Tuesday, May 10, 2011

More Sabermetric Gibberish

If you want to understand the problem with a lot statistical analysis in baseball go over to Twinkie Town and read this "analysis" of the value of "pitching to contact". 

There are a whole series of analytical errors in the story, but it starts by trying to answer a question no one has asked: 

"The bottom line is, compared to strikeouts, "pitching to contact" actuallyincreases pitch counts, for the simple reason that a strikeout (other than the rare occasion when the batter reaches base on a wild pitch or passed ball on strike three) is a guaranteed out, while a batted ball that is put in play has over a 30% chance of resulting in the batter reaching base with a hit or an error, requiring another (or another, or another, etc) at bat to record that one out."

There aren't many people who doubt that whatever approach a pitcher takes, getting the batter out is better than not getting the batter out. When Ron Gardenhire or a pitching coach urge pitches to "pitch to contact", they aren't suggesting they should serve up gopher balls. They are suggesting the pitcher should throw strikes that the batter is likely to swing at and will result in a weak pop fly or  ground balls that the fielders will turn into an out. That  approach of pitching to contact may result in a ball in play, but it may also lead to a strikeout or walk. Likewise, trying to strike every batter out may lead to a walk or ball in play. In fact, vven the most successful strikeout pitchers only get one third of their outs by strike out. The other two thirds of the outs result from balls put the ball in play despite their efforts to strike the batter out.

This article attempts to prove pitching to contact is a bad idea by lumping together all those failed efforts to strike batters out with successful efforts to induce poorly hit balls. And ignoring the walks that result from either approach. It suffers from a common affliction of sabermetrics. It confuses the testing of a hypothesis, the core of scientific inquiry, with proving a point.

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