# Pitchers ahead and behind in the count

In another thread I had spoken about looking for some kind of tendency depending on whether the pitcher was ahead, behind, or even in the count. During that discussion, it was brought up that what most people think of as an EVEN count, is when the numbers are equal. IOW, 0-0, 1-1, and 2-2. But while that’s true as far as the literal numbers, its not really true when looking at it from the perspective of whether the count is closer to a K or a BB.

Suppose a batter didn’t swing? It would only take 3 pitches for a K, but 4 for a BB. So if you look at it as what counts are a pitcher closer to something good for him as opposed to something bad, things take on a whole new perspective.

Pitcher even in the count, i.e. if the batter doesn’t swing, the number of pitches it would take for either a K or a BB is the same.

1-0
2-1
3-2

Pitcher behind in the count, i.e. if the batter doesn’t swing, the number of pitches it would take are less for a BB or than a K.

2-0
3-0
3-1

Pitcher ahead in the count, i.e. if the batter doesn’t swing, the number of pitches it would take for either a K is less than a BB.

0-0
0-1
0-2
1-1
1-2
2-2

Turns out a pitcher is in a lot more favorable counts than not, and is in at least one favorable count every PA. What that means is, pitchers who get in unfavorable counts more, should be kept off the mound as much as possible, and be replaced by pitchers who while they may not have the “stuff”, stay away from more troublesome counts.

"The pitcher had electric stuff but couldn’t find the plate…"
And don’t forget the foul balls! The pitcher runs the count to 3-2, and the batter fouls off one pitch after another—back to the backstop, to one or the other dugout, down the foul lines, foul here and foul there: guaranteed to drive up the pitch count. What he’s doing is looking for a pitch that he can drive out of the ballpark, across the street and into Aunt Minnie’s kitchen window, and he’ll foul off as many as it takes to get such a pitch. No wonder the pitcher loses all patience and just makes that next pitch an intentional ball four, put the guy on and try to deal with the next batter.
And it’s then that the manager yanks him from the game.
There is a solution to such a problem. Bring in a pitcher who throws sidearm and uses the crossfire. Batters have no end of trouble trying to hit a guy who—for example—takes a step towards third base. whips around and fires to the plate from that angle. Most of the time it’s three, maybe four pitches, and the batter goes grumbling and grousing and cursing his way back to the dugout because he couldn’t even get a piece of the pitch! I remember when I would come into the game in relief in the ninth inning to protect a lead, and my weapon was the crossfire slider, and I got the side out in order every time. There are a few guys in the majors who throw that way, and if the managers would use them more often they would get out of the inning unscored on.
But of course, the best way is for the pitcher to do what Eddie Lopat told me once: “Figure out what the batter is looking for—and don’t give it to him.” And, of course, the first pitch needs to be strike one. Get that and you’re ahead of the batter—and the game. :baseballpitcher:

Zita,

I’m usually mush more careful about counting fouls than most, and this time’s no different. When I run the numbers, the result is pitches THROWN in each count rather than just the final result of each count.

Scorekeeper,
Since yo u do include foul balls how often is it that potchers win the battle when the hitter gets into those seven eight pitch at bats?

[quote=“Turn 22”]Scorekeeper,
Since yo u do include foul balls how often is it that potchers win the battle when the hitter gets into those seven eight pitch at bats?[/quote]

Depends on what you mean by “win the battle”? Do you mean getting a K, or just getting an out? Do you mean on 3-2 counts or any count?

It really doesn’t matter, but is there a specific reason you’re asking or are you just curious?

Just curious. More specifically a strike out.

In 12,528 PAs, 669 went 7 pitches or more, here’s how the results broke out.

10 – ROE
11 – HBP
99 – Hits
164 – Ks
170 – Other outs
215 – Walks

Just looking at the numbers without any other analysis, I’d say if walks or hits determined “winning or losing the battle”, the pitchers are losing substantially.

1-0 and 2-1 I would say are more even than 3-2. The pitcher is making a much higher pressure pitch on the full count. These counts always screamed middle-in change-up or two-seamer down and in. I’d much rather be sitting 1-0 or 2-1.

