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The Straight Answer on Breaking Balls

April 05, 2004
April 05, 2004

Table of Contents
April 5, 2004

Baseball Preview 2004

The Straight Answer on Breaking Balls

The American League long ago picked up the reputation of being
more of a breaking-ball league than the National, in which
pitchers were said to be more likely to challenge hitters with
fastballs. Hitters who failed to make a successful transition
from the NL to the AL--including Jack Clark, Glenn Davis and
Kevin Mitchell, in the 1980s and early '90s--gave that theory
anecdotal credence.

This is an article from the April 5, 2004 issue

In 1998 former catcher and renowned broadcaster Tim McCarver
wrote in his book Baseball for Brain Surgeons and Other Fans,
"Particularly in the American League, pitchers are reluctant to
throw fastballs, especially when they are behind in the count."

Might this still be true (if it ever were) at a time when league
identities have been blurred by increased player movement,
interleague play and the consolidation of umpires? Dodgers
general manager Paul DePodesta found the answer to be no. While
assistant G.M. in Oakland two years ago, DePodesta analyzed the
percentage of fastballs thrown in so-called hitter's counts (1
and 0, 2 and 0, 2 and 1, 3 and 0, 3 and 1).

"It's a myth," DePodesta says, echoing the results of Inside
Edge's analysis of last season's numbers (chart, above). "The
data showed that there was almost no difference. Actually, the
[percentage of] fastballs thrown in the American League in those
counts was about one percent higher." --T.V.

LEAGUES APART? IT'S A MYTH

Based on an analysis of 570,158 charted pitches from 2,107 games
last season, there is not a statistically significant difference
between the AL and NL in terms of fastballs thrown.

PCT.
ALL COUNTS FASTBALLS

National League 65%
American League 64%

PCT.
HITTERS' COUNTS* FASTBALLS

National League 75%
American League 73%

Source: Inside Edge
*Hitters' counts: 1 and 0, 2 and 0, 2 and 1, 3 and 0, 3 and 1