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Monday, July 07, 2014

Autin: Scoring is down (again). Should something be done?

Yes, but recalling Tucker Barnhart is not it.

So, what should be done?

Perhaps there’s a way to discourage so many pitching changes. One idea for the AL (although the union would fight it) is to link the DH to the starting pitcher: Once the starter exits, the reliever must take a spot in the batting order. He wouldn’t have to take the DH’s spot, as rules already permit the DH to move to a fielding position, with the pitcher batting in place of the exiting fielder. This would be some deterrent to pitching changes generally, but especially to mid-inning changes, as skippers would have to make multiple lineup decisions without knowing what game situation they’d face in their next at-bats. It also might help swing the roster balance back towards position players, as deeper benches would be needed to keep the relievers from having to bat.

A modest idea for the NL, to discourage mid-inning pitcher changes, would be to ban the “double-switch” solely in those situations: A pitcher brought in mid-inning would have to bat in the spot occupied by the current pitcher. This might not have as big an impact as the DH innovation, but it would target situations in which a fresh pitcher has the greatest drag on scoring, whether by gaining a platoon edge (see Doug’s recent study), or simply by being at top strength.

Other rules could be tried to restrict mid-inning changes. So far this year, 28% of all relief stints have lasted two outs or less, and 16% lasted two batters or less. Both have doubled in frequency since 1989. What if a reliever had to stay for at least three outs or three batters, with exemptions for injury and perhaps one free exemption per game? As a bonus, such limits would reduce one of the dullest aspects of watching a major league game.

If the goal is to get scoring levels closer to historical norms, the best approach might not be to tinker with the balls, bats or mounds, but to encourage a return to how the game was played before 1990. I’m no grandpa grouching “get off my lawn!” I just think that curbing short relief stints would lift the number of balls hit onto the lawn. It might pressure starters into a little more pacing, to go a little deeper into games. Whether the score winds up 4-2 or 8-5, our game should be more about batted balls, fielding and running, and less of this endless parade of fresh arms blowing 95-mph smoke past a couple of batters.

Repoz Posted: July 07, 2014 at 08:07 AM | 48 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. BochysFingers Posted: July 07, 2014 at 09:02 AM (#4745004)
Help! The sky is falling! Yeesh and sheesh.
   2. Greasy Neale Heaton (Dan Lee) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 09:15 AM (#4745009)
One idea for the AL (although the union would fight it) is to link the DH to the starting pitcher: Once the starter exits, the reliever must take a spot in the batting order.
Dear Mr. Commissioner,

There aren't enough runs being scored. Please make pitchers hit more frequently.

P.S. I am not a crackpot.
   3. JE (Jason Epstein) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 09:19 AM (#4745011)
Dear Mr. Commissioner,

There aren't enough runs being scored. Please make pitchers hit more frequently.

P.S. I am not a crackpot.

Glad I'm not the only one who for a moment thought he had reading comprehension issues.
   4. Moeball Posted: July 07, 2014 at 10:15 AM (#4745068)
Scoring goes up; someone complains.
Scoring goes down; someone complains.

I guess writers gotta have something to write about whether it's a thing or not.

It might pressure starters into a little more pacing, to go a little deeper into games.


I think the genie is already out of the bottle on that one. I don't know what the numbers are, maybe someone could confirm this - do they have year by year pitch count data in the PI on B-Ref? It seems to me that batters in general started to figure out that it was better to work counts than to hack away at everything; my guess is that they go deeper into counts now than they did 20 or 30 years ago. Once this started happening starting pitchers had to start going shorter stints; it's not uncommon now for pitchers to be over 100 pitches by the 5th inning, even in games where they are pitching well. If that's happening, starters aren't going to suddenly start pitching longer and going back to 8 inning starts or even complete games. Not at 150 pitches per start, they aren't.

