Called Third Strikes

Matty with a very intriguing opinion on J.J. Putz:

Doc…I’ve been saying that about Gutierrez since we traded for him…that he has Cameron’s Disease…a deadly condition which prevents a hitter from swinging at close pitches with 2-strikes. That’s why his K rate is very high despite obviously having a patient approach.


That is a VERY interesting suggestion.   :: taps chin ::  It would explain a lot...

If true, personally I would think of this as "Olerud's Disease." :- )   I actually admired this about John, that in his humility he wasn't embarrassed by a called third strike.  And of course, Olerud drew close to 100 walks a year.

So, what if you've got a 3-2 count and take a close pitch every time, vs. swinging at it every time?  Let's say the guy who takes it gets 50 walks and 50 whiffs.  What does the other guy get?  Remember, it's a close pitch, not a grooved 88 batting-practice fastball.  What can you do with a pitch on the black?   The swinger fouls a bunch of them off, and maybe he gets his pitch the next time.  But he still isn't going to do better than an .000/.500/.000 line, is he?

If you can get me 50% walks on a hundred tough 3-2 pitches, I'll take the math, although MLB (TM) philosophy would call it chickenfeathers.  Two words, bussie:  John Olerud.  ;- )


This is sort of the bottom-half-of-the-inning on the Establish the Fastball rule.  The fastball is The Coin Of The Realm for ML pitches, the MLB (TM) way of pitching, the way that "challenges" your opponent and takes the fight to the other guy.

The rule that says "that two-strike pitch was just too close to take", well... meaning no offense, it's a philosophy that is grounded in psychology, not in mathematics.

An amigo might reply, Franklin Gutierrez isn't established enough to get that call.  An amigo would be right.  :- )   However, do recall that this is the Questec Era.  The umps aren't free to call 'em as they see 'em.  These days, they've got to try to call it a ball if it's off the plate.


Still, Matty is complaining that with F-Gut it's a pitch-recognition issue, in which he is letting GOOD pitches go by:

I think we will know that Gutierrez is about to break out when his pitches/PA DROPS…not when it goes up. Because he’s got a good enough natural swing and quick enough hands that he could hit .300 with 20 HR power if he would quit striking out looking so much.

That's a whale of a thought, and one I'll be keeping an eye on.

As mentioned yesterday, I don't see Gutierrez as Edgar-patient.  I see him as bat-glued-to-my-shoulder patient.  Selectivity is one thing, indecisiveness another.

But if so, hey, cut the guy a break.  He's got all of 800 ML at-bats.  Like we sez, Gutierrez has got natural torque, quick hands, and adjusts his horizontal level easily.  He's WILLING to work the pitcher and put a pro AB on him, even if perhaps not yet as capable as he'd like.  But it's very early in his career.

I can see his offensive potential.  Let me go on the record real clear here now :- ) because we shore do get misquoted in retro a lot.  It's too early IMHO to rule out a HIGH ceiling for Gutierrez offensively. He wouldn't shock me, exactly, if he turned out to be Joe Carter or something.   Maybe not in this park.  But he's talented.

Gutierrez isn't really my kind of player, but he's a fairly dynamic young talent.  It will be fun to watch and see which way his career goes.


Dr D


Topics about Re...'s picture

[...] Win My Ex Back added an interesting post on Called Third StrikesHere’s a small excerptThe rule that says “that two-strike pitch was just too close to take”, well… meaning no offense, it’s a philosophy that is grounded in… [...]


Olerud is not a good comparison, Doc. He did take some called third strikes in his quest to take walks and swing only at pitches he liked...but he was making a conscious choice not to swing if he didn't think he could do much with it. Cameron and Gutierrez take so many close pitches because they want to be patient and they want to work the count but they can't blinkin' tell which pitches are the ones to swing at until it's too late. Give me 100 close pitches and Olerud will K looking 10 times, flick them foul 20 times, walk 30 times, and put it in play 40 times. Gutierrez will walk 30 times and K looking 70 times.
It's early, so I'm waiting for Gutierrez to either become a little more aggressive once he's comfortable in his role (the one time he started for a while, his P/PA was lower and he hit the crap out of the ball...for what it's worth) or develop his pitch recognition ability so he can be patient like Olerud...not patient like Cameron. But if nothing changes, his ceiling is Cameron but slower.

