“Here The 1-1 Pitch”
A few days ago my friend, partner and colleague Peter Ellwood wrote an article on 1st pitch strikes, which I found very entertaining and intriguing. Peter examined the differential in OPS on a 1-0 count vs. a 0-1 count, and made a case for the fact that a 1st pitch strike is important to the success of the pitcher, but perhaps even more important is throwing a strike on one of the first two pitches. You cannot argue that based on his findings and research. I’m going to take this a step further. I’m not going to look at OPS, but keep it simple with batting average, and I’m going to delve into the most important pitch in any sequence….the 1-1 count.
As you can see in the table below, batting averages when the count is in a hitter’s favor are much higher than in a pitcher’s favor. We all know this fact. In a hitter’s count the pitcher obviously doesn’t want to walk a batter, so the hitter is going to see a fastball or a “get me over” breaking ball, in most instances. This is all obvious information to any knowledgeable baseball fan.
Take a look at the batting average of MLB hitters on a 2-1 count vs. a 1-2 count. There is a distinct difference between the two, because 2-1 is a hitter’s count and 1-2 is a pitcher’s count, again obviously. That brings me to the point. The 1-1 pitch is the most important pitch in any sequence for a pitcher. It is the only pitch that sways an at bat between a pitcher’s count and a hitter’s count. Look at 2-2 vs. 3-2, there isn’t a big difference. You’ll also notice that the average between a 1-1 count and a 2-1 count are not too dissimilar. I’m not taking that into consideration. I’m strictly talking about the difference between 2-1 and 1-2.
Now, we can argue that the 3-2 pitch is the most important because there is a certain outcome on that pitch; a walk, a hit or an out. However, I disagree based on the fact that the hitter has two strikes and has to protect the plate in that situation, and the average shows that. Based on the table above, you can see that the average is only .192. Of course, that doesn’t take into account the amount of walks that have been issued.
MLB hitters, on average hit 139 points lower on a 1-2 count vs. a 2-1 count. That is the biggest disparity in the table (in a pitch sequence). So next time you hear Eric Nadel or any other announcer say, “Here’s the 1-1 pitch”, remember the importance of that particular situation of pitcher vs. hitter. It is the one that can change how pitchers and hitters approach an at bat.
Patrick Despain is the Editor for ShutDownInning.com. He can be reached at Patrick.Despain@shutdowninning.com or on Twitter @ShutDownInning.