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Saturday, October 27, 2012

J.R. Gamble: MLB’s New Era: A Pitchers’ Paradise—Say goodbye to steroids and sluggers

As hip as finding crocheted slouchy berets on the Cake Shop hat rack.

In the past half decade, MLB hurlers have regained their Mojo, throwing us back to the pitching-rich seasons of Bullet Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax. The elimination of rampant steroid use is the biggest reason. Harsher penalties and public humiliation have been a major deterrent to PED use in baseball. In 2006, suspensions for a positive drug test, was increased from 10 to 50 games. The Bud Selig-commissioned Mitchell Report in ’07 exposed the epidemic, and damaged the reputations of baseball’s biggest stars. Some were even dragged in front of Congress and exposed as liars.

In the early 1990’s the effects of steroids and performance enhancers hit baseball like a tsunami. Like when crack hit the streets of Oaktown in the 80s. Player usage exploded after the MLB strike of 1994. Homeruns swelled to an average of 177 per game by 1996. That number dwarfed the 126 per game average during the last clean era of baseball­­—from 1978 to about 1990, when Hall of Famers like Dave Winfield, George Brett, Eddie Murray and Mike Schmidt put up “official” power numbers. 

The days of Klitschko brothers-looking, 60-homer–hitting droids are over. Just peep how the numbers have flipped since 2000, when nobody threw a no-hitter. This season pitchers were “making it rain” like Lil’ Wayne, racking up seven no-hitters and three perfect games. Cain, the starter in San Francisco’s Game 7 shutout, tossed one of those gems. Other dope pitching accomplishments included knuckleballer R.A. Dickey’s Mets- record 44 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run; and Tampa Rays closer Fernando Rodney setting the Major League record for the lowest ERA with at least 50 appearances (0.60). Rodney broke the record of 0.61 that was set by Dennis Eckersley in 1990.

...The “Pitcher’s Paradise” era is dominated by information and mathematical formulas designed to give managers, pitchers and catchers, an edge on every pitch. Old-school managers like Detroit’s Jim Leyland tend to go with their gut, and rely less on sabermetrics and dizzying numbers. The use of tracked information and studying statistical trends has also played a vital role in the rise of the pitcher. New-age managers like Joe Girardi, are constantly scouring their notes for a strategic advantage. Girardi’s binder holds info on a hitter’s strength and weaknesses and offers a script on how to get players out.

The future of baseball is a bright mix of skilled hitters and pitchers playing a high-stakes game of 60-feet 6 inch-chess. When a hitter is at his best, he’ll get his base knocks, but the pitcher remains the most influential position in a baseball game. If you love the science of pitching and softball scores just don’t sit right, flip on the TV tonight. Baseball’s “Pitcher’s Paradise”era will be on full display.

Repoz Posted: October 27, 2012 at 06:38 AM | 10 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

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   1. Bug Selig Posted: October 27, 2012 at 12:04 PM (#4284898)
Homeruns swelled to an average of 177 per game by 1996.


I guess I missed that.
   2. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: October 27, 2012 at 12:28 PM (#4284917)
the last clean era of baseball­­—from 1978 to about 1990,

What PED's were purged from the game after 1977? I guess I missed that too.
   3. Bug Selig Posted: October 27, 2012 at 02:09 PM (#4284967)
What PED's were purged from the game after 1977? I guess I missed that too.


Maybe adding the Mariners and Blue Jays made it too hard to get greenies over the border or something.

   4. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: October 27, 2012 at 03:17 PM (#4285020)
Other dope pitching accomplishments

Sounds more like this guy misses the 90s.
   5. cardsfanboy Posted: October 27, 2012 at 04:23 PM (#4285072)
In the early 1990’s the effects of steroids and performance enhancers hit baseball like a tsunami. Like when crack hit the streets of Oaktown in the 80s. Player usage exploded after the MLB strike of 1994. Homeruns swelled to an average of 177 per game by 1996. That number dwarfed the 126 per game average during the last clean era of baseball­­—from 1978 to about 1990, when Hall of Famers like Dave Winfield, George Brett, Eddie Murray and Mike Schmidt put up “official” power numbers.


Ignoring the Steroid comments, and assuming he meant per team not per game, that increase(percentage wise) is dwarfed by the changes from 1919(27 per team) to 1925 (73 per game) Heck even from 1967(115) to 1970 (143) is a pretty good jump.

Of course that 126 includes the 69 from the strike shortened 1981. (ignoring that year, the average was 131 per team) On top of that 1987 averaged 171 per team.
   6. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: October 27, 2012 at 04:35 PM (#4285088)
from 1919(27 per team) to 1925 (73 per game)

Heh, it's contagious.
   7. cardsfanboy Posted: October 27, 2012 at 05:05 PM (#4285125)
Heh, it's contagious.


Damnit. I actually made that mistake in the paragraph and cleaned it up, guess I missed one.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: October 27, 2012 at 06:05 PM (#4285189)
1989 NL: 946 Ks per team
1998 NL: 1091 K per team
2012 NL: 1238 K per team

There's never been a more exciting time to be a baseball fan!

1989 NL: 119 ISO
1998 NL: 148 ISO
2012 NL: 146 ISO

Well, at least we've gotten all that power out of the game. (In fairness, the peak NL season I think was 200 when ISO was 166)

1998 NL: 326/511 on-contact
2012 NL: 327/517 on-contact

You can explain the entire difference through higher K-rates. (Walk rates are also down 1%)
   9. Downtown Bookie Posted: October 27, 2012 at 06:14 PM (#4285195)
New-age managers like Joe Girardi, are constantly scouring their notes for a strategic advantage. Girardi’s binder holds info on a hitter’s strength and weaknesses and offers a script on how to get players out.


Binders = New-age

DB
   10. Walt Davis Posted: October 27, 2012 at 06:50 PM (#4285212)
1992: 304/445
1993: 318/482
1994: 327/508
1995: 326/505
1996: 327/508
1997: 328/512
1998: 326/511
1999: 332/532
2000: 330/536
2001: 328/534
2002: 322/510
2003: 324/516
2004: 326/526
2005: 324/512
2006: 331/535
2007: 330/525
2008: 327/519
2009: 327/516
2010: 326/510
2011: 322/498
2012: 327/517

The change begins in 93 and there's a clear spike from 99 to 01 and maybe 06-07 (but we had testing!). But in general those are remarkably consistent numbers. When a batter hits the ball in 2012, they are getting a slightly better average outcome than they did in 1998.

Changes are primarily due to changes in K-rate. The K-rate (K/PA) went from 15.4% in 1992 to 17.4% by 1995. During this period it seems batters are trading K for power. They bounced 17.0 to 17.4% through 2007 and there are those spike years where batters are hitting the ball hard but not (generally) striking out more to do it. In 2008 it jumped to 18% then 18.4% then 19.3%, held steady then 20.2% this year. This appears to be a much larger strike zone -- batters are hitting it as hard as they did before, they are hitting it less often. As I noted, the walk rate has dropped some too.

I suspect that if you looked at HR/FB rates you'd also find they were pretty steady during this period but I'm too lazy to check more than a few:

2012: 7.6%
2007: 7.7%
2002: 7.9%
1997: 8.1% (wouldn't have guessed that)
1992: 5.0%

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