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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Keri: Slump City: Why Does the 2014 MLB Season Suddenly Feel Like 1968?

The first culprit is rising strikeout totals, as hitters have been whiffing more often than ever over the past few seasons. Through this many games in 2006, batters were striking out 18.7 percent of the time while netting a .265 batting average. That first figure has soared to 23.3 percent in 2014, an all-time high for this point in the season.

In an attempt to figure out why hitters are striking out more than ever, Grantland contributor Ben Lindbergh hosted a panel discussion on Baseball Prospectus’s Effectively Wild podcast with Fox Sports writer Rob Neyer, Brooks Baseball and Baseball Prospectus contributor Harry Pavlidis, former major league pitcher Brian Bannister, and physics professor/baseball researcher Dr. Alan Nathan. Each of the panelists had a somewhat different theory. Pavlidis noted the introduction of PITCHf/x to umpires’ training programs in 2009, a move he says prompted umpires to start calling a larger and more standardized strike zone. Pavlidis found that 57 percent of the pitches that hitters take now get called as strikes, compared to 50 percent right before PITCHf/x supplanted QuesTec for umpire reviews.

Nathan noted that pitchers are throwing harder than ever. Teams are drafting and developing bigger and stronger pitchers, and the net effect has been faster average pitch speeds, including more fastballs touching triple digits. According to ESPN Stats & Info research, the average velocity for all pitch types this season is 87.3 mph, while the average pitcher’s maximum pitch velocity is 94.1 mph. Compare that to April 2011, when those averages were 86.7 and 93.7, respectively. While those differences might seem negligible, Nathan pointed out that batters only have a fraction of a second to react to pitches. That means hitters’ muscle memory has been conditioned toward a certain pitch speed over thousands of repetitions, and even the slightest change can throw off their timing.

Bannister noted that PED testing has hurt hitter performance and thus offensive results, though that topic’s a bit of a puzzler, since more stringent testing would presumably affect pitcher PED usage rates as well, and thus possibly deaden overall pitch speeds. Lindbergh suggested that one of the mantras of the analytical age — that high-strikeout pitchers are highly desirable, but high-strikeout hitters aren’t necessarily a problem — could be affecting personnel decisions. Neyer, meanwhile, subscribed to an all-of-the-above theory, claiming that the rise in strikeouts has been somewhat organic.

...Trends don’t last forever in baseball. It took just one generation for the Year of the Pitcher to evolve into one of the highest-offense eras in the sport’s history, a shift brought on by everything from rule changes like lowering the mound, to more offense-friendly ballparks, to bats with thinner handles, to juiced balls, to juiced ball players. One way or another, the batting average decline will likely stop as well.

It might take a while, though. Even if the rising strikeout rates are organic and thus subject to leveling off, teams have discovered run prevention gold with shifts. Clubs like the Astros will probably shift even more as long as doing so yields results, and teams that almost never shift, like the Rockies, will likely start once they’re forced to acknowledge how well the tack is working for the competition. There are ways to beat the shift, like shooting for the opposite field or bunting, but we’ve yet to reach the tipping point where a power hitter who sees a lot of shifts, like David Ortiz, decides to sacrifice home runs for singles. We might not even be close.

This season probably won’t produce another ’68 Yaz situation. But the 73-year streak without a .400 hitter looks pretty damn safe, too.

Thanks to Butch.

Repoz Posted: April 23, 2014 at 08:43 PM | 52 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Dr. Vaux Posted: April 23, 2014 at 08:54 PM (#4692710)
Offensive levels are similar to what they were for most of the '80s. It's nothing like 1968. It's just all the strikeouts. I sure hope they don't over react and really screw things up.
   2. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 23, 2014 at 08:58 PM (#4692712)
Best guess: pitchers are throwing fewer pitches per outing now. Relievers are typically going 0-1 innings, or about 15 pitches. Starters are going 5-6+ innings, or about 100-110 pitches. With fewer pitches per outing the pitchers -- especially relievers -- can load up more. Relievers now are insane in their K percentage (making the continuing obsession with "closers" beyond silly as now more than ever before more and more relievers are good and thus can do the job). This means that teams down by 3 runs in the late innings are finished, at least more than ever before.

