Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Can "Pitching To Contact" Lead To More Scoring?

See Are Twins Taking "Pitching To Contact" Too Far? by Rob Neyer.

To look at this, I calculated the batting average and slugging percentage in the AL in 2010 on contact. For contact, I used AB - K + SF. I assumed that sacrifice hits (bunts) and their attempts rarely end up in strikeouts. So in the AL last year when a plate appearance ended in contact, the AVG was .320 and the SLG was .501.

How many runs per game might this lead to? To approximate this, I used the equation

R/G = 16.04*OBP + 11.595*SLG - 5.52

That comes from regression analysis based on the 2007-2009 seasons.

Last year the AL had a leage OBP of .327 and a league SLG of .407. The equation predicts that would lead to a runs per game of 4.44 (it was actually 4.45). But if we used .320 for OBP and used the .501 for SLG, we get 5.44 runs per game. That seems like a big difference.

I am not sure if this approximation works. It would be quite a different game with no walks and the denominator for OBP and SLG is not the same in each case. But even with that said, I am skeptical that pitching to contact (or not trying to cause batters to miss the pitch) is a good idea.


Zita Carno said...

"Pitching to contact" is not a new idea. Ed Lopat,in a discussion of strategic pitching, said "Get the ball over the plate and make them hit it. Make them go after hyour pitch, what you want them to hit." And no, it doesn't necessarily leed to more scoring. It can result in an increase in the number of double plays, or more grounders to the infield. So much depends on a pitcher's control and command that it's really not possible to say for sure.

Cyril Morong said...

But why is the slugging pct on contact so high then? Seems like no one is really having success with this strategy. And how do you make the batter hit your pitch?

Cyril Morong said...

And Lopat was a lefty pitching in Yankee Stadium. Right handed batters could belt the ball and just make outs and he probably had better than aveage defense behind him. So his strategy might work in a limited setting.

Why is the major league average so high on contact?

Cyril Morong said...

So far this year the Twins have struck out 17.3% of the batters they have faced while the league average is 17.56. Not a big difference.

bobm said...

According to B-R, 43 AL pitchers pitched 162 or more innings in 2010.

If "contact" is defined as 1-((K+BB)/BF), then the correlation between contact and ERA was 0.42. In other words, as contact increased, so did ERA, i.e., scoring.

By way of comparison, a pitcher's ground ball rate (GB/FB) had a -0.23 correlation with ERA.

The Twins' 4th highest ground ball rate (and AL-leading low walk rate) probably helped to offset the negative effects of contact (and 4th lowest strikeout rate).

bobm said...

Correction - 2010 Twins had the 4th lowest SO/9 but only 6th lowest SO%.

Cyril Morong said...


Thanks for all that info. Very interesting. The grounballs definitely help, but it will take alot of double plays to make up for the extra run. Jim Furtado once came up with -.37 for a double play in terms of run value. That would mean more than two extra double plays per game to offset the increased hitting by pitching to contact.


bobm said...

According to B-R, the 2010 Twins had below-average GIDP opportunities (runner on 1st with less than 2 outs), but an above average GIDP rate.

Tm Run 1 LT 2 Out
KCR 1278
DET 1218
BAL 1187
CLE 1184
TOR 1171
CHW 1148
TEX 1145
LgAvg 1134
NYY 1110
SEA 1104
BOS 1094
MIN 1065
LAA 1064
TBR 1063
OAK 1048

CLE 13%
TOR 13%
OAK 13%
DET 12%
CHW 12%
NYY 12%
MIN 12%
LgAvg 11%
SEA 11%
BOS 11%
TBR 11%
BAL 10%
TEX 10%
KCR 9%
LAA 9%

Cyril Morong said...

Thanks again. Great info. So they are 1 percentage point better than average. That means about an extra 11 DPs or about 4 runs prevented over the course of the year