You might want to lay off that first pitch a little more
Saw this post over on the Fastpitch Analytics blog and thought I would share. This one is a quick visualization of another post which provides more depth behind the numbers. Both are worth reading.
What you’re looking at is an analysis of the slugging percentage for NCAA D1 hitters in 2014 based on pitch count. The author of the study says slugging on contact percentage was used rather than batting average because SLUGCON correlates better to runs scored. And since that’s the name of the game it makes sense.
Much of what you’ll see here is obvious, such as 3-1 is a great hitter’s count and 0-2 is not. But what’s really interesting is when you look at what happens after a 0-0 count.
Let’s say you take the first pitch. If it’s a strike you go to 0-1, and SLUGCON drops from .503 to .492 – a .011 drop. If it’s a ball, however, SLUGCON rises from .503 to .538 – a .035 improvement. In other words, your chances of getting the type of hit that scores runs goes up much more than it goes down by not swinging.
What does that mean in real terms? That you shouldn’t swing at the first pitch? Not really. That may be the best pitch you get in the entire at bat.
What it does mean, though, is that you shouldn’t feel the need to swing at any strike. Instead, you should be looking for a pitch you can hit hard. If it’s not in that zone, lay off of it. For example, if you struggle with the low and outside pitch and that’s the first pitch, you may want to let it go and see if the pitcher doesn’t come back with something more in your preferred range.
Of course, if she’s throwing everyone low and outside to start, you may want to crowd the plate and turn that low outside pitch into a low middle pitch and drive it.