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Monday, May 12, 2014

Moura: Contact could help Trout measurably

Abbott: “Contact.” Costello: “CONTACT!”

As recently as 2003, Mike Trout’s whiff rate right now would qualify as a record-breaking pace.

The Angels center fielder has 42 strikeouts in 35 games entering play Sunday, a 194-strikeout pace over a full season. Until Adam Dunn whiffed 195 times in 2004, Bobby Bonds’ 189 strikeouts in 1970 held baseball’s long-standing record.

Now, though, Trout’s strikeout pace would only tie for 15th-most all-time. That’s because the 15 individual seasons featuring the most strikeouts in MLB history have all occurred in the last decade, and the five seasons with the most whiffs have all occurred in the past five years.

Hitters are clearly striking out much more than they used to, and sabermetrics can help us determine what that means.

First, it’s important to note why strikeouts are bad, which is fairly simple. Outs are generally the worst possible outcome in a plate appearance, and every strikeout is a guaranteed out, barring a rare dropped third strike. Every ball that is hit into play has a reasonable chance of not being an out.

Some balls in play have higher probabilities of not being outs than others — line drives are better at resulting in hits than grounders and grounders are better than flies — but putting the ball into play is the only way to get a hit. (Other than by hitting a home run, which is not considered in play.)

For the vast majority of major-league hitters, between 25 and 35 percent of all balls hit into play will fall for hits. And that’s where the strikeouts come in. For every 10 additional strikeouts a regular player amasses in a full season, he is giving up something like six points on his batting average.

Ignoring walks, imagine a typical major-league hitter with, say, 500 at-bats and 15 homers in a full season. If that hitter struck out 100 times, a little better than the major-league average rate, his expected batting average would be .261.

But if he struck out only 50 times, his expected batting average would rise to .291. If he struck out 150 times, it’d be .231.

It’s rarely so simple, but Trout’s recent slump is a product of batting average on balls in play naturally normalizing. Over the season’s first month, the 22-year-old’s high strikeout totals were getting disguised as 42 percent of his balls in play were falling for hits.

Repoz Posted: May 12, 2014 at 07:34 AM | 105 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics

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   1. CraigK Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:05 AM (#4704749)
"Sure, this 'Mona Lisa' is pretty good, but is there anything you can do about the nose?"
   2. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:18 AM (#4704751)
"Listen, Gretz, you'd probably be better if you scored more goals."
   3. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:20 AM (#4704753)
Small sample size, but it IS a weird skyrocketing of Trout's strikeout totals. Not something you really expect from one of the best hitters in the world at age 22.
   4. boteman Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:42 AM (#4704762)
“We’ll have a lot of patience with him,” said the manager. “He’s our cleanup hitter. We’re not going to send him to Triple-A. He’s arguable our best hitter, our most productive hitter.

“We need to be patience because when he gets hot, he’ll get very hot. If you’re not patient, you miss out on that”.

“He’s had a period or two like this in his career”.
   5. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:44 AM (#4704764)
"Marilyn, you have the looks but it would help if you knew some magic tricks"
   6. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:47 AM (#4704765)
"Jesus, the water into wine thing was pretty good but if you could climate control the fields where we work, now we have something'
   7. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:47 AM (#4704767)
"Listen, Twain, this is a pretty good story, but if you ask me, it needs more swashbuckling."
   8. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:54 AM (#4704772)
"I am sure that relativity stuff is really fascinating but maybe you could help streamline the patent review process, ok einstein?"
   9. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:03 AM (#4704783)
"You know we love you Willie but the hat flying off thing has got to go"
   10. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:09 AM (#4704790)
Hitters are clearly striking out much more than they used to, and sabermetrics can help us determine what that means.

Actually, according to sabermetrics, pitchers are striking guys out more. It's an important difference. You have to identify the correct problem to address, before addressing it.
   11. AROM Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:23 AM (#4704808)
Actually, according to sabermetrics, pitchers are striking guys out more.


The strikeout rate jump is almost certainly the result of changing approaches/usage patterns by both hitters and pitchers. You can't ignore the strike zone called by the umps, and the catcher efforts to frame those pitches either.

But you certainly cannot absolve the hitters. If batters came into MLB with the approach of Nori Aoki, then strikeouts would be greatly reduced.
   12. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:31 AM (#4704819)
arom

so do you think contact oriented hitters will start to get more play?

i know that one of the appeals of gennett to brewers management is his contact rate. same wiht the signing of overbay.
   13. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:33 AM (#4704823)
Small sample size, but it IS a weird skyrocketing of Trout's strikeout totals. Not something you really expect from one of the best hitters in the world at age 22.
Joe Mauer is the other one that's perplexing. K-rate (percent of PAs ending in a K):

2010: 9.1%
2011: 11.4%
2012: 13.7%
2013: 17.5%
2014: 21.0%
   14. AROM Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:41 AM (#4704833)
so do you think contact oriented hitters will start to get more play?


