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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Joey Gallo, Josh Donaldson are the hitters of the modern era | SI.com

Embracing Ted Williams.

Update: Read this. Great piece by Tom Verducci.

Jim Furtado Posted: March 28, 2018 at 03:50 PM | 49 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: batting

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   1. Baldrick Posted: March 28, 2018 at 05:15 PM (#5644529)
Great article. But thoroughly depressing stuff. It's really neat that people are able to maximize hitting potential, and have developed such sophisticated techniques for measuring the process. But it's made the game significantly worse in the process.

I wish I had a solution.
   2. eric Posted: March 28, 2018 at 05:57 PM (#5644554)
I agree that the game seems a little less balanced now. From the article...

The revolution also has scrubbed much nuance out of the game. One out of every 2.98 plate appearances last year ended in a home run, strikeout or walk—none of which require defense—the highest such rate ever. Stolen base attempts were at their lowest rate in half a century. Sacrifice bunts dropped to an all-time low for the third season in a row. Strikeouts were at a record high for the 10th straight year. Singles reached an all-time low (63.7% of hits).


Now, I always feel like I'm watching a softball game with all the guys constantly swinging for the fences and all the extra base hits.

And get off my lawn.
   3. I Am Not a Number Posted: March 28, 2018 at 06:19 PM (#5644568)
One out of every 2.98 plate appearances last year ended in a home run, strikeout or walk—none of which require defense

Ironically, at the very time that defense is valued more highly than ever before.
   4. bfan Posted: March 28, 2018 at 06:25 PM (#5644572)
Ironically, at the very time that defense is valued more highly than ever before.


I think that is because people think they can measure defensive skill better now, so instead of guessing, for example, that Eric Hosmer is good defensively, they know. (I used him as an example because it appears, at least for some players like Eric Hosmer, we still really have no clue on the defensive side).
   5. Walt Davis Posted: March 28, 2018 at 06:45 PM (#5644582)
Solid article, some minor issues. But we really do have to get away from comparing with 2014. It was really quite the outlier and I think the only season in the last 25 when we saw a substantial drop in on-contact production. The shift is pretty massive compared to non-outlier years as it is, no reason to make it seem "way out of control" by comping to the worse offensive era of the las 25 years.

What we have seen mostly is singles replaced by HRs. Hits, doubles and HRs from 2013 to 2017

2013 42093, 8322, 4661
2014 41595, 8136, 4186
2015 42106, 8242, 4909
2016 42276, 8254, 5610
2017 42215, 8397, 6105

Give or take some doubles here, some triples there, those nearly 2000 extra HRs relative to 2014 replaced singles. Also picked up by the BA going 253, 251, 254, 255, 255.

Still, not to spoil all the doom and gloom, even this massive change is less than one single per game becoming a HR. The contact rate is down about 2% or about 1.6 PAs per game. The jump in K-rates equates to about 1.3 per game. That's per game not per team-game.

The trends of course aren't overly promising if you like the contact game. I don't know where things will settle. We saw big changes in both 93 and 94 but then hitter performance pretty much stabilized and eventually pitchers made some adjustments and starting K'iing more batters.
   6. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: March 28, 2018 at 07:29 PM (#5644604)
Did I miss it or was there no reference to possible changes to the ball? I get that the article is focused on hitting approach but it's disingenuous to point to the stats about slugging percentage and HRs being up and not at least mention that as another potential factor.
   7. Cowboy Popup Posted: March 28, 2018 at 07:46 PM (#5644612)
I wish I had a solution.

I haven't put any thought into this and I'm sure other people on the site have had the conversation before but...make the parks bigger? It would reduce the value of hitting flyballs and play up the value of pitching to contact and speed on offense and defense in the outfield.
   8. SoSH U at work Posted: March 28, 2018 at 07:50 PM (#5644614)
I haven't put any thought into this and I'm sure other people on the site have had the conversation before but...make the parks bigger? It would reduce the value of hitting flyballs and play up the value of pitching to contact and speed on offense and defense in the outfield.


It would help some, but I think you'd still see players swinging at max effort, as 2B and 3B would become more plentiful.

I've said before that a combination of bigger bat handles, larger outfields and smaller distances between the bases would go the longest way to increasing the value of putting the ball in play vs. swinging and missing (and the corresponding benefits that come with swinging from the heels).

   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 28, 2018 at 07:51 PM (#5644616)
I've said before that a combination of bigger bat handles, larger outfields and smaller distances between the bases would go the longest way to increasing the value of putting the ball in play vs. swinging and missing (and the corresponding benefits that come with swinging from the heels).

