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Monday, May 27, 2013

Chapman: Why Pro-Ball Pitchers Shouldn’t Bat

I once regarded the designated hitter as a hideous and cancerous blight that would inevitably lead to the collapse of civilization. I still do, but I can live with that. What I can no longer endure is the sight of gifted athletes victimized by a conspiracy to make them look like clowns.

Requiring pitchers to bat is like telling Bob Dylan to smile. It misuses their talent, lowers the quality of play, subjects them to pointless risk and probably causes irreparable loss of self-esteem.

...Physical casualties are not the norm, but it’s rare for anything good to happen when denizens of the hill have to heft lumber. Across the major leagues, pitchers bat a collective .091—or less than half what the worst-hitting position players achieve.

More than 40 percent of the time, pitchers simply strike out. That figure would be higher if they didn’t take so many opportunities to bunt, on the theory that it’s the only productive possibility open to them. Not productive in the sense of actually trying to reach base—only in the sense of advancing a runner while making the inevitable out. But watching someone lay down a sacrifice bunt is a poor use of our cruelly brief time on Earth.

Besides the pitiful spectacle they present, batting pitchers distort the game, at least when the game is between an American League squad and a National League opponent. This year, under the expanded interleague schedule, that is just about every day.

...As a National League fan, I dread the sight of a pitcher trudging to the plate. It’s no fun for him, and it’s no fun for me. We both know it’s an empty ritual, perpetuating the fiction that he is a complete player.

If that were true, NL managers wouldn’t stay up late plotting double switches to keep relievers from ever sniffing wood. Pitchers wouldn’t stay in the majors despite hitting less than Reese Witherspoon’s body weight.

Maybe there are pitchers out there who really love to pick up a bat. If so, let them go pound sand. It’s no more pointless than trying to hit, and they probably won’t hurt themselves.

Thanks to Tango.

Repoz Posted: May 27, 2013 at 10:19 AM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: May 27, 2013 at 12:22 PM (#4452988)
This ignores all the good-hitting pitchers, like . . .

. . . like the hippogriff.
   2. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: May 27, 2013 at 01:00 PM (#4453011)
I think there are two good-hitting pitchers. There used to be one, or zero. This obviously means it isn't an empty ritual.
   3. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: May 27, 2013 at 01:13 PM (#4453012)
The term I usually use instead of "good-hitting pitcher" is "crappy hitter."
   4. John Northey Posted: May 27, 2013 at 01:22 PM (#4453018)
The current classic would be Rick Ankiel, but when he was still a pitcher he hit 207/258/310 over 96 PA for a 43 OPS+. When he returned as a hitter after 2+ full years in the minors he hit 245/306/433 for a 97 OPS+ so far. So I guess you could say a 'pitchers penalty' for offense is around 54 points of OPS+ - or about the difference between Albert Pujols and Edwin Encarnacion's careers.
   5. John Northey Posted: May 27, 2013 at 01:27 PM (#4453022)
Another big one, of course, is Babe Ruth. From 1914 to 1917 he was primarily a pitcher and hit for a 150 OPS+. The next two years he split time between pitching and outfield and had a 207 OPS+. Then he stopped pitching almost entirely (just 5 games over the rest of his career) and had a 208 OPS+.

That suggests that the 'pitchers penalty' is more due to a lack of time at the plate rather than the stress of pitching and, again, works out to a figure in the 50's for OPS+.

Of course, in the first 2 years (so similar age) after he stopped pitching he had a 246 OPS+ so who can say for certain but it seems a 50 point penalty for getting just 30 games a year vs 100+ games at the plate appears to be correct in these 2 extreme examples.
   6. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 27, 2013 at 01:27 PM (#4453023)
I remember reading a few weeks ago that NL pitchers were outhitting Seattle shortstops for a while there. So that was fun.

At this point the sooner the NL adopts the DH and the generational war quiets down the happier I'll be, really. It's going to happen.
   7. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: May 27, 2013 at 01:32 PM (#4453028)
If you really want to get rid of pitchers hitting (which I don't), why must the DH abomination be the solution? Why not simply have an 8-man batting order?
   8. The District Attorney Posted: May 27, 2013 at 01:48 PM (#4453031)
That suggests that the 'pitchers penalty' is more due to a lack of time at the plate rather than the stress of pitching and, again, works out to a figure in the 50's for OPS+.
Oh boy. If the same guy can simultaneously be both one of the best pitchers in the league and the best hitter in the league, what that suggests to me is that the level of competition was extremely low compared to now.
   9. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 27, 2013 at 01:59 PM (#4453036)
If you really want to get rid of pitchers hitting (which I don't), why must the DH abomination be the solution? Why not simply have an 8-man batting order?


