      8    2,537
      9    1,048
    10+      629 .227 .461 .406 .867 0.30



   13. SoSH U at work Posted: October 22, 2012 at 11:58 AM (#4278936)
The 2 strikes probably don't help, though.


Sure, but lots of plate appearances feature 2-strike counts, including numerous short ones. 3-ball counts are more rare, and grow in likelihood with each pitch.

   14. bobm Posted: October 22, 2012 at 12:16 PM (#4278947)
[12]

7: .226/.455/.371/.827 0.30
8: .230/.460/.384/.844 0.30
9: .236/.450/.415/.865 0.28

HR per PA, split by pitches per PA:
All: 2.0
  6: 1.8
  7: 1.9
  8: 2.3
  9: 2.6
10+: 2.7
   15. Joyful Calculus Instructor Posted: October 22, 2012 at 12:25 PM (#4278956)
But other then[sic] Jeremy Giambi, that list isn’t all that impressive


I think the author was thinking of his brother.
   16. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: October 22, 2012 at 12:29 PM (#4278962)
Small sample indeed (though an interesting study). I was trying to think of the longest PA I'd ever scored. I use the old Project Spreadsheet forms that have eight pitch boxes; you'll have to draw a ninth only every few games. I seem to remember scoring a 12-pitch PA once, but truly have no memory of one going 13.
I hate when there's a long AB. What I hate more is when an inning ends on a caught stealing.
   17. trtaylor6886 Posted: October 22, 2012 at 12:50 PM (#4278981)
#15- I was thinking the same thing and then took a look at the list and it actually is Jeremy Giambi. The players on the list are incredibly unimpressive.
   18. jacksone (AKA It's OK...) Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:16 PM (#4279001)

I think this whole approach of analysis kind of misses the forest for the trees. The advantage of long at-bats to the batter's team is what's really unmistakable, especially in the first time through the lineup. It not only gives the other players more information about the pitcher's current form that day, but it also helps to shorten the pitcher's innings and puts more stress on the bullpen. This is particularly advantageous when the pitcher is a nibbler who's likely to produce a high pitch count to begin with. It doesn't work so well when the batter quickly falls into an 0-2 or a 1-2 count.


Aside from the pitch count is there any way to accurately measure this? Do subsequent batters perform better after long at bats?
   19. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: October 22, 2012 at 01:57 PM (#4279048)
Wouldn't the fact that the at bat has already lasted 13+ pitches indicate that the batter is quite comfortable with the pitcher, at the current time? That is, wouldn't an advantage for the batter create long at bats, and not necessarily the other way around?
   20. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:11 PM (#4279064)
I think this whole approach of analysis kind of misses the forest for the trees. The advantage of long at-bats to the batter's team is what's really unmistakable, especially in the first time through the lineup. It not only gives the other players more information about the pitcher's current form that day, but it also helps to shorten the pitcher's innings and puts more stress on the bullpen. This is particularly advantageous when the pitcher is a nibbler who's likely to produce a high pitch count to begin with. It doesn't work so well when the batter quickly falls into an 0-2 or a 1-2 count.

Aside from the pitch count is there any way to accurately measure this? Do subsequent batters perform better after long at bats?


I'm not sure whether the effect on the next few batters has actually been measured, but almost by definition the cumulative effect of long pitch counts is to wear down the pitcher and place an extra burden on the bullpen. That's why I emphasized the effect on the team, not the individual batter. You may not see the effect of it immediately, but when by the fifth inning the pitch count is in the 80's or 90's rather than the 50's or the 60's, that can't be good for the pitcher.

   21. Random Transaction Generator Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:13 PM (#4279069)
Wouldn't the fact that the at bat has already lasted 13+ pitches indicate that the batter is quite comfortable with the pitcher, at the current time?


Is the batter fouling off pitches inside (not the edge) the strike zone? If so, that suggests he can't get good wood on the ball, even though he should, and the pitcher might be dominating.

Is the batter fouling off pitches outside (edge) of the strike zone? If so, that suggests that the batter is waiting out the pitcher until a mistake pitch comes through, and the batter is therefore under control.
   22. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:21 PM (#4279080)
Is the batter fouling off pitches inside (not the edge) the strike zone? If so, that suggests he can't get good wood on the ball, even though he should, and the pitcher might be dominating.


No, a dominating pitcher does not allow an at-bat to last 13 pitches. If that's happening, the pitcher is surviving.
   23. Don Malcolm Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:22 PM (#4279082)
Interesting data. But keep in mind that the sample size for 10+ (629 PA in '12) is 0.3% of the total number of PAs for the year. These happen about once in every 300 PAs, or about once in every nine games.

