Misc Baseball News

Trust Your Eyes or the Data?

Trust Your Eyes or the Data?

Coaches, players and analysts would all agree that hitting stats are impacted by not swinging at balls outside the strike zone and doing damage to balls in the strike zone.

“Hit strikes hard, pound strikes, feast on mistakes.”

Mantras are all premised on the recognition and timing of hittable pitches. Clearly, 1-0 is better than an 0-1 count. Chase rates and strikeouts continue to affect individual and team offense.

If you need hard proof on count leverage, take a trip to Providence College in Rhode Island one day if you want a crash course on baseball stats and life. Ask for Father Humbert Kilanowski (wearing a white robe and a baseball cap) or find the softball field where he and his colleagues assemble to watch games. He was busy compiling stats for the Cape Cod Baseball League when I asked for his divine help.

“In the major leagues from 2008-2021, batters show an increase of 37 points of weighted on-base average (wOBA) for balls put in play when the count is 1-0 as opposed to 0-1, relative to the league average for each season,” Humbert said. “The difference becomes even more pronounced when the hitters fall further behind or ahead in the count. This shows the extent of the benefit of taking the first pitch, rather than chasing it, when it is outside the strike zone.”

No surprises with Father Humbert’s revelation. Hitters are less likely to do damage when pitchers get ahead.

Who has the edge these days in the bat-to-ball game, pitchers or hitters?

Pitch velocities continue to increase and pitch movement seems to have given pitchers the competitive advantage.

What have the hitters done to equalize the new weapons being deployed from the mound?

With the availability of pre-game pitch data and iPads in the dugouts, hitters and coaches have more intel on tendencies and video visuals on pitch movement than ever before. Pitchers are always being filmed and scrutinized for pre-pitch tip cues that may help the hitter predict pitch type.

Swing efficiency has improved thanks to the work of great swing coaches and bio-mechanists joining forces. We all love the scissor kicks, anchors, cradles, connections, sequencing and pumping movements today’s hitters use to increase exit velocity.

VR, video occlusion and vision training games profess to improve strike zone mastery. Time allocation and transferability questions still haunt these training programs. As one neuroscientist said, “if it’s not in live three-dimensional space, the brain may not process or find…

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