When behind, I make every effort to keep the ball down and to the outer third without trying to paint. The only exception is situations where a ball hit to the second base side would move a runner. In that case I’m trying to work a pop up or a ball hit to the left side.

Nearly all counts can be worked to a pitcher’s advantage if he has decent command.

I’m glad at least one person understands what I’m trying to get across. I agree that there are different values of pressure even in what I call the “even” counts, or for all the counts for that matter, but I haven’t quite gotten to the point where I’m ready to assign values for them. My efforts so far have been in simply trying to see if there was any merit to my line of thought. Now that there at least appear to be trends, I’m ready to see if I can take the next step. That step might be to change the pressure values such as what you’ve pointed out. FI, make a 1-0 0 pressure, a 2-1 1, and a 3-2 2, or some other values to show that there is a difference.

I’m also messing around with assigning pressure values by the different “states” the way linear weights are done. I.e., 0 outs and no runners, 0 outs and a runner on 1st, 0 outs and a runner on 2nd, 0 outs and a runner on 3rd, 0 outs and runners on 1st and 2nd, 0 outs and runners on 2nd 3rd, 0 outs and runners on 1st and 3rd, 0 outs and the bases loaded. Doing that for 1 out and 2 outs would really add much more precision to the number.

Trouble is, I’m no math genius and trying to come up with values for each state is difficult at best for me, but I keep pressin’ on.

That sounds logical, but in all honesty I’ve never looked at what the numbers show for pitches like that. The main reason is, the only place that information is available is at the ML level and I only mess around in the HS level.

I think a lot of folks don’t understand that nearly everything favors the pitcher. He’s allowed to throw different pitch types, use varying speeds, throw using different arm angles, with different release points, and allowed to vary the time between pitches, all in an attempt to upset the timing of the batter and keep him guessing about what’s taking place.

But as you correctly pointed out, without the ability to properly execute what he’s trying to do, his job becomes much harder to accomplish well.

Without a mathematical system that defines that pressure in relation to all possible variables of the environment on a strictly scientific basis the results are going to be compromised. Each pitcher’s reaction to situational pressure is defined among other things by their skill level, personal make-up, the weather and a thousand other variables we can’t either think of or perceive. But I applaud your always inquisitive mind and your commitment to the study of statistics. Keep on counting.

Well, I certainly agree that any results will be more precise the more factors that can be taken into account, but that’s true for any and all things being looked at, not just how pitchers handle pressure. None of those things are taken into account for any metric I know of, but there’s a heap o’metrics that are studied and the result of the analysis count on.

As for this particular metric, as far as I know there is no data on anything having to do with “pressure”, so where does one begin? And even if there were data on it that could be mined, it would all almost assuredly be confined to ML players, and that couldn’t be used to look at any level below any more than any other measurement. The two groups are just too vastly dissimilar.

But, as you pointed out, if nothing else I’m always searching. I don’t always know what I’m searching for, but that doesn’t stop me from keeping the ol’ mind open. I never know when something might jump up and slap me in the face!

There may be too many variables to figure out exactly, but isn’t it valuable to simply know key generalizations? For instance understanding that 3-2 is pressure, but also that 3-2 in a close game is more pressure than 3-2 lop-sided contest.

The pitcher does have a significant advantage even if he can only throw his fastball for strikes. A one-pitch pitcher really only needs to have a change up that looks like a strike for the first 20-30 ft to fool a hitter and upset his timing.

[quote=“CoachPaul”]There may be too many variables to figure out exactly, but isn’t it valuable to simply know key generalizations? For instance understanding that 3-2 is pressure, but also that 3-2 in a close game is more pressure than 3-2 lop-sided contest.

Now is there any more pressure on the visiting pitcher, and if so, how much? And, if the score was closer or more substantial, would that affect it?
[/quote]

It will never be able to be objectively computed to the Nth degree. It is absolutely valuable to know key generalizations. That’s the basis for baseball “knowledge”. But, that doesn’t mean if its possible to be more precise, it would be of even a greater benefit.

