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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Modifying Their Approach

John Walsh has published a couple nice articles on THT. In the first he looks at whether batters can and so change their approach with a runner on third and less than two outs in order to score the runner on a sacrifice fly. He concludes that:

" a group batters do seem to be able to change their approach at the plate to increase the probability of getting a fly ball to score a run in a sacrifice fly situation. However, the increase in fly balls comes simply from putting more balls in play (by striking out and walking less often) and not by batters putting more of their batted balls into the air."

So batters don't really hit more fly balls but they do put the ball in play more often. He also notes that 60% of fly balls in these situations will result in sacrifice flies while less than 1% of line drives do. The major reason for this, as Walsh notes, is that three quarters of all line drives go for hits. A second reason is that a decent percentage of line drives will be caught in the infield. But the biggest reason I think is that based on my own experience, scorers are biased towards recording balls hit to the outfield as fly balls. It's difficult when sitting in the press box to make accurrate determinations in regards to trajectory on many hard hit balls to the outfield and the default position is to record it as a line drive. Or maybe it's just me.

In the second article Walsh looked at whether it's a good idea for hitters to change their approach in sacrifice fly situations. Although he finds that at first glance hitters are indeed more productive in SF situations using RC they are not (and this is my favorite part and a great insight) when the defensive context is taken into account. To consider the context, Walsh showed that batted balls turn into hits more frequently in SF situations, a result he credits to the "defensive alignment employed by teams with a runner on third and fewer than two outs." I assume that the vast majority of that alignment relates to playing the infield in. The difference Walsh finds is on the order of 1.5% for ground balls and .93% for line drives. Overall batted balls are turned into outs 29.9% of the time in SF situations and 28.3% in non-SF situations. This difference is not as large as I would have thought. Of course, this study doesn't attempt to look only at situations where the infield is in.

When he then corrects for this hitters in SF situations create .3 runs less per 27 outs in SF situations than in non SF situations. His conclusion is as follows:

"What I've tried to do here is answer the question 'Is the 'contact-oriented' approach generally more productive than the standard approach?" The answer appears to be 'no,' as can be seen after translating the aggregate performance in sac fly situations into a defense-independent context."

1 comment:

Matt L said...


I wonder if the increase in contact rate in SF situations is solely caused by the bases loaded/less than two outs situation. Obviously, the pitcher is going to be working very hard not to walk the batter. The increase in SFs could be caused by the pitcher and not the batter.