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Just The Sports: Where Pitches per Plate Appearances Matters Most (Pt. II)

Just The Sports

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where Pitches per Plate Appearances Matters Most (Pt. II)

Last year during my exhaustive research into finding out where pitches per plate appearance matters most, I made the prediction that the correlation data I uncovered during the 2006 season probably followed the same patterns for every baseball season no matter the year or the era. With the 2007 regular season having been completed for more than a month now, I figured it was finally time to put my spreadsheet where my mouth was and see if a prediction I made turned out to be correct.

Once I inputted the last player's data and looked at all the correlation coefficients, I discovered that I had been right in making a prediction, although I could not see I was exactly surprised by the results since they only made sense. Once again, the data set with the highest positive correlation to pitches per plate appearance was a statistic I came up with last year, which was to take the difference between a player's on-base percentage and his batting average. The correlation coefficient was not as high this year as last year, but at .745, it is still nothing to sneeze out and still a remarkably high correlation once you think about the different variables that result in a hitter getting on base.

Not only was the same data set the highest both years, but the correlation coefficients for the other six data sets were in the exact same order for each year. Coming in with the second highest correlation was weighted on-base average (.274) and the other correlation coefficients ranked in this order: gross product average (.265); isolated power (.209); slugging percentage (.099); batting average (-.187). One should remember when looking at numbers that the closer the correlation coefficient is to zero then the less of a relationship the variables have with each other, the closer the correlation coefficient is to 1 the more directly proportional the variables are, and the closer the correlation coefficient is to -1, the more inversely proportional the variables in question are.

Impatient hitters, or hitters with a low number of pitches seen per plate appearance, are making themselves less productive by keeping their on-base percentages lower than it should be in three ways. The first way is these players are putting too much faith in their ability to hit safely as a way to get on base. No player whose batting average makes up most of his on-base percentage is going to be a consistent player. In addition, by swinging at balls early in the count take away the option of drawing a walk, almost as if a walk is not a manly or exciting enough way to get on base. Lastly, there is no guarantee a player is swinging at the best possible pitch for him to drive when he puts the ball into play too early, which is why isolated power (slugging average minus batting average) has a higher correlation coefficient than both slugging percentage and batting average. The more patient hitters will have the most extra base hits.

The majority of professional ballplayers in any sport are less than intellectually inclined and probably do not understand much statistical analysis so it is up to baseball teams, who are interested in making their players as best as they can be, to let their employees know how to increase productivity. Taking a lot of pitches will not improve a hitter's batting average, but it will allow him to improve their on-base percentage in relation to what his batting average has always allowed him to achieve.



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