No, it's not steroids testing. When hitters make contact they are hitting just as many home runs.
   3. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 23, 2014 at 09:18 PM (#4692726)
My guess is that the MLB office is perfectly content with run scoring being down for now and for a few years yet, and fears doing anything to increase run scoring for dread of "Are Steroids Coming Back Into the Game?" columns resulting. So I expect no change to be made to decrease strikeouts until leaguewide revenue noticeably drops (and make no mistake, when it does the media will attribute the drop to too many strikeouts).

There must be a physical limit to how often hitters can strike out under the current ruleset (the ball can only be thrown so hard, the bat can only be swung so hard), and I think we must be approaching it.
   4. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 23, 2014 at 09:33 PM (#4692744)
what is the percentage of hits to strikeouts across mlb?

used to be hits outweighed strikeouts plenty, even around year 2000

but it's just plummeted. might be almost even by now

I don't think that lack of action is good for the game.
   5. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: April 23, 2014 at 09:53 PM (#4692779)
Offensive levels are similar to what they were for most of the '80s. It's nothing like 1968. It's just all the strikeouts. I sure hope they don't over react and really screw things up.


Yeah, I'm OK with the level of overall offense, but like Harvey says, there should be more balls in play. Throw some groundballs, Nuke, strikeouts are fascist.
   6. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 23, 2014 at 10:00 PM (#4692790)
According to ESPN Stats & Info research, the average velocity for all pitch types this season is 87.3 mph, while the average pitcher’s maximum pitch velocity is 94.1 mph.

Christ, if they ever got a time machine and could put those 1968 AL hitters in there today, they'd hit about .178. There may not have been half a dozen pitchers in the entire league back then who could crank it up to 94.1.
   7. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 23, 2014 at 10:03 PM (#4692798)
IF there is really an increase in pitcher injuries (I have no idea), I'd look to see whether pitchers throwing harder is a factor

Teams basically just manufacture relievers now to go as hard as they can for as long as they can, and when the reliever breaks they cast him aside and take the next one off the assembly line.
   8. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: April 23, 2014 at 10:04 PM (#4692799)
I think the reasons for this decrease in offense are numerous - one additional factor, I believe, is that defensive analytics are catching up to offensive analytics in their usefulness. Defensive shifts are one example, as are some of the personnel decisions being made.

Should we expect to see stolen base attempts on the rise?
   9. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 23, 2014 at 10:12 PM (#4692810)
I think the reasons for this decrease in offense are numerous - one additional factor, I believe, is that defensive analytics are catching up to offensive analytics in their usefulness. Defensive shifts are one example, as are some of the personnel decisions being made.


But isn't offense basically the same on balls in play?

And as strikeouts increase the utility of defensive efficiency decreases.
   10. Textbook Editor Posted: April 23, 2014 at 10:36 PM (#4692836)
I'm going to phrase all this badly, but here's my theory:

Everyone suggests bunting against the shift, but I think the problem is that most players simply cannot start bunting like crazy because for at least 15+ years now bunting (especially in the AL) simply wasn't used that much... and most current players can't execute a bunt to a specific part of the field.

Can they get down a bunt anywhere, to advance a runner to 2nd and stay out of the DP? Maybe. Usually. Perhaps. But can they aim a bunt specifically at the space where the 3B was before they shifted over? Not likely.

Personally, I hate the bunt, but we're now at a point where bunting is just not a part of the skill set of most players (again, especially in the AL), and so I would suspect that if shifting keeps growing as a strategy--and I am sure that it will--it will take something like 10 years for players to filter up through systems who can once again bunt effectively when required, and at that point players will bunt successfully against shifts, shifting will diminish, etc., etc. until the balance gets thrown off again and 20-30 years from now teams go back to shifting out the wazoo because bunting has again gone out of style/become an ineffective tool again, etc.

It'll be an interesting 10 years, especially because the data teams will be getting in the next couple of years will likely vastly improve shifting techniques. What will be interesting to see is if the .295-.305 BABIP average for most seasons starts to move down even further.
   11. Walt Davis Posted: April 23, 2014 at 10:42 PM (#4692841)
Strikeouts are primarily up because the called strike zone is much bigger.

teams have discovered run prevention gold with shifts.

