As kids, most players are taught that the hitter’s count is either 3-1 or 2-0. While that is still mostly true, there seems to be a movement to be more aggressive earlier in the count. For the Chicago White Sox, and just about every team in the majors, many of the homers last season weren’t due to hitters being patient at the plate.
Codify is an analytics company that has been instrumental lately in helping pitchers via the use of data. Recently, they posted a tweet looking at the number of home runs hit by a specific count since 1988.
Hitters were most likely to go yard on the first pitch by a wide margin compared to any other count. Batters homered 27,934 times on the opening pitch with a 1-1 count coming in second at 19,220.
Well down the list were the 2-0 and 3-1 counts which saw only 9,131 and 8,087 homers respectively. Going yard on those two counts was only higher than an 0-2 or 3-0 count which combined for just over 6,500 home runs.
The Chicago White Sox like swinging at the first pitch of the at-bat a fair amount.
The White Sox hit a total of 190 home runs last season, good enough for a 19th place tie with the Los Angeles Angels overall. Of that total, 36 were hit on the first pitch. Jose Abreu, Tim Anderson, and Yasmani Grandal led the team with five apiece.
The 36 by the Sox were the most they hit in any count. The next highest home run total was 23 with a count of 1-1. When the count was 3-1, only seven were hit and those were by seven different players. Grandal had three to lead the team in the 13 they hit on a 2-0 count.
The White Sox and New York Mets were tied for 19th in the majors on first pitch blasts. The Toronto Blue Jays were the most aggressive at the plate belting 62. Arizona and Cleveland proved to be the most patient at 18.
Overall, teams hit 999 homers on the first pitch in 2021. In the so-called “hitter’s counts”, only 296 were hit with a 2-0 count and 359 at 3-1. By comparison, with a 1-1 count, 691 souvenirs left the park.
Yermin Mercedes was responsible for both of the White Sox dingers with a 3-0 count. Those were two of just 36 total last year. The league average for batters swinging at the first pitch was 30.1%. White Sox hitters were not shy at all about going after the first pitch.
Luis Robert went at it 53.7% of the time when he was healthy. Eloy Jimenez, Cesar Hernandez, Billy Hamilton, Leury Garcia, and Tim Anderson each took a swing at the opening pitch of an at-bat over 40% of the time.
Of all Sox players, Grandal was the only one who managed to work a 3-0 count over 10 percent of his times at bat (11.4%). The next closest of those with ample playing time was Andrew Vaughn at 6.4%.
It will be interesting to see if the early count attack mode continues when-and if-baseball resumes in 2022. While many teams like to preach looking at pitches and running up pitch counts, hitters seem to like getting after a pitcher right away and it looks to be paying off.