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What do the top pitchers in Texas and Ohio have in common?

first-pitch_strikesBesides being on GameChanger? First-pitch strikes.

We looked at the pitching staffs of top teams in Ohio and Texas for the 2014 season (The Woodlands, Reagan, Flower Mound, Pearland, and Robinson in Texas; Bellefontaine, Defiance, Aurora, Olentangy, and Bloom-Carroll in Ohio). These teams won a combined 80% of their games in 2014, in large part due to their superior pitching. We wondered: what do these teams have in common?

The answer, it turns out, is a lot. Many of their pitching metrics are nearly identical. But top teams in Ohio and Texas both excel at one thing in particular: first-pitch strikes.

First-pitch strikes lead to outs. First-pitch strikes limit walks. And walks often lead to runs.

First-pitch strikes also show an impact on hits. Below is a graph that charts First-Pitch Strike Percentage against WHIP (Walks + Hits per inning pitched). Increasing FPS% from 50% to 60% can save three baserunners over a 7 inning game.

First-Pitch Strike Percentage vs WHIP

What's one thing your pitchers can focus on this spring season? Make sure the first pitch is strike one.