Crizer: Joey Votto’s organized world of split-second decisions

From Zach Crizer at Baseball Prospectus on November 28, 2017:

To comb through the pitches Joey Votto saw in 2017 is to reevaluate how much can be done on purpose in half a second. After raising eyebrows with a swing-happy first couple weeks, Votto locked into an above-average zone-swing rate while chasing only 16.1 percent of the 1,377 pitches he saw that were deemed more likely to be called balls.

Those unmatched overall numbers are impressive enough, but the pitch-by-pitch logs are something else entirely. You start to spot patterns that you can’t be sure of, intention where it just doesn’t seem possible. Votto’s understanding of the zone’s contours is such that you worry it was burned into him through some inhumane method like forced repetitions of a modified Operation-style board game.

Whatever the cause, the effect was an absurd season in which the Cincinnati superstar’s extraordinarily low chase rate bested all MLB hitters. Meanwhile, he still swung at 72.1 percent of the pitches that had an 80 percent or better chance of being called strikes, according to BP’s Called Strike Probability–a metric taking matchup, handedness, count, and other zone-morphing factors into account.

It’s what we will use to walk through the shockingly organized world of split-second decisions that could expand our understanding of what plate discipline can mean.

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Originally published: November 28, 2017. Last Updated: November 28, 2017.