Arthur: Cracking the location code

From Robert Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on April 1, 2014:

The challenges of hitting a baseball are many and difficult. Depending on the speed of the pitch, a batter may have something like half a second to 1) locate the ball as it leaves the pitcher’s hand, 2) predict its movement based on the kind of pitch it is (fastball, slider, curve, etc.), 3) decide whether to swing, and potentially 4) adjust mid-swing to the path of the ball or check his swing. All of which is to say, hitting a baseball in MLB may actually be the hardest thing in the galaxy (I’ve never done it, myself).

Arguably the most demanding part of this battle is purely mental (as Hank Aaron noted). Because of how little time there is for a hitter to perform all of the above-mentioned tasks, it is helpful to have some notion ahead of time of what, where, and how the pitcher is going to throw. Conversely, the more uncertainty and confusion a pitcher can create in the hitter, the more chance he has of catching him off guard.

I’ve written about this topic before in the context of pitch type. In that study, I found that pitchers who threw more pitch types and mixed them more evenly were better able to get strikeouts. A lurking caveat in that initial analysis was that it ignored location, and location is important. I aim to fix that blind spot, at least partially, in this article. As before, I’ll quantify uncertainty using a measurement called entropy, and see how the entropy of location affects each pitcher’s outcomes. The greater the entropy of location, the harder it is for a batter to predict where the next pitch will be.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: April 1, 2014. Last Updated: April 1, 2014.