UPDATED: Managers need to give the green light on 3-0 (corrected stats)

Astros DHChris Carter (23) and second baseman Jose Altuve (27) celebrate Carter's three-run 3-0 home run against the Yankees  Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Astros DH Chris Carter (23) and second baseman Jose Altuve (27) celebrate Carter’s three-run 3-0
home run against the Yankees
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Last night, the Astros designated hitter Chris Carter had gone 0-4 with four whiffs as he faced the Yankees closer David Robertson in the 9th inning with two runners on base.

On a 3-0 count, Robertson put it over the plate and Carter put it over the fence for a game-winning, three-run homer enabling Houston to beat the Yankees, 7-4.

For Carter it was his career high 30th homer, making him the first Astro with 30 since Lance Berkman (34) and Carlos Lee (32) in 2007.

Bad for Robertson who had made 27 appearances without giving up a home run since June 1, but good for Carter and really good for Astros manager Bo Porter who told reporters after the game, “Again, this guy could change the game on one swing, and he changed the game tonight with one swing. He got the green light, 3-0, and he didn’t miss that ball.”

This is a pitcher’s world…batters just live in it

Baseball is dominated by pitchers, by a lot.

Overall this season

  • Batters are hitting .252
  • Batters have an OBP of .315
  • Batters are slugging .388
  • Batters have an OPS of .703

On pitchers’ counts (0-1, 0-2, 1-2, 2-2)

  • Batters are hitting .198
  • Batters have an OBP of .205
  • Batters are slugging .289
  • Batters have an OPS of .494

On even counts (0-0, 1-1, 3-2)

  • Batters are hitting .292
  • Batters have an OBP of .379
  • Batters are slugging .453
  • Batters have an OPS of .832

On hitters’ counts (1-0, 2-0, 2-1, 3-0, 3-1)

  • Batters are hitting .336
  • Batters have an OBP of .466
  • Batters are slugging .559
  • Batters have an OPS of 1.025

Why aren’t more managers giving the green light on 3-0?

Batters have very few counts in which they are dominant, which is why I  simply do not understand why more batters are not given the green light on 3-0. Why do managers retain this old-school canard of taking on 3-0? With a slugger like Chris Carter and at least half the members of a lineup, a walk is not as good as a hit unless the bases are already loaded and a walk means a run.

On 3-0 counts

  • Batters are hitting .368
  • Batters have an OBP of .944
  • Batters are slugging .744
  • Batters have an OPS of 2.333

Pitchers don’t want to issue walks. They want to throw their most reliable pitch, their most controllable pitch, when they need a strike. Take a look.:

  • Overall, fastballs are thrown 49.5% of the time, way more than any other pitch type, and batters hit .270, with an OBP of .343, and slugging .419 for an OPS of .762 against them.
  • On 3-0 counts, fastballs are thrown 79.8% of the time and batters hit .357, with an OBP of .922, and slugging .686 for an OPS of 1.603 against them.

Enlightened managers need to give more 3-0 green lights

Look at how well batters have done in their few opportunities to swing on 3-0.