Please stop with this nonsense. It makes a difference of a few runs a year.

There are ways to beat the shift, like shooting for the opposite field or bunting, but we’ve yet to reach the tipping point where a power hitter who sees a lot of shifts, like David Ortiz, decides to sacrifice home runs for singles.

No, the way you "beat" the shift is by hitting fly balls.

For his career, Ortiz makes contact 68% of the time (in-play and HR). This has actually gone up in the last few years as his K-rate has declined substantially while everybody else is going up. So let's work with the more recent number which is around 73%.

During this time he has had a G/F ratio of .66. That translates into a GB on 40% of his contact plays. .40 * .73 = .292 so call it 30% of all Ortiz PAs result in a GB. (Note FBs includes LDs).

For his career, Ortiz has a 201 BABIP on GBs. So, Ortiz would get a ground ball hit on 20% of the 30% of his PAs that result in a GB or 6% of the time. Suppose the shift dropped his BA on GB to 150 ... we're reduce his overall GB hit hrate to 4.5% of the time. Note, that is a very big effect on BABIP.

Say Ortiz gets 650 PA in a year. He would have had 39 GB hits and now he would have 29. At the very most, you've taken 10 singles away from Ortiz and turned them into outs -- about 8 runs off his Rbat.

There's one MASSIVE ####### PROBLEM with that hypothetical however ...

as I mentioned, Ortiz has a career BABIP of 201 on GB. Here it is for 2011-13:

2011 207
2012 200
2013 230

Oops. Over the last three years he has had 98 ground ball hits, including 5 doubles on 458 GB, about 7-8 more than we would have expected based on his career numbers. Are they stealing doubles? No, of course not. Ortiz's career ISO on GB is 011, exactly the same as his ISO the last three years.

So, one wonders, where is the evidence that the shift has cost Ortiz a single hit?

Have the shifts magically affected his FB production? No. On FBs, Ortiz 2011-13 has been the spitting image of Ortiz 2005-7 and way, way ahead of his career numbers (man did he suck early in his career).*

Have the shifts affected his LD production? This might almost make sense with the 2B in short right or the SS up the middle for LDs. It's possible there is a small effect -- his BA looks a bit lower (maybe 20 points) and SLG might be down 100 points. But 20 points of BA on 70 LDs a year is 1-2 hits; 100 points of SLG is pretty big but it seems to mainly be in HR.

As I've shown in other threads, there has been no decline in overall league production on GB. There has been a reduction in LHB production on pulled balls, some of it is BABIP but a lot of it is lower HR rate and there's no reason to think the shift has anything to do with that. But this has been balanced by increases production on balls up the middle and an _increase_ in the rate of pulling the ball. That's right, if anything, batters are pulling the ball more in response to the shift -- because production on pulled balls is way higher than on ones hit the opposite way. If the finer detail of data has enlightened teams to the benefits of shifting defensively it has also enlightened teams to the benefits of pulling the ball.

AL 2013
pull RHB 401/716
cen RHB 297/432
opp RHB 302/444
pull LHB 377/707
cen LHB 313/456
opp LHB 299/425

Why in the hell would you want to hit the opposite way to "defeat" a shift when the AVERAGE AL batter hits about 390/712 when they pull the ball? Please stop saying that the way to beat the shift is to hit it the other way.

The corresponding numbers for AL 2007:

pull RHB 448/786
cen RHB 285/414
opp RHB 295/415
pull LHB 406/737
cen LHB 303/446
opp LHB 340/478

So yes, big drops in pull production for 2013 vs 2007, for both RHB and LHB. Opp production has stayed about the same but up the middle production is up a bit (about 10 points of BA, a bit more in SLG).

Now let's look at proportions of BIP (by RH/LH) by type (2013 then 2007):

pull RHB 28.1% 26.7%
cen RHB 54.8% 56.3%
opp RHB 17.1% 17.0%
pull LHB 28.6% 26.8%
cen LHB 54.0% 56.3%
opp LHB 17.4% 16.9%

So they've traded a few balls up the middle for pulled balls. (And that could all be a measurement issue too.)

