Strike One, You’re Out

The best pitch in baseball is strike one. This is especially true when facing the Padres, whose hitters self-destruct after a first-pitch strike.

As I mentioned during our bloggers roundtable discussion at last weekend’s SABR meeting, my research into the Padres’ offensive struggles this season has uncovered a few problems. One is the hitters’ extreme groundball tendencies that we examined back in June.

Another is their .175/.212/.270 line after an 0-1 count (all stats are through August 13, 2014). That’s a little worse than Jason Marquis’ career line of .196/.214/.278.

As always, we need context. Every team hits worse after an 0-1 count, but this is more true for some than for others:

Year Padres OPS MLB OPS
After 1-0 After 0-1 Dif After 1-0 After 0-1 Dif
2010 750 583 -167 824 615 -209
2011 738 534 -204 821 606 -215
2012 771 605 -166 822 612 -210
2013 825 534 -291 811 601 -210
2014 807 482 -325 797 593 -204

Over the last five years, big-league hitters have an OPS near 800 after a 1-0 count and an OPS near 600 after an 0-1 count, a difference of roughly 200 OPS. The Padres were within spitting distance of those numbers from 2010 to 2012 before stumbling in 2013 and 2014.

Here’s how the Padres rank among all 30 MLB teams:

Year MLB rank
After 1-0 After 0-1
2010 28 23
2011 29 30
2012 28 18
2013 8 29
2014 13 30

Positives? Well, the Padres have improved their hitting after a 1-0 count over the last two seasons, climbing from near the bottom to slightly above middle of the pack. Still, that doesn’t ease the sting of turning into Jason Marquis after an 0-1 count this year.

It isn’t just one guy, either; it’s everyone not named Tommy Medica:

Player OPS
After 1-0 After 0-1 Dif
Chase Headley 972 417 -555
Seth Smith 1163 629 -534
Everth Cabrera 808 378 -430
Yonder Alonso 892 424 -468
Chris Denorfia 813 466 -347
Jedd Gyorko 692 471 -221
Alexi Amarista 692 482 -210
Rene Rivera 753 581 -172
Yasmani Grandal 748 599 -149
Cameron Maybin 738 596 -142
Will Venable 630 512 -118
Carlos Quentin 571 606 +35
Tommy Medica 780 820 +40

Why have Padres hitters been so bad after a first-pitch strike? How do they improve?

I wish I knew. I’ll bet I’m not the only one.

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  • Geoff Hancock

    I can’t help but notice how much the Padres have improved with a 1-0 count in 2013 and 2014 while simultenously getting dramatically worst during that same time frame with a 0-1 count. I don’t that that means anything, or that there is a connection. Just stood out to me.

  • dottoreb

    It would be interesting to see how many of those 0-1 counts are swinging strikes vs taken strikes and compare to the rest of the league. Would help with perspective on how aggressive vs trying to “MoneyBall work the count deep” they are trying to be

  • ballybunion

    I know it’s a lot of work, but I’d like to have seen the 2005-2009 numbers from the Alderson “work the count” era, vs. the stress on swing mechanics since 2009. The 0-1 results might have vindicated Alderson, but the high ground ball rate has me wondering about the swing mechanics instruction that replaced it. Leave it to the Padres to have achieved the worst of both worlds.