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Why Press Conferences Need A Skeptical Ear

After the Tigers fell to the Red Sox and Boston ace Josh Beckett on Wednesday night, Detroit Manager Jim Leyland openly criticized his team's lack of aggression against Beckett's first offering of each at bat. It's a criticism that would make sense for a team going against Beckett, who has a strong first pitch-strike ratio, but it seems a bit out of character for Wednesday's performance by the Tigers.

Working on intuition that the Tigers had actually swung at first pitches as often as they usually did -- which is more than almost anyone in the major leagues -- Bill Ferris of the Detroit Tigers Weblog broke down Leyland's criticism of his team and found, surprise surprise, that the Tigers had been just as aggressive as they usually are. Here's how the numbers stacked out:

Beckett recorded first pitch strikes on 19 of the 24 batters he faced. Here is the breakdown:

  • Called Strike: 12
  • Foul: 1
  • In Play - Out: 5
  • In Play - Hit: 1
  • Ball: 5

Ferris claims that the Tigers swung at 30 percent of Beckett's first pitches, which is actually two percent more than their daily average. They were only successful on one of those seven swings, an average of .143. That's far too low a batting average to warrant additional first pitch swings.

Making matters more convincing, as Ferris points out, the Tigers actually worked more pitches per batter out of Beckett than most opponents do, and they pulled it off in part (and in five at-bats in particular) by taking the pitcher's offerings.

All of that data seems to invalidate Leyland's critique, which goes to show how common sense -- even an incredible wealth of it, as is the case with Leyland -- can be misleading in analyzing a game if you don't take in all the data first.

By Cameron Smith  |  August 13, 2009; 3:36 PM ET
Categories:  Red Sox , Tigers  | Tags: Josh Beckett, Red Sox, Tigers, josh beckett  
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