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More On Hitting – Thank You Kindly Pass Me By

More On Hitting – Thank You Kindly Pass Me By

There is much debate among baseball professionals and fans regarding the benefit of taking multiple pitches during an at bat in order to drive up the pitch count of the starting pitcher and to see more types of pitches in order to be more productive later in the game.  However, it is well know that a batter’s batting average drops drastically when they get behind in the count. 

Lets’ look at the 7 returning Dodger starters and how they batted last year.

Count Seven Player  Average   Best Average Worst Average
2-0             0.470    Martin      0.583 Ethier      0.350
3-1             0.417   Kemp      0.533 Furcal      0.294
2-1             0.366   Rameriz      0.529  Martin      0.261
OBP             0.363   Rameriz      0.418 Furcal      0.335
0-0             0.356   Ethier      0.421  Martin      0.324
1-0             0.328   Rameriz      0.429 Blake      0.188
1-1             0.326   Loney      0.412  Martin      0.231
0-1             0.301   Kemp      0.482 Blake      0.175
3-2             0.260   Ethier      0.324  Martin      0.154
1-2             0.196   Furcal      0.231  Martin      0.162
2-2             0.180   Loney      0.211 Kemp      0.152
0-2             0.180   Loney      0.250 Rameriz      0.065

Loney has the best batting average for a specific count three times; Rameriz, Ethier and Kemp twice; and Martin once.  Martin has the worst batting average for a specific count five times; Blake twice; and Rameriz, Kemp, Furcal and Ethier once.

 The seven starter’s combined batting average is above their OBP when hitting at counts 2 – 0; 3 – 1; and 2 – 1. Six starters have a batting average above their OBP when the count is 2 – 0.  Five starters have a batting average above their OBP when the count is 3 – 1. Three starters have a batting average above their OBP when the count is 2 – 1.  So why must the batters take a pitch at these counts.  Certainly when a batter’s average on certain counts is above their OBP for the season they should be hitting.  Maybe taking pitches at these counts is one of the reasons that the Dodger batting average with RISP was so poor last year.

Six batters have an average below .200 when the count is 2 – 2.  Four batters have an average below .200 when the count is 0 – 2 or 1 – 2.  These batters should be more aggressive and tryvery hard not to let the count get to these levels.  Maybe taking extra strikes, that result in these counts, is one of the reasons that the Dodger batting average with RISP was so poor last year.

 Blake has an average below .200 when the count is either 1 – 0; or 0 – 1.  He obviously needs to take many pitches in order to become accustomed to the movement and speed of pitches. Martin even has an average below .200 when the count is 3 – 2.   Obviously Martin’s batting approached is completely screwed up.  He does have a batting average above .400 only when the count is 1 – 0; 2 – 0; and 3 – 1, so for him to take strikes is really insanity.

 In conclusion, each player handles pressure differently and adjusts their swing to the count and situation differently so a blind alliance to taking a lot of pitches is sophomoric.

About Ken

Ken is a professional working in multiple disciplines who has participated in various sports from elementary school through post intercollegiate level. He may be the only athlete in intercollegiate sports history to have started as both a middle blocker on an intercollegiate volleyball team and as a hook on an intercollegiate rugby team during the same season. He has been a Dodger fan since youth and now regularly watches over 150 Dodger games per season.

16 Responses to “More On Hitting – Thank You Kindly Pass Me By”

  1. Rory says:

    Ah, a topic about which I am passionate.

    Interesting stats. An OBP higher than a batting average is peculiar, but I suppose it happens.

    This is my take on it. I am a dead red hitter and have taught that to all levels from Little League to American Legion, high school and college players. You gotta go up to the plate ready for a fastball because every pitcher out there uses that pitch to set everything else up. The fastball over the plate is the pitch that every hitter has the highest avg. against. So, why wait? If you go up to the plate and take a tubed fastball strike one down the middle you are screwing yourself. Don’t let the pitcher have that one. Make him earn an out. Let him know he can’t get away with that.

    Now having said that, this is the Major Leagues and it’s obviously different up there. These guys can throw a number of breaking pitches for strike one. My take on that? let it go. Look dead red until you are behind in the count and if you find yourself there, look to take everything back up the middle. Unless a huge mistake is made in that count, you shouldn’t get anything that you can drive. IF you do, then make him pay.

