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Monday, October 12, 2020

Dodgers vs. Braves: Why first pitches could be X-factor that decides NLCS

MLB teams hit .353 with a .597 slugging percentage on the first pitch this season. There is some selection bias here though, because when a player swings at the first pitch, it’s usually because he gets something good to hit. If everyone started swinging at the first pitch all the time, the league wouldn’t hit .353 on the first pitch much longer.

The Braves had the third-highest batting average (.399) and the highest slugging percentage (.788) on the first pitch during the regular season. Their 26 first-pitch homers led baseball and some of the individual numbers are incredible:....

These are two excellent offensive teams and it is not a coincidence they are two excellent first-pitch hitting teams. Walks are great, but the Braves and Dodgers go up to the plate ready to hit. When they get something hittable in the zone, they pounce. Working the count is a secondary concern. They’re up there to do damage.


RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: October 12, 2020 at 10:09 AM | 2 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: braves, dodgers, nlcs

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   1. Walt Davis Posted: October 12, 2020 at 06:11 PM (#5982675)
As noted, the numbers on 0-0 are affected (tremendously) by selection bias. By theory, batters should be even more selective at 1-0, 2-0 and 3-0 and maybe 3-1. (Note ideally you'd want to include SF in the denominaort for BA and SLG but I'm too lazy) For 2020:

0-0 343/597 (their typo, not mine)
1-0 349/635
2-0 352/677
3-0 366/894
3-1 366/702

So the impact is mainly ISO, not BA. Interestingly, contact was made on 2-0 only a bit more often than on 3-0, maybe a shift in strategy on 2-0 counts.

But the difference to other 1-srike counts isn't too dramatic

0-1 330/537
1-1 333/558
2-1 335/573

Once they are in 2-strike sounts, batters are hopeless and ISO crashes (until 3-2 when it's still low)

It's also not clear they are being particularly extra selective at 0-0. B-R doesn't give an "on contact" split but they do give a "fair ball" split which only excludes a relative small number of foul outs (leading to slightly higher rate stats) and on fair balls in 2020, the league hit 341/583 nearly identical to 0-0 (so it would be a bit lower if we added back in foul outs).

On foul balls, the league hit 0 for 1131 with 4 SFs and ... somehow ... a SH and a GDP. Why anybody ever thought it useful to calculate the fair/foul splits is a mystery for the ages but it would be nice if they at least added the on-contact split.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: October 12, 2020 at 06:24 PM (#5982677)
Oof! Looks like they've changed the definition of "line drives" AGAIN.

In 2019 there were 6774 HRs hit with 5,957 coming on "fly balls" and fewer than 1,000 on "line drives." In 2020 there were 2,304 HRs hit with only 1,223 on "fly balls" and 1,081 on "line drives." All told, on line drives, the league hit 632/930 on "line drives" last year and 642/1112 this year. In 2019, there were about 20% more FBs than LDs ; in 2020, they were nearly equal. Production on "fly balls" plummeted from 240/760 to 167/499. Doubles on "fly balls" went from about 1 in 27 ABs to about 1 in 48 ABs.

If you add FBs and LDs together in both years, you get fairly similar results across the years.

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