Those are tiny effects. But the thing is ... increase BA up the middle by 10 points and shift a few up-the-middle balls to the (now lower production) pulled category actually more than compensates for the 30 point drop in pulled BA.

So ... the way to defeat the shift is to ... not do a damned thing different. Sure, if you can start hitting the opposite way to the tune of, ohhh, 500 you might break even on hitting 390/710 when you pull the ball. But even Tony F'ing Gwynn only hit 427/528 to the opposite field and, if they're shifting on you, you ain't Tony F'ing Gwynn.

In conclusion, while it's obvious that if a particular batter pulls most of his ground balls, you shift against him (unless maybe it screws up your double play chances), it's also obvious that it does not have a big effect much less Keri's ridiculous claim that this is "run prevention gold." You'll save more runs having a non-embarrassing 8th starter than you will by shifting. (Granted, the latter is a lot easier to achieve and at no financial cost than the former.)

Note, something funny happened to LD numbers in 2013. AL LD% went from 19 to 23 from 2012 to 2013 while BA on LD went from 720 to 680. Pretty clearly either the definition or the measurement changed in 2013 so be very careful in analyzing recent trends in LDs.

* You want an amazing fact. From 2000-2002 in Minnesota, Ortiz hit ZERO doubles and zero triples on 354 fly balls. His first year in Boston he hit 17 doubles and 1 triple in 171 fly balls and has maintained that kind of production. That, ladies and gents, looks like a park effect.

Green Monster? At least in part you'd think ... going the other way in Minn, he had 15 doubles, 1 triple and 1 HR in 227 hit the other way; his first 3 years in Boston he had 28 doubles and 9 HR in 225 hit the other way. The jump in BA is probably not as big as it seems (he was historically awful in 2001) but the SLG increases by about 180 points. Still, it's only about 14 more XB per year (20-25 points of overall SLG) and I don't have H/R breakdowns.
   12. OsunaSakata Posted: April 23, 2014 at 10:51 PM (#4692852)
This means that teams down by 3 runs in the late innings are finished, at least more than ever before.


On the day when three teams, down by 3 runs or more in the 7th inning or later, came back to win.
   13. BDC Posted: April 23, 2014 at 11:02 PM (#4692858)
I reckon with an extreme shift on pitchers try to hit the inside of the plate, not too high. I know they succeed only vaguely at this, but within a general range, they're throwing balls hard to bunt to the opposite side, making it doubly inadvisable.
   14. tshipman Posted: April 24, 2014 at 12:31 AM (#4692895)
Teams basically just manufacture relievers now to go as hard as they can for as long as they can, and when the reliever breaks they cast him aside and take the next one off the assembly line.


I agree with Ray here. It seems like every guy out of the pen throws 95 now. Even ten years ago, a team might have ONE guy who threw that hard. Now it seems like more than half the bullpen arms (especially righties) throw really hard. It's like one guy got cloned across baseball, and he's a tall righthander who throws a 95 mile an hour two-seamer and a slider.
   15. tshipman Posted: April 24, 2014 at 12:53 AM (#4692904)
For his career, Ortiz has a 201 BABIP on GBs. So, Ortiz would get a ground ball hit on 20% of the 30% of his PAs that result in a GB or 6% of the time. Suppose the shift dropped his BA on GB to 150 ... we're reduce his overall GB hit hrate to 4.5% of the time. Note, that is a very big effect on BABIP.

Say Ortiz gets 650 PA in a year. He would have had 39 GB hits and now he would have 29. At the very most, you've taken 10 singles away from Ortiz and turned them into outs -- about 8 runs off his Rbat.

There's one MASSIVE ####### PROBLEM with that hypothetical however ...

as I mentioned, Ortiz has a career BABIP of 201 on GB. Here it is for 2011-13:

2011 207
2012 200
2013 230

Oops. Over the last three years he has had 98 ground ball hits, including 5 doubles on 458 GB, about 7-8 more than we would have expected based on his career numbers. Are they stealing doubles? No, of course not. Ortiz's career ISO on GB is 011, exactly the same as his ISO the last three years.