Because you'd rape the game's rich history, that's why.
   10. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: May 27, 2013 at 02:27 PM (#4453046)
I reallylike the current setup. The differentiation between the leagues is nice and provides an entertaining diversion to me.

What would it take for a sport to introduce something as radical as the DH in today's climate? The NFL added the two point rule about 15 years ago and that was something that already existed and was well liked in college. The NBA added the 3 point rule in 1979, soccer outlawed the back pass around 1992...is there anything else even remotely recent that would be considered a truly radical change? I think going from "no DH anywhere" to "let's give the AL the DH but not the NL" would cause hysteria. Hell, how many stories did we get on requiring base coaches to wear helmets a few years ago?
   11. jdennis Posted: May 27, 2013 at 02:57 PM (#4453066)
a bump of 50 ops points for pitchers? pretty interesting for the better hitting pitchers. so johnson would be in the 120s, ferrell at 150 and spalding and whitney would be pujolsian.
   12. Barnaby Jones Posted: May 27, 2013 at 03:10 PM (#4453075)
But pitchers hitting home runs is one of the greatest things in baseball.
   13. KT's Pot Arb Posted: May 27, 2013 at 05:17 PM (#4453168)
Yes, because what the league needs is more offensive and longer games. 3 hours+ makes the games better, doesn't it?

People who hate the pitcher hitting must also hate no hitters, perfect games, etc. All games can have drama if they are close and well matched. A pitcher hitting in a critical spot is only boring if you don't really like baseball. They have to get bunts down, they have to try not to surrender their at bat, and when they do succeed it's often a crushing blow. A starter singling in the go-ahead run is nearly as exciting as a walk off HR by a position player.

Watching ANY pitcher hit is better than watching .160 BA Adam Dunn.

Finally it forces pitchers to be all around athletes. Otherwise you might as well have the game completely devolve into a bunch of specialists. Relief pitchers, DH's, soon we can have designated base runners, and designated fielders, and leave the hitting to only the .300 hitters.
   14. Ulysses S. Fairsmith Posted: May 27, 2013 at 05:42 PM (#4453179)
Pitchers are not forced to be all-around athletes. The next pitcher to lose his job because he can't hit will be the first pitcher to lose his job because he can't hit.
   15. TJ Posted: May 27, 2013 at 05:47 PM (#4453183)
Chapman- "I once regarded the designated hitter as a hideous and cancerous blight that would inevitably lead to the collapse of civilization. I still do, but I can live with that. What I can no longer endure is the sight of gifted athletes victimized by a conspiracy to make them look like clowns."

OK, judging by the length and complexity of this opening sentence, I can stop wondering if the author is Aroldys Chapman...
   16. KT's Pot Arb Posted: May 27, 2013 at 06:38 PM (#4453196)
[quotePitchers are not forced to be all-around athletes. The next pitcher to lose his job because he can't hit will be the first pitcher to lose his job because he can't hit.]

It forces them to do something other than throw. I'm pretty sure any NL starter who refuses to hit will lose his starting job.

See how I outlawyered you there? Maybe we should return to my point, which is that a pitcher can gain significant value based on how well he bunts, hits, and runs the bases. To maximize that value they have to have good hand eye coordination, the ability to run decently well, and to stay in good running shape. Which means he has to be a good well rounded athlete, and makes it harder to sit in the clubhouse eating chicken and drinking beer.
   17. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: May 27, 2013 at 06:42 PM (#4453198)
I reallylike the current setup. The differentiation between the leagues is nice and provides an entertaining diversion to me.


This I agree with, however, and I know you are nearly as old as I am, you clearly remember a distinction between the 2 leagues when the only time they played each other was in the series. It was great, it was fun and it was exciting. Now with all the interleague play(which I abhor), the differentiation is not as stark to me, thus creating one big, homogeneous league. No, not as fun in my opinion but that's the way it seems to be going.
   18. bobm Posted: May 27, 2013 at 09:03 PM (#4453275)
All of MLB, 5889 Plate Appearances in 2012, As P 

Inning
1   31
2 1130
3 1515
4  889
5 1260
6  582
7  302
8  129
9   28
10+ 23


Leverage
.7-1.5 2463
  <0.7 2426
  ?1.5 1000

   19. Cooper Nielson Posted: May 27, 2013 at 11:43 PM (#4453340)
All games can have drama if they are close and well matched. A pitcher hitting in a critical spot is only boring if you don't really like baseball.

I dislike this kind of argument. All of us here really like baseball, but we all have different preferences, and we all like it for different reasons.

