Should You Swing on 3-0?

Should you swing when the count is 3-0? Should anyone be upset it?

At the crux of the Fernando Tatis Jr. hoopla that has taken place this week was the count at when he hit his infamous home run: 3-0. Certainly, the apparent unwritten rule that was broken was also tied to the fact that the Padres had a seven-run lead at the time of his 8th inning blast, but the basis of the malfeasant was Tatis Jr.’s desire to take a hack at the impending meatball.

One of the primary dissenters was Mets’ announcer, Keith Hernandez. You can listen to the entire schpiel (which gets a tad testy) about respect and the way the game has changed here, but his primary concern was that any player, “…should swing 3-1, after 3-1. On 3-0 you just don’t do it, [Gary].”

Showing someone up, demonstrating a lack of decorum, hurting Chris Woodward’s feelings, whatever someone could say to bemoan the fact that the swing was taken is antiquated and foolish. Apart from the idea that a seven-run lead in the top of the 8th is insurmountable (it’s not), the concept that 3-0 swings are in any way unexpected is ridiculous.

Just this year a batter has swung on a 3-0 pitch, in the 8th inning, while their team was leading by 6 runs or more. The perpetrator? Kyle Farmer, and just six short days ago against the Pirates. The horror! A retroactive uproar must be in order against this menace to the game. Paging Jace Tingler, get your mans.

Apart from Farmer, there have been 34 instances of players swinging on 3-0 while their team has a lead of at least 6 runs since the start of the 2018 season. More specifically, 20 of 34 took place while a runner was in scoring position, and none were accompanied by commotion. 

Juan Soto did it.

Bryce Harper did too.

Josh Bell even did it twice! Both times against the Rockies no less, weird coincidence.

Simply harmless.

The lack of reaction from the powers that be give reason to believe this outburst had much more to do with the Tatis Jr. than the situation itself, especially given its relative commonplace in the league. Truly moot, the lesson here should be the growing propensity to take a hack when up 3-0 in the count, and that is a good thing.

The 2019 season marked the highest swing rate ever on 3-0 pitches, climbing from just 5.3% in 2009 to 11% last season. As more swings are being taken in more favorable counts, their outcomes are similarly favorable.

League Wide 3-0 Trends

One of the biggest qualms the ‘Guardians of the Unwritten Rules’ have with the modern game is the lack of action. Walks and strikeouts are both at an all-time high while the number of balls in play has decreased in each of the last five full seasons. The game is suffering due to the rampancy of the three-true-outcomes (BB, K, HR), so why would anyone demean the potential for more swings? More action? More fun?? Regardless of what’s on the scoreboard, swinging on 3-0 is good for baseball.

 

Photo by Brian Rothmuller from Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Zach Ennis (@zachennis on Twitter and Instagram)

James Schiano

Graduate of THE Ohio State University and New York City dweller, I am a die-hard Mets fan who can generally be found screaming at the TV or making wise-cracks to anyone who'll hear them. Follow me on Twitter @JeterHadNoRange

One response to “Should You Swing on 3-0?”

  1. Avatar Chucky says:

    Those “ unwritten rules” deny baseball fans the opportunity to see both teams play at 100% for as long as the game lasts. Is it fair and prudent to have one team play by one set of rules, no swinging at 3-0 cripple pitches, no stealing bases, and the other team has no such restrictions? Anyway, what is the legal blowout limit anyway? Five runs? Seven Runs? Who gets to decide that? Asking for a friend.

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