Walt, isn't the problem with this analysis that it ignores that you don't shift anyone when there are runners on?

Ortiz for his career has a BABIP of .326 with runners on vs. .282 with the bases empty, or a delta of .044
Ortiz in 2013 had a BABIP of .351 with runners on vs. .290 with the bases empty, or a delta of .062.

Ortiz hits better when he doesn't face the shift. Isn't that at least partial evidence that the shift works?
   16. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: April 24, 2014 at 02:16 AM (#4692915)
But the 73-year streak without a .400 hitter looks pretty damn safe, too.


Wait, what? I was just told that Utley was going to hit .400 this year.
   17. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: April 24, 2014 at 06:01 AM (#4692924)
As a Tigers fan, I sure hope it's 1968 again!
   18. Jorge Luis Bourjos (Walewander) Posted: April 24, 2014 at 07:32 AM (#4692930)

Agreed, RMc. And, as a Tigers fan myself, I'm interested to hear more about these "great bullpens" everyone's talking about...
   19. TRBMB Posted: April 24, 2014 at 08:17 AM (#4692943)
'Teams are drafting and developing bigger and stronger pitchers' One exception. Cashman, who prefers to execute his talent and draft and develop no skill and no capability. 17 years of it.
   20. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: April 24, 2014 at 08:58 AM (#4692968)
* You want an amazing fact. From 2000-2002 in Minnesota, Ortiz hit ZERO doubles and zero triples on 354 fly balls. His first year in Boston he hit 17 doubles and 1 triple in 171 fly balls and has maintained that kind of production. That, ladies and gents, looks like a park effect.


Well, and that we have a good deal of evidence the Twins were trying to make him a slap hitter instead of letting him be David friggin Ortiz. Also, is Fenway really that great for a left handed slugger? I'd wager he gets home runs and doubles/singles from the Monster when he goes opposite field, and the Pesky Pole probably adds a couple home runs that would just be doubles or outs in other fields, but the power alley in Fenway is not very conducive to big home run totals, and center field isn't for anyone.

Ortiz Home/Away splits for 2011-2013
2011: 1.024 home OPS, .874 away
2012: 1.169 home OPS(!), .868 away, (only 90 total game)
2013: .931 home OPS, .981 away

So I guess he is helped somewhat by Fenway, though I don't know if it's much more than the average player.

I could just be misreading your comment, Walt, in that the Metrodome was much harder to hit in than Fenway for Ortiz, but even then it doesn't hold up perfectly.

Ortiz Home/Away splits for 2000-2002
2000: .879 home OPS, .726 away
2001: .710 home OPS, .890 away (only 90 total games)
2002: .808 home OPS, .864 away

He didn't get 500 PA in any of those seasons total, so there's a lot of noise in the splits, but it doesn't seem to me that he was that badly hurt by playing at the Hump to the point where Park Effect is the biggest factor in his change from a 1 WAR ballplayer to one of the best hitters in baseball.

Here's a really weird factoid about Ortiz's 2000 season. He had an 1.137 OPS vs. Lefties... and only a .734 OPS vs. righties. His platoon split was way more normal in 2001 and 2002, so it's almost certainly just a small sample size fluke, but that's still pretty crazy.
   21. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: April 24, 2014 at 09:34 AM (#4693011)
Ortiz has been very clear on the matter and it's supportive of the team's recent history that the club did not WANT Ortiz hitting fly balls. he was to hit line drives or ground balls or some such.

