FanGraphs Baseball


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  1. I love your study. I love statistics and baseball. I use statistics to help me catch HR’s as a fan.

    Comment by Dave Edlund — November 1, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

  2. This post is a genius observation married to genius data!

    Side note: would you say that the relievers’ decline in zone % is coincidental? Or are closers really slightly less likely to throw the ball in the zone than, say, a long man or the starter?

    Comment by Well-Beered Englishman — November 1, 2012 @ 1:19 pm

  3. Other possible contributing factors to lower zone rates for starters as the game continues are: 1) reduced command of pitches due to fatigue, and 2) increased reliance on secondary pitches upon facing hitters the second and third times through.

    Comment by Dan — November 1, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  4. Maybe it’s worth trying it with TBF instead of innings. That would tease out the reliever portion better. It could be a long reliever going seven, eight, nine to finish a game, and showing the same propensity as a starter, of slowly throwing the ball in the zone less often.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — November 1, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  5. oh man, duh. I mean, good observation, but I blame the cold medicine for not getting there myself. Thanks!

    Comment by Eno Sarris — November 1, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  6. Why not just look at Z-Swing%? Then you can see how often batters are swinging at strikes as the game progresses without worrying about Zone%.

    Comment by Matt Hunter — November 1, 2012 @ 2:59 pm

  7. I don’t understand the data. The Sw% should be around 45% instead of 54%, and the Zone% should be around 50% instead of 75%.

    Comment by dcs — November 1, 2012 @ 3:26 pm

  8. working with Zimm on confirming the data.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — November 1, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

  9. sorry to disappoint you. we fixed our query and the result was tiny if there’s anything there at all. BAck to the drawing board!

    Comment by Eno Sarris — November 1, 2012 @ 10:22 pm

  10. Fixed and thanks for saying something.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — November 1, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

  11. You are seeing all kinds of things happening here. One, you have the times through the order thing, whereby the batters gain an advantage each time they see the same pitcher (the starter). That enables them to swing more at strikes.

    The pitchers meanwhile, throw fewer strikes because batters are swinging more, are more familiar with their stuff, they throw more breaking pitches, and perhaps are getting fatigued (that is probably the least of the factors as most starters don’e last long enough to get fatigues these days).

    The last inning and to some extent the 8th inning is NOT because starters who are pitching great continue to pitch great. I have done extensive research on this and have found that starters who are pitching great through the 6th or 7th innings, pitch normally (as their seasonal stats would suggest) in the 8th inning, including the times through the order penalty. In other words, a mediocre starter who is throwing a shutout through 7 innings, pitches really lousy in the 8th inning, considering that he is a mediocre pitcher to start with and that he is facing the order for the 3rd or 4th time. Why do managers almost always leave in their mediocre (or bad) starters in the late innings when they don’t have a high pitch count, despite the fact that the data shows that they pitch lousy when left in, even when pitching a great game? Because the wrongly believe that pitching a great game through x innings means that you will continue to pitch well after that AND they are apparently unable to tell from watching the pitcher, talking to him, the catcher and the pitching coach, that there is anything magical about his stuff or his mechanics that day. This is contrary to the beliefs of virtually every player, manager, coach, and fan, right? But it is true. Starters who pitch great through x innings pitch how they normally pitch after that, plus the times through the order penalty. Which means that you should get your mediocre starter out of the game as soon as possible regardless of how he is pitching, not considering bullpen preservation issues of course. The time to preserve your bullpen, though, is when the game is lopsided (low leverage). That is the time to extend your mediocre (or any) starters if you want to preserve your bullpen, regardless of hoe he is pitching. Or you bring in your junk man for extended innings (at least until the game gets close) – the guy who you can send down and bring someone else up. The guy who stinks anyway.

    Sorry for the digression – I thought that was important. Anyway, the 9th inning (and to some extent the 8th) is a different animal when it comes to starters (and the batters). Starters tend to be in the game in the 9th with a large lead. Relievers tend to be in the game in the 9th when a team is losing (especially in the NL) or with a large lead, mostly the latter (with a large lead).

    What happens when a pitcher pitches with a large in the 9th? He should throw more strikes, at least until the tying or winning run comes to bat. But according to the chart, that inning the lowest zone percentage for starters. I have no idea why. Fatigue? That would start to show up in the 8th but the 8th has the highest zone%. So I have no idea what is going on there, other than the 9th and somewhat the 8th, is a strange inning when starters are still in the game, likely because of specific end-game strategies for pitchers and batters.

    You would also expect to see batters taking more pitches in the 9th against the starters since, as I said, that tends to be when the batting team is behind by at least 2 runs. And they do. They swing more often at strikes through the 8th inning, because of the “times through the order” familiarity factor, and then swing a lot less at strikes in the 9th, as you would expect.

    Comment by MGL — November 2, 2012 @ 3:29 am

  12. This is the way science works. It’s as important to disprove hypotheses as to prove them.

    Comment by Baltar — November 2, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

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