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Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Dave Sheinin WaPo Velocity is strangling baseball

The 2018 season was the first in history in which strikeouts outpaced hits, a trend that has accelerated so far in 2019. The ball is in play less than ever, with a record 35.4 percent of plate appearances in 2019 resulting in a strikeout, walk or home run…..

Most, if not all, of this change can be traced back to the rising velocity of the fastball — the fundamental unit of pitching — from a leaguewide average of 89 mph in 2002, when FanGraphs first recorded data, to 92.9 mph so far this season. At the upper end of the spectrum, the shift is even more striking: In 2008, there were 196 pitches thrown at 100 mph or higher, according to Statcast data. In 2018, there were 1,320

I’m not sure if I agree at all with the conclusion that the absurd increase in TTO is solely in the hands of the pitchers—the hitters have been, shall we say, co-operative

Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: May 22, 2019 at 08:00 AM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: 100 mph, three true outcomes

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   1. Bote Man Posted: May 22, 2019 at 08:34 AM (#5844527)
the hitters have been, shall we say, co-operative

Of course, GMs have been building teams this way, as well.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 22, 2019 at 09:08 AM (#5844536)
Ugh, another velocity article that doesn't adjust for the change in measurement technology. Or at least doesn't tell you if they do or not.
   3. Ithaca2323 Posted: May 22, 2019 at 10:16 AM (#5844564)
I’m not sure if I agree at all with the conclusion that the absurd increase in TTO is solely in the hands of the pitchers—the hitters have been, shall we say, co-operative


I agree. Hasn't a big part of this been the realization that for hitters, strikeouts are essentially no worse than any other outs?
   4. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 22, 2019 at 11:19 AM (#5844593)
Except when they aren't, as with runners in scoring position and fewer than two outs.

Of course that never happens.
   5. . Posted: May 22, 2019 at 11:35 AM (#5844606)
Ugh, another velocity article that doesn't adjust for the change in measurement technology. Or at least doesn't tell you if they do or not.


Yeah, that continues to be very strange.
   6. Chris Fluit Posted: May 22, 2019 at 11:38 AM (#5844609)
Hasn't a big part of this been the realization that for hitters, strikeouts are essentially no worse than any other outs?
That comparison has always bothered me. Sure, a strikeout isn't considerably worse in the grand scheme of a game than a fly out or ground out but the real comparison should be between a strikeout and a ball in play, the latter of which has a chance of being something other than an out.
   7. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: May 22, 2019 at 01:47 PM (#5844660)
Hasn't a big part of this been the realization that for hitters, strikeouts are essentially no worse than any other outs?

Only retrospectively. But there's a limit to how much success you can have when you make contact, so strikeout rate puts a hard cap on overall production.

The "strikeouts don't matter, weak contact doesn't lead to more hits" crowd should be paying attention to Bellinger's drastically changed approach. His two-strike splits are particularly instructive: batting average through the roof with a big drop in total bases per hit, because he's shortening up and trading hard contact for more contact resulting in a slew of singles up the middle.
   8. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 22, 2019 at 03:53 PM (#5844713)
And Bellinger's OPS+ is almost double what it was last year, and 95 points higher than his 2017 ROY OPS+ of 143. Sounds like a very smart man.
   9. RMc accompanies the Griffmen to Augusta Posted: May 22, 2019 at 04:08 PM (#5844723)
I had to re-read the title before I realized "WaPo Velocity" wasn't the name of...something.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: May 22, 2019 at 07:33 PM (#5844774)
Ugh, another velocity article that doesn't adjust for the change in measurement technology. Or at least doesn't tell you if they do or not.

Agreed. But the issue is there in the raw data and it's the responsibility of the data providers to explain these issues to users (and ideally to provide their own adjusted numbers).

There are several such issues in the data. In 1998 and 1999, there were about 60,000 "ground balls" per year (b-r) with a BA around 235. For 2000-2002 there were only about 55,000 GBs and suddenly batters were hitting only about 170 on them. Then from 2003 on, we were back to about 60,000 GBs and a BA in the mid-230s. What the hell happened? A short-term change in data source? A short-term change in the definition of "ground ball" (say from "if it hit the gound before reaching the OF" to "if it hit the ground before reaching the IF dirt" then back)? Or was that a real (unbelievable) change?

Something similar happend to line drives. In 2009-12 (and earlier), there were about 24-25,000 LDs per year and batters hit over 700 on them. In 2013, there were 30,000 LDs but batters hit only 670. The shift? Seems unlikely given the number of HRs on LDs more than doubled in a single year. And if you add together LDs and FBs across those years, you get pretty stable results. In fact, HRs on "LDs" kept going up ... from 428 in 2012 to 981 in 2013 to 1,313 in 2014 (a low offense year) to 2,175 (!) in 2015 (on 34,000 LDs now) ... to 1,048 in 2017 and just 704 in 2018 (on 31,500 LDs).

At first that looks like a redefinition that shifts some "fliners" from the FB category to the LD category (resulting in a drop in BA for both FBs and LDs while maintaining BA across the sum of FB and LD). That might explain the 2012-2013 shift but how do we get such a massive explosion in then reduction in HRs on LDs. All while the number of LDs stays about the same.

