Balls in Play on the 1st Pitch

During a discussion a few weeks back, I had occasion to generate ANOTHER stat. I just sent it along to our coach with the following note.

[i]Take a look at these.

http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/ballsinplay1stpitch.pdf

I got in another one of those philosophical “discussions” a few weeks back, and we got to talkin’ about putting the ball in play on the 1st pitch. I generated what you see for the batter, then it dawned on me that it would work for the pitchers too, so I ran it for them as well.

I know a lot of folks think that’s looking too deeply into the numbers, but its interesting as H*** to me. It sure looks like Nico, JQ, and Mike were making lots of $$$$$ out of that 1st pitch for the batters. And unless I’m wrong, its pretty easy to see why Matt had such a great season. Not only did he get them to swing early in the count, when they put the ball in play it was $$$$$ in the bank for us.

I think most of us that watched what went on last year knew instinctively what was going on, but this kinda proves it, and I like that. [/i]

Here’s the same stat for all seasons since 2007 combined.

http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/ballsinplay1stpitchall.pdf

Since this is the 1st time I’ve allowed it to be seen in its final format. I’m open to comments and/or questions. I put it up on another board, and got some great comments and input. I’m hoping the same thing happens here.

Alright, I’ll bite.

What makes one pitcher more adept at enticing the hitter to put the first pitch in play? Has to be a pitcher that has the reputation for throwing first pitch strikes, right? No pitcher that has control issues is going to be at the top of that list. Typically not a strikeout pitcher either, right? And finally, doesn’t the quality of the fielders behind him make a huge difference in how much money you get to put in the bank?

Whitey Ford once said that each play begins with the ball being put in play and that the person who puts the ball in play is the pitcher. And he was right. The pitcher throws the ball, and what happens after that is the ball being put in play—or not. The batter might swing at it, and he could hit it, or miss it, or he could foul it off in which case the ball goes out of play. Or he could stand there and take the pitch, in which case nothing happens; the umpire calls it a ball or a strike, but that’s it.
Take, for example, a leadoff batter with instructions to get on base. The pitcher puts the ball in play by throwing the ball. The batter is taking all the way, and nothing happens. He might get four wide ones, or he might get any combination of balls and strikes, but until he swings at one or another of the pitches—tries to make contact—nothing happens. Now take the next batter, who has similar instructions to get on base. This guy swings at the first pitch and lines it sharply to the second baseman. He has put the ball in play. Something did happen—an out, 4-3. Now, with a runner on first and one out, the #3 hitter comes up. He lets the count go to 2-2, and on the next pitch he swings and belts one into the right-field corner for a double and an RBI. He certainly did put the ball in play. There are so many possible permutations. But Ford’s statement holds true. It’s the pitcher who puts the ball in play by throwing the ball. 8)

[quote=“Dino”]Alright, I’ll bite.

What makes one pitcher more adept at enticing the hitter to put the first pitch in play? Has to be a pitcher that has the reputation for throwing first pitch strikes, right? No pitcher that has control issues is going to be at the top of that list. Typically not a strikeout pitcher either, right? And finally, doesn’t the quality of the fielders behind him make a huge difference in how much money you get to put in the bank?[/quote]

I’m not sure a pitcher’s reputation has much of an impact, but it certainly would seem to make sense. I’m not at all sure a strikeout pitcher wouldn’t get a lot of 1st pitch BIPs, but it sure looks that that would be the tendency based on what I know about our pitchers.

Well, again I can’t be sure because it would be difficult to measure, but my perception is that a strong defense has many benefits that are often overlooked, pitcher confidence being one of the most important. But a lot depends on what the pitcher’s “style” is. A pitcher who gets a lot of ground balls would certainly seem to benefit from a great defense, but a pitcher who’s a fly ball guy probably wouldn’t benefit nearly as much.

