A while back, I took to the blog to decry a myth that Corey Patterson was seeing more fastballs (or more strikes) while hitting in the two-spot in the Jays’ lineup. It was found that there was virtually no difference.
You see, it’s a common myth in baseball that whoever is hitting in front of your best hitter (usually the number three hitter) will see more fastballs and strikes (i.e. controllable, hittable pitches). Several studies have found that there is virtually no difference at all.
Then last night on the Twitter, someone speculated that Blue Jays new call-up and Canadian Baseball Moses Brett Lawrie should hit second in the lineup because he would see more hittable pitches and more fastballs. When I calmly questioned the logic (and didn’t deny that he wouldn’t be the worst choice on the team for the two-spot), I was blasted from several angles. The biggest argument against me was that Eric Thames was “tearing it up” whilst hitting in the number-two spot earlier this year; which was sort of true, although he hasn’t hit much worse in the six-hole in decidedly less games.
Here’s the problem: a quick study proves that there is no truth to the claim that Thames saw more fastballs while hitting in front of Jose Bautista.
First, I went to Baseball-Reference and concluded that Thames had hit second in the lineup 26 times coming in to tonight (where he inexplicably will hit second again despite Colby Rasmus’ success there in the last four games). Then I went over to FanGraphs and figured out which 26 games he hit in the two hole by going through his play-log. Thames hit second in every game that he started between June 24th and July 28th, while every game before and after that, he hit somewhere else.
Armed with this information I took to the Texas Leaguers Pitch F/X tool and did some calculating. Here are the results:
So it would actually appear as though the opposite is true. That clearly does have more to do with sample-size than anything, but the moral of the story is that there is virtually no difference how many fastballs a player gets, no matter where a batter hits in the lineup.
Thames also sees virtually the same strike-rate no matter where he’s hitting. 43.5% strikes in the two-hole versus 44.3% when he’s not.
Suck it, the Tweeter.