Who Were the Best Bad Ball MLB Hitters in 2014?
To be a patient hitter sometimes means getting yourself in trouble.
Some hitters prefer to hack away early in the count at the first fastball they see. Others always tend to let the first pitch go by. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
But working deep counts is usually the best way to go about things. By doing so, you make a pitcher throw more pitches and increase the chance he'll make a mistake with one of them. However, this can often land a hitter in an 0-2 or 1-2 hole. So hitters who like to see the first few pitches of a plate appearance had better be good at hitting with two strikes.
The chart below shows the hitters who performed the best in 2014, with a minimum of 450 total plate appearances last season, after being down in the count 0-1 (stats courtesy of Baseball Reference).
After taking a first-pitch strike, Chicago's Jose Abreu was the most dangerous hitter in baseball, with an OPS of .912, hitting .297/.342/.570. Detroits' Victor Martinez and Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt were second and third, while Houston's Chris Carter hit the most home runs in baseball after being down 0-1 in the count, with 22.
Now, what about after being down in the count 1-2?
Once again, Martinez is near the top of the list, this time with the best OPS after being down in the count 1-2 at .892. Colorado's Nolan Arenado and Justin Morneau are second and third on the list. San Diego's Justin Upton led all of baseball with 10 homers after being down in the count 1-2, but did not rank in the top-25 in OPS in this category.
But now comes the toughest section, hitting when you're buried in the count no balls and two strikes (0-2). Here are the players who did the best after encountering this situation in any of their plate appearances.
Any pitcher who gets one of these guys in an 0-2 hole shouldn't start thinking they've got it made. Washington's Jayson Werth has long been known for his ability to stretch out a plate appearance, so it makes sense that he would lead all MLB hitters in OPS (.863) after being down in the count 0-2. In fact, his OPS after being down no balls and two strikes is actually better than his overall OPS of .849. Toronto's Jose Bautista was second and Detroit's Martinez once again was in third.
But if you had to name the best "bad count" hitter in all of baseball, it has to be Martinez. He was second in OPS after being down 0-1, he was first in OPS after being down 1-2, and he was third in OPS after being down 0-2.
As for the worst hitters in bad ball situations? Here was who fared the poorest after being down 0-1.
Here's who did the worst down 1-2.
And who struggled the most after getting in an 0-2 hole.
Hey, what do you know? One of the game's worst hitters, Melvin Upton, appears near the top of all three lists.
Obviously, it's harder to hit when behind in the count, so there's no shame in not having great numbers in these situations. But the players who excel in these situations are also among the more successful hitters in baseball. Which makes sense. Players who hit well behind in the count aren't afraid to see lots of pitches, and are more likely to see a mistake pitch they can hit hard to one of the far corners of the Earth.