When Christy Mathewson wrote "Pitching in a Pinch" a century ago, he talked about "coasting" against certain batters, where he didn't have to bring his "A" stuff to the plate. Opposing pitchers and, for that matter, a lot of catchers and middle infielders BITD, were pretty much automatic outs so you could conserve pitches by just throwing strikes and not wasting any pitches - it didn't matter where these guys hit the ball, they couldn't do too much damage to you. So a pitcher could essentially keep his pitch count down (although Mathewson didn't specifically refer to it in those terms) by getting a lot of outs from weak hitters in only 1 or 2 pitches per at bat. Thus he could pitch further into the game. Part of the reason guys like Mathewson pitched so many complete games was because it only took 100 pitches to get through 9 innings. By the time the late sixties and early seventies came around things hadn't changed all that much (Ray Oyler, anyone?).

That's no longer the case and I don't see that scenario changing. So any thoughts that starters are going to start going deeper into games again just isn't going to happen any time soon.
   5. DL from MN Posted: July 07, 2014 at 10:25 AM (#4745082)
When Christy Mathewson wrote "Pitching in a Pinch"


So your solution is to re-segregate baseball and bring back the spitball? Of course it was easier to pitch in the deadball era.
   6. Astroenteritis (tom) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 10:40 AM (#4745108)
Should something be done?


No.
   7. Ziggy Posted: July 07, 2014 at 10:50 AM (#4745120)
That B game that Matty was coasting on might not have been the same as other peoples'. The guy was pretty good at this baseball thing.
   8. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 11:20 AM (#4745140)
In Christy Mathewson's day pitchers as a group hit a LOT better, relative to the league, than they do now.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 11:58 AM (#4745178)
In Christy Mathewson's day pitchers as a group hit a LOT better, relative to the league, than they do now.

Yeah, I don't quite get this line of argument. Are there fewer guys today with a sub-80 OPS+? It doesn't seem like the distribution of hitters has changed.
   10. Hank G. Posted: July 07, 2014 at 12:02 PM (#4745186)
Yeah, I don't quite get this line of argument. Are there fewer guys today with a sub-80 OPS+? It doesn't seem like the distribution of hitters has changed.


Yes, but OPS+ is relative to the league. If the average hitter is better now than the average hitter 100 years ago, bother of them are still going to have an OPS+ of 100.
   11. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 07, 2014 at 12:09 PM (#4745196)
Yes, but OPS+ is relative to the league. If the average hitter is better now than the average hitter 100 years ago, bother of them are still going to have an OPS+ of 100.


Why would we assume that the average hitting ability has gone up but the average pitching ability hasn't kept pace?

The only things we know about today's game is that it's a low-offensive environment, with a lot of Ks. The low-offensive environment argues against the idea that pitchers have to work harder than their counterparts from other eras (fewer pitches needed to get through innings than in high-offense eras, fewer high-stress pitches with men on base), while the extra Ks suggests they may be choosing to do so (though it's pretty clear they're getting help from those offensive players in that regard).

   12. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: July 07, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4745204)
Should something be done?

Yes.
   13. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 12:18 PM (#4745207)
In modern baseball every pitch is a high stress pitch, because almost literally every hitter is capable of hitting the ball out of the park.
   14. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 12:19 PM (#4745211)
This just proves that MLB needs a salary cap
   15. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 07, 2014 at 12:39 PM (#4745234)
In modern baseball every pitch is a high stress pitch, because almost literally every hitter is capable of hitting the ball out of the park.

I think that's far, far too simplistic. It's not either it's a high-stress or coast situation, but variations along the spectrum.

Moreover, a pitch thrown to a singles hitter with runners on second and third is a much higher stress pitch than one thrown to a guy with a little pop but the bases empty.

In a low-offensive environment, like the one we're in, you'll find more bases-empty situations like the latter, certainly enough to offset the possibility of a homer effect.
   16. Dale Sams Posted: July 07, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4745251)
because almost literally every hitter is capable of hitting the ball out of the park.


I wish the Red Sox would get that message.
   17. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 12:51 PM (#4745254)
In modern baseball every pitch is a high stress pitch, because almost literally every hitter is capable of hitting the ball out of the park.

So what? If it wasso easy to hit HRs, offense wouldn't be so low.

Solo HRs are the end of the world. Far worse to waste 7 pitches and risk walking the 80 OPS+ guys, rather than worry about the 7 times a year they'll get a hold of one.
   18. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 12:54 PM (#4745258)
I would speculate that if pitchers regularly threw them fastballs over the plate, a lot of those 7 home runs a year guys would hit 20 home runs a year.
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 01:20 PM (#4745278)
I would speculate that if pitchers regularly threw them fastballs over the plate, a lot of those 7 home runs a year guys would hit 20 home runs a year.

