Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Ethics of the Game of Baseball: Hitting

I think it's time for me to look back at an original post of mine and to talk about some questions that have been brought to my attention regarding the post. The first question I'll get back to later because I'm not fully satisfied with the answer and the second question is whether left handed hitters hit left handed pitchers better than right handed hitters hit right handed pitchers. I did a little research(if anyone has ever heard of a study that's been done on this please notify me) and I found that it's not even close. Right handed hitters hit right handed pitchers almost the same as their regular slash stats(AVG/OBP/SLG) but left handed hitters hitting against left handed pitching is a huge mismatch deflating on average the player's average by 30 points, his OBP by 50 points and his SLG by 100 points while righty, righty matchups only deflated a right handed batter's performance by 15 points in AVG, 20 points in OBP and 25 points in SLG.

I believe the answer to why this is, is the same reason why lefties are more dominant pitchers than righties. The answer to that is because right handed batters growing up while playing in little leagues rarely saw left handed pitching but always faced right handed pitching, as for left handed hitters they only saw right handed pitchers also therefore boosting their stats against righties by even more. What this means is that a hitter naturally has the advantage(weird term because hitters never have an advantage in baseball, it's more of being ahead of the curve) over its opposite armed pitcher, so if right handed hitters got used to facing basically only right handed pitchers when they were young it got them better at hitting the same handed pitcher while left handed batters got extremely good at hitting right handed pitchers because they're opposite armed and they faced them a lot. The downside of this for the lefty batters is that they barely face any lefty pitchers so their value to hit against them decreases therefore giving the right handed hitter the edge in the same armed hitter-pitcher matchup.

My second issue is that if the optimal lineup is in descending OBP order and your best player has your highest OBP(David Wright) who'll drive in the runs Wright did batting 3? In this case scenario the Mets are either having Jose Reyes or Luis Castillo batting 4,5 and don't tell me they drive in runs like David Wright does! This is proven through SLG, even though it's a deeply flawed stat we'll use it for this instance. If David Wright's on second and Castillo is up and he hits a single(SLG .372) it moves Wright to third, but if Wright was up with Castillo on second there's a higher chance of Wright hitting an eXtra base hit(SLG .546) and even a single might plate Castillo.

The answer to this question that I recieved was that proven through simulations descending OBP was the optimal lineup so that's what it is. But I like to think, as is written in baseball books(the same with the lineup studies), that sims can't produce lifetime situations and in real life there's pressure and weakness and other factors that can't be accounted for in a sim. I've come to the assumption that you have to not only account for OBP when constructing a lineup but also SLG and incorporate which spots in the lineup, leadoff the most times during the course of a game/season and therefore have guys that get on base to lead off innings. Even though I'm obsessed with lineup construction the difference between the optimal and least optimal lineup is about one win per season so it's not so bad if your team is using "the worse" lineup because it's barely a difference.