Game-Changer: Falling Behind | The Process Report

Game-Changer: Falling Behind

Falling behind is about the only thing the Rays have done well this season. They have fallen behind in each of the first six games and have not held a lead in any of the 54 innings thus far. In addition to individual plays and players, approach can also change the game. During today’s offensive struggle, it felt like the Rays were constantly falling behind early in the count.  

Former Rays’ starter Edwin Jackson faced 29 batters during his career-high 13 strikeout performance. Of the 29 at-bats started with a pitch by Jackson, 20 of them resulted in a first-pitch strike. On the other side, David Price also threw 20 of 29 first-pitch strikes; however, the White Sox hitters are not in the middle of nightmare six game stretch in which nearly everyone feels like there are going up to the plate with a 300 ounce bat.

It should come as no surprise that falling behind 0-1 tends to end badly for the hitter. Conversely, those who start with the count in their favor generally go on to have successful at-bats. Here is how the first pitch data broke down in the American League during the 2010 season…

0-1 Count 1 0
0.229 AVG 0.278
0.271 OBP 0.39
0.348 SLG 0.445

Not only did the Rays go down 0-1 quite often this afternoon, but Jackson was able to double up 10 times and go ahead 0-2 in the count. Only three times did the Rays work a 2-0 count in their favor. Again, this is not a shock, but the success rate of hitters greatly decreases when behind 0-2 while greatly increasing when up 2-0. The numbers from 2010…

0-2 Count 2 0
0.172 AVG 0.293
0.203 OBP 0.511
0.255 SLG 0.496

As you can see, going down 0-2 ended in an out nearly 80% of the time. Meanwhile, going ahead 2-0 resulted in getting on base more than half of the time. Today, the Rays had a 1-3 success rate after going up 2-0 (a Sam Fuld walk). It should be noted that three of the Rays hits came after the batter went down 0-1, but that translates into a .150 average.

It’s not necessarily the 0-1 or 1-0 pitch that causes the difference, but what the count implies –either the pitching getting a whiff or throwing a strike; or, in converse, missing the zone. With everything going wrong for the Rays offense, falling behind the count is not going to help. Of the 20 first-pitch strikes thrown by Jackson, 10 of them were called strikes. As Jackson caught on to Tampa Bay’s first-pitch approach, he began throwing fastballs, sliders, and changeups in all counts thanks to the threat of getting ahead 0-1 on his fastball. I can’t confirm this, but I’m pretty sure the Rays did not go into today’s game with the intentions of falling behind the count. I don’t know what other way the team needs to do things, but today’s approach at the plate was definitely not it.

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