Law of The League

Today is the fourth off day of the season and the last before the conclusion of the first-half.  I have no extravagant plans for the day besides laundry and catching up on emails and phone calls.  We finish up with 13 games going into the All-Star break, hopefully accomplishing the task of building some positive momentum going into the second-half.

Lately, in collaboration with fellow catcher Brian Walker, we have noticed some interesting trends in our games with regard to pitching and pitch calling.  It what we have dubbed the “Law of The League,” there seems to be a high preponderance of 1-1 off-speed pitches.  It what seems to be occurring about 60 or 70 percent of the time, whenever a count goes to one ball and one strike, a change-up or breaking ball is thrown.  Why does this happen?  1-1 is a neutral count, meaning that if the pitcher throws a strike on the next pitch, he will have the advantage in the 1-2 count; but, if he throws a ball, being behind with a 2-1 count is not a terrible place to be and still leaves some doubt in a hitter’s mind as to what the 2-1 pitch will be.  So, hitters being more apt to swing with one strike on them to avoid a two-strike count makes pitchers (and catchers) more likely to throw something off-speed, knowing that if they throw it for a ball, they are still in an okay position being behind 2-1.  This increased propensity to swing, however, makes the off-speed pitch the natural choice, with the goal of achieving a swing and miss, or even better, a weak ground ball or pop out.

The 1-1 off-speed pitch is almost a guarantee if the 1-1 count was reached with two fastballs.  The reasoning behind this is that showing a hitter the same pitch for a third time in a row is discouraged due to his enhanced timing and movement recognition having already seen the pitch twice.  This is why pitchers are always trying to change the hitter’s eye level and give them a different “look.”

There are some casual trends to mention that have been noticed this season and over the years of baseball observation.

3-0, 3-1 mystery.  Pitchers can seem to throw a 3-0 pitch down the middle, after wildly throwing three balls, but will then miss badly with the 3-1 pitch.  Perhaps pitchers are a little more relaxed 3-0, as many hitters are not comfortable swinging in this count and often take the pitch.  However, they get all worked up 3-1 and have the same problems they were having throwing the first three balls of the at-bat. 

2-out melt-downs.  After two quick outs in an inning, it seems that pitchers will often go 2-0 to the next batter, usually ending up in a walk or base hit.  Then, a few batters later, a multi-run inning has been created after the inning began with much promise.  Two quick outs can trigger too much of a relaxed feeling, and this little bit of let-up is enough to get behind hitters and lead to these dismal innings.

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