The advantage of working deep counts

Does Mark Teixeira prevent throwing errors?
A-Rod: Yankees vs. Mariners

While we wait for Yankee baseball following the long off-day, check out this piece by Sky Andrecheck at The Baseball Analysts. We know it’s good for batters to work deep counts for several reasons, including get the pitcher out of the game earlier and increasing the likelihood that he’ll make a mistake and leave a pitch out over the plate, but Sky shows that after fouling a few pitches off with a full count, the hitter does gain an advantage as evidenced by their triple-slash performance. However that advantage doesn’t last forever, apparently. Check it out, it’s a short but interesting read.

Does Mark Teixeira prevent throwing errors?
A-Rod: Yankees vs. Mariners
  • John

    the thing about jeter’s mvp candidacy is that if minnesota doesn’t make the playoffs, yankees make them and nobody has an 2007 a-rod-like season, jeter will win it as pedroia won it last year. jeter has similar numbers to pedroia’s 2008 season (pedroia had more power, jeter has more steals). and both would have made the playoffs. plus jeter would get the sympathy vote from the BBWAA.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      OAKTAG this offtopicness.

  • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    The result shows that there is some truth to the old wives tale, but does not back it up whole-heartedly. At-bats that resolved after the count first reached 3-2, made up the majority of the data. These batters hit .225 with a .465 OBP and a .373 SLG average. This was virtually identical to the numbers hitters put up when the count resolved on after one foul ball. The numbers there were .229/.461/.384.

    However, we start to see the myth become reality after two foul balls. When the at-bat is resolved after two fouls, we see a dramatic increase in all three key measures, with the numbers measuring .260/.496/.432. With over 2500 PA’s in the sample, this was a statistically significant difference from 3-2 at-bats that resolved earlier. The standard error of BAV and OBP is approximately 10 points. When the at-bat gets to this point, it appears that the batter does indeed gain an advantage as conventional baseball wisdom would suggest.

    However, these numbers decrease again after 3 fouls, and after the 4 or more foul balls, they decrease sharply, with batters putting up a .201/.414/.312 line. In this case, only 599 plate appearances contributed to the data, so the standard error is fairly high at 20 points, making the difference from the average 3-2 count BAV not quite significant. The differences in OBP and SLG however, are significant, showing that not only does the batter not gain from a long at-bat, in fact, it is the pitcher who earns the advantage.

    Perhaps there’s a delicate balancing act between pitcher fatigue and batter fatigue.

    Both pitchers and hitters are “conditioned”, for lack of a better word, to throw/swing a certain number of times each PA, let’s call it, oh, 3.5. As the pitcher starts throwing more pitches than normal, he loses his ability a little and starts throwing poorer pitches. But, after a certain point, it now becomes the batter not used to swinging that many times who loses his ability a little, and the pendulum swings back.


    • Matt ACTY/BBD

      I agree.

  • Thomas

    After reading all of this article, the key point I walked away with is Alex Cora wins ballgames.

    • zs190


    • Matt ACTY/BBD

      The Twins automatically win the trade they made with Oakland because “Orlando Cabrera is a winner.”

  • the artist formerly known as (sic)

    Not to be a whiny little bia, but this is hardly new research. The concept of the advantage shifting from hitter back to pitcher as an at-bat goes on and on has been out there for quite some time.

    • whozat

      Actually, this IS new.

      Just because something is a commonly held assumption does not mean it is true. Proving that some assumed thing is true is useful, because now you know there really is a phenomenon there to study. Next, we can look at WHY we see this effect. Is it merely that shitty pitchers put a guy into a 3-2 count and then just walk him, so they are removed from later samples? Is it a fatigue effect? Is it that a guy just starts to swing at EVERYTHING?

      I don’t know, but I’d like to.

  • V

    I realize this is a tenuous link towards being ‘on topic’, but surfing (really, just the third post down the line), this is REALLY interesting:

    “Low and away.
    Your phrasing: “which pitch should a pitcher attempt to throw, and why?” The key word is attempt. If you make a mistake down and away, you probably won’t get burned as much as if you make a mistake going up.

    If he has perfect control, then by all means take the one which the better value, but there is human error involved.”

    “You CANNOT use the run values of pitch locations based on hit f/x data to make any decisions about what pitches to throw unless you consider what happens when you miss your exact location (and the distribution of those misses, location-wise), which will happen some non-trivial percentage of the time.
    I was thinking about the pitch f/x article or two a while back that told us exactly what I told you – that the high inside fastball was a very effective pitch. What the data and article did NOT tell you was the run value of a pitch that was ATTEMPTED to be thrown high and inside. …

    In general the reason why pitchers do NOT throw high and/or inside that much in this day and age is not because they are not man enough anymore as some broadcasters would have you believe, but it is not necessarily because a high inside fastball is a bad pitch (if it hits that location). It is because a miss on that pitch will more often result in a HR (or extra base hit) or a hit batter. As well, batters will take a difficult to hit high and inside pitch more often now than they would in the old days when the strike zone was higher than it is now.”

