Pic: Mallory Pente

by schittenden

As those of us who follow the game threads know, there is much gnashing of teeth and lamenting the Orioles tendency to swing at the first pitch they see. Jones and Schoop seem to be frequent targets of complaints, particularly when they pop it up or ground out weakly. Inspired by Jones’ first-pitch HR last night off of Scherzer, I thought I’d look at our results this year and see how often that tendency pays off in a big way. Through last night, the Orioles have sent 41 baseballs over the outfield wall. Of those, 13 souvenirs were served up on a first-pitch swing. In other words, nearly 32% of our home runs to date (31.7%) are on the first pitch of an at-bat. Given that the Orioles have averaged 3.79 pitches per plate appearance, the random chance of a home run having been hit on any particular pitch would seem to be about 26.4%. It seems to me that the team is more likely to hit a home run on the first pitch than they are on any random pitch. Of the 41 total home runs, 22 have been in situations where the Orioles were there count was even, so roughly 60% of the even-count home runs have come on the first pitch of an at bat. Somewhat oddly, the Orioles have managed to hit only 7 home runs when ahead in the count, compared to 12 home runs when they were behind in the count. That may reflect their tendency to get behind in the county more than anything else though.

Among the Os with a first-pitch HR, the first-pitch HR ratio varies across players from 12.5% for Manny to 100% to Castillo, Gentry, and Joseph (one HR will do that to you). Two of Jones’ 5 homers have come on the first pitch and 3 of Schoop’s 5 have come on the first pitch. Given their tendency to swing freely at pitches out of the zone when they are behind in the count, maybe it benefits them to swing at the first pitch, which may be one of the best opportunities they have to drive the ball.

For what it’s worth, the Orioles have the second-highest number of first-pitch HRs this year at 13. The Rangers are way out in front with 19. Of interest, the Astros have 12 and the Cubs and Yankees both have 11. Nearly 40 percent (38%) of the Ranger’s home runs have come on the first pitch (maybe throw them one out of the zone on the first pitch when we play them). The Astros are at 26.7%; the Cubs at 28.9%; and the Yankees are at 21.2%. As you’d expect teams known for patience tend to have lower percentages (like the Red Sox, who can’t seem to hit many home runs at all so far).

It is hard to draw too many conclusions from this given all of the other variables for which I have not controlled. In any event, I thought the numbers were interesting.

For those that are curious:

Machado 8 1 12.5%
Mancini 7 2 28.6%
Jones 5 2 40.0%
Schoop 5 3 60.0%
Davis 4 2 50.0%
Castillo 1 1 100.0%
Gentry 1 1 100.0%
Joseph 1 1 100.0%

Texas 50 19 38.0%
Houston 45 12 26.7%
Cubs 38 11 28.9%
Yankees 52 11 21.2%