I'm not necessarily pro-DH, but I definitely find it more boring when a bad hitter comes up in a critical spot than when a good hitter does, regardless of which team I'm rooting for. And most pitchers are bad hitters.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: May 27, 2013 at 11:51 PM (#4453346)
All of us here really like baseball, but we all have different preferences, and we all like it for different reasons.


Which is exactly why the status quo is the only option that makes sense. Both preferences are accommodated, rather than a single rule that provides only homogeneity and no other benefits.

   21. Cooper Nielson Posted: May 28, 2013 at 12:14 AM (#4453354)
Which is exactly why the status quo is the only option that makes sense.

Well, I don't think that's true either. There are more than two "preferences," after all, and they can't all be practically accommodated -- some fans would prefer having 8 batters, some would prefer adding a second DH for the SS/C, some might even prefer having 9 offensive and 9 defensive players.

I can understand abolishing the DH, or adding it to the NL, or keeping it the same. I just don't like someone else telling me I "don't really like baseball" because I might prefer one of those options to the others. There's no single correct way to enjoy baseball.
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: May 28, 2013 at 12:15 AM (#4453355)
There are more than two "preferences," after all, and they can't all be practically accommodated -- some fans would prefer having 8 batters, some would prefer adding a second DH for the SS/C, some might even prefer having 9 offensive and 9 defensive players.


Yeah, but those people don't really like baseball. {-:

But really, there are two main camps here. You've got your traditional, Vladdy types, who loathe the DH and all it stands for. And your Rays, who think watching a pitcher fail 7/8ths of the time is the very definition of pointlessness. There's no good reason to intentionally alienate one set of them just for the sake of sameness.
   23. Cooper Nielson Posted: May 28, 2013 at 12:45 AM (#4453367)
Yeah, but those people don't really like baseball. {-:

Heh. Nicely played. :)
   24. Sleepy supports unauthorized rambling Posted: May 28, 2013 at 01:25 AM (#4453373)
What would it take for a sport to introduce something as radical as the DH in today's climate?...is there anything else even remotely recent that would be considered a truly radical change?

Robot umpires, maybe? Composite bats? A major change in the rules for relief pitcher usage?
   25. Sunday silence Posted: May 28, 2013 at 01:39 AM (#4453375)
Does anyone know if pitcher's OPS+ has gone down over the years? That might be somewhat relevant to the discussion if his point is that it's getting worse. Or that pitchers just will never be able to do it any better than the crap level they are at now...

That suggests that the 'pitchers penalty' is more due to a lack of time at the plate rather than the stress of pitching and, again, works out to a figure in the 50's for OPS+.


YOu might want to elaborate on how you reached this conclusion from the Babe Ruth data. Even assuming that Babe Ruth is some sort of proxy for the average pitcher, I still dont get the reasoning.

Consider this. Most sports are based on either underhand or overhand motion. Example of underhand: golfing, batting, underhand throwing. Overhand: swimming, pitching, passing a football. To go from an overhand motion to an underhand motion is really quite a change, when you go from pitching to batting.

have you ever experienced that? It really is a totally unnatural feeling to swing a bat after you've thrown a couple of innings.
   26. STEAGLES is all out of bubblegum Posted: May 28, 2013 at 02:12 AM (#4453384)
is there anything else even remotely recent that would be considered a truly radical change?
after the lockout in the NHL in 2004, they removed the two line pass and added tag-up offsides.

there are now proposals for the NFL to get rid of kickoffs, which i think are pretty cool.
   27. Bug Selig Posted: May 28, 2013 at 07:27 AM (#4453410)
soccer outlawed the back pass around 1992


WTF is a back pass? Even in my limited exposure, I see them pass backwards all the time, so it can't be that simple.
   28. Dan Lee prefers good shortstops to great paintings Posted: May 28, 2013 at 07:34 AM (#4453411)
WTF is a back pass? Even in my limited exposure, I see them pass backwards all the time, so it can't be that simple.
They made it illegal for the goalkeeper to pick up passes from his* teammates. They can pass it back to him, but the keeper essentially becomes a field player for the few seconds he has the ball.

* - "his or her" is an awkward construction and I hate using it.
   29. bobm Posted: May 28, 2013 at 08:15 AM (#4453416)
[25] Does anyone know if pitcher's OPS+ has gone down over the years? 