It would be interesting to see trend analysis per team, just remembering the profile of each squad my son played against, could be a predictor as to plate philosophy and prevalence of 1st pitch swingers…Some of the teams were fed raw meat and would swing at a low fly over from the local airport…others more disciplined, traditionally worked counts, working the p until a mistake, advantage count attained or by trying to get rid of stud pitchers by pitch accumulation.
My son generally pitched to contact early and after the first time through (3rd/4th inning), he would start attacking the hitters with his out pitch and generally k’d heavily for the later parts of his games…he used aggressiveness against them early which then led to a large pct of 1st pitch strikes afterwards…retiring the side consecutively usually made the veins stand out in the oppo coach and he’d force his team to start taking…which was just what the doctor ordered 8)

I would start games or innings a lot with a curve ball or slider inside corner. Lots of hitters take the first pitch, or are sitting fastball. Provided I had decent command of my breaking pitches, I usually got ahead quickly vs the lead-off hitters. Then I could spot my fastball from an advantage vs having to bring it for a strike.

For me, I didn’t really want the first pitch BIP. I WANTED them to take it because it meant I chose wisely. I wanted them to feel some pressure before the first swing and keep them guessing wrong. It is true that the best pitch is a one pitch ‘out’, but I’d rather they put a bad swing on my 2nd or 3rd toss than be trying to get the first one. Perry Husband stats equate 0-0 batting averages to approximately .330 which is higher than 0-1 batting averages of . 280. For me, it’s about FPS and getting them to swing at one of the next two pitches.

Perry’s got some detailed charts of batting averages based on count and pitch progressions which are better than the generic batting averages by count charts. I’d suggest them to any pitcher. I guarantee it will change at least a few things about how you work hitters.

[quote=“Dino”]Alright, I’ll bite.

What makes one pitcher more adept at enticing the hitter to put the first pitch in play? Has to be a pitcher that has the reputation for throwing first pitch strikes, right? No pitcher that has control issues is going to be at the top of that list. Typically not a strikeout pitcher either, right? And finally, doesn’t the quality of the fielders behind him make a huge difference in how much money you get to put in the bank?[/quote]

I’ll add hitter’s discipline and style to the equation.

Sitting on a hitter’s pitch (i.e patient, willing to take a strike or two for the oppurtunity of a solid hit)- advantage batter.
Looking to get the bat on the ball (i.e swinging at anything the bat can or cannot reach) - advantage pitcher.

CoachPaul,

Being an ex-catcher and father of a pitcher, I totally get where you’re coming from. Unfortunately though, at the level I deal with, HSV, the pitchers and catchers don’t often get to control what they throw or when they throw it. To be sure there are some that do, but in my experience it isn’t “common”. :frowning:

Something else to take into consideration, again at the level I score, not a lot of pitchers have the skill to do what you did. Most are tickled to death when they can execute a pitch really well, and throw it within a foot of where they wanted the ball. Again, some can, but the “average” HSV pitcher ain’t dottin’ I’s with great pitches. :wink:

As for wanting contact early, I guess its up to the individual. All I can say is, the pitchers I’ve seen at this level who get early contact, “tend” to have a lot more success than those who try to miss bats.

Here’s a paper that really opened my eyes to a lot of the fallacies in conventional thinking about batting averages on specific counts. Its an oldie but still a goodie.

That’s a pretty solid philosophy, no matter who you are, or whether you’re a pitcher of hitter. Several years ago I thought pretty much the same thing, but I did it because that was pretty much what was accepted as “good baseball”. I tried to see if I could come up with any factual basis for the philosophy, and came up with something to look at what the outcome of the at bat is when the 1st pitch is a ball or strike.

The 1st link is to our pitchers and the 2nd to our hitters, which is really showing the opponent pitchers. Once at the link. Do a FIND on “KTAB” and you’ll go right to the report. These numbers are the result of our HSV team from 2007 to 2012. As you should be able to easily see, from a pitcher’s perspective, throwing that 1st pitch for any strike is a real advantage.

http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/cpitching.pdf
http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/cbatting.pdf

One thing that must be taken into account is the batter’s intent. I saw a beautiful example of this in a “Yankees Classics” game I was watching the other night. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, the score was tied, and the first batter up for the Yankees was Chris Chambliss—and there was no mistaking his intent. He was out to blast one out of the ballpark, on the first pitch if he liked it. His intent showed in his face, in the way he stepped into the batter’s box—and in the way he belted that first pitch, a fastball up and in,out of the ballpark to win the game for the Yankees.
Yes indeed, the batter’s intent is something the pitcher has to be aware of. It often is the difference between victory and defeat. 8)