September 4, 2017

Given 600 Plate Appearances In An MLB Season, Could You Get 1 Hit?

Eno Sarris, Fangraphs:
Admit it, you've wondered ... if, given a full season's chance  - say, 600 plate appearances  - you could get a single major league hit. ...

I certainly have. And so has MSNBC anchor Chris Hayes.
Chris Hayes, Twitter: "Something I mull a lot: If I took a season's worth of plate appearances in the MLB would I get a single hit? I think answer is no.

I'm not sure how Sarris compares to a guy off the street, but he offered this comparison:
Pence nearly doubles my bat speed and gets to the ball three times quicker. Maybe we mere fans just couldn't connect with the hard stuff. And that's on the fastball. What happens when a pitcher starts throwing the bendy stuff?

Hayes wondered the same. "I was recently at a batting cage and spent about half an hour, got the speed up to 70 mph, and after enough of them I was more or less getting around, though mostly fouling pitches off, with occasional solid contact," he wrote in an email. "BUT: no breaking balls and no pitches out of the zone. I just think any major leaguer would be able to just terrify me with a first pitch fastball and then get me to chase garbage out of the zone and that would happen for literally an entire season."

But isn't this a question of numbers in the end? Over 600 plate appearances, more than 2000 pitches ... couldn't you swing as hard as possible middle-in and eventually get one measly hit?
Sarris asked NEIFI (Normalized Empirical Individual Forecasting Index) and they looked at a couple of groups - the 30 worst-hitting pitchers in MLB and "the favors" (guys like the pitching coordinator's nephew, an agent's son, a friend of the owner's family, who are drafted as a favor and perhaps play in the lowest professional league for a week or two) - and ran some numbers. ... The outlook for those 600 PAs is not completely bleak.

1 comment:

allan said...

The comments are almost as entertaining as the article:

As a kid I did (once) make contact with major-league level velocity (if not the required movement or control) and fouled it off. I was so shaken I didn't lift the bat off my shoulder the rest of the game. ... What I want to know is how the absolute worst minor league hitter ever (over any sample size and including pitchers) would do in the major leagues. That person is still probably a better hitter than me, but that at least establishes my ceiling.

Doug Lampert
I would be very very unlikely to get a hit, because I would never swing. IIRC the conclusion of a previous article of this sort is that even a batter who the pitcher absolutely positively knows will not swing will get a walk about 10% of the time (throwing a strike is hard). See Jeff Sullivan's article.

I was a high level high school player over 20 years ago when I got to face Mark Mulder in a summer league game. It was like swinging at a Bugs Bunny curveball.

Barney Coolio
I more frequently mull over my chances of getting a stolen base. If I were somehow on an MLB roster and was a pinch runner every single game and was ordered to attempt a steal every single time, how often would I be successful? ... Stealing a base seems more attainable and a simpler thing to do. Even if I am slow and dumb, eventually a catcher will just make a bad throw and I would luck into an SB.

The [White Sox] set up a stolen base challenge with one of their beat writers and AJP [old "friend" Pierzynski] in ST a few years ago when the beat writer was on AJP for not throwing runners out. The writer was probably about 40 yo and well under 200 lbs so he was in some semblance of shape and yet he could only make it about 1/2 way to second before AJP got the ball down there. ... It might be on YT. [It is!]

Could you get a strike on a major league hitter? Maybe. A strike that is not a foul ball? Probably not.

Brandon Warne
In the summer of 2008, I played in an alumni game at my high school. I was coming off the only year of D3 ball I played — was on the roster, didn't play much ... but I had played amateur ball all summer and had my swing in good working order. A former big leaguer from my school was there. His name is Kerry Taylor, and he hadn't pitched anywhere in 10 years. He still absolutely blew me away on three straight pitches. Not even a prayer. I say no, Chris Hayes would not get a hit in 600 PA.


Kerry Taylor pitched in 36 games for the 1993 Padres (and made one start in 1994). His career ERA was 6.56 and his WHIP was 1.803. After that, he spent five seasons in the minors, mostly AAA.