Why not deaden the ball instead? Take 25 feet off the average FB distance, and you won't have middle IFs swinging for the fences anymore.

I'd really hate to mess with 90 foot bases.
   10. SoSH U at work Posted: March 28, 2018 at 07:56 PM (#5644618)
Why not deaden the ball instead? I'd really hate to mess with 90 foot bases.


Because deadening the ball doesn't increase the value gap between putting the ball in play and swinging and missing (the byproduct of swinging from the heels on every pass), which I think is truly the key. Reducing the distance between the bases* is the only thing I can think of that truly makes simply putting the ball in play more valuable than it is now. Infielders would have to come in, which would increase the rate of singles both through and over the infield (errors would also go up a skosh). And, of course, it would likely lead to more aggressive baserunning.

* Which, for the record, I would only touch after trying other things. I just don't think those other things are going to do the trick.

   11. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 28, 2018 at 08:03 PM (#5644621)
Because deadening the ball doesn't increase the value gap between putting the ball in play and swinging and missing (the byproduct of swinging from the heels on every pass), which I think is truly the key.

If you reduce the likelihood of a HR or double on a fly ball, you reduce the incentive to swing for the fences and loft the ball. That will achieve the same result.

Ideally, I'd like to return to a world where only the strongest sluggers can hit an opposite field HR. Your Stanton and Judge types. A typical middle IF should only have pull HRs.
   12. AT-AT at bat@AT&T Posted: March 28, 2018 at 08:04 PM (#5644623)
Friggin' nerds !
   13. Sunday silence Posted: March 28, 2018 at 08:14 PM (#5644628)
I agree with what snapper said. I have no idea why you'd go to these drastic measures of decreasing the distance between bases and this strange and unique Bill James idea of thicker bat handles...

its simplest method is to deaden the ball some and lower the mounds. so you would decrease KOs and decrease HRs. Both of these solutions have been used in the past so its not as if you're messing with anything traditional or giving people a reason to argue that new records arent legit because they were set in a different environment.

I get that you can say well Judge hit 40 HRs in 2020 but that's comparable to the 59 he hit in 2017 cause the ball was deader. Sure those arguments will exist. But I'd hate to have to explain how much a thicker handle has changed batting averages and HRs.

***

I dont know if it was mentioned in the article but another really interesting stat is that % of runs scored on HRs which is now I think at 39% which is like a 9 or 10% increase from just a few years ago. I was counting this for playoffs and I think the last 3 years its closer to 50% which is kindof ridiculous.
   14. PreservedFish Posted: March 28, 2018 at 08:22 PM (#5644630)
Ironically, at the very time that defense is valued more highly than ever before.


It seems to me that defense is more highly valued in the outfield, particularly in the corners, and somewhat less highly valued in the infield, particularly at shortstop and second base.

But mostly now evaluators have a holistic view of value. When I grew up there was a fairly dysfunctional view out there that you had some guys that gave you defense, and some guys that gave you offense (and a rare lucky few that gave you both). So if a LF could hit 25 HRs, he was good to go, because he was an offense guy, and you need some offense guys. And if your shortstop hit .220, you lived with it, because he was your defense guy at the right position. Now teams actually realize that a run is a run is a run and it doesn't matter what shape contributions come in.
   15. SoSH U at work Posted: March 28, 2018 at 08:25 PM (#5644632)
If you reduce the likelihood of a HR or double on a fly ball, you reduce the incentive to swing for the fences and loft the ball. That will achieve the same result.


I don't think so. I don't see how a deadened ball makes a single more likely. It just reduces offense across the board. You'd still be best served swinging as hard as you could, because hard contact would still be the best path.

I have no idea why you'd go to these drastic measures of decreasing the distance between bases


I explained why. I think it's the only thing that would truly work. I'm all for trying the deadened ball trick. I just think it's not going to produce the desired result.
   16. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: March 28, 2018 at 08:45 PM (#5644639)
I don't think so. I don't see how a deadened ball makes a single more likely. It just reduces offense across the board. You'd still be best served swinging as hard as you could, because hard contact would still be the best path.