Hard to say. The trade-off is you get more power and higher walk rates when you accept strikeouts as part of the package. Teams will continue to accept higher strikeout totals as long as the total package of the ballplayer puts runs on the scoreboard.
   15. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:47 AM (#4704842)
Teams will continue to accept higher strikeout totals as long as the total package of the ballplayer puts runs on the scoreboard.

but scoring is decreasing. it's so obvious even the most oblivious teams have to recognize that offense is reduced across mlb

just curious.

it would be kind of amusing in a twisted way if the guys that this community finds least appealing (the juan pierre types) suddently become the desired skill set of mlb teams
   16. SoCalDemon Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:50 AM (#4704844)
Re 13: I think Mauer is much more explicable. He's a 31 year old (former) catcher. It makes me sad to see him get old, but it really should in no way be surprising. But what's happening with Trout this year seems genuinely weird. He's 22 years old; after his big BB% boost last year, I really thought there were no weaknesses left in his game. He shouldn't have to worry about aging for at least another 6 or 7 years. And the increase in his strikeouts, in one year (assuming this keeps up, but strikeout rates do stabilize fairly quickly), is much greater than Mauer's.
   17. Randy Jones Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:52 AM (#4704846)
but scoring is decreasing. it's so obvious even the most oblivious teams have to recognize that offense is reduced across mlb

Replacing high-K hitters with high contact hitters who just ground out all the time and have no power is not going to increase scoring.
   18. SoCalDemon Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:53 AM (#4704847)
On, the other hand, he does still have a 147 OPS+ and is still on track for a 10 WAR season, so it wouldn't take much for him to have a decent season.
   19. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:55 AM (#4704849)
#17--
Replacing high-K hitters with high contact hitters who just ground out all the time and have no power is not going to increase scoring.


The Royals are doing everything they can to prove you wrong this year!
   20. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:55 AM (#4704850)
If MLB decides scoring needs to increase and strikeouts need to decrease, lowering the mound is the obvious way to accomplish that. Perhaps combined with making fielding gloves smaller.
   21. AROM Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:56 AM (#4704851)
Non-pitchers are striking out a bit more than last year, 22.3%, up from 21.5%

For pitchers hitting though, strikeouts are down. Last year it was 42.5%, this year it's 41.6%. Could just be a fluke.
   22. AROM Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:04 AM (#4704862)
it would be kind of amusing in a twisted way if the guys that this community finds least appealing (the juan pierre types) suddently become the desired skill set of mlb teams


I'd be fine with that, I prefer watching that game instead of every batter going to 3-2 every time up and the result being a true outcome. I don't think it will happen unless fences are moved back or the ball becomes less lively, reducing homeruns.

One problem for the offense is that a lineup of Pierre types doesn't run the pitch count. A good portion of the offense that remains in the game happens when the starters are tired or the weaker relievers come into the game. Resolve your ABs early and you never get to that point.
   23. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:07 AM (#4704864)
arom

then maybe the mark graces/john olduds are the hybrid model that satisfies everyone

work the count, put the ball in play, generate offense
   24. Greg K Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:11 AM (#4704869)
If MLB decides scoring needs to increase and strikeouts need to decrease, lowering the mound is the obvious way to accomplish that. Perhaps combined with making fielding gloves smaller.

The other day the thought occurred to me that MLB might do something stupid in reaction to all this shifting. Like fielding restrictions of some kind. God that would be a nightmare.
   25. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:13 AM (#4704871)
i am loathe to have baseball tinker with mound height. i have concern that pitchers will try to compensate leading to more frequent arm/shoulder/elbow injuries
   26. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:19 AM (#4704878)
I'm getting really tired of seeing 9 or 10 Ks per team per game, and starters leaving in the 6th inning because they're already at 110 pitches. It's the worst of both worlds -- low scoring games that take forever because of lengthy ABs and the endless parade of relievers.
   27. Jeltzandini Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:34 AM (#4704895)
MLB fielding is awesome and fun to watch. Don't mess with it.
   28. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:52 AM (#4704909)
I'm getting really tired of seeing 9 or 10 Ks per team per game, and starters leaving in the 6th inning because they're already at 110 pitches. It's the worst of both worlds -- low scoring games that take forever because of lengthy ABs and the endless parade of relievers.


The radical solution if you think this is a problem consists of: juicing the ball a little; thickening the bat handles; moving the box a few inches back off the plate; calling an armpits-to-knees strike zone; and--this is the really radical part--moving the mound back a few feet.

Basically you want to do everything possible to encourage hitters to swing the bat. Thus we want to make it easier for pitchers to throw strikes, but harder for them to get swing-and-misses.