Sandy - Raleigh's picture

You definitely open up a very interesting can or worms to examine.
But, I definitely see an examination bias here. You're "betting" that Olerud would do "X" and F-Gut would do "Y" because you have ALREADY reached a conclusion as to what was actually going on inside of each players head at any given moment.
Unfortunately, we only have the 2005 breakdown on Olerud, (at Fangraphs). And I personally don't know NEARLY enough about the advanced swing metrics to draw any conclusions. (Heck, I can only find descriptions for O-swing% and F-strike% in the glossary, so I don't even know what most of the stats are even attempting to measure.
Was Olerud a better hitter than F-Gut? Absolutely. But, if Olerud is only swinging at 11% of balls outside the zone, and F-Gut is swinging at 25% of balls outside the zone -- my thinking is that this would indicate that swinging LESS would be beneficial to F-Gut.
I agree with the Doc's take -- that SPECIFICALLY in the 3/2 situation, where the stock thinking is *WRONG*. You shouldn't swing at anything "close", because 70% of the time that WILL be an out. But, why are we talking in hypotheticals, when actual real numbers already exist?
For his CAREER - what has F-Gut done in full-count situations?
First off, we'ave only got 104 PAs to look at. But his line in full count situations is ...
Anyone complaining about F-Gut's performance in full count situations needs their head examined. What about his Ks?
104-PA; 86-AB; 25-H; 7-2B; 4-HR; 13-RBI; 18-BB; 29-K
His overall K% (per PA) is 21.7%
His full-count K% (per PA) is 27.88%
Yes, he fans at a higher rate in full-count situations. But, when I examine his entire performance splits by count, I see EXACTLY what you say Olerud was -- a guy who is ONLY swinging when he sees a pitch he thinks he can do damage with.
First pitch: .424/.44/.606/1051
1-0 count: .346/.346/.577/.923
3-1 count: .550/.775/1000/1775
3-2 count: .291/.413/.512/.925
When he's advantaged, he picks a pitch type and location and if that's what he gets, he kills it.
But, when he's disadvantaged?
0-2 count: .181/.192/.236/.428 - 32-K in 73-PA
1-2 count: .208/.212/.312/.523 - 72-K in 156-PA
2-2 count: .158/.163/.259/.422 - 59-K in 160-PA
I dunno how many pitches he's swinging through, but the evidence suggests that he is a "guess" hitter. But, when guessing right, he's a REALLY good hitter. But, it also suggests he is the antithesis of what the Ms have been sending to the plate for the past 2 years -- guys who can make contact with anything. He can't. In point of fact, Seattle's lineup has been so far out of whack with 'typical' lineups, that I think the ability for people who have watched Seattle on a daily basis to judge contact "fairly" (based on observation), is severely compromised at this point.
The truth is - if F-gut starts swinging at 3rd strikes, I don't think it's going to do him any good, because he doesn't have the kind of bat control that Seattle fans have come to view as "common".
If you have a "guess" hitter who can hit .900-1000 when guessing right, my approach to maximizing his potential is to try and give him every tool you can to optimize his guessing ability. He'll always likely struggle when disadvantaged, and will likely continue to be incredibly dangerous when advantaged.


Sandy...more or less ALL hitters have that kind of split. Perhaps not as extreme, but there is a HUGE drop-off between being up in the count and being down.
But you may be right that Gutierrez is a guess hitter (given his O-SW% that would make sense). How then do you explain the long counts? How does a pure-guess hitter draw 4.2 P/PA?

Sandy - Raleigh's picture

Well, let's compare how LARGE F-Gut's splits are to the same splits for the entire AL?
Franklin Gutierrez ------------------- Entire AL
First pitch: .424/.44/.606/1051 ---- .336/.342/.544/.866
1-0 count: .346/.346/.577/.923 --- .342/.343/.553/.896
3-1 count: .550/.775/1000/1775 -- .344/.681/.629/1310
3-2 count: .291/.413/.512/.925 --- .231/.470/.376/.846
When he’s advantaged, he picks a pitch type and location and if that’s what he gets, he kills it.
But, when he’s disadvantaged?
Franklin Gutierrez ------------------------------------- Entire AL
0-2 count: .181/.192/.236/.428 - 32-K in 73-PA --- .172/.181/.245/.425 -- 2975 in 6745
1-2 count: .208/.212/.312/.523 - 72-K in 156-PA -- .185/.193/.265/.457 -- 4930 in 11989
2-2 count: .158/.163/.259/.422 - 59-K in 160-PA -- .197/.202/.292/.495 -- 4507 in 11625
The eye-opener here FOR ME is the 3-2 results. He actually appears to be LESS prone to walking than the average hitter in 3-2 counts. He's hitting 60 points higher, but losing 60 points of OBP compared to average. But he's absolutely destroying the league in slugging in those situations.
Whether he's actually a pure guess hitter -- or if there are some pitches he simply picks up much better than others -- I cannot say. But, when viewed side by side, it definitely appears that he's making BETTER decisions than average when advantaged, and is more or less average when behind.
The data suggests that you simply CANNOT afford to be lazy against the guy -- because when he decides to swing he is actually very dangerous.


This would imply that he's a TERRIBLE hitter in even counts...he'd have to be to come out with a below average OPS while being the same as the league when behind and destroying the league when ahead.


BTW, the flaw with the stats you're showing, Sandy, is that they're stats only on pitches that were either put in play or resolved the plate appearance. What we really want to see is the number of 3-2 pitches that were fouled off...cut on and missed, taken for strikes, taken for balls, put in play for outs, put in play for hits, driven out of the park...etc. Not saying your conclusions are wrong (I think you're right on this one...)...but we would laser in on the truth a little better if we looked at pitch data by count.

Add comment

Filtered HTML

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><p><br>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.


  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.