Hey, Bob, can you tell us which team had the most 10+ pitch PAs? And which team's pitching staff allowed the most??
   24. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:23 PM (#4279085)
Interesting data. But keep in mind that the sample size for 10+ (629 PA in '12) is 0.3% of the total number of PAs for the year. These happen about once in every 300 PAs, or about once in every nine games.


So is the sample size for Mike Trout. That doesn't mean it's not a significant sample.
   25. bobm Posted: October 22, 2012 at 02:53 PM (#4279113)
[23]

top 5 batting teams
CHC 31 PA
SEA 28
ATL 28
CHW 28
TEX 27


top 5 pitching teams
TBD 29 PA
CIN 29
HOU 29
CLE 28
FLA 28
   26. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: October 22, 2012 at 03:00 PM (#4279121)
Elias did this study about 25 years ago.
   27. Don Malcolm Posted: October 22, 2012 at 07:19 PM (#4279382)
Elias did this study about 25 years ago.

And they got the data for the 2012 season then? Damn, those guys were better than even Bill James thought they were!! :-)

So is the sample size for Mike Trout. That doesn't mean it's not a significant sample.

Sorry, you've just compared trout with halibut. There were 356 different batters in this particular sample. While it's an interesting piece of info, it's not something that's going to come into play often and has little/no value in terms of analyzing the performance of any individual hitter.

No, a dominating pitcher does not allow an at-bat to last 13 pitches. If that's happening, the pitcher is surviving.

How about only 10 pitches? Here are the names of some pitchers who had 10 pitchers to a batter twice in the same game in 2012: Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Harrison, David Price, James Shields, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver.
   28. Sleepy supports unauthorized rambling Posted: October 23, 2012 at 01:43 AM (#4280356)
HR per PA, split by pitches per PA:

All: 2.0
6: 1.8
7: 1.9
8: 2.3
9: 2.6
10+: 2.7


That's a lot of HR's per PA :)
   29. bobm Posted: October 23, 2012 at 08:12 AM (#4280387)
[28] that's %. Sorry
   30. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: October 23, 2012 at 08:43 AM (#4280391)
How about only 10 pitches? Here are the names of some pitchers who had 10 pitchers to a batter twice in the same game in 2012: Madison Bumgarner, Johnny Cueto, Matt Harrison, David Price, James Shields, Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver.

Right...and?

Sometimes good pitchers struggle against a hitter. Is that somehow in doubt?
   31. Tippecanoe Posted: October 23, 2012 at 08:57 AM (#4280399)
If an at-bat goes 13 pitches, that means that the hitter has swung between 8 and 10 times without making solid, fair contact. It's advantageous to the hitter to draw out the at-bat, but it isn't clear that this means that the pitcher is ineffective when it happens. One might even conclude the opposite -- 8 swings, can't even put the ball in play.
   32. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: October 23, 2012 at 09:48 AM (#4280422)
If an at-bat goes 13 pitches, that means that the hitter has swung between 8 and 10 times without making solid, fair contact. It's advantageous to the hitter to draw out the at-bat, but it isn't clear that this means that the pitcher is ineffective when it happens. One might even conclude the opposite -- 8 swings, can't even put the ball in play.

Maybe not ineffective, but certainly not dominating. At best, the pitcher is doing ok. He's surviving.
   33. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: October 23, 2012 at 10:36 AM (#4280466)
Maybe not ineffective, but certainly not dominating. At best, the pitcher is doing ok. He's surviving.


I think you can easily turn that around and say it's the hitter who is surviving. He's not putting the ball in play with a line drive but taking desperate swings and just getting a piece of the ball to stay alive. I think if the hitter is not putting 8-10 pitches into play it's hard to say he's not the one "surviving."
   34. Fly should without a doubt be number !!!!! Posted: October 23, 2012 at 11:45 AM (#4280546)
I think you can easily turn that around and say it's the hitter who is surviving. He's not putting the ball in play with a line drive but taking desperate swings and just getting a piece of the ball to stay alive. I think if the hitter is not putting 8-10 pitches into play it's hard to say he's not the one "surviving."

Right. So then you're in a situation where both players are surviving. The baseline, then, is that both are doing adequately. Anything beyond that tells us that ONLY the batter has any motivation to extend the at-bat deliberately.

So you're in a situation where neither player is dominating the situation, unless the batter is. So long at bats are never created by an advantage by the pitcher, sometimes created by an advantage by the batter, and sometimes created by an advantage for neither.

So the slant is towards "advantage by the batter", relative to all at bats.

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