Another option would be to flatten the seams a bit, which would reduce movement and increase hard contact. Combining that with a deader ball would, I suppose, result in fewer home runs but more singles, doubles and triples. (You could probably also accomplish this by cracking down on doctoring the ball, which as has been discussed at great length lately, nearly all--or literally all--major league pitchers do.)
   29. Greg K Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:57 AM (#4704913)
The radical solution if you think this is a problem consists of: juicing the ball a little; thickening the bat handles; moving the box a few inches back off the plate; calling an armpits-to-knees strike zone; and--this is the really radical part--moving the mound back a few feet.

More radical solutions:
4 Strikes and you're out
Mexican rules - a strike taken at any time is automatically a strikeout
   30. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:58 AM (#4704917)
Yes, those are dramatically more radical solutions than what I proposed.

The overall effect of what I proposed--the specific things in my post might or might not accomplish it, but this is the goal--is to reproduce the high-scoring, low-strikeout baseball of the Babe Ruth Era.

One unhelpful side effect of moving the mound back (you know, other than the "every pitcher alive has to re-learn how to pitch" part) would be that it would put even more of a premium on pitchers throwing as hard as they possibly can pitch after pitch. We probably should look for ways to move in the OTHER direction, of pitchers not having to throw in the 90s all the time to survive.
   31. SoCalDemon Posted: May 12, 2014 at 10:59 AM (#4704919)
Re 22: Also, Juan Pierre is not good. Maybe Ichiro types should be the ideal of that type?
   32. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:03 AM (#4704926)
The strikeout rate jump is almost certainly the result of changing approaches/usage patterns by both hitters and pitchers. You can't ignore the strike zone called by the umps, and the catcher efforts to frame those pitches either.

But you certainly cannot absolve the hitters. If batters came into MLB with the approach of Nori Aoki, then strikeouts would be greatly reduced.

But TTO take and rake has been the predominant approach for hitters for the past 20 years. The recent uptick in K's is all on the other side of the ball.
   33. Greg K Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:04 AM (#4704928)
#30

I certainly didn't mean my suggestions were on par with yours (or serious for that matter).

Thickening bat handles and moving the batters box back seem like reasonable and possibly effective ideas to me if it's done gradually (a la Bill James' essay in the Historical Abstract)
   34. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:14 AM (#4704939)
I'd be fine with that, I prefer watching that game instead of every batter going to 3-2 every time up and the result being a true outcome. I don't think it will happen unless fences are moved back or the ball becomes less lively, reducing homeruns.


Agree with this. I love a nice home run but fast guys putting the ball in play with lots of exciting defense and daring base running is awfully fun. I feel like we are in a more 80s style era which was my teenage years so of course I believe that to be the best era. The thing that worked then is you had differing styles working. The problem with the 90s/00s was it felt like every team just stood back and waited for the long ball. It's probably the right strategy but it is not the most aesthetically pleasing to me.
   35. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:14 AM (#4704940)
I like the idea of lowering the seams. That seems like the least risky change for pitchers' health, and cutting down a little on the movement of sliders, curveballs, and cutters could have a big impact.
   36. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:20 AM (#4704946)
jose

1975-1992 was a good time for baseball. lots of contrasting styles, lots of individual achievement in a breadth of categories and different teams in the mix with a sprinkling of mini-dynasties

   37. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:29 AM (#4704954)
Harvs

1993-2014 was a good time for baseball. lots of contrasting styles, lots of individual achievement in a breadth of categories and different teams in the mix with a sprinkling of mini-dynasties
   38. Greg K Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:41 AM (#4704972)
1993-2014 was a good time for baseball. lots of contrasting styles, lots of individual achievement in a breadth of categories and different teams in the mix with a sprinkling of mini-dynasties

Well the late-90s had a fairly major dynasty (as opposed to a sprinkling of mini-dynasties), which was dreadful dull.

I would question Harvey's refusal to include 1993. What do you have against the Blue Jays, sir!
   39. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:42 AM (#4704973)
1993-2014 was a good time for baseball. lots of contrasting styles

Some teams won by working the count, taking walks, and hitting lots of home runs. Other teams won by working the count, taking walks, and hitting lots of home runs.

The contrasting styles were so drastic, we'd need someone like Christopher Nolan to make a movie about it.
   40. SG Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:42 AM (#4704975)
For pitchers hitting though, strikeouts are down. Last year it was 42.5%, this year it's 41.6%. Could just be a fluke.


What is the percentage of pitcher PA to total PA this year vs. last year? It could just be that we've had fewer AL pitcher PAs relative to a full season due to schedule imbalance.
   41. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:52 AM (#4704987)
Frankly I would not want to see any substantive changes to the game right now. These sorts of ebbs and flows of offense are pretty consistent with the history of the game and I think a change would probably be an overreaction.
   42. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:54 AM (#4704989)
1993-2009 wasn't my ideal form of baseball -- that would be closer to 75-92 -- but the offensive explosion was still a lot of fun. I'm not a fan of the current era. As I mentioned, the low levels of offense combined with the high strikeouts and TTO approach make for boring baseball.
   43. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:56 AM (#4704991)
Frankly I would not want to see any substantive changes to the game right now. These sorts of ebbs and flows of offense are pretty consistent with the history of the game and I think a change would probably be an overreaction.

