Jul 17, 2019

MLB's pitching paradox: Strikes are down, strikeouts are up

Data: FanGraphs; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

While MLB is on pace to set a strikeout record for the 14th consecutive season, the rate of pitches actually thrown in the strike zone continues to plummet. Weird, right?

By the numbers: In 2002, 54.2% of all pitches were thrown for strikes (swings not included, just pitch location) … and batters struck out 16.8% of the time. In 2019, a record-low 42.1% of pitches have been thrown for strikes … and batters are striking out 22.8% of the time.

What's happening: With hitters increasingly swinging for the fences, pitchers are deliberately throwing outside the zone to avoid giving up home runs.

  • "Throws targeted for the inside and outside corners have been replaced by fastballs that rocket up above the zone or breaking balls that dive below it," notes NYT's Joe Lemire.
  • This has resulted in longer at-bats (batters are seeing a record-high 3.91 pitches per plate appearance this season); but again, almost one-fourth of them still end in a strikeout.

Meanwhile, pitchers have simply gotten better at enticing hitters to chase balls thanks to things like analytics and "pitch tunneling."

  • Analytics: The volume of advanced data available to pitchers gives them insight into exactly where each hitter is most likely to chase — and they're exploiting that.
  • Pitch tunneling: Pitchers have gotten extremely good at making two different pitches look identical for much of their flight toward the plate, allowing them to present balls as strikes for longer (example).

Go deeper

Rise of the digital neighborhood watch

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Residents of major American cities are constantly watched by ubiquitous cameras, mushrooming license plate readers and a battery of new smart city sensors.

But, but, but: It's not just the government keeping tabs. An explosion of private surveillance — set up by businesses, landlords and neighbors — is being driven by increasingly cheap but powerful technology. And what these observers see could make its way back to law enforcement.

Go deeperArrowJul 24, 2019

The WNBA's offensive drought

Data: Basketball-Reference; Chart: Axios Visuals

Last season, the WNBA's 105.6 offensive efficiency rating was its highest in 20 years. This season, that number has dropped all the way down to 99.2.

Go deeperArrowJul 18, 2019

Historic heat wave shatters all-time temperature records across Europe

A boy attempting to cool off under a public water spray in Paris. Photo: Philippe Lopez/AFP/Getty Images

A blistering heat wave across Europe shattered a number of all-time temperature records across the continent on Thursday.

By the numbers: On Thursday, Paris reached 42.6°C (108.7°F) — by far its hottest temperature on record, according to Météo-France.

Go deeperArrowJul 25, 2019