While watching the Marlins and Red Sox  in some Grapefruit League action yesterday, I stumbled across something interesting.  At least I found it interesting.  I was 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.  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.  Last year Votto saw 36 pitches in that zone, according to PITCHf/x.  He swung at none of them.  From past reading I’ve done, swinging at pitches up-and-in causes you to be much more likely to pop the ball up.  Popping up is bad.  It’s like striking out on one pitch since pop-ups have virtually no chance to turn into hits.  Since Votto is good at avoiding swinging at these pitches, it would make sense that Votto is good at avoiding pop-ups, right?  Well.  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.  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.  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.  Perhaps this will spawn a full article later in the year.  Regardless, I just wanted to share.   Hope everyone had/is having a great weekend.