During the regular season, the offense had a slump. “We’ve got to be better offensively, period, end of story.” — Torey Lovullo, 9 August 2023
The postseason has been a success story. Batters are better than they were in early August.
In postseason games leading up to the NLCS, the Diamondbacks averaged 6 runs per game. That is strong batting against teams that were excellent enough to reach the postseason.
Let’s look at two batting situations and compare them to the average of postseason teams:
- With two strikes the batter is on the edge of two widely different outcomes: either striking out or getting a hit. Success in two strike counts makes a huge difference!
- The first pitch of each plate appearance has a disproportional impact on the outcome of the plate appearance.
What is the yearly trend for batter results with two strikes?
There seems to be a postseason trend for strikeouts, hits, and slugging, especially for 2008 to 2015. That trend showed that pitchers were improving. In 2015 the trend seems to have nearly disappeared except for yearly variation. The following graphs show the three postseason trends, with the addition of stars to show the Diamondbacks postseason data for 2011, 2017, and 2023 (prior to the NLCS). Two measures (SLG and SO per two-strike-pitch) show that the 2023 Diamondbacks are hitting better than they did in 2011 and 2017. Hits per two-strike-pitch is nearly the same as 2017.
How did the D-backs bat against 2-strike pitches in postseason plate appearances?
The following table compares the Diamondbacks to the average of all teams in the 2023 postseason. It shows that they were very much above average for all five measures. Batting with two strikes is an awesome skill that helps make the Diamondbacks a dangerous team.
The following table compares the 2023 postseason Diamondbacks to two previous postseason Diamondbacks. The 2023 postseason Diamondbacks are clearly better than the 2011 and 2017 Diamondbacks, albeit the 2017 Diamondbacks got slightly more hits per two-strike pitch.
How did the D-backs bat in the first pitch of each postseason plate appearance?
The following table compares the Diamondbacks to the average of all teams in the 2023 postseason. It shows that their slugging was above average. Although their hits and OBP were below average, they took a lot of balls (which showed they were not fooled and waited for a pitch in the zone they could hit). In an attempt to capture that skill, the table shows hits plus balls per first pitch. That measure shows the Diamondbacks were above average. Perhaps that measure is better than OBP when looking at first pitches.
The following table compares the 2023 postseason Diamondbacks to two previous postseason Diamondbacks. It shows that for several measures, the 2017 Diamondbacks were better first pitch batters. The significant exception was hits plus balls per-first-pitch. It shows the 2023 Diamondbacks are better than the 2017 Diamondbacks.
Batters have good reason to be confident.
The Diamondbacks will face the Phillies in the NLCS. Batting well against first pitches will be part of the competition.
“Look what the Phillies did to Braves ace Spencer Strider, who essentially is a two-pitch pitcher except for the occasional changeup. In the NLDS the Phillies hit .500 against Strider’s first pitches, including three homers off sliders (Castellanos, Trea Turner and Harper).” — Tom Verducci
In the postseason, Diamondbacks’ batters are awesome. Their confidence makes them a dangerous opponent in the NLCS.
Philadelphia Phillies catcher JT Realmuto says the Arizona DBacks remind them of themselves entering the NLCS:— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) October 15, 2023
‘The most daunting thing about them now is how much confidence they have now.’
In the 2023 postseason, Diamondbacks batters have two strengths:
- With two strikes, for five measures they are well above the postseason average for all teams. In addition, they are better than the 2011 and 2017 postseason Diamondbacks.
- For the first pitch of each plate appearance, they are slightly above the postseason average for slugging and slightly above the postseason average for hits+balls per-first-pitch.