# Ball-to-Strike ratio

I’m looking for a simple metric to chart my son’s efficiency. Actually, I’m using a few, but it’s this one that’s giving me pause. The question is, what do you consider the proper way to treat batted balls in this ratio.

Here’s an example. Say a pitcher throws 80 pitches, of which 30 are balls (simply added up from the chart, which is not kept in great detail). So I know that 50 pitches were either strikes swinging, strikes looking, foul balls, or put into play regardless of outcome (other than the occasional hit batsman). My thinking on this is that any ball put into play, whether an out or a base hit, counts as a strike for charting efficiency. My reasoning is that if the batter swings at it, even if it was out of the strike zone, the pitcher ‘did his job’ and that fooling a batter into swinging at a ball is just as good or better than throwing a strike. So I would come up with a 5:3 ratio of strikes to balls in this case.

Someone I discussed this with recently feels that isn’t the proper approach, and that you treat ‘batted balls’ as a third category to track. My problem with this is that counting just the marked strikes limits you to two per at-bat, which ignores fouls with two strikes, but counts fouls with less than two strikes which seems very arbitrary. Anyway, I assume there is a ‘right way’ to do this so please help.

Again, the goal is a simple measure of balls to strikes. I suppose another way to chart this would be average pitches per batter since the problem we’re trying to solve is that he’s running his counts too high, probably just over 5 pitches per batter, which is limiting his innings. I want to reward a ground ball as much as a called strike in this perspective.

Any other suggestions welcome and thanks.

No, any batted balls, foul, or in play are counted as strikes. Pitches thrown and swung at are strikes. If the plate ump calls a strike, foul ball, tipped pitch, the pitch is considered a strike, no matter the location.

In the case of your friend’s logic, every breaking ball in the dirt chased by the batter would be a ball.

I’m with Turn,

Unless you’ve got a Questech machine, what your friend is implying is next to impossible at some College levels, HS and below.

All of the intangibles you’ve listed off swinging, looking, foul ball, tip etc, etc. Are things that you can incorporate into a chart that will help break down the ball to strike ratio so that you can get a better look at what your son is doing batter by batter or inning by inning depending on how you want to set it up.

But at the end of the day if he’s thrown 80 and 30 were balls that leaves 50 pitches that are classified as strikes.

Watch a MLB game when they flash up the pitch count its broken down from total pitches then into balls and strikes its just that simple.

If you’re truly wanting something simple, do this. Only count pitches and balls. A pitch that either is a called ball by the umpire or hits a batter is a ball. Divide that number by the total pitches, multiply it by 100 and subtract it from 100%, and you have strike percentage. Nothing could be more simple.

Personally, I’ve always tracked balls, BIPs, and other strikes. The 3 added together gives a total pitch count. I’ve also always tracked 1st pitch strikes too. But here’s the bottom line. The more things you track, called, fouled, missed, tipped, and BIP strikes, along with balls, the more things you can tell. But the more things you track, the more time its gonna take!

I suggest going with the most simple, and seeing if it will give you what you’re looking for. I also suggest tracking the cumulative numbers as well as the strike percentage per game. That way you’ll be able to easily see what progress, if any, is taking place.

But you said something that bothers me a great deal. “simply added up from the chart, which is not kept in great detail”. I don’t know what kind of “chart” you’re referring to, but if the details aren’t accurate, I strongly suggest you abandon this project. IMHO, invalid numbers are worse than no numbers.

scorekeeper, what I meant is that the chart is kept by a ‘dad-coach’ and it isn’t kept as well as it should be. What’s there is accurate, but from what little I know about keeping a book, it’s not complete. So I can count the balls pitched, but I can’t see how many pitches (including fouls) a particular at-bat took. They do keep pitch counts per inning though and I track those myself.

I’m going to start playing with some of the phone apps to track his pitches myself from now on. I am a very experienced data analyst, but I have no prior experience in this area so I’m learning as I go. I’m all over keeping deeper data and developing better stats to track his performance (probably the subject of another thread) but I want something very simple for starters that we can work on improving game-by-game. Right now, he walks too many batters so this seems like a good metric to start with.

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Thanks to everyone. You’ve given me confidence that I’m starting out right with this. I’ll track ptiches in more detail, but we’ll start with ratio of balls to pitches thrown and work out way up from there.

Out of curiousity, what would you generally like to see for that ratio out of an 11u lefty (I only add that because so many people treat them differently, as opposed to just mirror images of righties)?

Remember, you said “generally”.

Generally speaking, there’s no reason kids on the small field at that age shouldn’t be 58-61% strikes. The reason doesn’t have as much to do with accuracy as it does to there are so many more ways to get a strike than a ball.

