CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

Baseball Prospectus home
  
  
Click here to log in Click here for forgotten password Click here to subscribe

There will be a very short planned maintenance outage of the site tonight (7/22) at 11 PM ET

<< Previous Article
Painting the Black: Pi... (04/26)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Manufactured Runs: The... (04/07)
Next Column >>
Manufactured Runs: The... (05/10)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL... (04/26)

April 26, 2011

Manufactured Runs

3-2-1 Contact

by Colin Wyers

the archives are now free.

All Baseball Prospectus Premium and Fantasy articles more than a year old are now free as a thank you to the entire Internet for making our work possible.

Not a subscriber? Get exclusive content like this delivered hot to your inbox every weekday. Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get instant access to the best baseball content on the web.

Subscribe for $4.95 per month
Recurring subscription - cancel anytime.


a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Purchase a $39.95 gift subscription
a 33% savings over the monthly price!

Already a subscriber? Click here and use the blue login bar to log in.

The Minnesota Twins have the somewhat unique distinction of being left wanting by Francisco Liriano’s performance—not just his early-season struggles, but his body of work as a pitcher. Manager Ron Gardenire told reporters:

We've told him forever that he's a strikeout pitcher. We understand that he can strike people out, but if he really wants to become a pitcher, pitch to contact. Use that two-seamer and use that slider down and in every once in a while, and that changeup, but pitch to contact early. That'll get him deep into games.

Because his stuff is so good. There's times when you need to go for the strikeout. That's when you save your Mr. Nasty, as they say. You throw the nasty pitches then. But those other times you need to pitch to contact to get you deeper into games. When you want that big strikeout, maybe with a man on second, and you've got an open base, take your shot with your stuff.

Here’s the question—does pitching to contact allow a pitcher to get deeper into games? And if so, is there any cost, in terms of runs allowed, that offsets the gains of pitching deeper into games?

Let’s take a look at it through the lens of K/9. Why K/9, you may be asking—well, K/9 is just strikeouts per out times 27, which makes it a very good measure of how a pitcher gets his outs, independent of how many outs he gets (this will become important in a second). Let’s look at the relationship between K/9 and pitches per plate appearances, examining pitchers with more than 120 IP from 1993 to 2010:

P per Plate Appearance

Yes, utterly shocking, I know. Strikeout pitchers will throw more pitches to the batters they face than other pitchers. (The correlation coefficient, if you’re wondering, is .49.) And it’s pretty simple to see why this is the case—a strikeout requires at least three pitches, while an out on contact requires only one.

So case closed, right? Pitching to contact allows a pitcher to end a plate appearance with fewer pitches, which should help pitchers get deeper into games, right?

But we’re missing a key piece of information—how many outs a pitcher records per plate appearance. Looking at how K/9 correlates with outs per PA:

Outs per Plate Appearance

What’s interesting here is that by using K/9, we’ve chosen a measure of a pitcher’s strikeout ability that is not intrinsically correlated with his total number of outs—if we’d used K/PA instead we’d see a higher correlation. (As it is, we see a robust .44, nearly the same as what we saw for K/9 and pitches per PA.) What the data is telling us is that while strikeout pitchers do in fact throw more pitches per batter they face, they can make it through an inning while facing fewer batters. In terms of pitches per outs, then, the two effects counterbalance each other to some extent—we see a modest .12 correlation between K/9 and pitches per out.

So what does this mean for Liriano? Let’s take a look at outs per contact and outs per noncontact to see how they correlate with rates of contact and noncontact outcomes per plate appearance:

Out Rates

The red blob is outs per noncontact events—K/(K+BB), in other words. What we can see is that there is a weak but real relationship (R of .24) between a pitcher’s (K+BB)/PA rate and his K/(K+BB) rate, so pitchers with higher noncontact rates will tend to have more strikeouts per noncontact than other pitchers. We see no significant correlation, however, between outs per contacted ball and the number of contacted balls a pitcher allows (R of -0.03, so not only is it not significant, it actually runs the other way: pitchers who allow less contact appear to get more outs on contact, although again, this isn’t significant).

But what about Liriano in particular? Is he the sort of pitcher who would benefit from pitching more to contact? Well, for pitchers in the study, we see a .70 outs per contact rate, compared to .66 for outs on noncontact. In other words, assuming that everything else stays the same, the typical pitcher may in fact benefit slightly from pitching more to contact (that, of course, being a rather generous assumption, given the correlation we see). But for Liriano, while we still see a .70 rate of outs per contact, we see a .73 outs per noncontact rate. So, if Liriano begins pitching to contact more (assuming his K/(K+BB) rate does not increase as his contact rate increases, which I think is reasonable given the above), he’s going to see an increase in the number of batters he has to face to get through an inning. Rather than letting him pitch deeper into games, it’s going to make him less efficient in terms of batters he faces. Rather than making him more of a pitcher, it would probably just make him a more ordinary pitcher.

Colin Wyers is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Colin's other articles. You can contact Colin by clicking here

4 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Painting the Black: Pi... (04/26)
<< Previous Column
Premium Article Manufactured Runs: The... (04/07)
Next Column >>
Manufactured Runs: The... (05/10)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL... (04/26)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article My Model Portfolio: Three-and-a-Half Months ...
Notes About Baseball, 7/22
Premium Article What You Need to Know: Boston Gives 'Em A Li...
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Monday, July 2...
Premium Article Moonshot: Accounting for Count
Premium Article Prospects Will Break Your Heart: What Did I ...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Headley Chased

MORE FROM APRIL 26, 2011
Transaction Analysis: Return of the Busted P...
Premium Article Divide and Conquer, NL West: At Least We Don...
Painting the Black: Pitching Backward
Premium Article Prospects Will Break Your Heart: An Embarras...
Premium Article Prospectus Hit List: Of Phils and Fish
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Value Picks at Catcher, Second...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Beat: Tout Wars FAAB Update 4/25

MORE BY COLIN WYERS
2011-05-15 - BP Unfiltered: A Poem About Jorge Posada
2011-05-10 - Manufactured Runs: The Deconstruction of Fal...
2011-05-05 - BP Unfiltered: 2011 Stats are Live
2011-04-26 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: 3-2-1 Contact
2011-04-08 - BP Unfiltered: Pardon Our Dust
2011-04-08 - Between The Numbers: Playing the Odds
2011-04-07 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: The Closer Quandary
More...

MORE MANUFACTURED RUNS
2011-07-25 - Manufactured Runs: Lost in the SIERA Madre
2011-06-28 - Manufactured Runs: Followed Him Up to the Ga...
2011-05-10 - Manufactured Runs: The Deconstruction of Fal...
2011-04-26 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: 3-2-1 Contact
2011-04-07 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: The Closer Quandary
2011-02-24 - Manufactured Runs: PS Odds, I Love You
2011-02-18 - Premium Article Manufactured Runs: Projecting Pujols
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2013-01-15 - Premium Article Overthinking It: Have the Twins Learned to L...
2012-07-14 - BP Unfiltered: Francisco Liriano's Unconvinc...
2012-06-20 - Manufactured Runs: Does the Rockies' Four-Ma...
2012-02-29 - Premium Article Prospectus Preview: AL Central 2012 Preseaso...
2011-04-29 - What You Missed: 4/25-4/29