Saturday, March 21, 2015

Fun Facts About Called Strikes

(Edited on 03/22/2015)
When reading the very good but complex recent article about pitch framing at Baseball Prospectus, I found myself wanting to step back and look more closely at the core of the measurement.  Before all the adjustments and the statistical modelling, it all starts with counting how many pitches are called for strikes as opposed to balls. 

So, I went to the retrosheet database for 2014 and analyzed all pitches that were called by umpires.  Any pitch that resulted in a swing was excluded.  There were 371,964 pitches called in Major League Baseball last year -  248,298 balls and 123,666 (or 33.2%) strikes.  The pitches are broken down by different splits such as home/away and ball/strike count in Table 1 below.  Here are some of the highlights:
  • The pitching team was more like to get a called strike at home (33.5%) than on the road (33.0%).  Could this be a home field advantage?  We would need to look at it more closely, but it's certainly possible. 
  • Not surprisingly, the most likely count in which to get a called strike was three balls and no strikes where pitchers know that most batters will be hesitant to swing (64.5%) were called strikes).  Conversely, only 8.3% of calls on no ball, two strike counts were strikes.
  • There was a higher percentage of strikes called in the first inning (34.7%) than any other inning.  The percentage remained high for the first three innings, perhaps because starting pitchers are sharpest early in the game and the first time through the order.  The proportion dropped below average in the middle innings, but rose to 34.2% in the ninth inning when closers came into the game.
  • Called strikes were more common with right-handed batters at the plate (33.5%) than left-handed batters (32.9%).  
  •  Pitchers/catchers got more strike calls when their team was ahead (34.1%) versus behind (32.1%).  Of course, we need to consider that they may have had leads because they were throwing strikes rather than the other way around.   
  •  More strikes were called when there were fewer outs - 34.8% with no outs, 32.8% with one out and 32.1 with two outs.
  • Pitches were called strikes more frequently with the bases empty (35.3) than any other base runner situation. Strikes were only called 25.6% of the time with a runner on third.

Table 1 -Called Strike Splits -MLB Totals, 2014


Split
% Called Strikes

(N=371,964)


Total
33.2


Site

Home
33.5
Away
33.0


Count

0-0
45.8
0-1
21.6
0-2
8.3
1-0
41.9
1-1
25.0
1-2
10.6
2-0
46.6
2-1
29.2
2-2
14.7
3-0
64.5
3-1
38.7
3-2
19.4


Inning

1
34.7
2
34.4
3
34.5
4
32.3
5
33.0
6
31.7
7
32.4
8
32.3
9
34.2
10+
31.8


Pitcher Hand

LHP
33.2
RHP
33.3


Batter Hand

LHB
32.9
RHB
33.5


Score

Behind
32.1
Tied
33.6
Ahead
34.1


Outs

0
34.8
1
32.8
2
32.1


Baserunners

Bases empty
35.3
1st
32.3
1st, 2nd
30.6
1st, 3rd
27.8
2nd
29.1
3rd
25.6
2nd, 3rd
25.9
1st, 2nd, 3rd
29.8

Data source: Retrosheet.org


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Updating Catcher Defense: Where Does Alex Avila Rank Now?


Giants catcher Buster Posey excelled defensively in 2014
(Photo credit: MLB Trade Rumors)

Shortly after the 2014 season ended, I presented statistics on catcher defense and ranked MLB catchers on total run saved.  I used five components to arrive at the total:
  • Stopping the running game
  • Pitch blocking
  • Avoiding fielding errors
  • Avoiding throwing errors
  • Pitch framing or receiving
Baseball Prospectus researchers Jonathan Judge, Harry Pavlidis and Dan Brooks recently developed a new method to capture pitch framing.  They do a good job of introducing this very complex topic here.

I re-ranked the catchers based on the first four bullets above plus the new framing method.  Table 1 below shows that Giants catcher Buster Posey led MLB with 33 runs saved and was especially good a framing (27 runs).  Rene Rivera of the Padres was second with 30 runs saved.

