Good God…fellas, can I post something on this? This idea that I was “advising” Chipper is so absurd. I traveled with the team for three years and know him very well. Love the data but talk about sucking the fun out of a funny story.
Heh, I think people here are past that part of the story, Boog. More concerned about Chipper’s further remarks on how/when he chooses to swing, which offer some insight into an elite player’s mind that we don’t often get.
Can you do the same analysis for another high-frequency (with great success, obviously!) first-pitch hitter: Derek Jeter? I think he subscribes to the same philosophy, and he, like Chipper, is also good at taking a walk.
Frankly, looking at Chipper’s overall numbers (his BB/K ratio is almost always more than 1), it seems curious that Sciambi even looked at his first pitch hacking trends.
Definitely, Chipper is probably a more selective hitter. Jeter is interesting because he is very aggressive on the first pitch usually, and that has served him very well. But he also does know how to take a walk. Which makes him a good test case for this theory as well.
The other thing is: this is not exactly breaking news. I have heard many different color guys on TV say that with better pitchers, your best bet is to get a hit earlier in the count, and I do believe this is common wisdom among many hitters.
Okay. This is amazing, or at least could be. We really need to know the base rates at which hitters in general do this (that the obvious question that you allude to in the last paragraph.) Because if there’s a real difference, I’m 90% confident that we’ve isolated a skill that Chipper Jones possesses.
This would also be amazing because it would be one of the first times that a comment from a baseball player about how he plays really informed the sabermetric community about how the game works.
Boog, don’t let that get to you. I think, at least round these parts, people are more interested in the intersection of stats and player behavior. It’s rare to hear from someone like Chipper why he does what he does and to have the stats too. For myself, I’m just excited to see what more we can learn when the intersection of pure numbers and of experience and “feel” really start to jell.
I’ve always taken players comments about their performance with a grain of salt (though not necessarily a big one). Like, maybe they think they know why they’re doing something or they think they know why they’re having success but maybe don’t really or don’t know the whole story. I think this is fascinating to see a player really know what’s going on in the batter’s box. It speaks to Chipper’s immense talent and a specific skill that he possesses.
I’m also thoroughly enjoying the entire recent blogosphere dialogue concerning Boog’s piece. I think it’s pretty cool that an article about presenting advanced stats has led us to (potentially) an increased understanding in the game, or at least how to explain it.
What hasn’t yet been discussed is how Chipper’s approach – which clearly works for him – often runs at odds with the other approach that suggests hitters should work the count more with better pitchers in an effort to tire them and get the bullpen as quickly as possible.
Like most great analyses, this one begs a follow up: run a cluster analysis on hitters based on their wOBA, their pitch selectiveness as described above, and on opposing pitcher xFIP.
Here’s another thing… I wonder what that graph would look like relative to FIP, or *gasp* ERA.
I bet it’s not nearly as smooth and wouldn’t fit Chipper’s thoughts on his own hitting near as well.
In case it’s not clear, I’m fascinated by the possible thought that Chipper has an excellent intuititive understanding of which pitchers are the best, and that this matches up well with xFIP.. As opposed to ERA, or even perhaps to FIP.
Sciambi showed his a$$ here. Jones style of hitting is not only successful in real life, it is successful in a sabermetric sense. Many of the best pitchers are known for sticking around the strike zone and trying to get first pitch strikes. They rely on the fact that they have great stuff to bail them out if the hitter swings at it, as many hitters have grown up hearing that they should keep the bat on their shoulder for the first pitch. Larry apparently pays attention and makes these guys pay for such strategies by crushing first pitches.
It begs the next question: If a trend does appear showing that hitters want to get at the first hittable pitch they can against good pitchers, what role does that play in those pitchers BEING so dominant?
If good selective hitters aren’t working the count and instead are shortening their at-bats, might that be contributing to the pitcher’s cause, ala in-his-prime Maddux?
All that graph says to me is that Chipper is indeed doing exactly what he says he does. He says he swings at first pitch strikes more often against good pitchers. And the data show he actually does do that. He gives a reason for why he does it; that he presumably thinks he’s more successful and/or it’s in general a more successful strategy against very good pitchers. But the graph says nothing about whether it actually is more successful.
Does, for instance, Halladay suppress wOBA less versus first pitch swingers than an average or more patient hitter?
This is an excellent post. Clear, concise with well presented data. I’m just wondering if the strategy is indeed successful as borne out by the data, not because a very good hitter says it is.