No. It reduces the value of a FB. Non-HR FBs have a very low BABIP. If Javier Baez can only hit 5 HRs instead of 20+, he can't support the 25%+ K-rate, and will have to change his approach. He'll put more balls in play, and therefore get more hits.
   17. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: March 28, 2018 at 09:04 PM (#5644646)
I explained why. I think it's the only thing that would truly work. I'm all for trying the deadened ball trick. I just think it's not going to produce the desired result.


what exactly is the desired result? more "action" via balls in play? for most casual fans strikouts and homeruns are much more exciting than a ground ball into the hole where the vacated SS is covering 2B on a hit and run.

the nuances of the game just aren't that exciting for most people and the "desired result" for you isn't at all the "desired result" for MLB or most fans.
   18. Traderdave Posted: March 28, 2018 at 09:06 PM (#5644647)
Getting rid of the DH would help as well.
   19. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: March 28, 2018 at 09:10 PM (#5644649)
Getting rid of the DH would help as well.


why not just go to 8 fielders? mandate you can only play two outfielders?

this is solution in search of a problem right now.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: March 28, 2018 at 09:14 PM (#5644651)
what exactly is the desired result? more "action" via balls in play?


Yes. I'm speaking about the desired result of the people on this thread (and this site), and how best to achieve that aim. I can't speak to whether the casual fan prefers this continued push toward more TTO in the game, but that's decidedly not the preference on this site.

If MLB determines that the bulk of its fans really do like fewer balls in play, then it's got nothing to worry about.

No. It reduces the value of a FB. Non-HR FBs have a very low BABIP.


I think it reduces the value of everything (balls that would have gotten through the infield no longer do). And I'm guessing that a ball that would have been a home run if not for the deadened ball becomes a double or triple much more often than simply looking at non-HR FBs BA rates.

As I said, I'm open to trying it first. I just don't think it would truly work to the necessary degree adjusting the distance would.
   21. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: March 28, 2018 at 09:17 PM (#5644653)
Yes. I'm speaking about the desired result of the people on this thread (and this site), and how best to achieve that aim. I can't speak to whether the casual fan prefers this continued push toward more TTO in the game, but that's decidedly not the preference on this site.


well, ok, as long as we know it's just rosterbation. this is a good place for that. carry on.
   22. McCoy Posted: March 28, 2018 at 09:26 PM (#5644655)
Smaller gloves, bigger fences, batters boxes further from the plate, and the mound lower. Start there, adjust accordingly.
   23. Ziggy's screen name Posted: March 28, 2018 at 10:46 PM (#5644673)
Balls over the wall (any wall) are foul. Only Billy Hamilton types get to hit HRs.
   24. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 29, 2018 at 12:32 AM (#5644688)
Move the pitcher's rubber back five more feet.
   25. Tubbs is Bobby Grich when he flys off the handle Posted: March 29, 2018 at 08:51 AM (#5644723)
Prior to 2015, a hitter reaching the 40 home run plateau without driving in 100 runs was a rare occurrence--only being completed sixteen times by thirteen different sluggers. Gallo became the ninth player since 2015 to finish a season with 40 or more home runs and fewer than 100 RBI. What made Gallo's season more unique is he set the lowest RBI total at 80 for a slugger reaching 40 (Gallo finished with 41). His 41st HR was also his 80th RBI, otherwise he'd have finished with 40 HR & 79 RBI.
   26. BDC Posted: March 29, 2018 at 09:32 AM (#5644742)
What made Gallo's season more unique is he set the lowest RBI total at 80 for a slugger reaching 40

As I've noted before, that was somewhat less about Gallo than about the guys batting in front of him so much of the season, Mike Napoli and Rougned Odor – neither of whom did much except strike out and hit home runs. So it's still a problem of three-true-outcome baseball (or in Napoli and Odor's cases, two-true-outcome). The problem was compounded by having several guys of the same type in the lineup.

Gallo's starting 2018 batting second. I don't know that that's a recipe for many RBIs either, as he's batting behind Ryan Rua and Delino DeShields. But at least he might score a lot of runs both by driving himself in and walking in front of Andrus, Beltre, and Mazara. I don't see what's wrong with batting Gallo cleanup like any other top HR hitter, but then I'm not a genius manager :)
   27. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: March 29, 2018 at 09:47 AM (#5644751)
balls that would have gotten through the infield no longer do


Balls also take a bit longer to get to infielders, which increases the probability of IF hits and makes DPs harder to turn, which increases the value of IF defense.

I think people may be misremembering a bygone era when a bunch of players couldn't hit the ball hard for an era when a bunch of guys didn't try to hit the ball hard. Chicken Stanley couldn't hit a HR from second base. That didn't make the game better in the 70s.

And what's wrong with turning HRs into 2Bs and 3Bs? Triples are usually pretty exciting plays.
   28. SoSH U at work Posted: March 29, 2018 at 10:18 AM (#5644769)


And what's wrong with turning HRs into 2Bs and 3Bs? Triples are usually pretty exciting plays.


Nothing, if that were the only outcome (and triples are always exciting plays). My fear is that the shift wouldn't do anything to halt the Kificiation of the game.