But aren't many of those ebbs and flows due to substantive changes? e.g., banning spitballs and using clean white baseballs in the 1920s; lowering the mound in 1969; expansion; introducing a lively ball in 1993 (maybe)...
   44. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:00 PM (#4704992)
#41: Offense, yes. Strikeouts, no. Strikeouts have inexorably risen throughout all baseball history, and the rate of increase spiked after the turn of the century. It may well be that strikeouts have finally begun to reach a level where the quality of entertainment is interfered with.

My own perception as of 2014, however, is that the "baseball has to do something about all the strikeouts, they're ruining the game!" charge is being led by crotchety old guys who grew up in an era when people said Mickey Mantle wasn't really all that because he struck out too much, and that the casual fans who pay the salaries don't care.

When I go to a ballgame and the guy next to me says "You know what the problem is, there are too many ####### strikeouts" in between swigs of beer, that's when I'll believe it's a real problem and not just old guys resisting change.

(Edit: Incidentally, by this standard constant pitching changes in the late innings IS now officially a Problem. I do frequently hear casual fans ##### about it.)
   45. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:05 PM (#4705001)
Which players are the prototypes for a turn back (or forward) to a more exciting baseball player? Is Pedroia an ideal? And relatedly would the league benefit from having more smaller players? Glen Danzig is all ears (and platform shoes too)!
   46. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:06 PM (#4705003)
post 37

i don't think it's hard to see the difference. sorry you disagree
   47. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:08 PM (#4705006)
My own perception as of 2014, however, is that the "baseball has to do something about all the strikeouts, they're ruining the game!" charge is being led by crotchety old guys who grew up in an era when people said Mickey Mantle wasn't really all that because he struck out too much,

people appreciate action. a strikeout does not result in any action that involves others in the process.

i don't think it's outrageous to prefer a game where all the individuals on the field play a role in activity a significant majority of the time.

   48. GuyM Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:09 PM (#4705009)
If MLB decides scoring needs to increase and strikeouts need to decrease, lowering the mound is the obvious way to accomplish that.

I always thought that was true as well. But it turns out that in 1969 the impact of lowering the mound on strikeouts was virtually zero:
K/9 1968: 5.89
K/9 1969: 5.77

Ks didn't really start dropping until after 1972, reaching a low point in 1977-81. Then they started rising again in 1982, and have mostly been rising ever since. I assume the changes in the 1970s reflected changes in the called strikezone. Anyone know?

BTW, what DID change in 1969 was the BB rate: increased from 2.82 in 1968 to 3.45 in 1969.
   49. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:12 PM (#4705014)
Well.... here is the best way I can put it. If I were Dictator for Life of MLB there is no way I would make substantive rule changes right now (other than curbing the late-inning pitching changes) because the enterprise is thoroughly healthy and I don't yet see any warning signs that a problem is coming.

If I were Dictator for Life of an independent league trying to survive in a landscape dominated by MLB, I absolutely would overhaul the rules to create a product centered around fast-paced, high-tempo, lots-of-balls-in-play baseball. I think the difference between that brand of baseball and modern MLB would be startling, and it would be very well received by fans; and I think that over time MLB would take notice and begin to move its own product in that direction, albeit in the clumsy, lurching way megaconglomerates do.

As an aside, I also wonder if playing a faster-paced game involving more running might help attract more high-end athletes to the sport.
   50. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:14 PM (#4705017)
I assume the changes in the 1970s reflected changes in the called strikezone. Anyone know?


Two words: Co-caine. Well it's two if you say it the right way. I cannot attribute the rise of the director/auteur to anything remotely resembling the way strikes were called.
   51. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:18 PM (#4705025)
Does anyone know if the number of 10+ K games by starters has changed? It seems like those games have remained fairly stable because few starters stick around long enough to pile up the Ks. So we get a lot of 7IP/9 K games.
   52. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:20 PM (#4705029)
I'm a pretty devout anti-TTO guy, and I'm really starting to wonder if there's anything baseball can do. I think it's quite possible that regardless any changes (deeper fences, bigger/smaller zones, lower mounds, thicker bat handles, etc.), MLB hitters have determined that swinging as hard as you ####### can at every single offering, Ks be damned, is simply the best approach. Obviously, there will be guys who have differing contact abilities, and there will be some ballplayers who are exceedingly skilled in the contact arts (and not much in the power department), but by and large the swing from the heels approach is simply better for offensive performance. I suppose there might be a truly gimmicky solution to the issue of too many Ks, but I'm mostly resistant to those types of changes to the game.

   53. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:23 PM (#4705033)
SoSH: You make a fair point. I would respond that if you can't incentivize hitters to stop swinging max-effort, then you should simply physically slow them down.