    Maybe THIS is why Mussina always refused to pitch inside? Because if you miss to, say, Manny Ramirez, that pitch is GONE.

    • V

      Oh, and his graphs are for MARIANO RIVERA.

      Mosanna, Mosanna in the highest.

      • V

        Oops, I meant to say MRN RVR.

    • Drew

      Oh Mo, you just reminded me of watching ManRam straight own Moose last season.

      • V

        I was at the fugging game. My first (and only, to date) Red Sox vs. Yankees game.

        And Ellsbury stole whenever he damn felt like it.

  • Drew

    I’d just say the variance from 2-4+ and 0-1 are due to the sample size. If there were 12,000 PA’s in the 2 or 3 fouled ball full count you’d see pretty close numbers to the original 3-2 count and the first foul. In other words, it’s hard to compare something that has 12,700 occurrences with something that has 600 occurrences.

  • Thomas

    One of the things I wonder after seeing this data, is if a batter fouls off 4+ straight pitches, is it likely that the batter is just swinging at all pitches whether they are strikes or balls?

    It seems likely that if a batter has already fouled off four pitches, he is already in a mode of swinging at any pitches regardless of its location. Thus, if a pitcher throws a ball (intentionally or by accident), the batter would probably still swing at it and likely would not make good contact with the pitch (if any contact) resulting in a high percentage of outs from batters fouling off 4+ pitches.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Good point.

  • MattG

    I think the author missed the obvious reason. It is selective bias, but on the other end of the equation. A lesser pitcher will walk the batter shortly after reaching 3-2. It is the good pitchers that will continue to throw strikes.

    • Scotty B


    • Joe R

      Unless of course that batter is Robinson Cano

    • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Yeah, perhaps. I’d even add on to your last sentence… “It is the good pitchers that will continue to throw strikes that the batter can’t put into play.”

    • Thomas

      The only problem with that argument is if the pitcher is that good, shouldn’t he have gotten the hitter out already at or before pitch eight (3-2 plus three extra fouls). This scenario would assume the pitcher is throwing excellent pitches that are in the strike zone (or very close) and are unable to be put into play, yet he still cannot retire the batter until pitch 9+.

      Overall, though your theory is definitely one of the likely explanations, but I thought this flaw should be brought up.

  • V

    One thing I would love to see, if, say, someone like Cano, with good bat control, could PURPOSEFULLY hack away and induce 15 foul balls just for the heck of it, lol.

    • whozat

      I feel like, at about pitch 10, you just plunk the guy on the butt.

      • V

        Free base!

        But heck, imagine if you had a guy with that skill set. Even if he had NO power to speak of, if he could just go up there and foul off pitch after pitch… like, say, had 4 10-15 pitch at bats in a game, how long could that go on before he got the Barry Bonds treatment?

  • pete

    ok seriously guys, this statistical analysis stuff is starting to get on my nerves. can i please just read an article about how bad a person a-rod is or something like that? i mean come on…two articles in a row that use advanced statistics. in my opinion, the more advanced the statistics, the less they show you about the much more important, incalculable things a player brings to the table. you don’t bring numbers to a table. you bring grit and hustle or selfish clubhouse cancer-ness. baseball is all about the stories that the media make up, and you guys are seriously failing on the story-making-up part.

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      You had me going for a second there.

      Well played.

      • The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

        Yeah… I went from “so skip to the next post, moron” to “yes, you are awesome” pretty quickly. “Baseball is all about the stories that the media make up” put it over the edge.

        • Thomas

          I would have thought the USSRAB would be better at creating/molding news stories to further their own principles.

        • jsbrendog

          got me too. haha, +1

  • Will

    The Yanks’ hitters could really stand to learn from the master on this issue:

    • tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      My job there is to make the starter work, so I usually just take the first eight pitches or so to give myself an idea of what he’s got to offer. Then I try to foul off another 10 or so to get his pitch count way up. A lot of people say the most important pitch is strike one, but I’ve always found it to be strike seven. Because at that point you’re only three pitches away from strike 10.”

      Golf clap, Onion. Golf clap.

      • King of Fruitless Hypotheticals

        you need to get with the pitch count program, and eliminate the 4 ball intentional walk.

        dont forget:
        batter’s option to take first or more pitches
        sixth ball he goes straight to second
        anytime he’s on dirt (mound or old timey walkway from home to mound) he gets to talk carp about the pitcher’s mom

        i asked the commish (bud selig, if thats really his name) what he thought, and he liked the idea of a hbp counting for three balls instead of just going to first–again, batter’s choice.

        body armor cuts that value in half. i dont know what to do with half a ball though…pat?