I think people may be misremembering a bygone era when a bunch of players couldn't hit the ball hard for an era when a bunch of guys didn't try to hit the ball hard.


I think people are mistaking the current record-strikeout era as being entirely on the pitcher, which it most certainly is not.
   29. Brian Posted: March 29, 2018 at 10:51 AM (#5644797)
You can not mess with the basepath lengths. A reasonably fast runner going full tilt on an average ground ball is out by 2 steps when the ball is fielded cleanly. That is one of the most beautifully balanced things in life, let alone sports.
   30. Booey Posted: March 29, 2018 at 11:05 AM (#5644812)
You can not mess with the basepath lengths. A reasonably fast runner going full tilt on an average ground ball is out by 2 steps when the ball is fielded cleanly.


Hmmm...that's an interesting thought. Would a fast, high contact hitter (say, Altuve or prime Ichiro) be able to hit .400 with such a change?
   31. SoSH U at work Posted: March 29, 2018 at 11:34 AM (#5644847)
29.

You stll have them witj 87-foot basepaths. They just require the infielder to be closer to home when he fields the ball.
   32. PreservedFish Posted: March 29, 2018 at 11:44 AM (#5644861)
29. Brian Posted: March 29, 2018 at 10:51 AM (#5644797)
You can not mess with the basepath lengths. A reasonably fast runner going full tilt on an average ground ball is out by 2 steps when the ball is fielded cleanly. That is one of the most beautifully balanced things in life, let alone sports.


To expand on what SOSH U said, that there is an extraordinary unimpeachable balance at 90 feet is a total illusion. The infielders choose where to stand. If the basepaths were 100 feet they would stand further back, and if they were 80 feet they would stand further in, and either way, a reasonably fast runner going full tilt on an "average" ground ball will still be out by 2 steps. The fielders put themselves in a position to make that out-by-2-steps throw on purpose. They could stand closer, and get the guy out by 4 steps on the same ball, but they don't need that cushion, and it would reduce their range. They could stand further back, and increase their range, but they'd lose that 2-step cushion.

What balls are "average" would change, of course, but in a totally natural way.

That's not to say that there wouldn't be any effect, of course, but the beautiful balance would be preserved.
   33. bfan Posted: March 29, 2018 at 12:19 PM (#5644911)
Move the mound back 2.5 feet. It would reduce strike-outs substantially because of the extra time players would have to see the ball.

Walks would drop too. Many walks start with (or at least include) balls a player takes because he just cannot handle the pitch, and it just turns out to be a ball (the hitter is not taking the pitch as a matter of tactic-he just cannot hit and if he is lucky, it will be a ball and not a strike).

As an added safety feature, you would give pitchers more time to react to line-drives.
   34. PreservedFish Posted: March 29, 2018 at 04:04 PM (#5645209)
Walks would drop too. Many walks start with (or at least include) balls a player takes because he just cannot handle the pitch, and it just turns out to be a ball (the hitter is not taking the pitch as a matter of tactic-he just cannot hit and if he is lucky, it will be a ball and not a strike).


You're waaaaay overthinking this. Pitchers would throw more balls because targets that are far away are tougher to hit than targets that are close. More balls equals more walks. Hitters that have a better read on the pitch will take more balls because hitters try not to swing at balls. More balls equals more walks.
   35. DL from MN Posted: March 29, 2018 at 05:30 PM (#5645263)
You're waaaaay overthinking this. Pitchers would throw more balls because targets that are far away are tougher to hit than targets that are close. More balls equals more walks. Hitters that have a better read on the pitch will take more balls because hitters try not to swing at balls. More balls equals more walks.


Exactly. The catcher sits about 2.5 feet behind the plate. There are many balls that hit the corner now and are caught 6 inches off the plate. All of those balls would be 6 inches off the plate now instead. The slider would be nearly impossible to locate.
   36. DL from MN Posted: March 29, 2018 at 05:32 PM (#5645264)
I think making the ball half an ounce heavier (the current specs allow 5 - 5.25 ounces) up that to 5.5 ounces.
   37. SoSH U at work Posted: March 29, 2018 at 05:39 PM (#5645266)

I think making the ball half an ounce heavier (the current specs allow 5 - 5.25 ounces) up that to 5.5 ounces.



I wonder what that would do to pitcher health.

