Why throwing a first-pitch strike will dramatically improve your performance.
Two weeks ago, we sent out our Millionth Game Email. It included a charts, graphs, and a map of where GameChanger teams are located in the US. It was a collective effort, but props to Wai-Jee for making it look as cool as it did. Here, I wanted expand on the importance of one of those charts:
Throwing first-pitch strikes is one of the most important things you can do as a pitcher. As you can see, across the board, the higher a pitcher’s first-pitch strike percentage, the fewer baserunners they will give up in a game. A big part of this is giving up fewer walks, which is important, but first pitch strikes also limit hits. Getting ahead in the count puts pressure on the batters to swing at the next pitch, a pitch that the pitcher knows does not have to be as good. First-pitch strikes can go a long way towards limiting good contact.
And the fewer people you put on base, the less likely it is that you’ll give up runs. Going from a FPS% of 50% to 65%, will limit decrease your WHIP (average combined walks+hits per inning pitched) by .5, which means you’ll give up 3 fewer base runners in 6 innings pitched. While 50% to 65% sounds like a big jump, consider this: if you face twenty batters in a game, that’s just three more at-bats that start with first-pitch strikes.
How important is giving up 3 fewer baserunners over 6 innings? Extremely important if we’re talking about winning games. Only throwing first-pitch strikes to 50% of batters actually hurts your team’s chances of winning. Going from an FPS% of 50% to 65%, just three more batters a game? That increases your chances of winning a game by 10 percent.
The lesson here is to throw strikes, early and often. Don’t try to nibble around the corner of the plate. Throw your best, most consistent pitch and throw it for strike. This approach will limit the number of baserunners, and limit the damage when you do have runners on base. That’s a formula for success.