Teams on 3-0 counts
G PA AB H XBH HR BB RBI AVG OBP SLUG OPS
1. Oakland Athletics 103 113 6 5 3 3 107 9 .833 .991 2.333 3.324
2. Arizona Diamondbacks 91 112 16 7 3 1 96 4 .438 .920 .750 1.670
3. Toronto Blue Jays 101 108 9 4 1 1 99 10 .444 .954 .778 1.731
4. New York Mets 110 107 11 6 5 2 96 5 .545 .953 1.364 2.317
5. Pittsburgh Pirates 107 106 6 2 1 0 99 4 .333 .962 .667 1.629
6. Los Angeles Dodgers 100 106 13 7 1 0 93 6 .538 .943 .692 1.636
7. Tampa Bay Rays 99 105 3 0 0 0 101 0 .000 .971 .000 .971
8. San Francisco Giants 93 100 6 3 1 1 94 4 .500 .970 1.000 1.970
9. Cleveland Indians 103 100 6 0 0 0 94 4 .000 .940 .000 .940
10. Boston Red Sox 102 100 5 3 1 0 95 0 .600 .980 .800 1.780
11. Detroit Tigers 99 99 11 5 1 1 88 4 .455 .939 .727 1.667
12. Washington Nationals 101 95 6 3 3 1 88 10 .500 .958 1.333 2.291
13. Milwaukee Brewers 96 94 11 4 3 1 83 1 .364 .926 .818 1.744
14. Miami Marlins 103 94 2 0 0 0 92 0 .000 .979 .000 .979
15. Seattle Mariners 95 91 7 3 2 2 83 7 .429 .945 1.286 2.231
16. Minnesota Twins 97 88 7 0 0 0 81 2 .000 .920 .000 .920
17. Texas Rangers 97 87 7 2 1 0 80 3 .286 .943 .429 1.371
18. Philadelphia Phillies 99 87 6 3 2 1 81 2 .500 .966 1.167 2.132
19. Los Angeles Angels 98 87 13 3 3 0 74 6 .231 .885 .462 1.347
20. St. Louis Cardinals 97 86 5 1 0 0 80 1 .200 .953 .200 1.153
21. Colorado Rockies 101 85 8 3 2 1 76 3 .375 .929 .875 1.804
22. Chicago White Sox 99 84 10 3 2 2 74 5 .300 .917 .900 1.817
23. New York Yankees 97 81 5 1 0 0 76 4 .200 .951 .200 1.151
24. Chicago Cubs 95 81 8 2 0 0 73 1 .250 .926 .250 1.176
25. San Diego Padres 89 80 7 1 1 0 72 3 .143 .913 .286 1.198
26. Cincinnati Reds 93 79 7 3 1 1 72 1 .429 .949 .857 1.807
27. Kansas City Royals 100 77 12 3 1 0 64 3 .250 .870 .333 1.203
28. Atlanta Braves 90 75 9 3 1 1 66 5 .333 .920 .667 1.587
29. Baltimore Orioles 94 70 5 3 2 0 65 1 .600 .971 1.000 1.971
30. Houston Astros 99 68 7 3 3 2 60 8 .429 .926 1.429 2.355

Look how many missed opportunities batters have had on 3-0 pitches.

Taking a strike on 3-0
ClStk# Zone#
1. Miami Marlins 141 123
2. New York Mets 137 121
3. Tampa Bay Rays 131 117
4. Boston Red Sox 127 114
5. Oakland Athletics 123 109
6. New York Yankees 120 102
7. Los Angeles Angels 120 109
8. Texas Rangers 118 101
9. San Diego Padres 117 98
10. Kansas City Royals 117 103
11. Washington Nationals 114 100
12. Cleveland Indians 114 95
13. Toronto Blue Jays 113 86
14. Houston Astros 113 101
15. Minnesota Twins 110 94
16. Baltimore Orioles 107 95
17. Detroit Tigers 106 94
18. Cincinnati Reds 106 91
19. Colorado Rockies 105 86
20. Chicago Cubs 104 94
21. Los Angeles Dodgers 103 94
22. Philadelphia Phillies 102 82
23. Arizona Diamondbacks 99 85
24. Pittsburgh Pirates 98 85
25. Chicago White Sox 97 86
26. Atlanta Braves 97 83
27. St. Louis Cardinals 93 79
28. Seattle Mariners 91 78
29. San Francisco Giants 90 80
30. Milwaukee Brewers 82 70

Teams are looking for every advantage they can find against pitching dominance

One consideration should be more green lights on 3-0 and stop conceding great pitches to hit.

  • sunshipballoons

    Your stats explain why this is bad advice. Batting average on a 3-0 count is IDENTICAL to batting average on all hitter counts. It means that the hitter is just as likely to get a hit after taking a 3-0 strike. I agree a walk isn’t as good as a hit. But it’s as good as 1/3 of a hit (unless there’s a hitter who averages a triple or better when they make contact, which obviously no player does). And 1/3 of a hit is your expected return on swinging 3-0. There is little doubt that the average total bases once you get to 3-0 is higher if you take the 3-0 pitch.

    • http://www.baseballanalytics.org Bill Chuck

      You caught a HUGE typo!! Please note the updated stats and thanks for the good catch!!!!

      • sunshipballoons

        Interesting. I’m still not totally sold on the analysis, but the 32 point batting average difference certainly means that it requires a lot more thought than I put into my initial comment.