At that age, they don’t have to hit the strike zone as much as keep the ball within a foot of it all the way around. If they just do that, they’re gonna likely get 10% strikes from poor batters making wild swings. A kid’s strike zone that’s only 2’ high is over 400 sqin in area. Give him that additional foot all the way around and it goes to almost 1,970 sqin, and that’s huge!

And what most important is, even allowing a foot all the way around the strike zone, it gives the catcher a great chance to catch the ball, and would never be in the dirt. How much would that help things?

Teach ‘em young to try to get the batters to hit the ball, not miss it, You wouldn’t believe how much time HS coaches spend trying to get their pitchers to pitch to contact.

Once you have this %, and it seems to be what you’re looking for as a calculation metod with all the right components - what do you plan to do with it?

Coach B.

Coach Baker,

Here’s how I’m looking at it. His last outing, he threw 79 pitches and 33 were balls. In four innings, he gave up only one hit, but put about 6 runners on base and luckily gave up no runs. So he threw about 41% of his pitches for balls.

The way I look at it is, if he threw 5 less balls in that stretch, he probably would have retired the same 12 batters with something like 15 less pitches since not only would those balls be strikes or batted balls, he would probably have faced one or two less batters overall. Also, at almost 20 pitches per inning, he can’t go past four innings.

So we set a goal to improve that ball-to-pitch ratio from 41% down to 35%. That means out of 80 pitches, he could throw 28 balls (5 less in that span than he did). If he achieves that, we can then look at the number of walks allowed and innings pitched per game as secondary metrics. They should both improve if the ball ratio goes down.

Based on his two outings this spring, he is very difficult to hit, and when the batters do connect, it’s almost always a ground ball. But the walks will continue to hurt him and the team so that’s the immediate challenge. But I’m not sure walks per inning pitched is the best metric here because I’m also concerned about him running full counts before getting an out. That chews up his pitch count in a non-productive way. Ultimately, if he throws less balls, the walks will take care of themselves anyway.

That makes sense to you guys?

So we set a goal to improve that ball-to-pitch ratio from 41% down to 35%.

Yes that makes sense. Just remember that during your son’s appearances (in this age group) he’ll be getting his counts from umpires that will sometimes call strikes and balls using a “strike zone” that’s from the nose-to-the-toes. I know that doesn’t compliment the umpire crowd, but these people are not professionals, nor do they enjoy the best mix of those who understand what a “strike zone” is. Nevertheless, they all do the best job they can, and most are pretty reliable. Yet again, you’re going to get mixed signals from time to time.

My suggestions would be to keep the conversation of strike %'s, ball counts, wins and losses to yourself right now, watch from your lawn chair with all the pride and joy of a father supporting his son with ice cream all around for everybody after the game, and so on. As the months and years pass, your boy is going to grow and change physically, altering a lot of what you see now. He’ll be a totally different package next year, then the next, then the next. If he’s got it in him, these percentages will mean nothing. It’s his composition in the rough of how his body moves, his adapting to situations under his control, and his enjoyment of the game that’ll take him today and beyond.

Talking percentages and stats to a youngster kind-a goes in one ear and out the other. Most youngsters just don’t have the focus or understanding of where that kind of reasoning is going - again, because so much of the quality that goes into those numbers is beyond their reach.

Good question though. Your son is very lucky to have a dad that supports him. Very lucky.

Coach B.

Coach Baker,

I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t quite understand why what age group is being discussed has to do with the process of how the numbers are analyzed. In general terms, everything is “age appropriate”, so I can’t see how the process should be affected.

I understand keeping the talk of wins and losses to one’s self, but I don’t quite understand why the conversation about strike %’s and ball counts should be kept a secret. All those things do is explain parts of the game that most people aren’t aware even exist. So to me what it does is adds to a player’s overall knowledge base, so that hopefully one day he’ll be able to count on more than his “gut” to make decisions.

Like so many things in life, one reason things like percentages and stats aren’t better understood is because people don’t bother to try, out of the belief that people won’t understand them. With all the new scoring “apps” out there, more and more people are getting exposed to things which have in the past been reserved for the very highest levels of the game. Its not that those numbers wouldn’t have any validity at the lower levels, but there were few willing to go through the drudgery of compiling and presenting them. But now its as simple as pressing a button.

Rather than keep what knowledge he gains to himself, I’d like to see SouthpawDad encourage other parents and players to take more of an interest like he’s done. He seems to be searching for answers as to why things happen the way they do, rather than just accepting that they happen, and to me that’s a great thing. Every bit of new knowledge he acquires “demystifies” the game and that always makes it better.

