While watching the Marlins and Red Sox Ã‚Â in some Grapefruit League action yesterday, I stumbled across something interesting. Ã‚Â At least I found it interesting. Ã‚Â I wasÃ‚Â trolling around on Brooks Baseball, which has tons of cool things for baseball nerds like myself.
I’ll try to keep this very short, so please observe the below heat-map. Ã‚Â It shows how many pitches Joey Votto saw in each zone last year, as well as how often Votto swung at those pitches:
In regards to the stark difference between red and blue above, if you were able to look up the phrase “strike zone mastery” in a dictionary, this is likely what you’d see.
Check out the “high and tight” zone. Ã‚Â Last year Votto saw 36 pitches in that zone, according to PITCHf/x. Ã‚Â He swung at none of them. Ã‚Â From past reading I’ve done, swinging at pitches up-and-in causes you to be much more likely to pop the ball up. Ã‚Â Popping up is bad. Ã‚Â It’s like striking out on one pitch since pop-ups have virtually no chance to turn into hits. Ã‚Â Since Votto is good at avoiding swinging at these pitches, it would make sense that Votto is good at avoiding pop-ups, right? Ã‚Â Well. Ã‚Â This is a quantifiable, verifiable skill.
Perhaps even more interesting is that in Votto’s entire career, he’s only swung at 9 such pitches. Ã‚Â Behold:
Being able to completely neutralize a low-reward ball-in-play type is a special skill. This is the kind of thing (among others) that allows certain players to somewhat defy the random nature of balls-in-play. Ã‚Â Votto’s career BABIP is a testament to this thought.
Maybe I’m just a special kind of baseball dork, but the level of Votto’s precision when deciding when to swing and when not to swing is quite amazing to me. Ã‚Â Perhaps this will spawnÃ‚Â a full article later in the year. Ã‚Â Regardless, I just wanted to share. Ã‚Â Hope everyone had/is having a great weekend.