    Mattingly teaches to go deep in the count and I understand that philosophy. But if a pitcher knows you will take strike one, he will get it on the first pitch and now you are immediately hitting from behind. That is the one problem I have with Mattingly’s philosophy. How many times did we see Dodger hitters behind in the count last year? And, in many cases, it was a fastball over the plate on the first pitch. If you don’t go up there ready for that one, what are you ready for?

    But, in his defense – we did lead the league in hitting. So, what the hell do I know.

  2. Roger Dodger says:

    Ken, interesting stuff — those stats. And I am sure Dodger fans would like to study them. Some baseball announcers would like to quote them as players come at bat.

    But –

    I can just hear: Bob Feller, Ryne Duren, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan would all say, “Hey kid, have you read the stats, feel comfortable — get up to the plate and see if you can even see the ball.”

    Oh, in case some of you younger fans do not know that much about Ryne Duren, here:

    Rinold George “Ryne” Duren (born February 22, 1929, Cazenovia, Wisconsin) is a former relief pitcher in Major League Baseball.

    He was known for his fastball pitching, but also noted for his very poor vision and thick glasses. He was rumored to have hit a player waiting in the on-deck circle, supposedly because he could not see which way to throw to home plate.

    Duren was a showman. In those days the Yankee bullpen was a part of the short-porch right field and only a low chain link fence served as the boundary. When called upon by Casey Stengel to relieve, he wouldn’t use the gate, but would rather hop that fence with one hand and begin a slow walk to the mound with his blue Yankee warm-up jacket covering his pitching arm; even in the hottest days. When he finally took the ball from Casey and began his warm-ups, the first pitch was always a blazing fastball 20 feet over the catcher’s head. The 2nd warm-up pitch was a bit lower (but not slower) until on his 5th warm-up Ryne would finally find the plate. With his thick coke bottle glasses, no batter ever dug in against Duren.

    Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg was named in honor of Duren.

    In 2003, Duren and author Tom Sabellico wrote the book, “I Can See Clearly Now”. Duren talks from the heart about life, baseball and alcohol. The foreword was written by Jim “Mudcat” Grant. ISBN 1-59330-013-151695

  3. mark says:

    Interesting stuff Roger.

  4. steevo17 says:

    I understand Mattingly’s approach: take a lot of pitches in order to get to the bullpen and also you get to see everything a pitcher has. I understand it, I don’t agree with it. I would prefer that these hitters keep their aggression – with discipline. The key, I think, is knowing the strike zone. That and always go with the pitch…up the middle and opposite field.

    My one question…how is it possible to have a BA (batting average) higher than your OBP (on base percentage)? Will someone please explain that.

    Interesting fact: Dave Stewart’s stats in his 20s (age 21-29):
    W-L / 39-40, IP / 766.1 , K-BB / 484-310.
    Mostly as a reliever, no years with more than 200 IP. High of 192 IP.
    Stats between ages 30-35:
    W-L / 119-74, IP / 1649, K-BB / 1088-623
    Includes 4 straight 20-win seasons. High of 275 IP and 14 CG.

    The point is Dave wasn’t really that tough until he reached 30. The Dodgers gave up on him at the age of 26…sound familiar DRomo?

    • Ken says:

      A player’s batting average on a specific count during the season can be higher than their total OBP for the season. Obviously their batting average is generally lower than their seasonal OBP. The real problem is when their batting average is less than .200 late in the game, deep in the count, with RISP.

      • steevo17 says:

        Thank you for the clarification Ken. Now I understand the above stats completely. I agree with you about the BA w/ RISP too.

  5. DRomo says:

    Listen Bills is a very good young pitcher. But how long does he get a pass for being a “young” pitcher. He wilted down in the clutch time after time. I want him to believe in himself but I am not willing to wait until he is 30! The only thing holding him back is HIM.

    As for my take on him in 08: He choked in the postseason. I think he hasn’t been the same since. But guys I like the guy, I just want him to live up to his potential. I want everyone to come down on him as hard as you would if his name was Ethier or Pierre (prior to last season).

    Then again,If making the playoffs is enough for us, maybe we shouldn’t demand more. Maybe 22 seasons isn’t that long to wait for a championship

  6. Brooklyn Dodger says:

    “I think he hasn’t been the same since.”

