Why Don't We Hit 3-0?

Hitting on a 3-0 Count-

Let’s take a look at hitting in a 3-0 count. Does this make sense? At every level of baseball, taking a pitch on 3-0 is the norm. Why? I don’t know how or why this became an accepted practice but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The arguments for taking a pitch on 3-0 are basically rooted in fear and/or falsehoods. They go like this; we can’t trust the hitter to not swing at ball four or the pitcher has already thrown 3 balls in a row so we should assume he is going to throw another one. Either way of looking at it, it is a very passive way of playing the game. Think about it, if you are scared that your hitter is going to swing at a ball 3-0, then why are you letting him swing on 3-1? Does that make any sense? All you are doing is taking away the most advantageous count to hit from your hitter. Let’s take a look at some data taken from the MLB in 2013.

Split     AB          H         2B        3B       HR        BA       OBP       SLG       OPS
 0-0    19283    6485   1270      133      800     .336      .341       .540       .882
 1-0     12397    4127     848        82      554      .333      .333       .549       .882
 2-0      4516    1480     327        29      228      .328      .327       .564       .892
 3-0       292      103        25         3        25        .353     .948       .716      1.663
 0-1    16286   5068      943        71      450      .311       .319       .461       .779
  1-1    15617    5166     1037       73      521       .331      .334       .507       .840
 2-1      9348    3281      683       69      440      .351      .352       .580       .932
 3-1      3876    1329      279       24       252       343      .680      .622      1.302
 0-2    15987    2431      428       50      160       .152      .161       .215        .376
 1-2     26731    4428      773       63      354      .166      .173       .239        .412
 2-2    25210     4562     858       93      453       .181      .187       .276       .463
 3-2    16527     3632      751       82      424      .220      .452       .352       .804
 

So what are the advantages of having a green light to hit on 3-0? It’s plainly obvious from the table above that hitting in a 3-0 count is to the hitter’s advantage. It’s not even close.  Higher average, higher on-base percentage, higher slugging percentage, and higher OPS. Why is this?  For the simple reason that the pitcher knows he’s in a non-threatening situation and is free to throw a ball down the middle without consequence. Why are coaches allowing an opposing pitcher to have this luxury? It boggles my mind. As a coach, you have to realize you are setting your hitter up to fail easier by only allowing him to swing in one advantageous count when you could get two advantageous counts. So why would you voluntarily give that up that advantage? I don’t get it. You are coaching the game by fear.

Okay, you convinced me. So what are the advantages again? First, by swinging on 3-0, the pitcher will realize he no longer has a non-compete count, thus changing the 3-0 count into a pressure situation. This will result in more BBs for you hitters.  Second, with your hitter getting another advantage count to hit in, the probability of getting more people on base, getting more extra base hits, and driving in more runs goes way up.

Coaches, don’t be scared. Put your players in a better position to succeed. Let them swing!