From a Hitter's Perspective: Comparing the Success in the 3-0 vs 3-1 Counts
The tables below show both halves of the lineup, one during 3-0 counts and the other during 3-1 counts. The numbers are surprisingly different once a batter gets a strike.
The 1 thru 5 hitters never bat below .300 when facing a 3-0 count, with the lowest batting average being .301 during the 2008 and 2009 seasons. However, once faced with that first strike, the top half of lineups in Major League Baseball dip to below .300. So far in the 2018 season, MLB hitters in the top half of the lineups are facing the lowest batting average in the last decade during 3-1 counts, currently sitting at .278.
Interestingly enough, during the 2008 and 2009 seasons the 6 thru 9-hole hitters increased their averages when going from a 3-0 count to a 3-1 count, despite getting one strike against them. Then starting in 2010, it all started to trend in the opposite direction, as their averages started falling once that first strike was upon them.
OBP (on base percentage) was much higher for both sections of the batting lineup when facing a 3-0 count compared to a 3-1 count and rightfully so considering they were only one pitch from a walk and most likely taking that next pitch. However, OPS (on base plus slugging) was higher in a 3-0 count than in a 3-1 count for both sections of the batting lineups among MLB teams. This is fascinating because this is telling us that more hitters are doing damage on 3-0 than 3-1. One possibility of that occurrence could be pitch selection. During a 3-0 count, odds are the batter is going to see a fastball down the middle of the plate compared to a 3-1 count, where the pitcher may decide to try and get the batter to chase more, hence the lower OPS.
A lower OPS on 3-1 than on 3-0 tells us that hitters aren’t making good contact with balls on 3-1 compared to 3-0. They are guessing and guessing correctly on that dead red fastball down the middle of the plate, knowing that the pitcher can’t throw anything but that in this situation or else they may face giving up a walk. So, the pitcher will throw a fastball, in hopes of the batter taking it for a strike or not putting a good connection on it. These numbers however, are telling us that hitters are demolishing 3-0 pitches now more than ever and doing it quite successfully compared to when they’re ahead 3-1. We should see more swings in the 3-0 count throughout a lineup in the future!!