To do that, thicken the handles and make them swing heavier bats. I think that combining that with flattening the seams a bit (and possibly juicing the ball a little) would have a good chance of moving baseball away from the Three True Outcomes without making run scoring implode.
   54. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:24 PM (#4705035)
I agree -- I don't think the hitters will change their approach. Ideally, IMO, baseball would lower the seams while also deadening the ball a little. That way the ball would be easier to hit but wouldn't travel as far. More contact and more singles and doubles, but without 1993-2009 HR levels.
   55. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:27 PM (#4705037)
To do that, thicken the handles and make them swing heavier bats. I think that combining that with flattening the seams a bit (and possibly juicing the ball a little) would have a good chance of moving baseball away from the Three True Outcomes without making run scoring implode.


I've long supported that change Zeth, as I think it's the best solution (outside playing in much larger ballparks, which is pretty much impossible at this point). My fear is that even if you thicken the handles (and make homers harder), batters may determine that swinging balls-out is still the way to go.

IOW, you might be able to change the homers to singles/doubles mix, which is good, but I'm not sure there's an easy solution to the strikeout issue.

   56. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:28 PM (#4705039)
I think that by making the bats heavier you significantly narrow the class of hitters strong enough to consistently hit home runs with them--and especially if you flatten the seams and take some movement away from the pitchers (making it easier to make solid contact even if you can't muscle the ball over the fence) then the majority of hitters will be forced to adopt a singles/doubles-oriented approach to survive. Striking out 160 times is fine if you hit 25 home runs; if you strike out 160 times and hit 8 home runs, you won't keep a job.

If the supply of hitters with 25+ HR power gets sharply limited, teams will begin to go out of their way to find hitters that can make solid contact and run like hell. Which is mostly how baseball was before the 1990s.
   57. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:31 PM (#4705040)
Some teams won by working the count, taking walks, and hitting lots of home runs. Other teams won by working the count, taking walks, and hitting lots of home runs.

The contrasting styles were so drastic, we'd need someone like Christopher Nolan to make a movie about it.

Well the Twins did constantly lose in the first round to the Yankees, but that doesn't mean they weren't out there playing Twins baseball.

But if you want a winner, the Giants one it all just 2 years ago, while being below average in walks, and being dead last in home runs (by quite a bit).

Yes, many teams built their team around home runs and walks (although even the most walk happy teams still have more than twice as many hits as they do walks). But some teams built around pitching. Some around defense and speed. Some wanted strikeouts. Some wanted pitch to contact guys, and workhorses. Some teams tried to build smarter, and developed around defensive positioning, and shifts. And yes, some teams even tried to emphasize small ball, grit and hustle.

There have been a large number of contrasting styles over the past 2 decades, if you are willing to look for them. The fact that you don't want to see them, and go with a knee jerk "everything was better when I was younger", is just sad.
   58. Ray (RDP) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:35 PM (#4705047)
First, it’s important to note why strikeouts are bad, which is fairly simple. Outs are generally the worst possible outcome in a plate appearance, and every strikeout is a guaranteed out, barring a rare dropped third strike. Every ball that is hit into play has a reasonable chance of not being an out.


How do you write an article like this and not mention and account for double plays?
   59. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4705050)
I've long supported that change Zeth, as I think it's the best solution (outside playing in much larger ballparks, which is pretty much impossible at this point). My fear is that even if you thicken the handles (and make homers harder), batters may determine that swinging balls-out is still the way to go.

IOW, you might be able to change the homers to singles/doubles mix, which is good, but I'm not sure there's an easy solution to the strikeout issue.

While reducing contact rate, increasing strikeouts, and turning a decent chunk of those home runs into routine flyouts. Just what the game needs!

Striking out 160 times is fine if you hit 25 home runs; if you strike out 160 times and hit 8 home runs, you won't keep a job.

You will if your replacement can't do any better.
   60. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:41 PM (#4705052)
While reducing contact rate, increasing strikeouts,


No. These steps would decrease the strikeout rate, both directly (swing-and-misses will turn into weak contact) and indirectly (teams will begin to select for hitters who can make solid contact, even if they can't hit it out of the park).

There have always been, and will always be, plenty of athletes capable of running fast enough and making enough contact to hit .280/.335/.415. Bat control used to be a thing. It can be a thing again.
   61. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:43 PM (#4705054)
While reducing contact rate, increasing strikeouts, and turning a decent chunk of those home runs into routine flyouts. Just what the game needs!