For single team seasons, From 1916 to 2013, All Teams in National League, as P (within Defensive Positions), sorted by greatest Year for this split

                                         
I      G Year   PA  OPS BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
     720 2013 1622 .348  .225    -1   107
    2460 2012 5566 .330  .218    -7   101
    2459 2011 5612 .361  .222     2   102
    2459 2010 5693 .353  .228    -1   102
    2458 2009 5643 .355  .218    -3   103
    2443 2008 5580 .354  .224    -3   102
    2454 2007 5577 .366  .224    -3   100
    2453 2006 5684 .341  .205    -9   101
    2457 2005 5791 .372  .229     1   101
    2458 2004 5743 .367  .226    -2   103
    2454 2003 5748 .364  .218    -2   102
    2446 2002 5705 .374  .228     2   102
    2454 2001 5773 .361  .221    -3   101
    2461 2000 6030 .381  .229     0   102
    2445 1999 5987 .377  .230    -1   100
    2478 1998 6101 .373  .231     2   101
    2149 1997 5192 .354  .227    -4   102
    2246 1996 5451 .372  .231     2   100
    1998 1995 4850 .377  .232     3   100
    1597 1994 3939 .374  .234     1   100
    2261 1993 5552 .367  .221     2   100
    1932 1992 4718 .336  .203    -1   100
    1928 1991 4652 .346  .205     1    99
    1932 1990 4772 .342  .207    -2   100
    1935 1989 4883 .356  .208     6   100
I      G Year   PA  OPS BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
    1922 1988 4934 .330  .200    -1   101
    1926 1987 4905 .348  .211    -4   100
    1933 1986 4909 .348  .208     0   101
    1924 1985 4954 .355  .208     3   100
    1930 1984 5023 .362  .222     6   100
    1931 1983 5125 .361  .220     4   100
    1929 1982 5134 .375  .229     9   100
    1263 1981 3241 .377  .222    11   100
    1926 1980 5102 .390  .230    13   100
    1922 1979 5156 .375  .219     6   100
    1921 1978 5174 .370  .216     8   100
    1910 1977 5149 .403  .228    12   100
    1916 1976 5206 .373  .217    10   101
    1933 1975 5396 .378  .223    10   101
    1919 1974 5386 .412  .240    19   100
I   1921 1973 5411 .379  .221     9   100
I   1845 1972 5257 .370  .226     9   101
I   1912 1971 5413 .383  .227    13   104
    1930 1970 5572 .383  .224     7   102
    1930 1969 5523 .360  .223     5    96
I   1573 1968 4474 .339  .212     6    99
I   1578 1967 4473 .344  .215     2    98
I   1575 1966 4466 .385  .235    11   104
I   1584 1965 4505 .344  .209     1    98
I   1593 1964 4528 .335  .210    -1    89
I      G Year   PA  OPS BAbip tOPS+ sOPS+
I   1599 1963 4562 .335  .204     1    85
I   1613 1962 4660 .381  .221     7    96
    1231 1961 3580 .424  .234    17   106
    1229 1960 3609 .394  .229    12    97
I   1225 1959 3592 .369  .219     3    86
I   1209 1958 3520 .413  .236    14    97
I   1176 1957 3432 .402  .217    12    94
I   1134 1956 3225 .408  .217    14    85
I   1093 1955 3189 .470  .228    29   112
I   1103 1954 3340 .404  .197    10    97
I   1077 1953 3227 .432  .225    17    92
I   1019 1952 3046 .385  .206    10    90
I   1051 1951 3191 .410  .215    14    76
I   1009 1950 3170 .424  .222    16    84
I    898 1949 2792 .424  .221    18    88
I    664 1948 2052 .408  .217    15    79
I    777 1947 2405 .403  .216    11    90
I    608 1946 1842 .385  .209    13    92
I    610 1945 1951 .435  .214    25    99
   30. Foghorn Leghorn Posted: May 28, 2013 at 08:56 AM (#4453442)
Looks like it goes down as SP innings do and thus PAs.
   31. Jeltzandini Posted: May 28, 2013 at 12:30 PM (#4453651)
The next pitcher to lose his job because he can't hit will be the first pitcher to lose his job because he can't hit.


I sort of doubt this in the absolute. I bet at some point a replacementish pitcher who could hit some got a final roster spot over another replacementish pitcher who couldn't. Amend it to "The next good pitcher..." and it's true.

   32. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 28, 2013 at 12:38 PM (#4453657)
The current classic would be Rick Ankiel, but when he was still a pitcher he hit 207/258/310 over 96 PA for a 43 OPS+. When he returned as a hitter after 2+ full years in the minors he hit 245/306/433 for a 97 OPS+ so far.


Ankiel was 20 when he hit .207/.258/.310. I would guess that any 20-year-old who hit like that in the majors is probably a decent hitting prospect.
   33. Poster Nutbag Posted: May 28, 2013 at 12:59 PM (#4453681)
I'm pretty sure any NL starter who refuses to hit will lose his starting job.


