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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.