That's my fear - that we get more of what we don't need and less of what we do.
But, as Zeth says, the upside to any switch is it results in a selection of players with a different skill set - rather than what it forces upon the existing players. What I like about the impractical idea of bigger ballparks is it puts more of a premium on outfielders being able to go and get it, and those guys tend to be the less sluggerly in the batter's box.
   62. What's the realistic upside, RMc? Posted: May 12, 2014 at 12:51 PM (#4705059)
It would be cool if they used the same rules they used in my old high school gym class: every batter was required to swing at every pitch (if they didn't, they were out). If you swung and missed and the catcher caught it, you were out; if he didn't, you ran to first. Games went quick: we could easily fit a nine-inning game into an hour-long class. Good times.
   63. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: May 12, 2014 at 01:02 PM (#4705066)
MLB fielding is awesome and fun to watch. Don't mess with it.

Awesome yes. Fun to watch, perhaps not. Everyone makes every play with no mistakes, that's a bit predictable.
   64. Ray (RDP) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 01:09 PM (#4705075)
Trout had a 1.000 OPS nine games ago. He's since gone 118/220/294 with 12 Ks in 41 PA (29%) and a .130 BABIP. (I repeat: .130)

Before that he had hit 321/403/596 while striking out in 34/124 PA (27%) and had a BABIP of .420. (I repeat: .420)

His career K% is 21% so he's striking out more this year, but it's sort of ironic that the article's premise is that if you put the ball in play you'll probably be ok, and yet the biggest reason for Trout's slump is that during it he is hitting .130 when he puts the ball in play. That's the problem here. This is mostly fluke. And it's 41 PA. The increase in K rate is something to watch but it's still early.

   65. Jeltzandini Posted: May 12, 2014 at 01:14 PM (#4705083)
Everyone makes every play with no mistakes, that's a bit predictable.


That's not what happens of course. There's a good-sized spread between the best and worst fielders at each position. IMO, fielding highlights are baseball's best advertisement. They show the most athleticism and have more variety than offensive highlights. Of all the ways to change baseball's offensive mix, I'd be most strongly opposed to handicapping the fielders.

Is the long term strikeout trend significantly more complicated than the trend towards harder and harder throwers? There would seem to be a pretty tight relation between average pitch speed and contact frequency.
   66. SoCalDemon Posted: May 12, 2014 at 01:46 PM (#4705135)
Re 64: The .514 OPS is a fluke, sure, but I don't know how Mike Trout is going to be as good as the last two years if he is King 28% of the time (up from 19% last year) while BBing 11.5% of the time (down from 15.4%). Both of those numbers tend to stabilize pretty quickly, and those are pretty big changes that are not explained by the small increase in league SO% from last year to this year. He'll still be a great player, but I don't see how this can be seen as anything other than a step down, if he keeps up anything near these new ratios. (His BABIP is going to be fine, I'm sure, but he also is going to start slowing down, so is not going to have a .365 career BABIP forever.

Edited for clarity (hopefully)
   67. Ray (RDP) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 01:55 PM (#4705155)
Re 64: The .514 OPS is a fluke, sure, but I don't know houw Mike Trout is going to be as good as the last two years if he is King 28% of the time (up from 19% last year) while BBing 11.5% of the time (down from 15.4%). Both of those numbers tend to stabilize pretty quickly, and those are pretty big changes that are not explained by the small increase in SO from last year to this year. He'll still be a great player, but I don't see how this can be seen as anything other than a step down, if he keeps up anything near these new ratios. (His BABIP is going to be fine, I'm sure, but he also is going to start slowing down, so is not going to have a .365 career BABIP forever.


Sure, but a decline by Trout wouldn't be all that surprising, and in fact should be expected. I think it's pretty clear that players who post a 170 OPS+ at ages 20-21 have basically already hit their peak. Eddie Mathews and Al Kaline would be two examples, IIRC. Which is not to say that he can't have more seasons at that level (e.g., ARod) but I don't think holding a 170 OPS+ for several years is in the cards, let alone having a "normal" aging curve where he's posting a 210 OPS+ or something from ages 26-28.
   68. SoCalDemon Posted: May 12, 2014 at 02:04 PM (#4705168)
A decline by Trout absolutely would not be that surprising. However, some shapes of that decline, to me, are less alarming than others. To me, it looks like his speed is already declining a bit. He is stealing bases at a much lower rate (using a rough SBA/(H+BB-HR-3B) as a percentage, from 26% to 15% to 8% so far this year), and is takign the extra base at slightly lower rates, from 61% to 59% to 56%. That makes complete sense to me. It looks like his HR power is slightly lower than, or at least no higher, than in 2012. That, also, is no surprise. However, SO and BB rates stabilize pretty quickly, and we are not talking about small changes. His BB rate increased enormously between 2012 and 13, I'd expect regression, but it looks like he pretty much gave it all back. His SO rate declined from 22% to 19%....anything between 19-22% and I'd say, alright, fair enough, but he is striking out alomst 50% more than last year, that is a lot. I hope it is a aberation, but we are not just talking about a BABIP fluke.
   69. valuearbitrageur Posted: May 12, 2014 at 02:26 PM (#4705206)
Well.... here is the best way I can put it. If I were Dictator for Life of MLB there is no way I would make substantive rule changes right now (other than curbing the late-inning pitching changes) because the enterprise is thoroughly healthy and I don't yet see any warning signs that a problem is coming.


