The Count Is In

Typically fascinating work from Alan Schwarz today on the relative value of pitch counts in his Keeping Score column in the Sunday Times. Schwarz takes six counts (0-0, 1-0, 0-1, 1-1, 2-0, 2-1) and then analyzes the difference in ba, obp, slg, and ops, after a ball or a strike is taken in that count. Is the first pitch of an at bat the most crucial (Johan Santana thinks so)? The 1-1 count (A-Rod’s choice)? Actually, according to Schwarz, neither. Instead, he argues 2-1 is baseball’s true action pitch. The difference between a ball and a strike taken in this count (that is, the difference in batter’s performance between hitting at 3-1 or 2-2) is enormous: .452 points worth of ops.

Schwarz’s conclusions are not entirely unassailable; I wonder what a game theorist would have to say about these numbers—simple comparisons based on easy addition-subtraction can be deceiving. Also, we wonder if the addition of a more nuanced slugging metric (say, isolated power) would present a fundamentally different picture. Because A-Rod, in thinking of 1-1 as the most important pitch of an at bat, is not entirely wrong. The differential in ba (though not in the other categories) between 2-1 and 1-2 is actually larger than it is between 3-1 and 2-2 (.075 vs. .069).

Okay, gotta go brush up on my stat theory.

1 comment… add one
  • I read that article and I’m down for the count. Too much thinking at 9 in the morning on a Sunday.

    attackgerbil September 17, 2006, 12:10 pm

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