I think drawing any conclusions from ortiz' data set in Minnesota has to be tempered knowing the fact above. so immediately suggesting that a park effect was in place to me has a very high risk of being a flawed interpretation.

david Ortiz was NOT tom Kelley's kind of player

not at ALL
   22. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: April 24, 2014 at 09:46 AM (#4693023)
The strikeouts are really starting to annoy me. I don't know if there's a solution, but seeing 7, 8, 9 strikeouts a game per team is getting tedious.
   23. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: April 24, 2014 at 10:04 AM (#4693044)
Tighter strike zone would cut down strikeouts but increase walks. Walks are even wise than strikeouts.
   24. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: April 24, 2014 at 10:56 AM (#4693101)
I wonder if there's a way to mess with the ball to make it break a little less. Maybe flatten the laces? Don't the majors and minors already use balls with slightly different laces? Just spitballing...(no pun intended)
   25. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 24, 2014 at 10:58 AM (#4693102)
(making the continuing obsession with "closers" beyond silly as now more than ever before more and more relievers are good and thus can do the job)


Hear, hear. Even the supposed poster guy for "the ninth inning is DIFFERENT," LaTroy Hawkins himself, is 6 for 6 in saves for Colorado. Small sample size, sure, but how is that not even getting pointed out?
   26. Tricky Dick Posted: April 24, 2014 at 11:00 AM (#4693107)
Note, something funny happened to LD numbers in 2013. AL LD% went from 19 to 23 from 2012 to 2013 while BA on LD went from 720 to 680. Pretty clearly either the definition or the measurement changed in 2013 so be very careful in analyzing recent trends in LDs.

I think the shifts are designed to produce outs on line drives as much as groundballs. The Red Sox reliever, Badenhop, said something to the effect that the teams are trying to put the infielders in front of line drives, because that is where the least reaction time is available. So, it's possible that the shifts are affecting batting averages on line drives.
   27. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: April 24, 2014 at 11:19 AM (#4693130)
   28. Dan Posted: April 24, 2014 at 11:21 AM (#4693134)
as I mentioned, Ortiz has a career BABIP of 201 on GB. Here it is for 2011-13:

2011 207
2012 200
2013 230

Oops. Over the last three years he has had 98 ground ball hits, including 5 doubles on 458 GB, about 7-8 more than we would have expected based on his career numbers. Are they stealing doubles? No, of course not. Ortiz's career ISO on GB is 011, exactly the same as his ISO the last three years.


Teams have been shifting on David Ortiz for a lot longer than 3 years. That .201 career BABIP on grounders already includes a vast number of PA where he was hitting into the shift. He's not the type of hitter that is being affected by the new trend – teams have been routinely over shifting on lefty power hitters like Ortiz for well over a decade at least.

The recent change has been teams shifting against righty power hitters and shifting against guys who aren't necessarily considered big boppers (both left and right handed). If you want to do this kind of analysis you need to find a player who has gone from rarely (if ever) facing defensive shifts to frequently facing them over the past few seasons.
   29. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 24, 2014 at 11:24 AM (#4693136)
Re the shifts, the interesting thing is that overall the rate of singles as a percentage of contacted balls hasn't changed much in the shift era, nor has BABIP:

Year   1B/con    1B/PA    BABIP
2013   21.98
%    15.38%    .300
2012   21.69
%    15.17%    .300
2011   21.66
%    15.34%    .298
2010   21.82
%    15.41%    .300
2009   21.78
%    15.49%    .302 


Doubles and triples have decreased, though, so maybe the outfield shifts are having an effect.
   30. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: April 24, 2014 at 11:27 AM (#4693138)
what is the percentage of hits to strikeouts across mlb?

used to be hits outweighed strikeouts plenty, even around year 2000

but it's just plummeted. might be almost even by now

I was curious about Harvey's question from last night so I checked. This is hits per strikeout, for this year and last, and every even-numbered year back to 1960:

2014 1.06
2013 1.15
2012 1.15
2010 1.24
2008 1.34
2006 1.42
2004 1.40
2002 1.38
2000 1.44
1998 1.39
1996 1.44
1994 1.50
1992 1.55
1990 1.54
1988 1.55
1986 1.49
1984 1.66
1982 1.77
1980 1.89
1978 1.82
1976 1.79
1974 1.74
1972 1.47
1970 1.50
1968 1.34
1966 1.45
1964 1.44
1962 1.62
1960 1.67 


The hit:K ration didn't drop below 2:1 until 1956, and now there does seem to be a real possibility that we'll see 1:1 within a couple of years.
   31. DL from MN Posted: April 24, 2014 at 11:29 AM (#4693139)
David Ortiz also hit in Metrodome with a short RF and huge LF. Then he moved to Fenway with a short LF and larger RF. Some of is HAS to be park effects.
   32. Fernigal McGunnigle has become a merry hat Posted: April 24, 2014 at 11:31 AM (#4693142)
Doubles and triples have decreased, though, so maybe the outfield shifts are having an effect.