Complacency is never good, the MLB has been leaving money on the table for years ignoring simple, obvious ways to improve the game (or keep it from degrading). But you hit nail on head with pitching changes.

Limiting pitching changes has a whole multitude of benefits. Number one is it will reduce strikeouts. Clearly LaRussa led the way to more optimal bullpen usage to increase the number of favorable match ups in their games. That's leads to a higher K/9 rate for relievers. It also gives managers the luxury of limiting starters pitch counts more, and since they can exert themselves harder in shorter starts that means a higher K/9 rate for starters. Limiting pitching changes will make it harder to exploit match ups with specialists, make starters more important and reward more complete relief pitchers as well. Not only will it lead to more offense and fewer Ks, but it will eliminate dead time in a game that has too much dead time.

A simple but strict rule change would be to allow one pitching change per inning without penalty. After the first pitching change in any inning, changing the pitcher requires a balk.

A less strict alternative would be to have a two at bat rule (or three hitter rule). If a pitcher is replaced without have pitched two complete at bats (ie his 3rd batter needs to have at least walked to plate), it's a balk. That eliminates the bring in the unhittable LOOGY, then after he Ks his man, immediately replace him with the super tough ROOGY. That all too common two extended breaks in two at bats sequence probably does more than anything to reduce enjoyment of the games nowadays.
   70. cardsfanboy Posted: May 12, 2014 at 02:27 PM (#4705211)
so do you think contact oriented hitters will start to get more play?


Not arom, but it wouldn't surprise me at all to see a trend towards a more contact approach, with the drop in power, putting the ball in play has more value than it has in the recent past.

it would be kind of amusing in a twisted way if the guys that this community finds least appealing (the juan pierre types) suddently become the desired skill set of mlb teams


Does the community really find these guys least appealing? Less valuable in the current climate, sure, but less appealing? considering the number of articles we have had here talking about the lack of appeal in the three true outcomes category, I find it hard to believe that the consensus is contact/speed type of players lack appeal around here.

Thickening bat handles and moving the batters box back seem like reasonable and possibly effective ideas to me if it's done gradually (a la Bill James' essay in the Historical Abstract)


The changes to the bats already done, is probably the single biggest factor in the decrease in overall offense. (look at league wide scoring, prior to the bat changes and after) New rules went into affect prior to 2010 season.

I think that there will be a trend to more contact hitters as offense decreases, I fully support rules limiting the size of the glove personally....no other radical rule makes sense to me.
   71. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 02:47 PM (#4705226)
as someone who saw the 60's style baseball firsthand bill james captured it pretty well in that it was kind of boring.

i am puzzled as to why folks think that feedback is invalid and tied more to 'old fogeyism' than just a simple preference for action on teh field.

and it isn't also true that almost all great leaps forward in attendance have been tied to upticks in scoring? scoring equates to action on the field.

i am fine with being characterized as being a doddering old fool where appropriate. i just don't see that here.

the game is experiencing a lot of downtime. that can get boring for even the most dedicated fan.
   72. cardsfanboy Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:07 PM (#4705239)
I think in a near perfect world, baseball action would be most appreciated if
1. strikeouts were majorly caused by the pitchers dominance over the hitter. Other words, nobody has a real problem with a Kerry Wood/Bob Gibson high strikeout game, in which it was clear that it was the pitcher beating the hitters. It's the Mark Reynolds type of players that take up multiple roster spots on a team that is the annoying part.
2. That lesser pitchers aren't able to replicate the previous results.
3. That the average game score was roughly 5 to 4.
4. Teams average around 140 homeruns a year.
5. babip league wide was around .310-.320
6. Teams stole more frequently.
7. Average fielders looked like average fielders...when you have someone like Matt Holliday(or another) qualifying as a league average fielder, it really contradicts the view of what a fan thinks of is an average fielder.
   73. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:12 PM (#4705246)
cfb

interesting you bring up reynolds because not to divert this conversation but i think there may be legs to the guy's sight not being a-1

he swings through so many seemingly hittable pitches it's whackadoodle. i have uttered 'how did he miss THAT?' more time in a month plus wiht reynolds than i think in rob deer's entire career

   74. cardsfanboy Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:17 PM (#4705249)
I think Reynolds is the definition of guess hitter. He doesn't track the pitch, he guess's what and where the pitch is going to be, decides if he is going to swing even before it's thrown and lives with the results.
   75. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:22 PM (#4705254)
cfb

that is likely correct

boy yesterday he and segura had a contest who could take the looniest swing. both swung at pitches around eye level. segura won because his pitch almost hit him in the head

not joking. it was the stupidest godd8mn swing this side of alfredo griffin
   76. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:23 PM (#4705256)
Trout's walk rate in 2013 could be inflated a bit by the fact that Pujols was not in the lineup the last third of the season.

