The Mockingbird

Missing Corners

with 14 comments

So far, all of the analysis done on the strike zone has intentionally ignored pitches on the corners because there’s no way to know if they are being called balls because they’re too high or too wide. The downside to this is that it assumes that the strike zone is really a square, or at least the same distance from the plate at the knees as it is at the belt. No such luck. Here’s what it really looks like:

all-called-strikes.gif

Not even remotely rhombus! That’s every called strike from 2007 remapped to an average strike zone and given colors by density. As you can see, umpires are much more inclined to give a pitch off the plate to the sides (and slightly more to the left, because they give lefties the shaft, but that’s another story).

There are two ways of looking at this. You could say umpires generally call way too many strikes to either side but don’t give the corners, or that they call the corners very precisely but are willing to expand to either side on pitches if they are (vertically) right down them middle.

It makes sense- a pitch comes in that is both a little low AND maybe a little outside, the human mind are going to be less inclined to call it a strike than if it was outside but otherwise perfect at the belt, even if the actual distance from the strike zone is the same. In the umpire’s defense, those are also pitches that are next to impossible to hit if they’re off the plate. Here’s every pitch from 2007 that batters turned into a hit charted in the same way:

all-hits.gif

Lesson for today? Don’t throw it right down the pipe, meat. (Why does he keep callin’ me Meat? I’m the one driving a Porsche…)

Not that this comes as a big surprise, but it’s interesting to see how quickly hits drop off to the four corners. So which came first- do hitters not swing at those pitches because they’re called balls, or have umpires evolved to not call those pitches strikes because they know batters can’t hit them?

Written by halejon

November 28, 2007 at 6:01 pm

14 Responses

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  1. Wow, that Hardball Times article was the suckiest suck that ever sucked a suck!
    ;-)

    Seriously though–terrific work Jon. Top shelf stuff. It’s getting some major love over at Ball-Hype.

    I hope it won’t be your last submission (hint hint)

    Best Regards

    John

    John Brattain

    November 28, 2007 at 11:06 pm

  2. Curse you, Brattain!!! *shakes fist* You’re just don’t like it because I didn’t manage to find a way to bash Boras while I was at it. ;)

    Anyway, thanks again for your help. I’m sure it would have gone largely unnoticed in this corner of the net but instead I’m getting the honour of such bigwigs as David Pinto spelling my name wrong! I’ve got some more stuff cooking that should be ready soon.

    halejon

    November 29, 2007 at 12:26 am

  3. Any chance of showing the umpire strike zones visually like in these graphs? Or maybe just an outline of the cutoff where umps call the pitch a strikeout more than 50% of the time?

    skyking162

    November 29, 2007 at 5:35 pm

  4. You mean for individual umpires? Yeah, I’m working on it…I’m kinda skeptical about that 50% thing once you see that they’re not in any way distributed evenly.

    halejon

    November 29, 2007 at 6:18 pm

  5. awesome graphs, Jon. One of the things I love about that first graph is that it shows that pitchers really aren’t throwing the ball down the middle — the colors are denser on either side of the middle. Looks like a heart. Way cool.

    studes

    November 30, 2007 at 6:05 pm

  6. Hmmm…that could be true- it could also be that the pitches right down the middle get fouled off or put in play. I wish I could think of a reasonably easy way to do these graphs by % of strikes because they’re sort of a mishmash of where pitches are being thrown/how many are slipping through right now.

    I’m really surprised that the results for the average pitch and the average hit are right down the middle and centered evenly. I thought pitchers were always trying to keep the ball down and hitters hit balls up in the zone better. Instead it just looks like everything revolves around the belt.

    halejon

    December 1, 2007 at 1:51 am

  7. [...] does the strike zone actually look like? Whatever you’re thinking, you’re [...]

  8. So very cool. I think if you split it by handedness (batter/pitcher), you’ll probably see it better.

    tangotiger

    February 21, 2008 at 3:34 pm

  9. [...] November 28, Jonathan Hale published “Missing Corners“, an article about the shape of the strike zone as actually [...]

  10. [...] perfect pitches, too! (although that one on the corner and low is very rarely called just because umps are like that). Over his last handful of shaky outings Ryan has flip-flopped one batter to the next between [...]

  11. [...] The zone is larger at the belt and disappears at the corners. [...]

  12. [...] zone is rounded rather than rectangular. These results are not new. John Walsh, David Pinto and Jonathan Hale have each shown all or some of these before, but it is nice to see that my analysis reproduces [...]

  13. [...] zone real umpires call, which is missing corners, is superior for the game of baseball than the rulebook one. It removes pitches on the corners that [...]

  14. […] the rulebook strike zone, everyone gets a ton of “incorrect” strikes because the zone bulges out at the belt. As a power hitter, Bautista takes more pitches than the average hitter, and as a good one he is […]


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