Great minds must certainly work alike, because here’s a post I made just yesterday evening on a different forum. I’d appreciate any thoughts.

[b]Among many factors, I believe the score of the game has an effect on the amount of stress or pressure on a pitch, and I believe the inning has an effect as well. But my question isn’t whether or not they have an effect, but rather how much of an effect.

Here’s 2 examples. 1) Bottom of the 3rd, home team ahead 5-1. 2) Bottom of the 6th same score.

Here’s another question. Does the batting position of the batter affect the pitcher too? IOW, in an otherwise same situation, would there be more stress or pressure on the pitcher if he was facing the #3 BPos or the #9? If you think there is, can you put a value on it?[/b]

I couldn’t agree more.

Personally, I felt less pressure on the road, but I felt more comfortable on the home mound most of the time. If the mound was total crap, I could never get my head right. Maybe that’s just me.

Now there’s a factor I didn’t even consider. To be honest, there used to be a very big difference in mounds, but I believe those differences have diminished, even though they definitely still exist. But at the amateur level, I think its just as likely pitchers will find visiting mounds more to their liking as home mounds.

The “comfort” thing is something different than what I’m looking at. For my purposes, I’m looking at seeing if I can spot a way to tell when a pitcher might be in a position where he’s more likely to have something “bad” take place. In doing that, I’ve come up with a way to compute a “pressure” for each pitch based on the values for certain factors.

Here’s the table of values.
http://www.infosports.com/scorekeeper/images/values.pdf

Its pretty simple. Say the count is 2-0 with no outs and a runner on 3rd. That pitch would have a total pressure value of 8 as compared to a 2-0 pitch with 2 outs and no runners on which would have a pressure value of 3. I allow the program to keep the total of all the at bats, and can look at the pressure per pitch as the game progresses. I’ve only been doing this for a few games and I’m still tweaking it, but so far it sure seems to be a way to see how the pitcher’s doing.

I suppose I could add another factor called home/away and factor it into the total, but I’d have to be a lot more sure that there would be a general positive for the home pitchers compared to the visitor pitchers. In almost 15 years of doing this kind of thing at the HS level, I honestly haven’t found much difference in home vs. away performance, so I’d have to be a lot more positive there was something to it than I am now.

There’s ample evidence that the count definitely has an effect on the at bat in many ways. There’s also evidence that the number of outs and the runners have an effect as well. I use those 3 factors because I’m pretty sure they’re the 3 most “important” factors, and I’m looking for others. That’s how I came up with that post I made.

I see the score of the game and the inning as having an effect, but I don’t quite know yet how to quantify that effect. I also thing the batter’s BPos has an effect too, but like the others. I’m not at all sure how to quantify it.

I think it would be different depending upon if you were starting at the MLB or College or HS level, or in relief. As a HS starter, I would be trying to go deeper into the game and begin economizing pitches with a 5-1 score later in the game. In the MLB or to a lesser extent college level, I’d not worry about my pitch count. I’d throw what was necessary to keep the batter off balance, keep setting him up to hit my pitch because I would have to trust the bullpen to have my back.

Whereas, if I had come into the game as a reliever, I’d be less worried about my pitch count and throw a few more waste pitches to set up pitches later in the at bat. That’s probably true at all levels, although I did not pitch at the MLB level.

Not that any lead is safe, but in a 5-1 game in the 3rd inning, it would be more pressure than having the same lead late in the game. That may be false security, but I think it happens a lot that way in the head of a pitcher.

The position in the batting order definitely makes a difference. After the 5th batter in most line ups, I’m really not wasting any pitches. I figure there is a reason they are not occupying one of the top 5 slots. I find the weakness and pound on it. I’m trying to entice a swing to produce a ground ball and use 3 or fewer pitches per at bat to save my pitches for the 1-5 slot hitters. It was not uncommon for me to get three strike outs of the #3 hitter in a game while having the 7-9 guys get a ground ball single here and there. I definitely worked harder on the guys I felt were extra base hitters.

