Votto’s SwStr% vs. Fastballs and Sliders

Yesterday, I wrote about Troy Tulowitzki and his swinging strike percentages against fastballs and sliders. His discipline at the plate showed in the graphs, as he swung and missed no more than 15% of all fastballs and most sliders no matter where the pitch was located. The one weakness that I found was the low and outside slider from RHP, but Tulo counters this by not chasing these pitches very often.

I took the same time period (2009 and 2010 seasons) for Joey Votto and thought I’d compare his results against fastballs and sliders with Tulo’s. A word of caution: obviously, how Votto and Tulo whiff against fastballs and sliders are not the end-all, be-all in the NL MVP debate. The first thing I would preface this article with is that the two batters don’t see the same pitches. Tulowitzki has a Zone% (percentage of pitches seen inside the strikezone) of 47.5% in 2010, while Votto has seen less pitches in the zone, only 41.5% of the time. Another relevant but less significant difference is how often the hitters see fastballs and sliders. Tulo saw 55.6% fastballs and 19.0% sliders in 2010, while Votto saw 56.2% fastballs and 16.2% sliders. Differences in how pitchers approach two batters will conversely require different hitting approaches.

That being said, let’s dive right into it by first looking at the left-handed Votto and his swinging strike percentages against fastballs (pitches from 2009-2010, 1209 fastballs from RHP, 630 fastballs from LHP):

The first thing that jumps out right away is that the colors contrast greatly with Tulowitzki’s SwStr% graphs against fastballs. Despite seeing less pitches in the strikezone, Votto, a left-handed hitter, swings more (Swing% of 47.7%) than Tulowitzki (43.3%), which is represented by the larger swing zones in the above graphs. He also whiffs on over 30% of high fastballs, and up to 40% of low and inside fastballs from LHP. Let’s see if Votto fares any better against sliders (pitches from 2009-2010, 384 sliders from RHP, 349 sliders from LHP):

Again, Votto sees a lot more ‘green’ than Tulo’s ‘blue’. Votto also has larger swing zones against sliders from both RHP and LHP. I mentioned earlier that one of Tulo’s strengths was his plate discipline, very good for most NL power hitters not named Albert Pujols. Compared to Tulo, Votto makes less contact off pitches when he does swing (Contact% of 77.7% as opposed to Tulowitzki’s 85.5%) and chases pitches he whiffs against more frequently.

This leads me to a compelling thought. One of the most interesting facets of baseball is how both batters and pitchers routinely adjust to one another over the years. With plate discipline statistics, we can catch a glimpse at how pitchers change their approaches to young batters season by season. Which of these discipline stats on Tulowitzki and Votto’s player pages would you look at to determine how pitchers have adjusted to each batter over the years? In turn, how about Tulo and Votto’s responses and their adjustments in approach? Feel free to discuss.

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Albert Lyu (@thinkbluecrew, LinkedIn) is a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, but will always root for his beloved Northwestern Wildcats. Feel free to email him with any comments or suggestions.

7 Responses to “Votto’s SwStr% vs. Fastballs and Sliders”

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  1. Sky says:

    So Votto’s swinging at more pitches in the zone, but also walks more than Tulo — does he see fewer strikes overall? Yes, looking at Zone%.

    I wonder why that is, considering Tulo and Votto have similar batting averages and isolated power — actually, adjusting for ballpark, they don’t. Given the same environment, Votto does significantly more damage when he puts the ball in play. It’s just that he puts it in play less often, walking more because he sees fewer strikes and striking out more because he whiffs more often.

    Ok, done talking to myself. (Although that was pretty simplistic — anyone got more?)

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  2. rzar says:

    something different

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  3. TheChemist says:

    hi Sky, which park adjusted stats are you looking at (I’m new to this site)?

    I’m impressed with Tulo’s plate discipline but even more impressed with how well Votto does when he hits the ball in play. Much has been made of how Votto has not hit an infield fly popup all year.

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  4. rawlingshoh says:

    Swing and Miss zone plots are great. But only some (power) pitchers have the tools to make strikeouts a primary source of outs. These swing and miss charts would be helpful to them in some cases, but even then they can’t throw just in the areas of a high swing-miss rate. Obviously, if they threw it there all the time, then the major league hitters would adjust to it, and it would become less effective. They have to set up their out-pitch and location based on the batter, and then when they “go in for the kill” that’s when I would think the swing-miss zone chart becomes the useful. However, many pitchers don’t have the tools necessary to be successful in getting Ks. I think it would be helpful to have complete strikezone plots, not with miss/swing, but out/swing, flyball/swing, groundball/swing, flyballout/swing, groundballout/swing, etc.

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    • TheChemist says:

      This may be interesting but I think Albert was trying to limit his findings to outcomes which the pitcher has complete control over (presumably to take any luck out of the equation). With the possible exception of Mark Reynolds, hitters generally make more outs with balls in play than with swinging strike outs.

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      • rawlingshoh says:

        All the good pitchers know that if they’re going to win, they need to get outs. It’s not really that hard of a concept to get. Whether they shoot for ks or in-play outs is their thing. Because the majority of outs are made in the field, then shouldn’t pitchers focus more on that then strikeouts? And because it is harder to get three balls past a batter, then one or two for bad contact, then it should be easier to control pitching to contact, than controlling pitching for a strikeout. Pitching, especially at a level as high as the mlb, is a science. Pitcher’s for the most part can hit their spots almost every single time, and have a gameplan for each batter with expected results. If you’re shooting for outs, thus mostly shooting for fieldable balls as outs, then more diverse strikezone plots could be a great asset.

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