In reply to the umpire remarks, I can say that I do not call the actually strike zone. If I did, there would be 100 walks a games and the games would never get out of the first inning. Especially with younger kids.

You almost have to call a big strike zone to, in order to get people to swing. If you don’t every single kid just stands there and waits to be walked.

When we go to our classes for umpiring, we are even told to call a larger strike zone. In rec ball, most pitchers just don’t have the accuracy to throw actual strikes consistently.

But I must also say, where I live the different leagues are divided up by 8-9, 10-11, 12-15, 16-18 years old. My strike gets more true as the kids get older because the kids get better at throwing strikes.

I’m not sure if this adds to the topic, but I thought I would chime in from a youth umpire’s perspective on the strike zone.

And as Coach Baker said, I would just sit back and watch him play. Parents are the most intense at 8-9 and the least intense as they get older. I never had that problem when I played and I have fond memories of playing rec ball. Even though my teams weren’t ever very good.

I would focus on having simple smooth mechanics and hope that translates into strikes. Which it probably will.

Thanks both of you guys for great feedback,

I have to go with scorekeeper in this instance for a few reasons.

1. I agree that kids should be exposed to some stats, if they are the right ones. I think most of us would agree that velocity is not an appropriate stat for an 11yo since it would probably encourage bad behavior. But something simple like we’re talking about should really encourage the right behavior. Not necessarily during the game itself, but as a way of tracking if the work he’s putting in is paying off in ways we decide together are meaningful. He knows he throws hard enough for this level and that what’s going to limit his success is control so that’s what I want him working on improving. I’m just trying to give him a quantifiable measure of his success he can use.

2. I can’t speak for other kids, but mine is pretty solid at math. When I talk about metrics of this nature, I know he understands it and like scorekeeper suggests, I want to encourage him to think this way, for reasons that extend well beyond baseball.

On the other hand, Coach, your point about umps is spot-on. In his last start, the ump was giving pitchers about four inches below the knees. But I consider that part of the learning experience. At 11, I think a kid should be able to recognize that, and if they have the control, use it. Now my son can’t hit location all that well, but he was trying, and that tells me he was thinking. And yes, if the next ump has a tighter strike zone, that ratio of balls-to-pitches is going to go up but we’ll have to discuss it and account for it. This is definitely NOT an exact science

Last point. I considered WHIP since it’s also a pretty well-established and respected metric, but again, the one thing is doesn’t account for is those 5, 6 and 7-pitch at-bats that result in outs but chew up pitch counts and tire arms. So while WHIP alone isn’t sufficient here, I am thinking that both, in conjunction are probably going to be a good combo for now.

There’s were we go in different directions - so, everything else that has a reason or not, does and doesn’t. I’m fine with that.

Coach B.

[quote=“SouthpawDad”]Here’s how I’m looking at it. His last outing, he threw 79 pitches and 33 were balls. In four innings, he gave up only one hit, but put about 6 runners on base and luckily gave up no runs. So he threw about 41% of his pitches for balls.

The way I look at it is, if he threw 5 less balls in that stretch, he probably would have retired the same 12 batters with something like 15 less pitches since not only would those balls be strikes or batted balls, he would probably have faced one or two less batters overall. Also, at almost 20 pitches per inning, he can’t go past four innings. [/quote]

What you’re doing is the same thing I do when I’m trying to prove/disprove something by using numbers. What you’re postulating is intriguing, but I’ve been trying to figure out your logic and haven’t been able to do that, so I’m asking you to explain it.

The closest thing I do to that is calculating unnecessary pitches. I define an unnecessary pitch as one that is thrown after the 3rd out should have been made, similar to an unearned run. FI, Joey throws 5 pitches to the 1st batter and gets him on a popup, 5 to the 2nd batter and gets him on strikes, 5 to the next batter and he reaches on an error, then 5 to the next batter who’s put out on a grounder. He threw 5 unnecessary pitches because he should never have had to pitch to that last batter.

If you’re curious about what that looks like, go to http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/pitching12a.pdf and do a find on “unnecessary”. The numbers are from this season’s HS team. I always find it somewhat surprising that the number of total errors doesn’t quite coincide with the number of unnecessary pitches.

Its great to set goals, but keep in mind that a strike percentage of 65% is above average. For the almost 6,100 pitches I scored this season alone, 62.6% was “average”. And for the last 6 years, for over 39,000 pitches, the average was 60.9%. What you have to be careful about, is that its very easy to mistake the numbers for what they represent.

The range of percentages for the team’s I’ve scored is 51.2% at the lowest, and 85.7% at the highest. But out of 45 teams, 41 are above 53% and below 70%. That’s a range of only 17%, and that makes each point very valuable. So when you’re talking about an improvement in only 6 points, you’re really talking about an improvement of something around 30%, and that’s huge.

