Miller: Why almost every MLB game begins with a fastball

From Sam Miller at on September 5, 2018:

It is true that almost all baseball games begin the same way. At 12:05 p.m. ET on Aug. 1, for instance, Tommy Milone threw the first major league pitch of August, and if I told you to imagine a first pitch of a game, you’d get this one exactly right: a fastball, firm and four seams, right down the middle, taken for a strike. The next first pitch — in the Bronx, one hour later — was only a little different, a Sonny Gray two-seamer, low for a ball. Then in Detroit, a Mike Fiers four-seamer on the inner half for a called strike. Speed through the next five days, and the first 64 games of August all began with first-pitch fastballs, before Mike Leake opened his Aug. 5 start with a changeup.

There have been just over 2,000 games played this season, and only 59 of them — through Friday — began with anything other than a fastball in the top of the first. First-pitch non-fastballs to start the bottom half of the first inning turn out to be just as rare, so we’ll henceforth lump both pitches together so we can get a more robust sample: More than 4,000 first pitches this season, of which only 106 were anything but fastballs. Approximately 2.5 percent. That’s so few! There are more non-fastballs thrown on 3-0 — approximately 4 percent — than there are to start starts, which makes the first pitch of the game arguably the single most predictable moment that exists in baseball.

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Originally published: September 5, 2018. Last Updated: September 5, 2018.