The Most Important Pitch: A Look at Greg Maddux and 1-1 Counts
May 22, 2008 Leave a comment
There are twelve possible ball-strike counts in a given plate appearance. Ranging from the initial 0-0 to the dramatic 3-2, these counts shift in favor of either the batter or the pitcher. A 2-0 count favors the hitter; if the pitcher misses the count will run to 3-0. Along similar lines, an 0-2 count favors the pitcher because the batter will theoretically be more likely to swing at junk in an effort to protect himself.
Of all twelve, Greg Maddux considers the 1-1 count to be of utmost importance. Though some may spot the identical numbers and deem the count neutral, the linear weights run expectancy shows it favors the pitcher. Missing on a 1-1 count shifts the momentum back towards the hitter whereas a successful 1-1 pitch can move the count’s favor further in the direction of the pitcher. The 1-1 count brings with it a run expectancy of -0.012 from the batter’s perspective; a ball shifts it to +0.037 whereas a strike causes a jump to -0.079. Maddux is right.
This is the third and final (for now) look at Greg Maddux’s theory and selection in certain situations using Pitch F/X data. Previously, we have looked at Maddux’s “playbook” vs. Bengie Molina as well as his selection, location, and results in 0-2 counts, in which he does not like to throw waste pitches. Here we are going to conduct a similar analysis to the 0-2 article but with regards to his 1-1 counts. Be sure to note that not all of his starts were recorded by the Pitch F/X system last year.
Maddux primarily throws his two-seam fastball, a changeup, and a cutslide. Though “slutter” sounds funnier for the combo cutter/slider, this blog has a PG rating… though nowadays even PG allows naughty words and innuendos.. anyway, back to baseball. Here is a breakdown of Maddux’s pitches and results to lefties and righties:
Since he has thrown more pitches to righties, seeing the percentages of pitches thrown to each batting handedness can help show discrepancies in either approach or selection. To righties, Maddux has thrown 58.9% fastballs, 25.2% changeups, and 15.9% cutslides; to lefties, 55.3% fastballs, 32.5% changeups, and 12.3% cutslides. Clearly, he uses the cutslide sparingly. Maddux has thrown three percent less fastballs to lefties, as well as three percent less cutslides; the difference has been made up with over six percent more changeups.
Here is a location chart of his fastballs thrown to both lefties and righties, with lefties always on the left:
The biggest difference between results here is the amount of called strikes. When facing righties, Maddux has gotten many called strikes on 1-1 counts whereas he has just four when pitching to lefties. Though he clearly favors the outside corner to both types of batters, lefties have made contact with the corner pitches while righties seem to be more inclined to take the pitch. Due to his fastball having the tailing movement, righties tend to think pitches like this are outside; when it tails back to the outside corner for a strike it catalyzes many glances back at the umpire.
Here is a location chart of the changeups thrown:
The results of his changeups thrown to each batting handedness do not differ too much; even if they did it is too small of a sample to garner anything worthwhile from. Despite this, the visualization helps us see that he has thrown a higher percentage of changeups in the strike zone and down the middle to righties; to lefties he continues to hit the outside corner. Regardless, the pitches that have worked the best for him in these situations have been changeups to lefties and all offspeed pitches to righties. Essentially, throwing it in the general vicinity of down the middle has not yet hurt him in 1-1 counts in the Pitch F/X era.
No, I didn’t just combine the headings of the previous two sections no matter how much it may seem like that. Maddux’s fastball has not been particularly effective to lefties or righties in these counts. Therefore, I want to look at the nine zone sections–up and away, down and in, etc–and see what types of results his fastballs have produced. Unfortunately, small sample size syndrome has forced me to combine the nine sections into three: away, middle, in. Here are the results:
These are not large samples either but we can still discern some potential strategies to watch for over the remainder of the season. He has had his most success with the fastball away, to both types of hitters, even though righties have still done well with the balls in play. I hate even attempting to draw conclusions from these small samples, but based on the non-BIP results and the BIP results, it seems Maddux’s best chance at getting the 1-2 as opposed to the 2-1 would be to stick to his offspeed stuff (cutslide or changeup) but if he had to throw the fastball, make sure it is away to lefties and, more specifically, down and away to righties.