Nobody actually hits a good show

John Lover, USA Today Sports

During Game 3 of the ALCS, Jeff Francoeur noted that 10 of the 12 pitchers who surrendered postseason home runs to Alex Bergman They were All-Stars, prompting a comment about how well Bregman works against good shooting. This is undoubtedly a fun fact, but the idea has been running around my brain for the past few weeks. I’ve certainly heard stories of players who hit well, but I’ve never heard of anyone looking at splits based on the quality of the pitcher on the mound.


The main problem with this idea is a logical problem. Divide the performance of any racket into its component parts, and you enter a zero-sum game. If you’re at your best against great pitchers, that means you’re hitting worse against everyone else. It’s hard for me to imagine there are many players who do better against them Justin Verlander Than they do against anyone on citizens.

There may be less bad players than average, but if I had superpower picks, I’m not sure that’s the one I’d pick. That would certainly help in the playoffs, but over the course of a season, hitters see far more middle and weak arms than great ones. I prefer good performance most of the time.

To get quite nice with things, if there are players who bat better against the best pitcher, that’s a weird reverse split and we should take advantage of it. We can crowd them with the players who do better against the weak pitch. Player A plays against front line starters, Player B starts facing the back of the spin, and then sits back when the high leverage boosters come.

Like I said, this has been rattling around my brain for a while. So in order to dislodge it, I did some research. I have selected the best pitchers in the league by FIP for each of the past two years, with a minimum of 40 innings. Our top 50 pitchers represent the top 6% of all pitchers and the top 12% of pitchers who have thrown at least 40 innings. In 2021 and earlier, those percentages were slightly lower, as the number of pitchers used per season went up.

I went to Baseball Savant and had a WOBA for every hitter in the league when I faced the Top 50 that year. For the rest of this article, I’m going to talk about that number, as well as the player vs. all shooters wOBA, and the difference between the two. For simplicity, I’ll call them the Top 50 wOBA, wOBA teams in general, and wOBA. I’ve been on the verge of wOBA writing so many times; Please prepare yourself for some seriousness semantic satiety.

Here is a chart of the 59 players who have made at least 40 appearances vs. the top 50 players in both 2021 and 22:


Not a single player had a positive WOBA difference two years in a row JB Crawford It’s very close there in the upper right corner of the dot. Differences in 2021 and 22 WOBA have a correlation coefficient of -20. In other words, if you made a big difference at WOBA one year, that doesn’t mean you’ll do it again next year; This means that you are likely to get a visit from a stoop monster.

I collected the same numbers for the 2018 and ’19 seasons, and for the ’17 and ’18 seasons, and made two more points from the scatter chart. They had positive but small correlation coefficients of −1 and −06. At this point, I was ready to say that playing a better wOBA against the best shooters was not a repeatable skill.

However, I wasn’t thrilled with the small sample of players and the small amount of plate appearances I needed to qualify, so I went back to Baseball Savant and hit the WOBA Top 50 per at-bat in the past 10 years (I set a 20-inning minimum in 2020). I’ve been taking a while.

In the past 10 years, at least 550 players have participated in 100 plate games against the top 50 players. This is our sample. Before we dive into the numbers, here are the best hitters of the past 10 years against the top 50 shows:

Top hitters against top 50 scorers – 2013-22

Source: World Baseball

Well, we have some of the best hitters of the last 10 years. We also have some other guys. Most telling, I think, is that the stars are all at or below an overall wOBA level, while the surprises are over-performing.

Now that we’ve had a chance to like Juan Soto, we can dig deeper into the math. As you’d expect, batters in general fared much worse when facing the best pitching in the league: 95.1% of batters were worse, 4.2% were better, and 0.5%, or three batters, were exactly the same.

Against the top 50 shows, wOBA decreased by an average of 0.057, or 17.9%. The mean change was nearly identical. To put that in perspective, in 2022, 57 wOBA points would have been the difference between Marcus Semin And the Victor Robles. Here is a quick graph to give you what the distribution looks like. Each number along the x-axis represents wOBA changes within 20 points. (For example, the +20 combo includes increases from 11 to 30 wOBA points.)

As you can see, the spread is centered around our average loss of 57 pips, which is very symmetric. Just in time for the holiday season, you can turn this graph upside down to make a pretty, slightly grandiose candlestick.

These are the players with the biggest raises in WOBA:

Wuba Teams – 2013-22

player Palestinian Authority Top 50 wuba WOBA in general difference % difference
Rafael Ortega 110 .344 .300 044 15th%
James Looney 164 .341 .317 .024 8%
Devin Misurako 167 .342 .318 .024 7%
Josh Willingham 100 .348 .326 .022 7%
Brian Pena 117 .312 .293 .019 7%

Source: World Baseball

Suffice it to say that this list no longer contains Juan Soto or Mookie Betts. More importantly, no one has wOBA teams big enough to make a big difference. There is a strange plan for our platoon.

Next, I wanted to check if good hitters fared better for good pitching. Here is a scatter plot of the difference between wOBA and total wOBA:

What you’re looking at is a point with a very slight slope. This is because there is a small negative correlation between a player’s total wOBA and wOBA teams (-24 according to actual wOBA change, and -. 09 according to wOBA percentage change). In other words, the better the hitter, the steeper the slope when they face an ace.

Before we stray too far from this conclusion, keep in mind that there is likely to be some slope to mean here. More importantly, better players tend to hit out more often, so they’re less likely to be out. Here’s what happens when we start to tighten our sample size:

Top 50 sample size

Minimum PA players Top 50 wuba WOBA in general difference % difference
100 550 .263 .320 -057 -18%
200 303 .271 .328 -058 -18%
300 171 .274 .334 -060 -18%
400 73 .279 .341 -060 -18%
500 26 .290 .354 -063 -18%

Source: World Baseball

This is a very clear trend. Players are getting better every time we increase board appearance requirements, but wOBA teams remain fast at -18%. The list of players who have appeared on at least 500 Billboards includes players such as: Freddie FreemanAnd the Paul Goldschmidt Mike TroutAnd the Bryce HarperAnd they don’t even fare any better against the top 50 bets.

If our hypothesis is that the best hitters find a higher gear when they’re faced with a great pitch, we can officially put it out to pasture. Of the 100 players who appeared in the Top 50, only 1 had a WOBA positive. Elvis AndrewsPlease claim your prize.

The last factor is the one you expected earlier. Players don’t encounter elite pitching often enough to have a significant impact on their overall performance. this year, Shuhei Ohtani He put up a . 229 top 50 outrageous wOBA, but since only 57 of his 666 plate appearances came against the top 50 pitches, he put up a 0.370 total wOBA, which put him in the 96th overall.

Admittedly, comparing the overall wOBA to the top 50 wOBA is a crude approach. I’d be interested in taking another look at if and when I had the means to analyze the data more accurately. I don’t want to completely discount this line of reasoning, even if it’s only good for highlighting the incidental fact of fun.

We have all kinds of divisions these days. We break down hitters against handedness, pitch type, pace, and vertical approach angle. The list is sure to continue to grow. For now at least, “makes a good presentation” is unlikely to become one of our go-to metrics.

Oh, and what about Bregman, the guy who started it all? Well, it’s certainly no better than the Top 50 show, but it’s a little less bad than average. Its wOBA spread is -047, or -13%, which puts it exactly where you want it: on the good edge of the point.

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