Pitch count? Or times facing an opponent in a game? – Fun with 2015 MLB stats

by Bill Chuck on March 4, 2016

Baseball is doing so much better at in-game management because of awareness and responding to stats and numbers that in days gone by had been ignored.

A great example, of course, is pitch count and none is more overused and over emphasized than the round number “100.”

Embraced by broadcasters and dutifully paid attention to by fans, 100 pitches is like Cinderella’s clock striking midnight with fans calling for a pitcher’s removal ASAP. But just like you don’t employ the same defensive shift on every batter, you don’t employ the same pitch removal number for every pitcher.

For example, Dallas Keuchel on pitches one-to-100, he had a .215 BAA last season. Yet in 26 games, Keuchel threw as many 23 more pitches and in pitches 101-123, his BAA was .183.

Last take a look at Boston’s savior in waiting, David Price. On his first 97 pitches in a game last season, he had a .223 BAA. But, on pitches 98+, in 26 starts he had a .301 BAA. On pitches 110-122, he had a .263 BAA.

Pitch count limit needs to vary by pitcher

Last season, there were 11 pitchers who had a .300+ BAA on pitches 80-99

What about the number of times a pitcher faces a batter in a game?

It’s also reasonable to look at the number of times a pitcher has faced a batter in a game as well as pitch count.

Do you remember this postgame comment?

“I told him … that was enough. And he came over and said, “I want this game. I want it bad. You’ve got to leave me in,'” He said afterward. “He said, ‘I want this game in the worst way.’ So obviously, I let my heart get in the way of my gut.”

That was Terry Collins speaking about his inexplicable decision to let Matt Harvey remain in Game 5 of the World Series. Yes, Harvey had pitched eight scoreless innings against the Royals, but he had thrown 101 pitches and faced the Royals batters four times.

In retrospect we can see that Collins made two mistakes, letting Harvey pitch the 9th was one; the other was claiming that he should have stuck with “his gut” when he simply should have been using thenumbers.

Here’s how Matt Harvey pitched in 2015 as he worked his way through the lineups, look at the BAA increase:

Split G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO SO/W BA OBP SLG OPS
1st PA in G, as SP 29 260 243 18 48 9 0 7 15 78 5.20 .198 .244 .321 .565
2nd PA in G, as SP 29 261 241 16 52 7 1 4 12 56 4.67 .216 .261 .303 .564
3rd PA in G, as SP 28 213 200 24 51 10 2 6 8 51 6.38 .255 .289 .415 .704
4th+ PA in G, as SP 8 21 19 2 5 0 0 1 2 3 1.50 .263 .333 .421 .754
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/4/2016.

Nine to Know: With some pitchers it doesn’t matter how many times they face a batter in a game

Look at these pitchers who faced at least 20 batters for at least their fourth appearance in a game.

Rk Player G BA IP H R ER HR BB SO
1 Madison Bumgarner 19 .103 11.2 4 2 0 0 3 9
2 Chris Rusin 7 .105 5.2 2 0 1 0 2 4
3 Mike Montgomery 6 .111 5.1 2 0 1 0 2 4
4 Jake Arrieta 10 .115 8.0 3 1 1 0 0 8
5 Sonny Gray 15 .154 8.1 4 0 0 0 4 6
6 Carlos Carrasco 11 .167 7.0 4 3 2 0 1 8
7 Rubby De La Rosa 8 .167 6.0 4 1 0 0 3 3
8 Clayton Kershaw 15 .175 11.0 7 2 5 1 2 13
9 Felix Hernandez 14 .189 10.1 7 6 3 0 2 13
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/4/2016.

With some pitchers it really matters how many times they face a batter in a game

Look at these pitchers who faced at least 20 batters for at least their fourth appearance in a game.

Rk Player G BA IP H R ER HR BB SO
1 Phil Hughes 10 .450 3.2 9 1 2 0 0 2
2 Jered Weaver 5 .421 4.1 8 2 3 0 1 2
3 Bartolo Colon 9 .421 4.1 8 3 2 1 0 2
4 A.J. Burnett 12 .417 5.0 10 4 3 1 4 5
5 John Lackey 16 .368 9.1 14 7 4 1 3 7
6 Max Scherzer 18 .343 7.2 12 9 8 3 0 3
7 Chris Sale 19 .341 10.1 15 4 1 1 3 10
8 R.A. Dickey 13 .324 9.1 12 6 4 2 1 2
9 Corey Kluber 21 .321 12.2 17 9 10 0 3 12
10 Rick Porcello 12 .321 6.1 9 5 5 1 1 5
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/4/2016.

The truth is out there

Managers, fans, and the media should be aware of how pitch limits vary by pitcher, 100 pitches is a good place to start paying attention, but it is only a beginning, not an end point.

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