I love seeing statements like that because it indicates a desire to know more about what’ really taking place. So let’s take things step by step to see what we can to do prove or disprove your perception.

How can you prove whether or not “when batters do connect, it’s almost always a ground ball? Typically GBO/FBO percentages are used to tell if a pitcher is a pitcher induces balls hit on the ground or in the air, but you’re saying something different. You’re talking about ALL BIPs, not just outs. No biggee! All you have to do is keep track of them. But I would advise to be careful about how you define things, if you’re gonna use them to make decisions or judgments.

There are really only 3 different possibilities for a ball being put in play. OBR defines them this way.

A GROUND BALL is a batted ball that rolls or bounces close to the ground.
A FLY BALL is a batted ball that goes high in the air in flight.
A LINE DRIVE is a batted ball that goes sharp and direct from the bat to a fielder without touching the ground.

I go a bit beyond that definition of a ground ball, in that I use the leading edge of the OF grass as a “guide”. If a ball is on the ground before it reaches that limit, it’s a grounder, if it lands past it, it’s a line drive or a fly, and the trajectory determines which.

But for simplicity, for your definition I’d stick with a BIP either being a grounder or not. That makes it pretty simple to track. A BIP has either been hit on the ground or it hasn’t. I think it would be interesting to tack that all through his pitching career, and maybe his hitting career as well. But I suppose in order for it to make sense as a hitting metric, you’d have to include all 3 rather than just on the ground or not.

Now for the next one, “he is very difficult to hit”. In order to get a real idea about this one would take a lot more work, but I think it would really instructive. The most simple way to gauge this would be to count the pitches batters swing and miss on. Don’t pooh-pooh that metric. It can tell you a lot about how “dominating” a pitcher is, the same way it shows a pitch who gives up a lot of foul balls , especially after 2 strikes, doesn’t have a very dominating pitch to strike batters out.

But forgetting that stuff, what does “difficult to hit” really mean? To some it might mean difficult to put the bat on a pitch. To others it might mean putting the bat on a pitch solidly. May to some it means difficult to get “base hits”, and to others something else entirely.

You’re correct that walks are definitely a bad thing, but so are some others as well. For sure HBPs fall into that category because they there’s no defense against them, other than to not allow them to happen. But they do happen, so all that can be done is try to keep them to a minimum. And here’s something else to consider. While all walks and HBPs are bad, some are worse than others, with the ones that score being the worst.

Personally, I like to see how all the runs that score got on, but keeping it simple, if you just track total runs and how many of those got on by a walk or HBP, you’d prolly have a very powerful metric to show your pitchers. If you’re interested, go back to that link above, and do a find on ‘gotonp”. The one for our team shows individuals, but the next page shows teams, and that can be very illuminating.

Makes perfect sense to me!

I’m not trying to be obtuse or obstinate here, but I truly don’t understand what you’re saying. I get it that we believe different things, i.e. that stats don’t mean a whole lot, especially at the lower levels, although I think you might have the wrong Idea about how much I value them and what I’d ever use them for. That’s ok because it’s a simple difference of philosophical beliefs. No bigee.

But the “so, everything else that has a reason or not, does and doesn’t”, has me stumped. Would you mind explaining a bit more?

Thanx.

I’m fine with where things stand…SouthpawDad has his direction and my contribution was that extent and no more.

Coach B.

Jimster, thanks for the ump’s perspective. Makes perfect sense the way you put it. I know that umps are often very unappreciated and have made an effort to get to know all of ours by first name and give a friendly wave as they arrive. Not sure if makes up for all the criticism they get during a game, but I suppose it comes with the terriroty.

Scorekeeper, that is a great chart. Everything I might want to track can be derived from that data. Thank you for posting that.

Just to confirm, do you include all ‘non-ball-pitches’ as strikes in your strike ratio, or is it just the ratio of called and swinging strikes to total pitches? I

And good point about my expression ‘difficult to hit’. Looking at it again, it is very vague. I guess what I meant is he gives up very few fly balls and very few hits. Most of his batters are either a) walks, b) ground-outs or c) strike-outs. That’s all great as long as the ratio of a:(b+c) isn’t too high, which brings us full circle

Last point - about tracking runs and how they got on. The weakness there for the moment is he hasn’t given up any runs, but if things broke just a little differently, he would have. His ERA is completely misleading in that regard. I want to differentiate between a 10-pitch, 3-batter inning and a 20-pitch, 5 batter inning that both result in 0 runs. Once we get over that hump I think that could be another very informative stat.

Here is what Perfect Game is pushing right now in order to “standardize” stats from org to org.

Interesting stuff JD