    Didn’t the first half of 2009 occur AFTER his so-called “choke”? Could it be that Billingsley’s fractured leg last winter interrupted his offseason conditioning program, and perhaps contributed in some way to his physical problems in the second half last year?

    I guess there is no middle ground. Either you’re a choking dog or a conquering hero. Billingsley will only be only 26 in July. Does anyone here remember being 26? Yes, some players are very successful at very young ages. Others, however, take a while longer. Billingsley has shown me his upside, and I like what I’ve seen. If anything, I think Billingsley has learned valuable lessons from his failures, and I also think he’s on the verge of the consistency that comes with maturity and experience.

    At the age of 27 last season, Ethier was able to shake the “soft” tag. I expect Billingsley to do the same.

  7. Rory says:

    I understand the idea of getting to the bullpen, but often that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Depends on the team.

    The most important element of any at bat, and the first rule of hitting, is getting a good pitch to hit. If that is the first pitch in the sequence, jump all over it. You just have to be ready for a fastball down the middle. I used to tell all my kids – be aggressive within the strike zone. Your goal is to hit the ball and run to second.

    The best pitchers keep their mistakes within the strike zone to a minimum. If you watch guys like Maddux, or more recently Halladay, pitch, what they do is keep their stuff on the corners of the strike zone. Inside outside up down, never down the middle. The smart pitchers have a book on every hitter in the league. You want to get Matt Kemp out? Throw him strike one on the first pitch. He is going to look at it. OK, now either throw the fastball high and in, or start nibbling the corners until you get strike two and then just throw a breaking ball to the outside corner and watch him flail away at it. Russ Martin? Bust him in on his hands, then outside with everything and watch him try to pull it into the Dodger bullpen.

    My goal was to never let the count get to 0-2. If it does, you are at the mercy of not only the pitcher, but the umpire as well. I never met an umpire that had as good an eye as I do and I am sure every hitter will tell you the same thing.

    I just don’t understand some people’s take on Billingsley. He has two years under his belt, and is a winning pitcher with impressive stats. He is only 25 years old and even with a fractured leg, he is a horse and will take the ball 30+ times this year. He has his 10 best years coming up. He is the least of our problems.

    • Ken says:

      Well Said.

    • train says:

      to Rory,
      I’m with you on Billz my friend, i just don’t understand the angst among fans. Billz is not an ace now, and may never be one. Does this mean he’s not valuable? To a team thinking of signing Garland, Piniero, or Washburn. Too funny

  8. Rory says:

    I wouldn’t mind signing one of those guys as a 5th. Problem is, they have been around long enough to demand a lot of money. We can’t meet that kind of demand. We can offer a great “pitchers park”, good weather, big crowds, celebrities, beaches, bikinis, fine restaurants and a chance at the post season. That could mean something to somebody, but without the ridiculous salary these guys demand, they ain’t comin’ here. Bills and Kershaw should give us close to 400 innings of 3. pitching. And for less than $2 million? That is huge. Especially now.

    Here is a quick read on a healthy approach at the plate, and how to teach it to kids.

    If you know that if all you got were fastballs you could hit .350, then why swing at anything else unless you had to? And when you do swing at it, learn to hit it where it is pitched. 7 out of 10 line drives are hits. A breaking ball outside? Hit it on the screws the other way, or up the middle. But, and I can’t emphasize this enough – do not swing at anything out of the strike zone.

    There was a pitcher in the MABL league I played in that threw smoke and threw it for strikes. A guy on my team hit him pretty well and when I asked how he did it he said “I sit on his curve. He throws it at least once in the sequence and it just rolls up there about 3/4 speed”.

    Get your pitch, and when you do, know what you are going to do with it.

  9. Mark Timmons says:

    I never played against Minor League Quality pitching, so maybe it’s not a fair comparison, but even though I had a big long swing, I never struck out much. A key to that, I believe, was that I NEVER tried to “pull” the ball. As a result, I hit most of my HR to RCF, even though I was a RH hitter. Actually, I never remember “trying” to hit home runs, which may have been another key. I just always tried to “crush” the ball. I think if the modern players would do that, they would make better contact.

  10. Ken says:

    Have Gun will Travel – Welcome home Padilla


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