Command PostMarch 07, 2008
Tidying Up
By Joe P. Sheehan

I had some comments/requests for additional context about the charts I showed last week and other aspects of my linear weights articles, so I wanted to present those and clear up some confusion about the charts from last week.

Among others, Richard Aronson commented here last week about my statement that left-handed hitters liked the ball down and in, but mentioned that the linear weights in those areas were still negative. He suggested that I break up the charts by balls in play and balls not in play and see if the statement still held true. The chart below shows how left-handed hitters fared against all pitch types in any count, but only when they swung at the pitch.


The chart shows that pitches in the middle of the strike-zone, both horizontally and vertically, benefit the hitter, while pitches on the corners, especially the lower ones, favor the pitcher. In addition to only looking at swings, this chart differs from the one I presented last week in that it looks at all pitch types, not just fast balls. Maybe left-handed hitters are able to hit down and in fastballs very well. We can test that and...


crap. They still can't hit pitches in that location very well, and its interesting to see that they are able to hit fastballs on the outside half of the plate much better than they can hit fastballs on the inside. Generally inside fastballs are thought of as places where a pitcher can get hurt, while outside fastballs are encouraged. One reason left-handed batters are able to hit outside fastballs better than inside fastballs could be because of the extra fraction of a second an outside pitch affords the batter. An outside pitch is hit slightly after it crosses the plate, and giving the batter an extra 'beat' to track the ball. In order to be driven, inside fastballs need to be hit in front of the plate, and the batter has slightly less time to react. This probably isn't a meaningful reason for the inside/outside difference, but with a fastball, the extra split-second could help the hitter.

The chart below is shows the run value for fastballs that are put in play by right-handed hitters.
Apparently righties like low and inside fastballs more than lefties, and righties also don't hit fastballs on the outside as well as they hit inside ones.


Looking at all pitch types, right-handed hitters actually hit all down and in pitches very well.


I also wanted to quickly go over the way I calculate the run value for each pitch. I take every event that resulted from a pitch being thrown and assigned it a weight, based on the count it occurred in. Different events are worth more in different counts, and for an extreme example, a 3&0 strike isn't worth as much to the pitcher as a strike thrown in an 0&2 count. By the same logic, any base hit in an 0&2 count hurts the pitcher more than the same hit would have in a 3&0 count. The process and weights are explained a little more in depth here.

There are some loose ends that I need to tidy up, such as if called strikes and swinging strikes should be weighed the same (currently I weigh all strikes, including fouls with less than two strikes, the same amount), and what to do with pitches that result in a steal or caught stealing (currently I'm ignoring this, but a pitcher is partially responsible for the running game, so his pitches should get some penalty/benefit if the runner steals or is caught stealing.)


There are obviously more right handed hitters than lefties. From this data, it seems that for some reason, righties fair better against low and inside pitches and lefties fair better against low and outsuide pitches.

Umm, this seems pretty important. As you mentioned, pitchers are advised that they should avoid inside fastballs and instead go for the outside corner.

Is this advice coming from the overweighted experience of pitching against righties? It would be very interesting to think that for decades pitchers have been told to pitch to lefties in the same way they pitch to righties, despite the fact that evidence shows it's counterproductive.

Am I interpreting this right? If so, holy crap. Isn't the average left handed hitter better than the average right handed hitter throughout history? Could this be an ever so slight contribution to a left handed hitter's performance advantage?

I started thinking about these numbers using LHP versus LHB and vice versa, but it just doesn't explain why RHB have more success.

Can it be so obvious that we're all missing it? Inside pitches, if hit fair, are more likely to be pulled. More infield singles go up the third base line than the first base line; it's a much tougher play for third basemen than for either pitchers or first baseman (much shorter throw). And again on infield singles, far more go into the shortstop hole and get beaten out than get fielded by the second basemen and beaten out, again because of the shorter throw. I *suspect* that the ratio is larger than the ratio of left handed hitters than right handed hitters.

How might we test this? Run the same numbers and compare all balls hit on the infield to all balls hit to the outfield. It *may* be that left handed batters get more solid wood (i.e. doubles and triples) on the inside pitches, but enough more singles on the outside pitches to overcome the difference.

You pay millions because you think a player will produce corresponding results in his performance.

The results of the day are a function of what you have been giving your attention to. When you are allowing the feelings of all that the reality of baseball is for you, you thrive, and when your attention is siphoned off by the real or imagined contrasting desires of the day, things don’t go so well.

Do you know the aim of life? Or playing the game?

Life is not about baseball. But if you ask a ballplayer or an owner and the entire organizational management team and even the die hard fan, it seems as though it is everything.

The aim of life is the same as in baseball. And when you are in harmony in both places, you produce the desired results. Actually, as a subset of life, in and of itself, baseball is an opportunity to see if you are playing it in the same manner as you are living life in general.

If you live life sloppy, it will spill over to the way in which the game is being played. It is all, life!

And despite all that has been fed to the masses, life is about joy. There is no other single truth.

That is why you began playing the game; it provided you an experience of joy. You had great passion for that feeling and the game seemed to be an environment in which that could be experienced.

If the only thing you do is remember to feel the joy that is driving you, you will do better than ever.

Here is the thing; you are playing the game of baseball because you feel the joy of it all. I promise you that if the experience joy is held over a short but sustained period, you will see results that reflect that emotion.

Haven’t you ever wondered about the physics of the game? How you can hit the ball but a quarter of an inch early or low and the results can be quite different. To be that physically and consciously equipped as a batter is simply not expected. There is something else going on.

You’re talking about a ball coming down at 90 miles an hour, perhaps a sharp breaking curve. The wind may be strong and the game situation critical, a tense spot to be in, and you may be facing the most recognized closer in the game. Where is your attention?

Something else is going on that someone goes 14 for 22 in what seems like an impossible stretch and another experiences going 0 for his last 22 at bats. Or one player comes through with a game winning at bat and another simply goes down. What is that element that is in play? There used to be a lot of talk about players who could get themselves “in the zone” would produce better results. Unfortunately how one could achieve that was based on a flawed premise.

Think of this for a moment. According to leading cell biologist and research scientist, Dr Bruce Lipton Ph.D., reveals how the subconscious biology of the human machine is interpreting 400 billion pieces of data per second, where as the conscious aspect of ourselves are interpreting about 2000 per second. Fortunately we don’t need to manage our heart flow and breathing and nervous system or interpret all the colors and distances of everything we see.

This is what is coming to light these days with resistance by many.

Those players who are doing well and those who are not, are doing so based on the same fundamental principles. And neither is aware of what those principles are. To the degree you become aware; you increase the results you desire. You simply begin to recognize what works and you gravitate to that and what you realize does not work, simply begins to drop away.

Though I use the example of the batter, the same principles are universal to pitchers, management, owners and investors and fans alike. The question is what slight elevation in awareness can produce unforeseen results for this season?

You should include the "swing and miss", not just the "swung and contacted". Basically, you should have two charts: swing, take.