CSS Button No Image Css3Menu.com

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

Happy Thanksgiving! Regularly Scheduled Articles Will Resume Monday, December 1

<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (05/16)
<< Previous Column
Pebble Hunting: Recent... (05/15)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: How to... (05/19)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Front Office Expansion (05/16)

May 16, 2014

Pebble Hunting

The Meaning of 3-0 Green Lights

by Sam Miller


On Sunday, in the first inning, Derek Norris homered on a 3-0 pitch from Gio Gonzalez. Then in the second inning, the same guy did the same thing on the same count against the same guy. “They've given me the green light a few times this year,” Norris said afterward, which is interesting. The A’s haven’t generally given their hitters many green lights on 3-0. Assistant GM David Forst once said that “we typically don’t allow guys to swing 3-0. When one of our guys does it, it’s a big deal. It happens only three or four times a year.”

A couple days later, Josh Donaldson got a green light (he didn’t swing), and he was asked about it on a local radio station. “(I don’t know) how Billy (Beane) was feeling about that because Billy doesn’t feel too strongly about swinging at 3-0. Unless it was a home run, but even at that I’m sure he’s pretty upset that (the batter) didn’t get a walk.”

Yoenis Cespedes has swung at a 3-0 pitch this year. Josh Reddick has swung at two. It’s mid-May and the A’s have already topped their three or four times for the year. Maybe swinging at 3-0 is now a thing that teams like the A’s do. Maybe it’s still not. What’s interesting is that, in the past 15 years, count control has been at the center of baseball’s strategic shifts, and yet I couldn’t tell you what 3-0 green lights represent. Are they what statheads do, trying to leverage the hitter’s count they’ve worked so hard to get? Are they what statheads never do, eager as they are to get on base? Are they what teams do when offense is up, or what they do in pitchers’ eras? What does a 3-0 green light mean?

Here’s a graph I put together a few days ago. It shows what percentage of 3-0 plate appearances ended with a ball in play on 3-0. This isn’t exactly a chart showing how often the green light is given; we’ll never know how often a green light is given, since some large percentage of hitters with green lights take the pitch (for whatever reason) anyway, and about half of 3-0 swings are fouled off or missed entirely. So this chart is a proxy, but it works:

Normally, when we look at a chart about league tendencies, it’s easy to see the trend and tie it to one of three things: Teams got statheadier, the offensive environment changed, or expansion happened. But here it’s all jumbled up. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, 3-0 swinging was not particularly rare or common. Then, as offense went up, and as two teams were added to the league, it became very common. Then, as offense kept going up, and two more teams were added to the league, it became rarer and rarer and, eventually, very rare. Then, as Moneyball stuff became common, they kept getting rarer and rarer and practically unheard up until Moneyball stuff had completely saturated the game and… they suddenly became more common. Baseball in 1991, 2002, and 2013 share very little in common philosophically or in terms of offensive levels, except that they all treated the 3-0 green light roughly the same.

Here’s another graph that looks at it slightly differently: The number of batters who put the ball in play on 3-0 at least once each full season—basically, the number of hitters who were deemed worthy of a green light:

The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.

Not a subscriber?

Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.


Cancel anytime.


That's a 33% savings over the monthly price!


That's a 33% savings over the monthly price!

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

Related Content:  Sabermetrics,  3-0 Count,  Swings,  Green Lights

4 comments have been left for this article.

<< Previous Article
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit Lis... (05/16)
<< Previous Column
Pebble Hunting: Recent... (05/15)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Pebble Hunting: How to... (05/19)
Next Article >>
Premium Article Front Office Expansion (05/16)

RECENTLY AT BASEBALL PROSPECTUS
Fantasy Article Fantasy Team Preview: Baltimore Orioles
Premium Article Rumor Roundup: The Ace Chase, the Rays' Face...
Premium Article Daisy Cutter: Jon Lester's New Peers
Premium Article Prospect Mechanics
Moonshot: A New View of Plate Discipline, Pa...
The Lineup Card: Nine of the Worst Baseball ...
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: Yasmany Tomas is a Dia...

MORE FROM MAY 16, 2014
Premium Article Raising Aces: The Injury Puzzle
Premium Article Front Office Expansion
Premium Article The Prospectus Hit List: Friday, May 16
Premium Article PECOTA Takes on Prospects
Premium Article Painting the Black: Bullish on Dozier
Premium Article Minor League Update: Games of Thursday, May ...
Fantasy Article Fantasy Starting Pitcher Planner: Week Eight

MORE BY SAM MILLER
2014-05-20 - BP Unfiltered: Baseball Prospectus at Fox Sp...
2014-05-19 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: How to Still Get Ejected
2014-05-19 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 4...
2014-05-16 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Meaning of 3-0 Green Lig...
2014-05-16 - BP Daily Podcast: Effectively Wild Episode 4...
2014-05-16 - BP Unfiltered: This Week's New Pitching Line...
2014-05-15 - Pebble Hunting: Recent History's Most Cringe...
More...

MORE PEBBLE HUNTING
2014-05-23 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: A Billy Hamilton/David Ortiz...
2014-05-21 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Marlins and the AT&T Shi...
2014-05-19 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: How to Still Get Ejected
2014-05-16 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Meaning of 3-0 Green Lig...
2014-05-15 - Pebble Hunting: Recent History's Most Cringe...
2014-05-12 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: The Best Game of the 2014 Se...
2014-05-09 - Premium Article Pebble Hunting: Starling Marte and the Upsid...
More...

INCOMING ARTICLE LINKS
2014-07-22 - Premium Article Moonshot: Accounting for Count