So, NO NL pitcher has EVER been sent up to simply hold the bat and watch three strikes go by? Either by choice, manager's discretion, organizational philosophy (not every time, just ONCE)?


Not really outlawyering anyone....might want to keep that comment in your back pocket for a better occasion? ;-)

I think some folks just take the DH/No DH thing FAR to seriously, for my tastes. Odd comments chime in from both sides, frequently...wasn't there a post about the worst baseball conversations recently?

FWIW, doesn't Ankiel still hit like a pitcher???
   34. GuyM Posted: May 28, 2013 at 01:18 PM (#4453714)
Pitchers' hitting relative to that of position players has been declining fairly steadily since 1890. See the graph in Dan Fox's article. A reduction in PA is a contributing factor, but mainly this isn't about pitchers-as-hitters at all, whose talent remains fairly steadily. It reflects that fact that position players, and opposing pitchers, get steadily better over time. Consequently, we should expect pitchers' hitting performance to continue declining in the future.

   35. Swedish Chef Posted: May 28, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4453724)
They made it illegal for the goalkeeper to pick up passes from his* teammates.

Everybody was so sick of that time-wasting play that there was no opposition in an otherwise very conservative sport, no old-school fans protesting at all. Sure, some keepers unable to play with their feet may have tried to peep up.
   36. DanG Posted: May 28, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4453725)
Pitchers with a 100 OPS+ season this decade, minimum 20 PA:

Rk              Player BtWins OPSPA Year  Tm
1     Dontrelle Willis   0.29  174 34 2011 CIN
2            Dan Haren   0.26  136 57 2010 TOT
3      Yovani Gallardo   0.17  122 72 2010 MIL
4      Carlos Zambrano   0.15  130 48 2011 CHC
5            Zach Duke   0.11  148 23 2011 ARI
6           Mike Leake   0.07  107 60 2010 CIN
7           Tim Hudson   0.06  123 24 2013 ATL
8         Wade LeBlanc   0.05  117 26 2011 SDP
9    Stephen Strasburg   0.04  106 53 2012 WSN
10        Gio Gonzalez   0.03  116 21 2013 WSN
11         Matt Harvey   0.03  113 21 2012 NYM
12     Yovani Gallardo   0.01  111 22 2013 MIL 

Best hitting pitchers this decade, minimum 30 OPS+ and 60 PA

Rk              Player Rbat OPSRC  PA HR RBI   BA  OBP  SLG
1            Dan Haren   
-2   91 12  89  1   9 .293 .301 .415
2         Wade LeBlanc   
-4   61  7 104  0   2 .267 .290 .278
3           Mike Leake   
-5   69 21 222  2   9 .263 .293 .337
4       Chris Narveson   
-8   50 10 121  0  12 .238 .280 .267
5    Stephen Strasburg   
-8   36  8 108  1   8 .188 .220 .281
6        Daniel Hudson   
-8   54  9 126  1  21 .229 .268 .305
7      Carlos Zambrano   
-8   66 13 141  4  13 .246 .267 .354
8         Zack Greinke  
-10   37  8 115  2   5 .194 .223 .286
9           Derek Lowe  
-10   40  8 138  1  10 .174 .237 .275
10     Yovani Gallardo  
-12   67 23 247  8  26 .215 .249 .379 
   37. KT's Pot Arb Posted: May 28, 2013 at 01:43 PM (#4453758)
Screening those 3 years just misses Micah Owings, who played 2007-2012 and had 2 seasons over a 100 OPS+, 152, 110, and a 97. His career line of .283/.310/.502 is a 106 OPS+ and smokes Danny Haren.

He also had 9 HR in a career 205 ABs, a 22.7 AB/HR ratio that would rank him about 220th all time on that list, if he only had another 2,800 ABs.

Washington has him playing the outfield in AAA Syracuse this year, scuffling along at only .262/.312/.455/.767 in 145 ABs so far (5 HR). That line combined with his age (30) and defense (3 errors in 35 chances) don't bode well for his return to the majors in that role, though to be fair he seems to be one of the teams best hitters (Team OPS .702) in a low scoring environment (league OPS .725)
   38. DanG Posted: May 28, 2013 at 01:53 PM (#4453774)
just misses Micah Owings
Now at age 30, Micah is playing LF/DH for Syracuse, Washington's AAA team. Hitting 262/312/455 in 157 PA.

EDIT: Coupla Cokes to KT
   39. bobm Posted: May 28, 2013 at 11:06 PM (#4454250)

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