Waste This: An Analysis of Greg Maddux’s 0-2 Pitch Selection

Last week we took a look at a bunch of plate appearances between Greg Maddux and Bengie Molina, in an attempt to see if there were any discernable patterns or tendencies on the part of either participant.  Realistically, I was jumping the gun in conducting such an analysis; while there is not much to be determined from a small sample size of plate appearances it was definitely an interesting usage of the Pitch F/X data that could, in a few years, be a great approach to studying matchups.
One of the informational bits of tid mentioned throughout the course of the article dealt with Maddux’s supposed hatred of waste pitches.  He feels that wasting a pitch on an 0-2 count is nothing but counterproductive.  Intuition to most pitchers chimes in with the thought that batters are very protective on 0-2 counts and are therefore more likely to swing at pitches they would otherwise scoff at.
Now, wasting a pitch does not automatically refer to an extremely high fastball, or one that bounces twenty feet before home plate.  In many cases it simply refers to a pitch out of the zone in order to take advantage of being ahead of the hitter.  It could be in the dirt, and could be very high, but it does not have to be.  If the batter swings, great; if not, you did not plan for it to be a strike to begin with.
On a similar note, deciding against waste pitches does not automatically mean throwing 0-2 pitch right down broadway.  Instead, it could mean approaching the pitch with the same mindset as the 0-0, or 0-1 offering.  It could be treated with as much care as the perfectly placed outside two-seamer delivered on 0-0.
Greg Maddux differs from many pitchers in the sense that he has a ton of movement and can locate with absurd precision.  His two-seam fastball might feel like a waste pitch to certain batters until it tails back to the plate for a strike.  With that in mind I decided to take a look at all of his 0-2 pitches from 2007 until now–all that were recorded by the Pitch F/X system, at least–to see what he threw, where he threw it, and what happened.
What He Threw
Maddux found himself in 128 recorded 0-2 counts since April 2007.  Here is an overall breakdown of what pitchers were thrown:
overallpitches.JPG
I apologize for the freakishly large picture. Here is the same breakdown, split by the handedness of batters faced:
lhhrhhpitches.JPG
Against lefties he has been much more inclined to mix his pitches, throwing many more offspeed pitches. Against righties is has been predominantly fastballs. Where did these pitches go, though?
Where He Threw It
He did not throw many curveballs or “cutslides”–what we have decided to call Maddux’s cutter or slider–so they will be discarded. Here is a location chart of where the fastballs went to lefties and righties (lefties always on the left):
fastball.JPG
Against lefties Maddux has thrown the majority of his fastballs in the strike zone on 0-2 counts; they have also seemingly been more selective on those out of the zone. When he throws it to righties, though, he has favored the outside corner. The majority of pitches called balls have been very close to the plate, too, likely catalyzing boos from the home crowd when the batter is not rung up. Righties are also making contact (foul or in play) whenever the 0-2 pitch is in the zone.
Here are the location charts of his changeups in these waste pitch situations:
changeup.JPG
Though he has not thrown a ton of changeups in these counts it does appear he favors the outside corner. As mentioned in the Molina article from last week, he seemed genuinely fooled when the movement and location of Maddux’s fastball and changeup was as close to identical as possible.
Results
Now that we have seen the results of his fastballs and changeups in location chart form, let’s take a numerical look, broken up by batting handedness:
results.JPG
Throwing the fastball to righties has resulted in a .320 BA and a .600 SLG; due to the OBP being the same as his BA in these 0-2 counts, righties have an OPS of .920 against him when throwing fastballs. Last year, overall, righties had a .749 OPS against Maddux and all batters had just a .683 OPS on 0-2 counts. Due to this, it seems that throwing fastballs to righties on 0-2 counts has hurt him.
Linear Weights
Using the linear weights data that old colleague Mike Fast posted in his Francisco Liriano article from last month, here are the run values of each pitch from Maddux in these 0-2 counts:
lwts.JPG
The linear weights data confirms that the 0-2 fastballs to righties have hurt Maddux.  He has only thrown three total curveballs but they have an aggregate LWTS value of +.227, the only positively valued pitch.  Based on these findings it would seem that Maddux has been hurt by his 0-2 pitch selection.  I am not ready to make a claim of causation and say, point blank, that his poor 0-2 results are directly related to his supposed approach; rather, simply, that he has been hurt by 0-2 pitches.
In terms of the LWTS value per pitch, the cutslide has hurt Maddux the most to batters on both sides of the plate, despite just throwing ten of them.
For Saturday we will take a look at Maddux’s selection/results on the 1-1 pitch, the pitch he claims is the most important due to the swing in momentum between a 1-2 pitch and a 2-1 pitch.

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4 Responses to Waste This: An Analysis of Greg Maddux’s 0-2 Pitch Selection

  1. dan says:

    “I apologize for the freakishly large picture.”
    The image on my screen is pretty small, like around 2″x3″ or so.
    And I prefer the “slutter” that Papelbon uses over “cut-slide” (http://tinyurl.com/2sfwre)

  2. Haha, slutter is nice, but for consistency’s sake I’ll go with cutslide. Weird, it’s HUGE on mine.

  3. Josh says:

    Did the “TWINS” column die? Or are other things more pressing?

  4. Didn’t die but it didn’t need to be a weekly fixture either. We were testing it out and it didn’t generate a lot of feedback so I figured it might be better suited as a bi-weekly or once a month column.
    Plus, I’m full-fledgedly involved with Pitch F/X data now which takes a long time to look at and analyze, so, you know.

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