Mathletics: How Gamblers, Managers, and Sports Enthusiasts Use Mathematics in Baseball, Basketball, and Football

By Wayne Winston | Go to book overview

12
THE PLATOON EFFECT
For most right- handed pitchers, the curve ball is an important part of their pitching repertoire. A right- handed pitcher's curve ball curves in toward a left- handed batter and away from a right- handed batter. In theory, when facing a right- handed pitcher, a left- handed batter has an edge over a right- handed batter. Similarly, when a left- handed pitcher is on the mound, the right- handed batter appears to have the edge. Managers take advantage of this alleged result by platooning batters. That is, managers tend to start right- handed batters more often against left- handed pitchers and start lefthanded batters more often against right- handed pitchers. Ignoring switch hitters, Joseph Adler found that 29% of batters who face left- handed pitchers are left- handed and 51% of batters who face right- handed pitchers are left-handed.1 This shows that platooning does indeed exist. As the great American statistician and quality guru W. Edwards Deming said, “In God we trust; all others must bring data.” Does actual game data confirm that a batter has an edge over a pitcher who throws with a different hand than he hits with? Adler tabulated OBP for each possible pitcher batter “hand” combination for the 2000–2004 seasons. The results are shown in figure 12.1, which tells us the following:
Left- handed batters on average have a 22- point higher OBP against righthanded pitchers than against left- handed pitchers.
Right- handed batters on average have a 13- point higher OBP against lefthanded pitchers than against right- handed pitchers.
Left- handed pitchers on average yield a 12- point larger OBP to righthanded batters than to left- handed batters.
Right- handed pitchers on average yield a 23- point larger OBP to lefthanded batters than to right- handed batters.

1 Adler, Baseball Hacks, 330.

-102-

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