I've never seen any explanation for those changes. Generally massive, instatantaneous shifts like that are shifts in methodology, not real changes. Maybe the traditional stat services started using statcast launch angle data to "check" their LD coding. Such unknown changes would make any analysis of GB tendencies, the importance of LD%, etc. very challenging.

Note, such changes in methodology might well be "good" in the sense that they provide a more accurate picture -- possibly lots of LDs were mis-coded as FBs and so it's good to correct that. But if you can't go back and correct it for past data, it causes these discontinuity issues. Weirdly, for over-time analyses, a higher but stable level of category error can be "better" than an improving but unstable level of category error. (Best is to provide some adjustment -- usually you can't re-categorize retrospectively so this is usually done through modelling, preferably by running both systems for a few periods of data collection.) A one-time discontinuity can often be handled pretty easily, it's that escalating HR rate that would make things really hard.

So I agree the shifts can't be laid "conclusively" on velocity because of this but at least we know what (some of) the changes in methodology were and when they happened so some adjustment is possible. As to batters vs. pitchers ... analogous to "follow the money" I suppose is "follow the runs." 1993-1994 saw a massive shift in on-contact production and scoring went up right along with it. Things stabilized through the height of sillyball then socring started to come down while Ks went up and on-contact production stayed pretty much the same through about 2012. Then the big drop in 2014 (including a drop in on-contact production) and the first half of 2015 ... then the Miracle of the 2015 All-Star Break occcurred and on-contact production took a massive jump sailing past even sillyball numbers (don't mention the ball!).

So Ks go up and runs go up -- that's probably the batters changing their approach (successfully). Ks go up while socring goes down -- that's probably the pitchers overpowering the hitters. The last few years ... I still suspect most of it is the ball but sure the batters are also changing their approach.

As to 'strikeouts no worse than any other out" ... as is pointed out every time, that's the wrong question to ask. Batters don't get to choose which PAs are outs or not. If there's a choice, they are choosing Ks over contact ... and ALL ELSE EQUAL, that would be a bad, bad, bad choice. The issue is that all else isn't equal. The tradeoff batters are making is Ks in exchange for creaming the ball when they do hit it. The discovery wasn't "strikeouts no worse than other outs" it was "better 150 Ks and 100 hard-hit balls than 80 Ks, 50 hard-hit balls and 120 weak-hit balls." The BA goes down but the ISO goes up ... and crooked number innings become more common (while probably 0 run innings become more common too ... has anybody looked at that?)

And of course the "launch angle revolution" (assuming it exists) which says "don't waste those 100 hard-hit balls on grounders."
   11. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 22, 2019 at 08:23 PM (#5844780)
The tradeoff batters are making is Ks in exchange for creaming the ball when they do hit it. The discovery wasn't "strikeouts no worse than other outs" it was "better 150 Ks and 100 hard-hit balls than 80 Ks, 50 hard-hit balls and 120 weak-hit balls."

You mean that's what the tradeoff batters are hoping for. That's their theory of hitting. But how can we assume that they're going to get 150 Ks and 100 hard-hit balls, rather than 150 Ks, 50 hard-hit balls and 50 dribblers, lazy flies or pop-ups? It's not as if the Chris Davises of the world don't make their share of weak contact.

Seems to me that the tradeoff works for some hitters a lot better than for others, and that those others might be better off trying Bellinger's approach with two strikes, rather than imagining they're Aaron Judge while in truth they're just Chris Davis.
   12. Cblau Posted: May 22, 2019 at 09:49 PM (#5844798)
The article says you can't tell pitchers not to throw so hard. Why not? The speed of all pitches is being measured. You could have a rule that says any pitch over 95 MPH (or whatever) is automatically a ball if not swung at.
   13. Bug Selig Posted: May 23, 2019 at 07:12 AM (#5844837)
Except when they aren't, as with runners in scoring position and fewer than two outs.
Or better, as with a runner on first and less than two outs.
   14. Hank Gillette Posted: May 23, 2019 at 01:58 PM (#5845008)
The article says you can't tell pitchers not to throw so hard. Why not? The speed of all pitches is being measured. You could have a rule that says any pitch over 95 MPH (or whatever) is automatically a ball if not swung at.
 


That would be a fun game. While we’re at it, why not rule that a ball hit over the fence is a run and an out?
   15. Jefferson Manship (Dan Lee) Posted: May 23, 2019 at 02:04 PM (#5845010)
Have we considered underhand pitching and allowing the batters to say where they'd like the ball to be pitched?
   16. AuntBea calls himself Sky Panther Posted: May 23, 2019 at 02:38 PM (#5845043)
That would be a fun game. While we’re at it, why not rule that a ball hit over the fence is a run and an out?
Seriously though, this would be a rule that changes the game in a lot of ways, almost all of them good. I like it.
   17. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 23, 2019 at 03:48 PM (#5845104)
The article says you can't tell pitchers not to throw so hard. Why not? The speed of all pitches is being measured. You could have a rule that says any pitch over 95 MPH (or whatever) is automatically a ball if not swung at.

That would be a fun game. While we’re at it, why not rule that a ball hit over the fence is a run and an out?

Or compromise and rule that over the fence is a ground rule single. Hell, that's what we did in high school with our 180' RF fence.

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