Every so often, I will check my e-mail and find a hidden gem from our captain, David Appelman. The messages usually discuss any pertinent baseball topics we may have interest in covering, but, every now and then, inform us writers of new statistical updates at the website. This is my favorite type of e-mail, one of which I received yesterday, that almost gave me a sabergasm. See, we have some new stats on this site that are not only incredibly useful, but are incredibly interesting to peruse as well. You can find these new statistics on the individual player pages as well as the leaderboards.
To get the suspense out of the way, the statistics are: First-strike percentage for both batters and pitchers, Plate Discipline stats for pitchers, and Pitch Type stats for batters. The percentage of first strikes tells us, for pitchers, which ones get ahead 0-1 in the count most often; it also counts a ball put in play on the first pitch as a strike. For hitters, we can see which get behind 0-1 the most or least, with plate appearances ending with just one pitch intermingled as well. For instance, did you know that Corey Hart of the Brewers had a 68.9% F-Strike this year? Yeah, over two-thirds of his plate appearances began with him down in the count 0-1, or ended after just one pitch.
On the flipside, Chipper Jones had the lowest F-Strike for a hitter at just 48.3%. Albert Pujols finished at a somewhat distant second with 49.7%. From a pitching standpoint, Barry Zito threw a first-pitch strike just 51.5% of the time, with Edinson Volquez and Oliver Perez finishing close behind. Inversely, Mike Mussina led all of baseball with a 67.6% F-Strike. Close behind him were Ervin Santana, Cliff Lee, Greg Maddux, and Dan Haren, all of which exhibted exemplary control during the 2008 season.
The plate discipline stats for pitchers are not what some may think. No, it isn’t hitting stats for pitchers, explaining how often Joe Blanton swung at pitches out of the zone. Rather, these include the O-Swing, Z-Swing, etc, stats, but for hitters against pitchers. So, if you go to Joe Blanton‘s page, and find the plate discipline section, you will be able to see how often hitters swung at his pitches in the zone, out of the zone, how often he threw in the zone, how often did hitters make contact on his pitches, and more along those lines.
This is an amazing addition to the site, and something I will delve into much more next week, but as an appetizer, I will say that Daniel Cabrera, by far had the lowest percentage of swings at pitches outside of the zone. Jake Peavy, however, induced the highest percentage of such swings. In fact, here’s an interesting nugget: Peavy led the league with a 32.4% O-Swing, and threw just 47.6% of his pitches in the zone. Meanwhile, Barry Zito, who had the lowest F-Strike%, threw a league-low 47.2% of his pitches in the zone, but only induced 26% swings on those pitches. Essentially, while both he and Peavy threw the same amount of pitches in and out of the strike zone, Zito could not get as many hitters to swing, which amounts to a large difference in strikeouts and walks.
The other addition is pitch type stats for hitters. Haven’t you ever wondered what percentage of pitches certain hitters see in a given year? I know I have. Countless times this year I wondered what percentage of fastballs Ryan Howard saw, given that he really cannot hit anything else. Well, with the additions here, I know now he saw 51.2% fastballs in 2008, the fourth lowest percentage in the sport. Hunter Pence, at 49.8%, actually saw the lowest percentage, with Dan Uggla, Aubrey Huff, Ryan Howard, and Geovany Soto close behind. Basically, this bottom five consists of sluggers who struggle with breaking pitches, and therefore see a wide array of such pitches.
Click the leaderboard again, to sort by descending order, and we get: Gregor Blanco (70.5%), Jason Kendall (70.0%), Chone Figgins (69.1%), Placido Polanco (68.1%), Willy Taveras (68.0%). Pretty much the opposite group, as these guys are by no means whatsoever power threats, but five hitters who rarely strike out. Moving further, we can also take a look at the average velocities these hitters faced.
Did you know that the AL East had a very high average fastball? It must have, since Kevin Youkilis led the league with a 91.8 mph heater faced, while Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, Dustin Pedroia, and Jacoby Ellsbury all found themselves in the top five. Reverse the list and we see that Chone Figgins, who saw one of the highest percentages of fastballs, led the league by seeing the slowest average fastball, at just 90.1%. I’m sure myself and my colleagues here will be using these stats much more moving forward, but hopefully this serves as a nice introduction to the new types of information now accessible.
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