Moving the mound back 2.5 feet would definitely result in fewer strikeouts. But offense would be through the roof.
   38. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 29, 2018 at 06:18 PM (#5645281)
Moving the mound back 2.5 feet would definitely result in fewer strikeouts.
Nah, all the pitchers would just adopt the Carter Capps delivery and we're right back where we started.
   39. ReggieThomasLives Posted: March 30, 2018 at 03:28 AM (#5645421)
Bringing in a relief pitcher in middle of inn8ng is automatic walk.
   40. Endless Trash Posted: March 30, 2018 at 04:01 AM (#5645422)
The solution was mentioned in the article. Pitchers are throwing more high fastballs which are harder to hit with this kind of swing. The game will always have these sorts of adjustments on both aides
You don't need to change any rules.
   41. bunyon Posted: March 30, 2018 at 07:22 AM (#5645429)
THey also need to call that high fastball. Yes I know, bigger strike zone = more K. But only until hitters adjust. All the solutions presented will have an ugly adjustment phase. But a bigger zone will force batters to swing at balls they can’t drive. Guys sitting on a perfect pitch to swing for the fences will strikeout more until they adjust or are benched for guys who can hit a wider variety of pitches.

On my way to work so haven’t RTFA but does it address shifts? If Joey Gallo could go the other way at all he could double every at bat. That would be worth a lot even before realizing it would eventually stop teams from shifting so much and get him more hits with his natural approach.
   42. Endless Trash Posted: March 30, 2018 at 10:53 AM (#5645542)
It discussed shifts as the reason why players started swinging this way. They had too hard a time trying to "beat the shift" and usually only got a single out if it anyway, so they figured out it was better to just hit it over the shift.
   43. SandyRiver Posted: March 30, 2018 at 11:19 AM (#5645584)
That's not to say that there wouldn't be any effect, of course, but the beautiful balance would be preserved.


For infielders it's a definite "maybe" - I'd prefer not messing with one of the few aspects of the game that's been unchanged since almost forever and has worked well. For pitchers/catchers trying to limit SB success, shortening a definite loser. For the hypothetical 87-ft basepath, that 3-ft shorting helps the runner a lot more than does the 4.4-ft for the catcher.
   44. SoSH U at work Posted: March 30, 2018 at 11:28 AM (#5645602)
For pitchers/catchers trying to limit SB success, shortening a definite loser. For the hypothetical 87-ft basepath, that 3-ft shorting helps the runner a lot more than does the 4.4-ft for the catcher.


Absolutely. Then again, that's most definitely a feature, not a bug.

As I've said, this would be a last-resort type of move, because of the history you mention. But, I've yet to see any other suggestion that I truly believe will significantly alter things as much as this (even though I'd be willing to trot a lot of them out first).

I'm just highly skeptical that the other solutions would incentivize contact enough to move away from the high K game, a development not brought about by the ever-changing ebb and flow of the game, but a fundamental change in the way batters are being taught to hit.

   45. Sunday silence Posted: March 30, 2018 at 12:57 PM (#5645729)
I'm just highly skeptical that the other solutions would incentivize contact enough


can you explain to me why deadening the ball and lowering the pitchers mound would not work to lower Ks and HRs?

This seems perfectly obvious to me, I dont know why you seem blind to that.
   46. bunyon Posted: March 30, 2018 at 01:03 PM (#5645741)
It only lowers the K rate if hitters change their approach. But in most discussions people think, bizarrely, that that isn’t possible.
   47. SoSH U at work Posted: March 30, 2018 at 01:27 PM (#5645768)
can you explain to me why deadening the ball and lowering the pitchers mound would not work to lower Ks and HRs?


Deadening the ball would undoubtedly lower the HR rate. Lowering the mound should work to lower the K rate (though I'm not sure it wouldn't offset the gains from the deadened ball, and it could come with additional negative consequences).

But as I've already explained, and as bunyon noted, I'm not sure we would reach the desired balance without a change in approach in hitting. I might be wrong about that, and you're obviously free to disagree, but I have stated my case pretty clearly.

It isn't just about reducing homers. It's about incentivizing contact. Neither of your suggestions, IMO, do that.
   48. BDC Posted: March 30, 2018 at 01:31 PM (#5645772)
It only lowers the K rate if hitters change their approach. But in most discussions people think, bizarrely, that that isn’t possible

It's less perhaps that the same hitters will change their approach as that different hitters would flourish, and younger players coming up would learn different approaches. I don't think you could retrain Chris Davis at this point, but you could have more Wally Joyners than Chris Davises in future.
   49. SoSH U at work Posted: March 30, 2018 at 01:36 PM (#5645778)
It's less perhaps that the same hitters will change their approach as that different hitters would flourish, and younger players coming up would learn different approaches. I don't think you could retrain Chris Davis at this point, but you could have more Wally Joyners than Chris Davises in future.


Yes, a large part of it would be the type of player teams would be selecting for.

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