Even at the college level, there are some very weak hitters in the line-ups. Just go right after them. Stay away from the dead red zones of each hitter and attack.

Putting values would be more individual based on the pitcher’s mental attitude and his experience with each hitter, so very difficult to quantify. Also, runners on base would have a big factor on how stressful a pitch or sequence may be. For example, a #6 hitter with runners on 2nd and 3rd and less than 2 outs would be more stressful than a #3 hitter with the bases empty. Quantifying every situation would be a fool’s errand, in my opinion. I think a coach just has to recognize that there is a difference and monitor accordingly.

[quote=“CoachPaul”]
I think it would be different depending upon if you were starting at the MLB or College or HS level, or in relief. As a HS starter, I would be trying to go deeper into the game and begin economizing pitches with a 5-1 score later in the game. In the MLB or to a lesser extent college level, I’d not worry about my pitch count. I’d throw what was necessary to keep the batter off balance, keep setting him up to hit my pitch because I would have to trust the bullpen to have my back.

Whereas, if I had come into the game as a reliever, I’d be less worried about my pitch count and throw a few more waste pitches to set up pitches later in the at bat. That’s probably true at all levels, although I did not pitch at the MLB level. [/quote]

I realize there’s gonna be differences depending on the level, and that’s why I’m trying to keep things as generic as possible.

I’m not quite sure how trying to go deeper into a game or worrying about pitch count relates to stress. Could you expound some?

My assumption is that pitches will be called that best suit the situation no matter what. I don’t quite see how relieving or starting and what’s thrown relates to the generic stress of a given pitch. It may well mean some other factors have to be taken into account later on, but for right now I have all I can handle with the 6 I’ve got.

Agreed.

If you really believe pitchers in general change the way they pitch according to the BPOS of the hitter, can you come up with some sort of matrix? It doesn’t have to be complicated at all. Something easy like 0 points for the #9 batter with is the least pressure to 9 points to the #1 batter who would theoretically be the best hitter.

By now you should be seeing the problem. The best or worst hitters in every lineup won’t be the same. I know our coach counts on the opposing team assuming the weakest batters are at the end of the order, and he historically purposely doesn’t allow that to happen, and the team benefits from it. I think that’s the mindset of inexperienced signal callers and pitchers, but in my experience it simply isn’t true often enough to make it a factor to be used on every pitch.

That’s pitching 101 but really has nothing to do with what I’m talking about because its not something that I want to make contingent on user input for every at bat.

And that’s why I’m staying away from them, at least for the time being. I’ve already factored in the runners, and its something that doesn’t vary with anything other than the number of outs and the count. Trying to throw in something else would make it much too complicated IMO.

In case you haven’t seen them, here’s the two matrixes.

They are checked with each pitch, then the total points are added together from each one, plus the number of pitches in the inning – 15 is added to get the total stress/pressure value for each pitch.

The day Ed Lopat introduced me to strategic pitching he started a long discourse on keeping the batters off balance. As an example he presented this scenario: “Say you’re pitching in the seventh inning. Your team is ahead by three runs, and there’s one out and a runner on first. The batter is a guy you’ve faced before and retired twice in a row—but now he’s up for the third time. Watch him. Is he doing anything different, perhaps something he didn’t do before—like changing his position in the batter’s box, moving closer to the plate or further forward towards the mound? Is he doing something that might indicate a bunt, or possibly hitting to the opposite field? Is he choking up on the bat—or is it possible the hit-and-run might be on? Now would be a good time to call your catcher out to the mound for a conference…perhaps move your infielders into position for a possible double play. And whatever you do, DON’T give him anything he can hit. If in doubt, go for the strikeout.” And he added, "And you know how to do that."
I replied, “I’d go for the strikeout—we might even get a strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play, because my catcher is fast, strong and accurate.” As it happened, I faced just that situation a couple of days later when I had to relieve in the eighth inning, and guess what? We got that strike-him-out-throw-him-out double play.