As Jose Bautista can attest, the percentage of pitches a batter sees in the strike zone tells us a good deal about his capabilities.
The pitcher begins each confrontation with a batter with the initiative. He alone controls when the baseball is thrown, how it moves, and where it is located. Thus, the batter is by nature placed in a reactive position. However, the batter, too, has a measure of control over how the plate appearance proceeds. He stands at the plate with a club, and it is within his discretion to swing his weapon or not.
When it comes to determining the actual upper and lower boundaries of the zone, pitchers may have more to tell us than the players at the plate.
Three months ago, I investigated the nature of the major-league strike zone, focusing on its inside and outside boundaries. I concluded that the location of a pitch relative to the catcher’s target had a significant impact on the umpire’s likelihood of calling a strike. This article will examine the top and bottom boundaries of the strike zone.
Is having pitch data available helpful in determining a pitcher's walk rates?
Last week, I looked at Predicting Strikeouts with Swing and Whiff Rates, breaking down pitch-by-pitch data to see if things like swinging-strike rates could provide more enlightenment when combined with the previous year’s strikeout rate to predict future strikeout rate. The answer was mostly negative. This was primarily due to two reasons. One was that much of the data on pitch locations is poor, and ensuing discussions highlighted just how poor it is. The other reason, however, is that strikeout rate is the quickest statistic to stabilize over small samples, so one year of strikeout data does a very good job of predicting subsequent strikeout data already. However, this week I will look at walk rate, and attempt to determine whether this data is more useful in predicting future walk rates. There is certainly evidence of value added in this case, far more so than with predicting strikeouts.
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Pitch data shows that the amount of swinging strikes is not predictive of strikeout rates.
When I wrote about pitchers with major divides between their ERAs and SIERAs two weeks ago, a reader inquired why Clay Buchholz had such a pedestrian strikeout rate while having an above average swinging-strike rate. Buchholz has mustered just 6.2 K/9, nearly a full strikeout below the 7.1 league average, but has induced batters to swing and miss on 9.5 percent of his pitches according to FanGraphs, a full percentage point above the 8.5 percent league average. The question was apparent: Do pitchers who get a lot of whiffs increase their strikeout rates over time?
Postseason umpiring and an early holiday present for our readers.
"When you get right down to it, no corner of American culture is more precisely counted, more passionately quantified, than the performance of baseball players." --Alan Schwarz, from the introduction to The Numbers Game
Sitting down to talk about pitching with the Royals rotation regular.
Brian Bannister is a thinking man's pitcher. Known more for his guile and pitching acumen than for his stuff, the 26-year-old right-hander has established himself as a mainstay in the Royals starting rotation in his first full major league season. Originally a seventh-round pick by the Mets in 2003, Bannister was acquired from them last December in exchange for reliever Ambiorix Burgos. The son of former big league pitcher Floyd Bannister, the USC product has started 17 games for Kansas City and is 7-6, 3.45 in 107 innings.
Baseball must be toasting this week's sports pages over glasses of vodka and schadenfreude. Last Friday, NBA referee Tim Donaghy was implicated in a betting scandal. On Wednesday, Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen, under heavy suspicion of doping, was kicked out of the race by his own team. And on Thursday, Michael Vick was scrambling away from reporters in a federal courthouse, rather than opposing linebackers on the field.
Parsing the data can help us address questions of bias among umpires in calling balls and strikes.
Bias in sports officiating isn't a topic to be taken lightly, and one need only recall the recent furor over a New York Times article written by Alan Schwarz, where he reported a study on racial bias in the officiating of NBA Games. But as discussed in this space a month ago, PITCHf/x data does give us a limited window into asking questions about how players are treated by umpires; today, we'll continue trekking through this new world and see what we can learn about pitchers, hitters, and the umpires who like them, like Ron Luciano with Rod Carew.
In general, it's a bad thing if you can associate an umpire's name with his work.
In general, it's a bad thing if you can associate an umpire's name with his work. It's one thing if the umpire is Doug Harvey, and you're talking about his "Rules of the Game" segment on the old Game of the Week, back when that term actually meant something. (Something horrible.) It's still another when umpire's name is Don Denkinger, and you're in the wrong part of the midwest. Even more strange and upsetting is the recent revelation of the activities of Frank Pulli and Richie Garcia in the 1980's. Rule 21 is serious business, and with all the scrutiny on MLB's main office right now, I'm kind of surprised that they didn't completely hang those two out to dry.