Pitchers Can’t Throw Two-Strike Fastballs by Javy Báez
It’s absolutely insane that Javy Báez is batting .343 with four homers in 0-2 counts this season. One reason Javy is doing so well in those situations is that pitchers haven’t been able to make the slugger whiff against two-strike fastballs.
We can illustrate Javy’s performance in 0-2 counts over the past few seasons by plotting the probability that he whiffs against two-strike fastballs.
At the bottom right of figure above is El Mago’s 2019 fastball whiff probability with two strikes. Notice how pitchers have a less than 10% chance of getting a swing and miss. Javy’s 2019 rate is much improved compared to the two previous seasons, when the probability that he would whiff against similar fastballs was around 20-25 percent.
You’ll also notice that Javy’s 2016 and 2019 two-strike whiff probability actually looks similar. But you might also remember that he only hit 14 homers in 450 plate appearances during that World Series season. So even though he made similar contact, he didn’t capitalize on it like he has this season.
The next step is to jump on secondaries in the zone to cut back on looking strikeouts, but Javy has already adapted so well that pitchers can no longer throw fastballs past him once the count reaches two strikes. And he’s driving the ball rather than just making contact in those situations.
That’s my shortstop.