Tigers catcher Alex Avila saved an estimated 12 runs with his catching in 2014.  He was average or above average on all five elements particularly excelling at stopping the running game (+4 runs) and pitch blocking (+6 runs to lead the majors).

Table 1: Runs Saved By Catchers, 2014 
Player
Team
Inn
Running Game
Pitch Blocking
Throwing Errors
Fielding Errors
Pitch Receiving
Total
Buster Posey
SFG
929
1.3
4.3
0.3
0.1
26.7
32.7
Rene Rivera
SDP
734
5.2
-0.2
-0.6
-0.0
26.2
30.5
Russell Martin
PIT
940
6.8
-0.6
0.0
0.6
16.5
23.3
Jonathan Lucroy
MIL
1,182
-1.0
4.8
0.9
0.2
18.0
23.0
Hank Conger
LAA
637
-1.5
-0.3
-0.7
-0.1
25.2
22.5
Caleb Joseph
BAL
672
4.7
1.0
0.4
-0.1
13.2
19.2
Mike Zunino
SEA
1,121
0.6
-4.9
0.6
0.2
22.3
18.8
Brian McCann
NYY
889
4.9
0.7
0.8
0.6
10.6
17.5
Yadier Molina
STL
931
5.7
5.2
0.8
0.6
4.9
17.2
Jose Molina
TBR
628
-0.1
-1.0
0.4
0.4
17.2
16.8
Miguel Montero
ARI
1,152
0.9
2.2
-0.8
-0.8
14.2
15.7
Yan Gomes
CLE
1,082
2.9
1.6
-2.0
0.2
11.3
13.9
Alex Avila
DET
1,017
4.3
6.0
0.4
0.1
1.7
12.6
Jason Castro
HOU
971
-3.4
0.4
0.9
-0.4
12.3
9.8
Tyler Flowers
CHW
1,052
1.3
-3.0
-0.1
0.2
11.5
9.8
Yasmani Grandal
SDP
607
-5.2
-3.3
0.1
-0.1
17.8
9.3
Ryan Hanigan
TBR
603
-1.5
1.7
0.6
0.4
6.5
7.7
Wilson Ramos
WSN
775
3.1
3.4
0.3
-0.0
-0.1
6.7
Robinson Chirinos
TEX
784
5.7
2.7
0.0
0.5
-4.4
4.6
Travis d'Arnaud
NYM
909
-3.5
-2.4
-0.9
0.1
11.2
4.5
Devin Mesoraco
CIN
936
-0.5
2.5
0.8
0.1
0.5
3.4
Carlos Ruiz
PHI
960
0.1
3.6
0.6
-0.4
-6.5
-2.6
Chris Iannetta
LAA
835
1.2
-2.5
0.7
0.5
-2.9
-3.0
Evan Gattis
ATL
799
-3.1
-4.9
0.1
-0.0
4.2
-3.8
Salvador Perez
KCR
1,248
1.7
1.2
-0.4
0.3
-7.4
-4.6
Welington Castillo
CHC
916
3.1
-0.3
0.2
-0.4
-9.2
-6.7
Derek Norris
OAK
870
-4.8
0.2
-0.1
0.0
-2.3
-7.0
A.J. Ellis
LAD
773
-0.9
0.6
0.6
-0.5
-6.9
-7.1
Kurt Suzuki
MIN
1,017
-1.4
3.5
0.4
0.6
-11.2
-8.0
A.J. Pierzynski
BOS/STL
721
-9.2
0.2
-0.0
0.4
-1.6
-10.2
Dioner Navarro
TOR
907
-3.1
2.1
0.5
0.6
-10.3
-10.2
Wilin Rosario
COL
824
-3.1
-5.2
-0.2
-0.5
-1.4
-10.4
Jarrod Saltalamacchia
MIA
922
-4.6
-0.2
-2.5
0.1
-18.7
-26.0
 Data sources: Baseball-Reference.com and BaseballProspectus.com 

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