There's a vast spectrum between throwing "maximum effort" and pitching batting practice.
   20. DL from MN Posted: July 07, 2014 at 02:09 PM (#4745319)
It could be that players are striking themselves out more often. Batting strategy is more "take and rake" now than I can ever remember previously. That inevitably leads to increased pitch counts and strikeouts.
   21. Zach Posted: July 07, 2014 at 02:13 PM (#4745322)
In a low run scoring environment with lots of strikeouts, eventually you're going to see the revival of the slap hitter who makes his living on defense.
   22. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 07, 2014 at 02:13 PM (#4745323)
That inevitably leads to increased pitch counts and strikeouts.


It leads to more strikeouts. It should boost pitch counts on a per PA level, but coupled with the current low run environment (fewer MOB), should not lead to higher pitch counts on a per-inning basis.

The high-strikeout, high-walk, high-offense era of 5-20 years previous is where you'd really see a lot of pitches required to get through an inning.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 02:15 PM (#4745327)
It could be that players are striking themselves out more often. Batting strategy is more "take and rake" now than I can ever remember previously. That inevitably leads to increased pitch counts and strikeouts.

Which argues for pounding the zone, doesn't it? If the hitters are being more passive, get strike-one, and then work the edges.

I mean, the slider in the dirt/shoulder high FB works with your Soriano hacker-types, but with patient hitters, it's just a waste.
   24. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: July 07, 2014 at 02:41 PM (#4745343)
Nick Markakis seems to fall victim to that approach. He often watches strike one, and then the pitchers nibble for the rest of the AB. He draws a decent # of walks, but I think he'd be a better hitter if he attacked early in the count more often. Conversely, Adam Jones gets a lot of grief from Orioles fans for not taking enough pitches, but his aggressive approach has its advantages.
   25. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 02:50 PM (#4745350)
Nick Markakis seems to fall victim to that approach. He often watches strike one, and then the pitchers nibble for the rest of the AB. He draws a decent # of walks, but I think he'd be a better hitter if he attacked early in the count more often. Conversely, Adam Jones gets a lot of grief from Orioles fans for not taking enough pitches, but his aggressive approach has its advantages.

It's a game of constant adjustments. If you fall into any one pattern, you're susceptible to being victimized by a smart pitcher/catch/pitching coach.
   26. Scott Ross Posted: July 07, 2014 at 03:54 PM (#4745427)
Lift the ban on PEDs.

I kid. Sort of.

I'd much rather see the King Selig speed up the pace of the game. I'm a total once-a-quadrennial dilettante of a soccer fan, and I gotta say, it's been great to consistently watch an entire sporting event in under three hours.
   27. Walt Davis Posted: July 07, 2014 at 04:23 PM (#4745479)
Scoring is down again!!

All the way from 4.17 R/G to 4.13 R/G!!!

Something must be done!!
   28. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 04:37 PM (#4745500)
Lift the ban on PEDs.


Silly, everyone knows PEDs help pitchers just as much as they help hitters.
   29. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: July 07, 2014 at 06:08 PM (#4745595)
I think I just came up with a solution I like. No chance of ever happening of course, but: 3 balls for a walk.

I think pitchers would generally have to adjust, bu trying to get more of the plate earlier in the count. So walk rate would probably go up a bit, but be fairly constant. More of the plate means better pitches to hit, more balls put in play, and fewer strikeouts. And takes one attempt per PA away from pitchers, witch also lowers k's.

Also, every other number in baseball is a 3 or a 9. The 4 balls were always stupid.
   30. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 06:30 PM (#4745607)
If you like 17-13 games that take four and a half hours to play, yeah, 3-ball walks is for you.
   31. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: July 07, 2014 at 06:37 PM (#4745610)
All the way from 4.17 R/G to 4.13 R/G!!!

That seems like a pretty significant drop to me.
   32. Bhaakon Posted: July 07, 2014 at 07:20 PM (#4745634)
In a low run scoring environment with lots of strikeouts, eventually you're going to see the revival of the slap hitter who makes his living on defense.



