Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hitter vs Pitcher match ups. They don't mean a thing.

The 2011 MLB Playoffs is coming to a close.  One, maybe two games remain.  Which team wins will come down to which team plays the smallest ball, gets the clutchest hits, and whose manager makes the shrewdest moves.

Inevitably, some of those moves will be based on hitter vs pitcher match ups.  We'll hear that Ian Kinsler is 0 for 8 in his career against Octavio Dotel.  So, we'll expect Dotel to face Kinsler in any high leverage situations late in games.  Should we expect Dotel to continue to retire Kinsler?  Should we expect Kinsler to go 0 for 9 against Dotel?  0 for 10?  0 for 20?  0 for 50?

This blog post was brought about by my reading this article by Tom Tango.   In the comments section there is a link to this article by Dan Fox.   Both articles are good reads and written by much smarter and better writers than I - so read them.

In the second article, Dan Fox posts a table with the most statistically significant batter owning pitcher match ups from 2003 to 2005.  These 10 batters combined to go 132 for 296 for a .446 batting average against their bitches the pitchers they faced.

If the narrative is true, that a hitter who hits .446 against a pitcher will be likely to continue to succeed against that pitcher, then we should be able to look back and see continued above average performance.  So, do we?  The same hitter vs pitcher matchups resulted in an 18 for 77 performance from 2006 onwards.  That's a .234 batting average.  

Hitter vs pitcher match ups are just not statistically relevant sample sizes.  

Here are the links to the baseball-reference hitter vs pitcher match ups I looked up.

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