Sarris: Joey Votto and the changing strike zone

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on August 9, 2017:

Joey Votto hasn’t made a West Coast swing recently so we don’t have original words to annotate here, but he did say some interesting things to Zach Buchanan at The Cincinnati Enquirer this week, interesting particularly because he said that “This has been documented, so this is not anecdotal here,” and that sort of statement is like catnip around here. Let’s provide the documentation.

 This is not to say that Buchanan’s piece didn’t do a good enough job. It’s just to say, hey let’s see that evidence that Votto refers to. Because we like graphs and tables here. So here’s what we’re looking at:

The strike zone and pitcher behavior both had changed the last few years, Votto explained at the start of a long, detailed answer that could have doubled as a TED Talk. Before, right-handers would pitch away from left-handed hitters, and lefty swingers would be forced to hit the other way.

Now, the inside strike is being called more often. Pitchers are adjusting and going where the strikes are called. Unfortunately for them, they’re putting it right in Votto’s power alley. (His homer Monday was to the opposite field, on a fastball out and over the plate, but most of his homers have gone to center or right.)

“I can’t think of anything more than that,” Votto said. “I’m going to take what the game gives me. If it goes back to that other way, then you’ll see me hitting balls to left field a little bit more often.”

The first is demonstrably true. We looked at this back in May and if the images then weren’t compelling enough back then, maybe an update on the graph will do the trick. We’re seeing the fewest balls per called strike on the inside third to lefties this decade.

Read the full article here:

Originally published: August 11, 2017. Last Updated: August 11, 2017.