It's possible that the infield shift is doing some or all this. With the middle infielders shifted way over, the first/third baseman hugs the line and takes away the double down the line. Batters poke enough balls the other way to keep the singles the same, but ground balls pulled hard down the line turn into outs.

This is the sort of thing that someone willing to sift through some raw data should be able to ascertain without too much difficulty.
   33. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 24, 2014 at 11:33 AM (#4693145)
teams have been routinely over shifting on lefty power hitters like Ortiz


The former journalism major/current lawyer/occasional pedant in me gets bothered by the use of the term "over shifting" in this context. It implies that the shift is excessive and is used by people like Harold Reynolds who just don't like it. It's not an "over shift," it's just a shift. If it doesn't work and a lot of grounders get through the left side, then yes, it's an "over shift." But that doesn't seem to be the case based on the data.

P.S. While we're at it, "overexaggerating" isn't a thing, people of the United States.
   34. Rob_Wood Posted: April 24, 2014 at 11:37 AM (#4693147)

please don't mention harold reynolds before I have eaten breakfast
   35. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: April 24, 2014 at 11:40 AM (#4693151)
please don't mention harold reynolds before I have eaten breakfast


Why not? Seems like it would be best to have an empty stomach.
   36. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: April 24, 2014 at 12:31 PM (#4693194)
I wonder if there's a way to mess with the ball to make it break a little less. Maybe flatten the laces? Don't the majors and minors already use balls with slightly different laces? Just spitballing...(no pun intended)


Yeah. I think major league pitchers routinely get to use major league baseballs when they're on rehab assignments in the minors.
   37. The Clarence Thomas of BBTF (scott) Posted: April 24, 2014 at 01:38 PM (#4693255)
David Ortiz also hit in Metrodome with a short RF and huge LF. Then he moved to Fenway with a short LF and larger RF. Some of is HAS to be park effects.


Absolutely. I just don't really think it's the biggest factor in the change of Ortiz 2001-2002 to Ortiz 2003-2004 and beyond.
   38. tfbg9 Posted: April 24, 2014 at 02:19 PM (#4693297)
Absolutely. I just don't really think it's the biggest factor in the change of Ortiz 2001-2002 to Ortiz 2003-2004 and beyond.


LOL! Probably, you say? Perchance, was the biggest factor Bootlicking Bolshevik Bud looking the other way, at the urging of his crony George "Mr. Integrity" Mitchell, as Big Poopy injected countless gallons of illegal steroids? LOL!


/YR
   39. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: April 24, 2014 at 02:26 PM (#4693304)
Oh I think they could be counted.
   40. odds are meatwad is drunk Posted: April 24, 2014 at 02:50 PM (#4693340)
Why do they use different balls? Seems like they would want them to be used to using it.
   41. Ron J2 Posted: April 24, 2014 at 03:16 PM (#4693378)
#40 I think it's basically, MLB gets the "best" (which also happen to be livelier than average) balls. I don't think the balls used by MLB are made differently, they just get the best of the batch.
   42. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 24, 2014 at 03:30 PM (#4693399)
Here's the effect of the 15-pitch relievers. The below chart shows strikeout rates in 2012 by inning relative to the overall strikeout rate, where 100 is average, just like OPS+ or ERA+:

1 95
2 105
3 98
4 88
5 96
6 92
7 103
8 111
9 116 


Almost 80% of relief outings are now 1 inning or less. It's the relievers that are the biggest drivers of the higher K rates.
   43. Brian Posted: April 24, 2014 at 03:49 PM (#4693414)
That means hitters’ muscle memory has been conditioned toward a certain pitch speed over thousands of repetitions, and even the slightest change can throw off their timing.


