July 31, 2002

Someone asked Rob Neyer::

David: I understand that there is statistical evidence that pitchers have little control over how many hits result from balls put into play. But doesn't the flipside of that imply that a player like Rey Ordonez, who rarely strikes out, should get more hits than he does simply because of the pure number of balls he puts into play?

Rob Neyer: (4:20 PM ET ) Oddly enough, what's true for pitchers is apparently not true for hitters. It's hard to figure, but the evidence is pretty clear.
That's not me, BTW, but can someone please explain that answer to me?

posted by djacobs to baseball at 03:41 PM - 6 comments

Maybe later, but for now just let me say, "Duuude. 4:20".

posted by yerfatma at 05:57 PM on July 31

Ok. I think I get it now. Not completely, but how's this: the question is ill-formed. He's asking why something that's good (or at least neutral) for a pitcher isn't equivalent to something that's bad for hitters. Hitters like Rey Ordonez rarely strike out because they swing early and often. Ordonez has averaged 3.15 pitchers per at bat over his career, barely enough to give a pitcher time to strike him out. Guys who go up there hacking aren't going to see 2-0/ 3-1 fastballs. They also don't give pitchers any incentive to stay in the strike zone. Major league hitters without tremendous power are by and large guys who make regular contact. If you're making regular contact with junk pitches, you're more likely to make an out (Excepting complete freaks like Nomar (3.21 PPA career)). It's all just conjecture, but that's my theory: Pitchers who put the ball in play != hitters who put the ball in play.

posted by yerfatma at 07:40 PM on July 31

This is exactly right. Every pitcher faces Rey Ordonez and Barry Bonds roughly the same amount of times, thus they both have an effect on an the average - it just so happens that Barry Bonds' balls are better bound to bounce out of the ballpark than Rey-Os.

posted by djacobs at 12:30 AM on August 01

Yeah, this is pretty much it.  Strikeouts in hitters tend to correlate with good things, like plate discipline, so they aren't so much a detriment.  Strikeouts in pitchers are basically the perfect result (I suppose besides a double or triple play), so obviously they're good.  The less balls hit in play, the less hits, players on-base, runs, etc.

posted by nath at 12:51 AM on August 01

It doesn’t seem surprising that the batter has more control over a ball put in play than the pitcher does. The pitch has relatively little influence on the path of the ball when compared with the swing of the bat. Players with a good swing are able to distinguish themselves from poor hitters by making a higher percentage of their balls in play into hits. Can anyone provide a link to the statistical evidence showing that pitchers have little control over how many hits result from balls put into play?

posted by Steve-o at 05:40 AM on August 01

Here is a report done by Voros McCracken about this very subject. He was the first person to propose this theory and do some statistical work on it. report follow-up by Keith Woolner

posted by grum@work at 07:31 AM on August 01

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