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  1. Hitters want to work the count because that’s how the Yankees won all those World Series (not the plethora of all-stars and future HOFers on their rosters).

    Comment by Pete — January 8, 2013 @ 11:16 am

  2. I’m no statistician, but are these differences meaningful? The graphs look like there is a large variation, but the ranges on each of them are really quite small. Is there any chance that this is subtle nonsense?

    Comment by TKDC — January 8, 2013 @ 11:17 am

  3. Small differences but big samples and the curve is decently smooth… I feel comfortable saying batters are swinging less AT&T the first pitch at least. Subtle nonsense, though, that could be on my tombstone.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — January 8, 2013 @ 11:26 am

  4. Hell of an autocorrect. AT not AT&T obv.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — January 8, 2013 @ 11:27 am

  5. We’re in the golden age of first pitch BABIP, and batters are swinging at fewer and fewer first pitches?

    Or, we’re in the golden age of first pitch BABIP because batters are swinging at fewer and fewer first pitches – they’ve become more selective about what they swing at and as a result are making better contact.

    Comment by Paul Clarke — January 8, 2013 @ 11:30 am

  6. Could you have causality backwards? I.e., could we flip it around and hypothesize that an increased focus on OBP starting in the 2000s led to lower 1st pitch swing rates. This factor then led to higher 1st pitch BABIPs as hitters were sitting on 1 pitch or were more selective?

    Could simply be that the overall hitting strategy to NOT swing at more 1st pitches has resulted in an increased batting result for the full count, while the relatively offsetting values for 1st pitch strikes (increasing for pitcher) and 1st pitch balls-in-play (increasing for batter) are offsetting…

    Comment by Steven — January 8, 2013 @ 11:39 am

  7. Smart questions from you two. I think both versions make sense — not all strikes are worth swinging at — but testing it… that might be beyond me.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — January 8, 2013 @ 11:43 am

  8. This was my thought too. The larger strike zone may have contributed to an increase in first pitch strike %, but if hitters are selective beyond strike/ball and are looking at a smaller zone for a certain type of pitch then the data makes a lot of sense.

    I would imagine first pitch ISO has increased rather steadily too and would illustrate a rise in power in exchange for that strike. The real story may be that pitchers and batters have come to a game theory solution of first pitches.

    Comment by JeffMathisCera — January 8, 2013 @ 11:44 am

  9. Another thought: by using BABIP you’re excluding home runs. What happens if you use BACON?

    Comment by Paul Clarke — January 8, 2013 @ 11:59 am

  10. You get fat and die of heart disease and deliciousness.

    Comment by olethros — January 8, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

  11. This opens up a great question on how aggressive hitters should be. It looks as if hitters are losing about 15 batting average points (0.015) by not swinging at the first pitch, but, on the other hand, they’re reducing their chances of walking by some %. (The overall walk % is 80 points (0.080). What the tradeoff is depends on a probability tree kind of analysis, which also would be interesting.

    Comment by Duke — January 8, 2013 @ 12:26 pm

  12. The other question here, is what if there hasn’t been any actual change in the percentage of pitches in the strike zone, but instead a change in the way the game is called.

    The fact that a pitch is called a strike doesn’t mean its a hittable pitch.

    Comment by Synovia — January 8, 2013 @ 12:51 pm

  13. they’re probably swinging more sprint because of the unlimited data plans

    yuk yuk yuk, i’ll show myself out

    Comment by juan pierres mustache — January 8, 2013 @ 12:59 pm

  14. maybe by calculating run expectancy by year for different counts? That sounds really time-consuming because the reasonsing for patience is to work into more batter-friendly counts. I think you’d have to weight the run expectancy per count with the percentage of the count in some way.

    Someone also mentioned first-pitch ISO which makes some sense considering the hypothesis that batters are only swinging if they think they have a really good pitch to hit.

    Comment by Ben — January 8, 2013 @ 1:01 pm

  15. The trick to that is also considering the idea that working lots of counts gets a pitcher out of the game earlier, which is terribly hard to quantify.

    Comment by Ben — January 8, 2013 @ 1:02 pm

  16. There have also been many new stadiums built. New stadiums tend to have less foul ground. Balls in stands are a strike but not a knock against the BABIP. I’m not sure how big of an impact these stadiums are or even what stadiums factor in.

    Comment by glassSheets — January 8, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

  17. would it be possible to look at first-pitch swings at pitches in vs. out of the zone, maybe at pitch types as well? It wouldn’t shock me to see a lot of hitters sitting on a first-pitch fastball in the zone, swinging at that if they see it, and that causing what JeffMathisCera described above (if i understand what he’s saying, that is. I’m not a smart man)

    Comment by juan pierres mustache — January 8, 2013 @ 1:04 pm

  18. We live in an era where advanced stats say that hiting HR’s and taking walks make you a great value player. (even if you strike out 200 times and can’t field a lick and drag the proverbial safe around the bases) Swinging at the first pitch doesn’t fit that mold.