If everyone becomes a defensive minded slap hitters, then BABIP will suffer and slap hitters will be out of a job.
   33. AndrewJ Posted: July 07, 2014 at 07:43 PM (#4745645)
Perhaps there’s a way to discourage so many pitching changes. One idea for the AL (although the union would fight it) is to link the DH to the starting pitcher: Once the starter exits, the reliever must take a spot in the batting order.

I've been calling for this for years -- not to increase offense, but to increase strategy. And in a few situations it could lead to more complete games, which I could also live with.
   34. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 07:54 PM (#4745650)
Nobody is going to make a good starting pitcher throw 125 or 130 pitches because they don't want to lose the DH. Teams are far too obsessed with keeping their pitchers healthy for that. If Drew Smyly is having a good outing he might be left in to ring up a high pitch count, but Max Scherzer sure as hell won't be.
   35. AndrewJ Posted: July 07, 2014 at 08:10 PM (#4745657)
If that's the case under this scenario, we could see a team's regular DH held to 350-450 plate appearances a season, somewhere between a pinch-hitter and a regular.
   36. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 08:16 PM (#4745660)
Nobody is going to make a good starting pitcher throw 125 or 130 pitches because they don't want to lose the DH. Teams are far too obsessed with keeping their pitchers healthy for that.

How long will they keep doing this with the total lack of evidence that it's helping?
   37. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 08:42 PM (#4745669)
I think the evidence is pretty strong that letting pitchers go over about 120 pitches a start is bad for their health. It's the five-man rotation that lacks any evidence suggesting it keeps pitchers any healthier than a four-man.

But I think it's the enhancement of performance, not health, that applies pressure in both those directions (fewer pitches per start, fewer starts per season).
   38. Walt Davis Posted: July 07, 2014 at 09:30 PM (#4745694)
That seems like a pretty significant drop to me.

Really? That's 6.5 runs per 162 games, 1 run every 4 weeks.

If real -- we're only halfway through the season and I recall checking it earlier this year and scoring was up a bit.

Did you notice when scoring went up from 4.28 to 4.32 R/G between 2011 and 2012?

In terms of magnitude, .04 would be tied for the 3rd smallest year-to-year change over the last 30 years. Changes are much more likely to be on the magnitude of .1 to .2
   39. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 07, 2014 at 09:44 PM (#4745704)
I think the evidence is pretty strong that letting pitchers go over about 120 pitches a start is bad for their health. It's the five-man rotation that lacks any evidence suggesting it keeps pitchers any healthier than a four-man.

I don't think there's much evidence on the 120, but the 4-man rotation (or at least the 4.5 man) is probably a less controversial way to get more IP out of your good SPs.
   40. cardsfanboy Posted: July 07, 2014 at 10:01 PM (#4745714)
In Christy Mathewson's day pitchers as a group hit a LOT better, relative to the league, than they do now.

Yeah, I don't quite get this line of argument. Are there fewer guys today with a sub-80 OPS+? It doesn't seem like the distribution of hitters has changed.


The assumption is that both hitting and pitching has improved, and that a piece of evidence to support that, is the larger gap between pitchers hitting and average in today's game, than there was in games in the past. (This is the type of argument that people use to argue for really heavy handed timelining, which would effectively say peak Honus Wagner is an 80 ops+ hitter in today's game...A counter argument is that in the days of the past that the pitchers didn't take the crappy hitters like pitchers seriously and gave up a higher percentage of hits than they would if they took them seriously. )

If everyone becomes a defensive minded slap hitters, then BABIP will suffer and slap hitters will be out of a job.


