FanGraphs Baseball

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  1. Did you order it by other positions as well? It’s interesting that catchers receive a more favorable strike zone than other position players, but I’m just curious to know if there are any other positional relationships to strike zone.

    Comment by thirteenthirteen — January 18, 2013 @ 8:41 pm

  2. Did not do that, but might investigate that later.

    Comment by Jeff Sullivan — January 18, 2013 @ 8:47 pm

  3. My kneejerk reaction is that aside from umpires calling the strikes, who else (as a batter) knows the strikezone of a given game’s umpire most? The catcher, that’s who. Not quite sure of the next step in that, but being aware of the strikezone of that given game’s umpire has to help in some way.

    Comment by Cidron — January 18, 2013 @ 10:05 pm

  4. Thanks Jeff!

    Comment by Dave S — January 18, 2013 @ 10:59 pm

  5. Olivo may only be one guy, but it’s possible he’s just the most obvious example of a trend among all catchers. In general, catchers are fairly terrible hitters, which means among other things that they’re more likely to end up behind in the count and thus deal with a shrunken strike zone. Of the 26 catchers who had fewer called strikes than expected, how many were weak hitters? Of the seven who didn’t, how many were good hitters?

    Comment by Ian R. — January 18, 2013 @ 11:18 pm

  6. You’re probably right – my first thought is that could potentially reveal something about the type of ballplayers that play different positions. Or maybe infielders vs. outfielders.

    Maybe it’d show nothing! I’m just curious.

    Comment by thirteenthirteen — January 18, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

  7. The catchers and the non-catchers, overall, had virtually identical Zone%, Z-Swing%, and O-Swing% statistics. So, for whatever that’s worth. I had a similar thought.

    Comment by Jeff Sullivan — January 19, 2013 @ 12:03 am

  8. The kneejerk explanation is umpire bias in favor of catchers. I’ve never really noticed this in years of watching baseball so I’m actually not convinced of this. I have noticed umps being a little more forgiving of Hall of Fame type players on the back end of their careers. What’s the numbers on guys like Jeter or Chipper Jones?

    But it’s also a good theory that the catcher for example, knows that an ump isn’t calling the inner corner a strike so he doesn’t bother swinging at it himself. Other hitters probably have to get one PA in first before recognizing this.

    Either way, getting an extra missed call out of a 100 isn’t exactly a game changer.

    Comment by Franco — January 19, 2013 @ 12:42 am

  9. I think this is pretty interesting (despite possibly being trivial). Have you tried sorting on different types of hitters. Say, free swingers vs. more patient hitters, tall hitters vs. short hitters, etc.

    Comment by James G — January 19, 2013 @ 4:26 am

  10. “It might not even be statistically significant.”
    Is it? This is pretty easy to check and one of the things that sometimes frustrates me about fangraphs. You guys really know you’re stats (a lot better than I do), but can a homey get an error bar or a p value every once in a while?
    Otherwise this is really cool stuff. I always love learning more about why we should have robo-umps.

    Comment by Thomas — January 19, 2013 @ 9:53 am

  11. Hey Jeff,

    I actually have an academic paper on this issue getting ready for journal submission (and posted a preliminary model a while back at my blog). I find that once we control for location and a host of other things, there does seem to be some effect. Shoot me an email if you have interest in reading the paper (and I am always happy to hear feedback).

    Comment by Millsy — January 19, 2013 @ 12:20 pm

  12. Catchers are overwhelmingly righties- is there any handedness difference in bulk?

    Comment by Calvin — January 19, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

  13. Completely agree. Fangraphs is incredible, but this would be a good way to get even better.

    Comment by Ben — January 19, 2013 @ 1:12 pm

  14. Well I’ll be jiggered!

    Comment by Jeff Sullivan — January 19, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

  15. Does this control for height? As a group, I would imagine catchers are significantly shorter.

    Comment by Scott — January 19, 2013 @ 3:08 pm

  16. Well if you thought I wasn’t going to start thinking about a bunch of three-foot catchers, you’re wrong

    Comment by majnun — January 19, 2013 @ 4:08 pm

  17. Six of the 10 catchers that qualified last year were left or switch batters (3 of each).

    Comment by TKDC — January 19, 2013 @ 4:36 pm

  18. Do the non-catchers include pitchers?

    Comment by Morgan — January 19, 2013 @ 5:17 pm

  19. No

    Comment by Jeff Sullivan — January 19, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

  20. Same question here.

    Comment by astrostl — January 20, 2013 @ 12:30 am

  21. Is there a reason you said it “might not be statistically significant” but didn’t actually test for statistical significance?

    This isn’t just you. Fangraphs in general seems morally opposed to P-values and error bars (Oh god the error bars!).

    Comment by Stathead — January 20, 2013 @ 2:43 am

  22. Error Bar? A bar for non-nerds?

    Comment by maqman — January 20, 2013 @ 10:04 am

  23. P-Values? Probably increase proportionately to the time spent in Error bars.

    Comment by maqman — January 20, 2013 @ 10:06 am

  24. I think I speak for everyone when I say, even when you might lack an explanation of “why,” these “I found somethings!” are still interesting and provoking content!

    Comment by payroll — January 20, 2013 @ 4:25 pm

  25. “Statistical exploration”, aka “Datamining”?

    Tread very carefully. Conclusions may appear larger than they are in the proverbial rear view mirror.

    Comment by StatGeek — January 21, 2013 @ 1:24 am

  26. It makes sense to me for the most part. In my mind the main reason being that catchers are the only thing between the umpire and the unpleasant feeling of getting hit by a baseball travelling at 90+ mph. It might seem trivial, but I would give the guy who protects me (even with no men on in a lot of cases) a call or two. On top of that, in some cases I’d imagine it’s almost subconscious.

    Comment by AJ — January 21, 2013 @ 5:08 am

  27. I think you are making the umpires think too much. The umpires should not be up there seeing the pitch and then think, “Well this guy has saved me from taking a pitch last inning, so I’ll do him a favour and call this close pitch a ball instead of a strike.”

    Instead, I think the catchers are exploiting where the umpire is calling balls and strikes. If this is the case, the advantage that the catchers are gaining should show up early in the game and then disappear as the batters gain more direct and indirect knowledge of what the umpire is calling.

    Comment by siggian — January 21, 2013 @ 3:07 pm

  28. If the sample is large enough, try comparing catcher at-bats when they are catching that game versus catcher at-bats when they are playing another position that day.

    Comment by g — January 23, 2013 @ 10:55 pm

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