    Comment by Hurtlockertwo — January 8, 2013 @ 1:22 pm

  19. I don’t buy that for one second. Folks here recognize the value of defense and speed. There are plenty of ways to contribute to your club outside of hitting HR’s.

    Comment by BJsWorld — January 8, 2013 @ 1:30 pm

  20. Seriously, why exclude home runs? And shouldn’t we look at swings rather than balls in play? Maybe guys are just trying to bash the ball and are swinging and missing more?

    Comment by db — January 8, 2013 @ 1:57 pm

  21. I suspect that BABIP in general went up because of increased recognition of the value of being ahead in the count, which would necessarily lead to lower first-pitch swing percentages.

    Comment by Tim — January 8, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

  22. Despite the sarcasm, this was my thought too. It’s the baby boom, baseball style. The effects don’t show up immediately but you see it in a generation of baseball players (and batting coaches) later.

    Comment by siggian — January 8, 2013 @ 3:03 pm

  23. This is the onvious common cause hypothesis.

    Comment by philosofool — January 8, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  24. Is F-Strike% just for called 1st Strikes or does it all strikes (In Play, Foul, etc.)?

    Would it be better if you replaced this with Zone% (granted you don’t have that data for the entire timeframe)

    Comment by Trev — January 8, 2013 @ 4:47 pm

  25. I talk about that in the piece, but things have been fairly steady in that regard in the 2000s.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — January 8, 2013 @ 4:49 pm

  26. It includes all first strikes. And yeah, Zone% is cool, but only back to 2002.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — January 8, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

  27. Just like Scott Hatteberg

    Comment by jaysfan — January 8, 2013 @ 5:09 pm

  28. Onvious? That’s a perfectly cromulent word…

    Comment by Ms. Hoover — January 8, 2013 @ 5:11 pm

  29. Also the neckline of your shirt gets all bunched up.

    Comment by Jason B — January 8, 2013 @ 5:12 pm

  30. Actually, in my chart at least, BABIP included HR (hence the asterisk in the title). I’ve seen the ‘BACON’ label before, but I didn’t know it had caught on.

    Comment by James Gentile — January 8, 2013 @ 8:14 pm

  31. I also found that Called_Strike% on the first pitch was the *type of first-strike* that was significantly on the rise, while FOUL% and SwStr% were largely static from 1988-2010.

    Comment by James Gentile — January 8, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

  32. Also, the BIS plate discipline data doesn’t have a consistent definition of “in the zone” over the years, so using Zone% to look for trends is a bad idea.

    Comment by Paul Clarke — January 9, 2013 @ 9:58 am

  33. Maybe they’re throwing more first pitch strike offspeed pitches and batters are looking fastball?

    Comment by Corey — January 9, 2013 @ 1:03 pm

  34. I think there must be something to the fact that the changes started so clearly when the larger strike zone was implemented.

    Comment by Someanalyst — January 9, 2013 @ 2:43 pm

  35. “I also found that Called_Strike% on the first pitch was the *type of first-strike* that was significantly on the rise”
    … this suggests the strike zone change is playing a role.

    Comment by Someanalyst — January 9, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

  36. even in the post-2002 era, swing rate has gone down and f-strike has gone up. no changes in that era.

    Comment by Eno Sarris — January 9, 2013 @ 2:48 pm

  37. “even in the post-2002 era, swing rate has gone down and f-strike has gone up. no changes in that era.”

    From 2001, 1st pitch swing rate drops steadily but 1st pitch STR% does not…

    Bigger strike zone = smaller % of strikes are hittable.

    The hittability of strikes, if it did change, would completely alter the game-theory framework you set up. In fact, that would explain the lower SW% despite the higher babip overall.

    MLB implemented a change to bring offense down and it took more than a decade for the full effect to play itself out, including hitter adjustment cycles.

    Comment by Someanalyst — January 9, 2013 @ 3:05 pm

  38. Right. According to Baseball Almanac, in “1996
    The Strike Zone is expanded on the lower end, moving from the top of the knees to the bottom of the knees (bottom has been identified as the hollow beneath the kneecap).”

    So that’s that.

    Comment by James Gentile — January 10, 2013 @ 6:28 am

  39. Nomar Garciaparra was one of the greatest hitters of his generation, and was well known for first pitch swinging.

    Comment by AA — January 11, 2013 @ 5:22 am

  40. Where can I find stats for 1st pitch strikes, for each game and the number of called strikes for each game played?

    Comment by Martin — September 23, 2013 @ 11:30 am

  41. why is a great pitcher avg the 3rd time through the lineup? Because batters are seeing pitches. the more they see the harder it is to get them out later in the game.
    when batters work the count there is a better chance they will see a pitchers 3rd or 4th pitch the 1st or 2nd time through the line up.
    that’s why verlander is good 3rd time through because he pitches at 92 and throws at 99. when they time 92 it’s like another pitch at 100. when he gets in trouble early and tries to throw everything by them, they time it at he isnt as effective 3rd time through.

    Comment by kevin — April 25, 2014 @ 3:02 pm

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