FanGraphs Baseball

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  1. Great article. There is a typo in the second last sentence; it should be “to a lesser extent”.

    Comment by Mike Green — March 8, 2010 @ 3:12 pm

  2. I’m interested in the next post. My gut reaction is that fantastic hitters like Jones benefit from his strategy as they’re generally more able hitters while poor hitters might ideally try to outlast the pitcher (at the very least they might wear him down for better hitters). A poor hitter is still unlikely to have a positive outcome on a Lincecum fastball, even if it’s right down the middle.

    Comment by The A Team — March 8, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

  3. The fact that the average hitter doesn’t vary their approach while Chipper does, may explain why Chipper Jones is so good, and why he walks so much despite being admittedly aggressive vs. good pitchers.

    Comment by Joe R — March 8, 2010 @ 3:14 pm

  4. This entire series is great-gives a lot of insight into one particular really good hitter vs the rest of the league. It’s nice to see the data actually supporting what Chipper says his approach is. You’ll often hear guys explain their plate approach and the data is either inconclusive or even contradictory to their statements.

    Keep up the great work.

    Comment by Bronnt — March 8, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

  5. Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

    Comment by Dave Allen — March 8, 2010 @ 3:39 pm

  6. I’d be interested in just the means for various wOBAs. One line for >350, another for 330-350, <330. You get the idea. Might want to substitute OBP or OBP-AVG for wOBA, but you get the general idea.

    Comment by Steve C — March 8, 2010 @ 3:40 pm

  7. The interesting question for me is, what comes first? Being a good-enough pitcher that makes these types of hitters want to swing at your first pitch, or being a really good pitcher because you are getting so many first-pitch outs.

    Comment by Adam D — March 8, 2010 @ 3:42 pm

  8. Well, this is very exciting! Can’t wait to read more.

    Comment by James — March 8, 2010 @ 3:53 pm

  9. This would also be a good study: Instead of correlating just opposing pitcher xFIP to Z-swing, correlate xFIP AND wOBA.

    Comment by Joe R — March 8, 2010 @ 3:55 pm

  10. Right, what the others have been saying. Chipper is a career .400 (wOBA) hitter. I’d rather see five charts with the breakdown at those levels:

    .380+ hitters
    .350-.380
    .320-.350
    .290-.320
    under .290

    Comment by tangotiger — March 8, 2010 @ 4:47 pm

  11. Also, to avoid clutter, is there any chance you could split the charts up into two? The first would show first-pitch, the second would show all others. Then you could show multiple-lines (like tango suggests) on the same graph.

    I would also suggest breaking up the wOBA scores so that you have an equal sample size in each (there are 35 qualified batters over .380, and only 3 under .290), preferably by plate appearances.

    And your work, as always, is awesome.

    Comment by Sal Paradise — March 8, 2010 @ 6:23 pm

  12. There’s a typo in the second sentence.

    It reads: “with more walk than strikeouts in his career”

    While it should be walks than strikeouts

    Comment by Matt — March 8, 2010 @ 6:40 pm

  13. I wonder how Chipper’s first pitch Z-swing rate breaks down among the low xFIP pitchers, depending on the pitcher’s control record. You would think that he might be less inclined to swing at a first pitch strike from an overpowering pitcher with less than stellar control than a Greinke/Halladay type.

    Comment by Mike Green — March 8, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

  14. Yup, absolutely fascinating stuff. I was thinking the same thing as Tango. I want to see the breakdown by batter overall quality and perhaps also by batter “eye” however you want to quantify that.

    Mike, I’m pretty sure that Chipper, as well as most batters, and certainly the ones with good eyes, are going to swing more often at pitches in the zone against pitchers who throw more in the zone, regardless of their FIP.

    To take it to the extreme, if I know a pitcher throws the first pitch in the zone 90% of the time, I am ready to swing at just about anything, and I will swing a lot. I am rarely going to accidentally swing at a pitch out of the zone, since the pitcher hardly ever throws a pitch out of the zone.

    OTOH, if a pitcher throws it in the zone only 25% of the time, I am probably just taking the first pitch, since I don’t want to make a mistake and swing at a bad pitch.

    Comment by MGL — March 9, 2010 @ 4:13 am

  15. If I was a batter and I was up against a great pitcher(particularly one who has great command) I would definitely swing at the first pitch. I don’t know how true it is but I often hear analysts say during games that often times the best pitch you are going to see is the first one because pitchers hate falling behind(obviously) and just try to get it over. I think they’re less likely to try to pump up their MPH on their fastball and paint the black or throw the perfect curveball on a 0-0 count. If you don’t swing and that pitch does get over the plate which percentages show it probably will be you are in a world of trouble.

    Of course there are dangers in this because the last thing you want to do is give a great pitcher in easy out by getting out on the first pitch.

    Comment by Tobias F. — March 9, 2010 @ 7:27 am

  16. You highlight an interesting dynamic. The batter wants to attack the best pitch he’s going to see. The dominant pitcher (Roy Halladay and Greg Maddux are great examples) wants to retire hitters as easily as possible. Since both pitchers know that batters want the best pitch, they can place their stuff in a location that entices the hitter but also produces a ton of outs. The result is that the optimal hitting strategy coincides with the optimal pitching strategy. Since balls in play are converted to outs more often than hits and dominant pitchers suppress wOBA, the pitcher ‘wins’.

    Comment by The A Team — March 9, 2010 @ 10:54 am

  17. This is not what makes Chipper Jones a great hitter. The fact that Jones is a great hitter allows him to take a good first pitch strike and not be ‘behind in the count’. He knows that the pitcher still needs two strikes and if the pitcher is not a great pitcher, this is not a problem.

    Also, both Jones and the average pitcher know this, so Chip can pretty much wait on a FB strike to drill on the first pitch without worrying about being behind. This means the pitcher has to throw good offspeed pitch for a strike, or he’ll be really behind to Jones 1-0. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen him do this. This also means that Chip has an even greater chance of getting to a 3-1 FB or a walk.

    Comment by Jeff — March 10, 2010 @ 11:58 am

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