This makes no sense at all. The average fastball may have been 93.7 before but if you were conditioned to only hit that speed you'd be flipping burgers for a living prettty quickly. Hitters obviously need to adjust from pitch-to-pitch.
   44. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 24, 2014 at 03:51 PM (#4693419)
Post 30 is a fascinating chart.

If you calculated an "Excitement Index" equal to:

Balls in Play - HRs + stolen base attempts + triples + outs at third trying to extend to a triple + sliding doubles - standing doubles

... you'd probably be down 30-40 percent from 30 years ago.
   45. The Id of SugarBear Blanks Posted: April 24, 2014 at 03:53 PM (#4693423)
This makes no sense at all. The average fastball may have been 93.7 before but if you were conditioned to only hit that speed you'd be flipping burgers for a living prettty quickly. Hitters obviously need to adjust from pitch-to-pitch.

Yep. It's harder to hit when the pitchers pitch at a wide variety of speeds than when they all throw the same speed, even if that same speed is faster.
   46. Robinson Cano Plate Like Home Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:17 AM (#4693761)
#44. Err... - HR? Fewer homers, more exciting?
   47. PreservedFish Posted: April 25, 2014 at 12:36 AM (#4693765)
If you calculated an "Excitement Index" equal to:

Balls in Play - HRs + stolen base attempts + triples + outs at third trying to extend to a triple + sliding doubles - standing doubles


Pancake Flops has finally been trumped.
   48. tshipman Posted: April 25, 2014 at 01:30 AM (#4693781)
Teams have been shifting on David Ortiz for a lot longer than 3 years. That .201 career BABIP on grounders already includes a vast number of PA where he was hitting into the shift. He's not the type of hitter that is being affected by the new trend – teams have been routinely over shifting on lefty power hitters like Ortiz for well over a decade at least.

The recent change has been teams shifting against righty power hitters and shifting against guys who aren't necessarily considered big boppers (both left and right handed). If you want to do this kind of analysis you need to find a player who has gone from rarely (if ever) facing defensive shifts to frequently facing them over the past few seasons.


Shouldn't we then look at RH power hitters and their performance in the last two years with runners on vs. bases empty, then compare to career averages?

You just do a dragnet and find all RH hitters with ISO greater than .175 or so, and figure it out, yeah?
   49. Ray (RDP) Posted: April 28, 2014 at 03:36 PM (#4696024)
I think it was noted earlier that the base hit is becoming less and less frequent. And on cue:

"Starting pitchers had a historic day Sunday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a record 10 pitchers -- one-third of all of Sunday's starters -- threw at least seven innings while allowing three or fewer hits."
   50. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: April 28, 2014 at 03:54 PM (#4696037)
The real bummer about 1968 wasn't the lack of offense, it was the complete absence of any sort of a pennant race, but I doubt if that'll be a problem this time. A 3 to 1 game between two also-ran teams is only marginally less of a waste of an evening than an 8 to 6 game, whereas a game like last night's was exciting in spite of the lack of runs.
   51. cardsfanboy Posted: April 28, 2014 at 04:24 PM (#4696059)
"Starting pitchers had a historic day Sunday. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a record 10 pitchers -- one-third of all of Sunday's starters -- threw at least seven innings while allowing three or fewer hits."


For the year so far, this has happened 51 times, that is more times than it happened in 1925(50 times) The record for the number of times this has happened in a season is 359 all the way back to 2013...
Rk Year #Matching

1     2013       359
                    
2     2010       313
                    
3     2012       307
                    
4     2011       299
                    
5     2002       283
                    
6     1988       274
                    
7     1915       272
                    
8     2009       269
                    
9     1991       264
                    
10    2001       262
                    
11    2005       259
12    2003       259
                    
13    1993       256
                    
14    2008       254
                    
15    1972       253
                    
16    2004       250
17    1989       250
                    
18    2006       248
                    
19    1990       247
                    
20    1998       246
21    1963       246

...................
100   2014        51
101   1925        50 


Obviously more teams etc.....but still surprised to see 1915 so high up on that list.
   52. Willie Mayspedester Posted: April 28, 2014 at 04:45 PM (#4696074)
1 2013 359
100 2014 51


The Cingrani effect...

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