What Happens When A Pitcher Goes Right Down The Middle?

Title: What Happens When A Pitcher Goes Right Down The Middle?
Date: May 30, 2014
Original Source: Fangraphs
Synopsis: This article looked at pitchers who throw directly down the middle, why they may do so, and what type of outcomes they can generally expect when doing so.

The other week when I wrote about pitches that come in well out of the zoneand what happens with those pitches, some discussion in the comments focused on the opposite – what happens right down the chute? If a pitcher is wasting 0-2 pitches, surely he’s firing down the center on 3-0, and if pitchers sometimes miss wildly outside, they probably miss to the meat of the plate on occasions, too.

There have already been 2,535 pitches thrown in 3-0 counts this season (2,227 if we exclude intentional walks), according to the awesome new HeatMaps here at Fangraphs, and so our knowledge of what happens when pitchers are far behind has a solid base. And thanks to data since 2012, we know why pitches have a strong incentive to fight back from 3-0, even with one strike – there is, obviously, an appreciable drop in expected on-base percentage in a 3-1 count, and there’s little chance the batter swings 3-0, anyway.

Count PA AB AVG OBP SLG
After 3-0 19973 7193 0.287 0.740 0.496
After 3-1 35990 20670 0.278 0.580 0.473
3-0 8806 654 0.347 0.949 0.745
*Since 2012

There are several interesting results here that we can dive into – batters do sometimes swing, pitchers often miss 3-0, but, sometimes, the pitcher sneaks that freebie by for a chance at salvaging the at bat from 3-1. (One unrelated side-note that I couldn’t shoehorn anywhere else: baserunners are 6-for-6 stealing bases on 3-0 counts this year, surely because the pitcher can’t be bothered with the baserunner since he’ll get second base on a walk, anyway.)

Continue reading at Fangraphs.

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