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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sullivan: Why Mike Trout—and the rest of the league—is having trouble with the high stuff

Pitchers, by and large, are working lower. The called strike zone has followed them... Hitters are… swinging at more pitches in the lower third… Contact rates on pitches up have declined. Contact rates on pitches down have very slightly improved… here’s what this has led to: in 2008, hitters slugged 30 points better against high strikes than they did against low strikes. The next season, they slugged 51 points better. Fast-forward now to 2014, and you’ll observe that now hitters are slugging 10 points worse against those same high strikes…

Yet, pitchers continue to work down. It’s how they’ve long been instructed, and it’s where offspeed pitches are usually supposed to go… From a recent Business Week Astros profile:

advanced data yielded a useful insight: Major league hitters had become so adept at hitting low pitches that they were vulnerable to high ones. [Billy] Beane had discovered a particularly clever countermove. “€œBeane stayed ahead of the curve,”€ says [Astros pitching coach Brent] Strom, “€œby finding hitters with a steep upward swing path to counter the sinking action of pitchers trying to induce ground balls.”

Billy Beane put together a baseball team constructed to fight those low pitches… The Astros had Collin McHugh start to throw more elevated four-seam fastballs… McHugh is having an outstanding season out of nowhere…

So this is how we proceed in the league’s hunt for equilibrium. For years, pitchers worked to throw down more and more often… The league has started to respond… [and] now the league will eventually respond to the response, re-establishing the upper parts of the zone. McHugh is one example… And then, in time, there [will] just be a response to the response to the response. Look closely enough and there’s no such thing as equilibrium at all.

The District Attorney Posted: August 30, 2014 at 06:27 PM | 7 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: angels, astros, athletics, billy beane, collin mchugh, mike trout, sabermetrics

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   1. CFBF Is The Victim of Unfathomable Pinheadery Posted: August 30, 2014 at 07:06 PM (#4782526)
Justin Upton is another example of this dynamic. Outstanding hitter overall, but struggles mightily against anything up and hard. He's routinely late on even decent fastballs up in the zone. Throw him a breaking ball for a strike at the knees, however, and he'll hit it a loooooong way.
   2. Jose Bautista Bobblehead Day Posted: August 30, 2014 at 08:00 PM (#4782534)
Sean Doolittle and Chris Young make their living up in the strike zone.
   3. Dog on the sidewalk Posted: August 31, 2014 at 12:19 AM (#4782643)
Chris Young makes his living via a pact with the devil.
   4. smileyy Posted: August 31, 2014 at 02:25 AM (#4782658)
No, that's Chris Truby
   5. gef the talking mongoose Posted: August 31, 2014 at 07:31 AM (#4782668)
You're saying Chris Truby, via his pact with Satan, has shapeshifted into Chris Young?

Surely he could've done better than that, though I suppose that under the circumstances he prefers to maintain a low profile. Makes sense.

And perhaps Albert Belle has shapeshifted into the other Chris Young?

I hate it when those guys do that.
   6. Weratych Posted: August 31, 2014 at 10:25 AM (#4782726)
Billy must have thought That Cespedes didn't have a steep enough swing path when he traded him to Boston and changed the entire dynamic of Oaklands offense. They need to start swinging steeper, back to back shutouts vs Angels powerful staff..
   7. Rickey! No. You move. Posted: August 31, 2014 at 12:22 PM (#4782767)
Evan Gattis does damage on high fastballs occasionally.

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