Lindbergh: What Statcast teaches us about baserunning … and Ichiro

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at Grantland on September 22, 2015:

The history of baseball’s statistical movement can be told in terms of Ichiro. Step by step, the numbers have gotten more granular, drilling down deeper into the sport’s bedrock. And each time they strike a new stratum, some formerly unknown aspect of Ichiro is revealed.

Traditional stats taught us to appreciate Ichiro’s extreme singles hitting. After that came complex projection systems, which were forced to evolve by the confounding effect of Ichiro’s unsinkable average. Later, easy access to pitch-by-pitch outcomes enabled us to tell that Ichiro, unlike most hitters, showed a real ability to foul off pitches at a higher rate once he got to two strikes. And once we were able to look up pitch locations, we could confirm that Ichiro would swing at (and make contact with) almost anything. Batted-ball stats told us about his unsurpassed infield-hit rate, which was aided by an unmatched ability to hide hits inside opponents’ jerseys. And when we got our first taste of hit-tracking technology, the results suggested that Ichiro had an unusual ability to aim his hits at open ground, just as he’d claimed he could in 2002. HITf/x also revealed that while many hitters show a clear preference for letting balls travel deep in the zone or hitting them far out in front of the plate, Ichiro varied his stroke depending on the pitch. Even his hats were weird.

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Originally published: September 22, 2015. Last Updated: September 22, 2015.