June 23, 2021

First Pitch Follies | FanGraphs Baseball (FanGraphs)

One of the joys of baseball, and sports in general, is that the narrative arc of the game isn’t preordained. You can’t know when the most important pitch of the game will be before the game starts. This isn’t a TV procedural, where nothing decisive can happen in the first 20 minutes. The visiting team might go up 3-0 in the first inning and never relinquish the lead, or they might rally furiously from down five only to lose in the bottom of the ninth.

Even though the most exciting pitch of the game isn’t a given, one thing more or less is: the first pitch of a game won’t be the most exciting one. That’s partially due to the rules of baseball — no one is on base, and most at-bats take more than one pitch — but the first pitch is unique in its own way. For one, no one swings. Combining the first pitches thrown by each starter in a game, batters swing at 23% of offerings, significantly lower than the 29% overall swing rate on 0-0 counts.

Secondly, it’s almost always a fastball. Sam Miller delved into the thinking behind game-opening fastballs, and pretty much everything from his piece still holds. Pitchers throw fastballs because batters don’t swing, and…

Read “First Pitch Follies | FanGraphs Baseball” at FanGraphs