The Fan has watched several games involving David Ortiz over the course of the season and the pattern always seems the same. The pitcher gets two quick strikes on Ortiz and the big man doesn't even come close to hitting the pitches. But then the pitcher can't put him away. Do the pitchers' knees suddenly get weak? Do they believe that the first two strikes were flukes? It's hard to understand.
Last night was typical. Shields is pitching for the Bay Rays. The sequence went like this:
First pitch: Fastball in - Swing and miss.
Second pitch: Curve ball in - Swing and miss.
Third pitch: Fastball outside - Ball one
Fourth Pitch: Curve ball inside - Almost hits Ortiz. Ball two.
Fifth pitch: Fastball outside - Ball three.
Sixth pitch: Curve on inner half - Ortiz just missed a homer and flied out to deep right.
Later on, the pattern repeated itself except this time Ortiz hit a three run homer and the game was for all intent and purposes, over. It seems to this Fan that the pattern has been consistent ever since Ortiz got hot. But how do you prove it?
Well, the Fan went to www.baseball-reference.com one of the most wonderful places on earth and looked at Big Papi's splits for this season and sure enough, Ortiz has put more balls in play on a 3-2 count than on any other count. And it isn't even close. 62 plate appearances have come from a 3-2 count for Ortiz. The second highest is 36 with a 2-2 count. Ortiz has a .968 OPS on those 62 plate appearances.
Ortiz, like most hitters, does the most of his damage when he is ahead in the count. And also like most batters, he does little damage when his plate appearance results from an 0-2 count but that precisely is where pitchers are failing. Only 9 of Papi's plate appearances have occurred on an 0-2 count with only one feeble little single. Compare that to the 62 with a full count.
The numbers seem to match the observations. Ortiz is very willing to let the pitcher try to get cute on an 0-2 count and wait for a mistake. The pitchers usually comply. If the Fan was a pitching coach, the thing the Fan would tell his pitchers would be to put the guy away when you get two strikes on him and never mind futzing around.