Normal ebb and flow of the game...babip is currently at around .300, in 1985 it was .280...if offense keeps going down, then it becomes easier/better to concentrate on defense and speed(not sure if that would encourage contact hitting though)
   41. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: July 07, 2014 at 10:46 PM (#4745744)
Normal ebb and flow of the game...babip is currently at around .300, in 1985 it was .280...if offense keeps going down, then it becomes easier/better to concentrate on defense and speed(not sure if that would encourage contact hitting though)

Except that it's not certain that the current high BABIP has any relation to normal ebb and flow. In the AL it was in the .285 to .288 range through 1992, then jumped to .294 in 1993 and then up to .298 to .304 after that. That looks like something fundamental changed in or about 1993. Presumably the ball (though I guess it's possible that expansion fundamentally broke the pitching supply, or that some combination of new ballparks, PEDs, improved bat technology, and what have you reached a critical mass around then). It's possible that we've seen enough fundamental change that a switch to defense-speed-contact isn't entirely viable.
   42. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: July 07, 2014 at 11:25 PM (#4745780)
I think the evidence is pretty strong that letting pitchers go over about 120 pitches a start is bad for their health.

And what would that be? The 120 pitch start has been pretty much eliminated and the injuries just keep on coming.
   43. cardsfanboy Posted: July 07, 2014 at 11:38 PM (#4745787)
Except that it's not certain that the current high BABIP has any relation to normal ebb and flow. In the AL it was in the .285 to .288 range through 1992, then jumped to .294 in 1993 and then up to .298 to .304 after that. That looks like something fundamental changed in or about 1993. Presumably the ball (though I guess it's possible that expansion fundamentally broke the pitching supply, or that some combination of new ballparks, PEDs, improved bat technology, and what have you reached a critical mass around then). It's possible that we've seen enough fundamental change that a switch to defense-speed-contact isn't entirely viable.


The current high babip is possibly a result of having more three true outcome players on the field. As defense takes more precedence, and teams are stuck with better defenders, then it's reasonable to expect a drop in babip. I absolutely feel that the average fielder today at nearly every position, is inferior to the same average 20-30 years ago.
   44. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: July 08, 2014 at 07:14 AM (#4745860)
The current high babip is possibly a result of having more three true outcome players on the field.

Then why did it change so suddenly, from one level to another over the course of a single season? That's the argument that it's the ball or something similar. One era ended in 1992 and another began in 1994, and 1993 is the entirety of the transition. If it's one offensive strategy replacing another you'd expect it to take longer.
   45. Enrico Pallazzo Posted: July 08, 2014 at 09:34 AM (#4745932)
Then why did it change so suddenly, from one level to another over the course of a single season? That's the argument that it's the ball or something similar. One era ended in 1992 and another began in 1994, and 1993 is the entirety of the transition. If it's one offensive strategy replacing another you'd expect it to take longer.


Is it possible that '93 was a sort of "tipping point" for steroid use? And that said use was skewed toward hitters?

I prefer the livelier ball theory, but then again baseball had the "rabbit ball" year not too long before in '87.* I doubt they would try and pull that trick again if they had done it just a few years before.

*Still technically unproven.
   46. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: July 08, 2014 at 09:57 AM (#4745952)
Really? That's 6.5 runs per 162 games, 1 run every 4 weeks

It feels like a lot when the recent trend has been:

2012 4.32
2013 4.17
2014 4.13

And just a few years earlier teams were scoring 4.6-4.8 runs per game.
   47. DL from MN Posted: July 08, 2014 at 10:13 AM (#4745961)
In Christy Mathewson's day pitchers as a group hit a LOT better, relative to the league, than they do now.


No DH in the minors or majors which means pitchers had to practice hitting.
   48. cardsfanboy Posted: July 08, 2014 at 10:27 PM (#4746688)
hen why did it change so suddenly, from one level to another over the course of a single season?


The increase was more than likely a changed ball, I believe they had moved the factory around that time and that they discovered that even though all the balls were within the previous level of tolerance, that the new balls were on average more livelier.(although I don't remember what year that was, it might have been 1987)

There are a lot of factors involved in changes. My point is that as teams adjusted to the three true outcome type of players, that allowed them to get less nimble athletes for defense and babip went up because they couldn't cover as much ground. Other factors could include the reduction of the number of stadiums with astro turf(some reasons, teams again not concentrating on speedy players and reduction of sure hops and increase in slow rollers) And it's also possible that after the strike season and the new cba was signed with no teeth for roid usage, that there was an influx of ped usage.

If one of the increases in babip was because teams have sacrificed nimbleness for bulkiness, and now the advantage of bulkiness isn't worth the trade off(in premium defensive positions) then it's possible that better defenders both nimble and speedy will come in and reduce babip.

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