The Value of the First Pitch Strike
There has a piece on Grantland that discusses the merit of first pitch strikeouts. Now in the case of the Phillies it’s worthwhile because Jimmy Rollins has been criticized for this a lot over the course of his career. Does it mean as much as the hype suggests, though? Not really. The article claims that hitters don’t value it nearly as much as the fans.
The rate at which hitters have offered at the first pitch had declined steadily until 2010, before ticking up slightly. According to data from STATS LLC, batters swung at 32.8 percent of first pitches in 1988, a number that is now just 27.3 percent. Though overall strike percentage has risen just one percentage point since 2002 — from 62.4 percent to 63.5 percent, according to FanGraphs — first-pitch strike percentage has jumped from 56.0 percent in 1991 to 60.3 percent in 2014, inverse to the decline in first-pitch swings.
There’s a whole lot more on the subject (it is a Grantland article after all) and you should check it out here!