Ask almost all High League winners and they will tell you they will earn their pay when the runners score. The main hit means a race and you have to run to win the games. Dropouts – especially strikethroughs – are a waste of scores and are infrequent today, when a baseball throws 100 miles per hour with a slider and everything else. This is the place with the highest leverage you can reach; Achieve success when the runners score, and your team is likely to win but fail and it will be a long night.
As far as we can tell, success in such situations – runners in points, high leverage, if you call it – does not predict future success. However, this does not mean that the approach does not predict the future approach, and as you can imagine, hackers will behave differently if they feel the possibility of the RBI smelling.
One easy way to conceptualize a change in this approach is to think of the edges of the zone and the area just outside the impact zone – the shadow zone in Statcast’s vocabulary – as a good test of what a batsman wants to do. Rocking is clearly the best option for the steps below the heart of the plate. In squares that are not close to the zone, picking is the only right choice. But places that could go both ways? The best strategy depends on what you are trying to achieve.
With runners in the top spot and no one in the first place – in other words, a situation where walking is much worse than a hit – the Premier League has fluctuated 56.4% of the time (in the last two years) on the squads of the ambush. Overall, they fluctuate in these squares only 52.9% of the time. In other words, they increase the rate of fluctuation of their pitch at the border by 3.5 percentage points when the difference between the walk and the single is greatest.
That’s a pretty impressive number. This is the clearest time you can imagine, and the bats will hardly change their behavior. But that makes sense when you think about it. Walks are suddenly worthless just because you could run; pulling the juice from the bases for the next dough is still a value. And swinging on border squares is hardly the best way to run; taking border pitches and waiting for an error or challenging you with a jug may be a better decision.
However, the fact that this is true is not true for every batsman. Hanser Alberto fluctuates 81.7% of the times he sees in the shadow zone when scores are scored. If you throw him anything he might get on his bat, he’ll try. Sure, he fluctuates a lot – generally 72.7% of the squares in the ambush – but he puts the runner in the spot and he really takes over.
Alberto is not alone in his aggression. In fact, many bats are even more aggressive than him. Thirty-two hikers have increased their stroke rate by at least 10 percentage points as runners are in points and not anyone on the first base, ranging from powerful (Luke Voit and Brandon Belt) to hitters (Nick Madrigal and David Fletcher). These beaters should be simple signs for opportunistic throwers. They don’t take it up there; they are looking for a square to drive on, or at least something to hit the other way around. The timer for the right throwers seems pretty clear to me: don’t let anything hit them.
Do the jugs do that? Not exactly. This cohort of bats saw 26.6% of the time in the 2021 and 22 games in my sample. When the runner was in points and the first base was open, the number dropped to ,6 25.6%. This is actually a smaller drop than the league as a whole.
So are these aggressive strikers hitting the system? In essence, yes. Here’s a chart you’ve seen this year’s version: a running value based on fluctuations or different parts of the zone. As Justin Choi said, perhaps the percussionists should simply stop swinging. This diagram shows a higher than average running value for each 100 steps of the zone / swing decision combination and shows the disadvantages of making a cut:
RV / 100, MLB
As Eno Sarris announced, both the teams and the players are starting to discover that the bats are fluctuating too much. This is a widely accepted fact at the moment; the question is how to teach the bats to swing less while maintaining enough aggression so that the throwers do not hit them in the zone.
This is all well and good, but once the runner is at a standstill and the first base is open, the math changes:
RV / 100, RISP, 1B open
These trigger values take into account the base / off condition. Getting closer to the walk is less important if the walk is less valuable. Catching a deep fly is more likely to give the runner a score. One gap is exponentially worth more if it runs during the race than when the bases are empty. The value of the ball in play is not static, which means that the value of the shot is not static.
Developing the exact value of these additional fluctuations is outside the scope of this analysis, as it is a bit more complicated than summing and multiplying the operating values. Even without a specific number, I can say this: our company of aggressive swingers is working on something. If the balls in the game are valuable, that’s the worst thing you can do. Converting a single shot into hooks is worth a lot of extra swings in poorer squares, especially in those shadow zones where the striker is not doing well anyway.
The league as a whole certainly understands this. But not every batsman does that. Just as there is a group of hackers who increase their aggression the most than there are runners to enter, there are also a group of hackers who swing less on the border squares in such situations. The biggest name out there is unexpected: Jose Altuve.
Throughout his career, Altuve has shown the behavior he could expect from anyone with a mixture of contact and strength. Give him runners to drive home and he will increase his oscillation frequency across the table, especially in the middle squares. That’s right inside: Jose Altuve is a very good hitter. Since the beginning of 2021, however, he has done the opposite of what might be expected. He generally fluctuates 55.2% of the squad squares, but only 47.9% when the score is scored by runners and no one is in the first place.
Isn’t Altuve just aggressive enough for his own good? Not exactly. He still chooses aggression where it is most important, over the plate heart. And he chooses alla his aggression, at worst, swaying in important situations in fewer bad fields. In other words, he has been better when it is most important. Is it sustainable? Probably not. Is this an innate skill? I do not belive; for example, he has not demonstrated this during his career. But now Altuve is locked.
Does it all mean anything? I think the broadest possible conclusion is probably right. Doughs can take good account of the importance of counting. They may generally fluctuate too much, but regardless of baseline, they generally understand how to change their behavior to respond to changing stimuli. They may not all be like Altuve – even Altuve doesn’t do it consistently – but they can, at least in good places, think more often about the swing and let the chips fall there.
Listen to enough games and you’ll hear a lot of narrators telling you that situational beating is dead. To some extent, they are right. It’s harder than ever to keep the line moving or the other way around to help the runner or any other cliché you want to use. But the beaters do not sit there and accept their fate. They try to do exactly what everyone wants: they swing more often, they try to make something happen. The numbers prove it: even if they don’t succeed, the bats are still interested in the RBI and the timely balls in play like never before.
#Expansion #Strike #Zone #fun #profit