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Thread: does working the count really work?

  1. #1
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    does working the count really work?

    while reading the Old Red Guard today i saw a thread indicating that taking more pitches, or working the count, was a good thing. from what i have read the general consensus is that being a patient hitter is a beneficial. i noticed a post that led me to believe that a batter taking over 4 pitches per at-bat is considered a patient hitter. well since it is raining here and i don't have to go to work today i thought i would play around with some stats that relate OPS and pitches per at bat. i should mention a couple things before i jot down my findings. first of all i have never taken a statistics course but i tried to think this through logically. the first assumption that i made was that 3 pitches or less constituted a more free-swinging approach and that 4 pitches or more constituted working the count. i acknowledge that this is purely arbitrary, but since it is not possible to divide pitches in half that is where i placed the line. my second assumption is that any batter who averages 4.0 pitches per at bat is a patient hitter. those who average less than 4.0 pitches per at are not. i recognize that things are not always so cut and dried and some may quibble with that definition. but that is where i placed the line. all statistics that i used came from www.cnnsi.com. i picked every cincinnati red player that had at least 100 at bats in 2006 (including Kearns and Lopez). the statistics for both Kearns and Lopez include their at bats as a Washington National. What i decided to compare was a player's overall OPS versus their OPS when they put the ball in play during the first 3 pitches of an at bat. I tried to double-check my work in regards to accuracy. If i messed anything up it was purely accidental. I have no Oliver Stones to throw. =)

    Player: Pit/AB: OPS(ov): OPS(first 3 pit) Var:
    Dunn 4.1 .923 1.052 +.129
    Freel 4.1 .852 .954 +.102
    Kearns 4.1 .842 1.069 +.227
    Lopez 4.1 .739 .810 +.071
    Encarncion 4.0 .891 .915 +.024

    Hatteberg 3.9 .911 .866 -.045
    Ross 3.8 1.065 1.282 +.217
    Larue 3.7 .676 .513 -.163
    Phillips 3.6 .759 .812 +.053
    Griffey 3.6 .787 .747 -.040
    Aurilia 3.6 .833 .725 -.108
    Valentin 3.3 .611 .521 -.090


    When i first finished looking up these stats i just counted randomly and saw
    that 7 players had a better OPS in the first 3 pitches of an at bat and 5 had a lower OPS. But if you put in context of how many pitches a batter normally takes per at bat things line up in a curious fashion. All five "patient" hitters had a better OPS when they swung early in the count. Of the seven "free-swinging" hitters only two of seven accomplished this. In other words the "patient" hitters did better when they swung freely and vice versa. I
    really do not know if this means anything. I just found it interesting. Make of it what you will.

    P.S. i apologize that the columns did not line up correctly. i have yet to acquire that particular skill.

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  3. #2
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    Re: does working the count really work?

    I believe it is important to work the count, but if you get cheese right down the middle, then rip. I think that is why OPS is higher on those first 3 pitches, because guys will only swing that early in the count if it is a very hittable pitch. Also later in the count, you might have 2 strikes which would be the negative of "working" the count.

    I love how Narron and GG comment on how Richie gives professional AB's when he is 2nd last on the team in p/ab.

    D'Angelo Jimenez was one guy that should have swung a lot more. He worked the count usually til it was 3-3. Never would swing.

  4. #3
    * Bat Votto Second * goreds2's Avatar
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    Re: does working the count really work?

    If anything, it will cause the starting pitcher to work less innings so you can dig into the bullpen which is a lot of teams weakness.
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    Member keeganbrick's Avatar
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    Re: does working the count really work?

    Quote Originally Posted by goreds2
    If anything, it will cause the starting pitcher to work less innings so you can dig into the bullpen which is a lot of teams weakness.
    Couldnt have said it better.
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  6. #5
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    Re: does working the count really work?

    Quote Originally Posted by goreds2
    If anything, it will cause the starting pitcher to work less innings so you can dig into the bullpen which is a lot of teams weakness.

    That is what I always thought to be the most important reason to work the count. Teams best pitchers are their starters and when you can get to their middle relief you can usally do some damage. If the starters can pitch 8 or 9 innings and go to their closer then it's tough to win games. So it might not pay off as much to be patient in the first few innings but later in the game it can really help. In all reality though when a batter gets a pitch that he thinks he can drive that is the best time to swing the bat.

  7. #6
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    Re: does working the count really work?

    I believe it is important to work the count, but if you get cheese right down the middle, then rip.
    Yup that's what you are looking at there dave. It's an artifact of the way the data was created. If a "patient" hitter sees a pitch that he wants to swing at, he's going to have a higher OPS than if he is swinging at the pitcher's pitch.

  8. #7
    Churlish Johnny Footstool's Avatar
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    Re: does working the count really work?

    You also work the count to see what kind of stuff a pitcher has on a given day. Is his curveball breaking or hanging? Is his slider biting or spinning? Can he locate his fastball? On a 2-1 count, is he throwing hard stuff or changeups?

    Plus, as everyone else has said, you want him nice and tired by your third AB.
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  9. #8
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    Re: does working the count really work?

    I wonder if there is a difference between the hitters 1st AB to the 2nd to the 3rd. A patient hitter with a good eye for pitches might take a lot on the first AB and then swing free the second or third time when they know what to expect, and how the pitcher's stuff is breaking on a given day.

    Anyone have stats on pitches per AB progression over the game?

    (Then again, they might take more later, because the batter realizes that the pitcher is throwing in the dirt, etc, trying to get a strike instead of hanging one... ah well)
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