Sullivan: The changing reality of the lefty strike

From Jeff Sullivan at FanGraphs on November 5, 2013:

You guys keep asking questions about FIELDf/x. You guys really want to get some information out of FIELDf/x. The unfortunate reality is that, right now, FIELDf/x is more of a concept than a tool, and on top of that, even if it were turned into something flawless, the data probably wouldn’t be made public. But you want some novel ideas or new presentations, like we all got out of our glimpse of HITf/x. And as much as it’s just commonplace now, don’t forget that PITCHf/x is amazing. So many fascinating projects, the instant PITCHf/x went public. It changed the way we all analyze. It changed the way we look at the game.

One of the first things that really blew my mind, personally, was being able to visualize the actual strike zone, as it’s called, and not as it’s supposed to be. We all had our ideas, but PITCHf/x allowed us to know, for fact. We could see which parts of the rulebook zone don’t get calls. We could see which parts outside of the rulebook zone do get calls. We could see that righties and lefties get different strike zones, and I couldn’t believe it when I saw the typical called strike zone for left-handed batters. There were a ton of called strikes leaking off the outer edge, some several inches from the plate. This has been established over and over again as a thing that happens, and those pitches are commonly referred to as lefty strikes. At this point many of us just take them for granted.

Which speaks certain volumes, since by definition none of those pitches should be called strikes. The strike zone is supposed to be over home plate, only. We have proof that umpires have been calling strikes off the plate against lefties for years.

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Originally published: November 5, 2013. Last Updated: November 5, 2013.