A Theory and A Challenge

I love this site. It covers the full spectrum of baseball, from classical scouting all the way to the most esoteric of baseball analysis. At times I envy the analytical abilities of our writers, as well as their access to granular data, that I likely lack the technical competence to gather. Today, I would like to propose a a theory, as well as a challenge to the numerous writers on this site to put the theory to the test. It is also likely that this has been proposed before and answered before, in which case, point me in that direction please.

THE THEORY:

We can measure command by compiling a pitcher’s xISO and xBABIP based solely on where they locate their pitches, in the context of the hitter’s preference to location. In other words, the ability to “pitch to the corners” is only valuable if one is pitching to corners that the hitter can’t get to, which is batter-specific. An 80-command pitcher will be able to maximize the xISO of his pitches, simply by pitching to “cold” areas of the hitter’s strike zone.

There are a few of ways to approach this (I’m sure more than three, but I digress). The first question is what sample size to use to estimate the player’s preference within the strike zone? Evidence suggest certain players make rapid adjustments (Trout) which would indicate a SSS would be ideal, whereas other players exhibit strong long-term tendencies (Dozier? just a guess, not founded in data) that would indicate a LSS would be ideal.

The second axis would be to evaluate a player’s effective strike zone, i.e. if we looked at the hitter’s swing probabilities, what type of strike zone would we construct, given only data concerning the hitter’s propensity to swing. We could then tease out whether the pitcher is maximizing the player’s effective strike zone (pitchers only throwing balls to Vladdy Guerrero comes to mind). This analysis may be redundant, as this can probably be captured if we are able to incorporate the third axis:

What are the thresholds for considering a pitch well-located? I.e. if a pitcher throws a ball way outside, but the hitter swings, then this is a well-placed pitch, thus at what probability of swing% is a ball a well-commanded pitch?

THE CHALLENGE

Test it! (or show me where this has already been fully fleshed out.) I’ve always wondered if there was a way to build up a command ERA to see if a pitcher is able to put it where hitters have to swing but don’t want to and I look forward to reading about it.





Eli Ben-Porat is a Senior Manager of Reporting & Analytics for Rogers Communications. The views and opinions expressed herein are his own. He builds data visualizations in Tableau, and builds baseball data in Rust. Follow him on Twitter @EliBenPorat, however you may be subjected to (polite) Canadian politics.

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Jonah Pemstein
Member

Tried this, didn’t work. Wasn’t so complex but I doubt making it more sophisticated would help much.

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/batted-balls-its-all-about-location-location-location/

Rey
Guest
Rey

I like the theory. However (and please correct me if I’m wrong), there are two other factors to consider as well: the catcher’ ability to frame the pitch and the umpire’s strike zone. The pitcher may be 80-command, but if he’s not getting good calls from the umpire or if the catcher can’t frame like he’s supposed to, then pitching to the corners may not be as effective.