He really racked up the walks in August and September. There was nobody else in that lineup.
   77. Booey Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:26 PM (#4705260)
If I were Dictator for Life of an independent league trying to survive in a landscape dominated by MLB, I absolutely would overhaul the rules to create a product centered around fast-paced, high-tempo, lots-of-balls-in-play baseball. I think the difference between that brand of baseball and modern MLB would be startling, and it would be very well received by fans; and I think that over time MLB would take notice and begin to move its own product in that direction, albeit in the clumsy, lurching way megaconglomerates do.


So...like the baseball version of the XFL? I don't remember that working out the way Vince McMahon hoped it would...
   78. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:33 PM (#4705267)
boy yesterday he and segura had a contest who could take the looniest swing. both swung at pitches around eye level. segura won because his pitch almost hit him in the head


Rickie Weeks is aghast at his exclusion from this conversation. He missed a slider by at least 15 inches.

   79. BDC Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:41 PM (#4705273)
the game is experiencing a lot of downtime. that can get boring for even the most dedicated fan

That's the thing. I don't care if the games are 2-0 or 12-10 if they move along. Take 30-40 seconds between pitches, though, and I'd rather watch golf.
   80. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:42 PM (#4705274)
Rickie Weeks is aghast at his exclusion from this conversation. He missed a slider by at least 15 inches.

i see that more often than a guy swinging at a ball that if not for the movement caused by his swing would have bonked him in the forehead
   81. BDC Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:44 PM (#4705279)
Oh, and it took me 79 posts to realize that the word in the headline is "contact." I kept thinking, yeah, that $144M is going to help out a bit.
   82. PreservedFish Posted: May 12, 2014 at 03:44 PM (#4705280)
So...like the baseball version of the XFL?

That's what I was going to say.
   83. Astroenteritis Posted: May 12, 2014 at 04:19 PM (#4705301)
These sorts of ebbs and flows of offense are pretty consistent with the history of the game and I think a change would probably be an overreaction.


Agree. I love the amount of scoring now, and though I did start watching baseball in the sixties, I've enjoyed almost every era since then except for the inflated scoring period that I hope we are leaving behind. I think the DH, for example, was a solution to a problem that didn't exist, and I'm sure hitters will adjust their approach as necessary if pitching gains the upper hand. I know baseball can't afford to have this attitude, but if people don't have the attention span, focus, or whatever to appreciate a 2-1 game they need to find another sport to follow. I've also never left a game thinking, "man, that took too long."
   84. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 12, 2014 at 04:22 PM (#4705303)
i see that more often than a guy swinging at a ball that if not for the movement caused by his swing would have bonked him in the forehead


Yeah that was terrible. I just couldn't get over just how far Weeks' bat was from what wasn't an incredible offering.
   85. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 04:33 PM (#4705311)
So...like the baseball version of the XFL? I don't remember that working out the way Vince McMahon hoped it would...


I don't think there's any parallel between what I suggested and the XFL at all. Please enlighten me on what I'm missing here.

Also McMahon trying to openly rig the outcomes of a fair percentage of the games made the XFL dead before it was born. At least follow David Stern's wisdom and quietly rig the outcomes.

I perceive no way at all that any football league that isn't the NFL can survive in the US (and numerous have tried). I don't think there's any way to make football meaningfully different from how the NFL plays it while still being recognizably football, and the only way to carve a market out of one of the major sports is to offer a product that is DIFFERENT, but still recognizably the same sport.

I think this can be done in baseball, as I wrote above; I also think it can be done, along similar lines (a much faster-paced game) with basketball. I do not think it can be done with football.
   86. TDF, situational idiot Posted: May 12, 2014 at 04:33 PM (#4705312)
and it isn't also true that almost all great leaps forward in attendance have been tied to upticks in scoring? scoring equates to action on the field.
Sure seems that way, yet the '90s-'00s are mocked as the "sillyball era".
I don't care if the games are 2-0 or 12-10 if they move along. Take 30-40 seconds between pitches, though, and I'd rather watch golf.
I agree with this, and both hitters and pitchers are at fault.
I think in a near perfect world, baseball action would be most appreciated if...
3. That the average game score was roughly 5 to 4.
4. Teams average around 140 homeruns a year.
5. babip league wide was around .310-.320
7. Average fielders looked like average fielders...when you have someone like Matt Holliday(or another) qualifying as a league average fielder, it really contradicts the view of what a fan thinks of is an average fielder.
First, where did you come up with the numbers in #3-5; are they just guesses, or from a time when you enjoyed baseball more, or something else?

Second, the St. Louis version of Holliday isn't a league-average LF according to either BBRef or Fangraphs (the latter, especially, sees a steep decline). But it also begs the question - who should be the model of a "league-average LF" becuase that's always been (at least in the 40 years I've been watching) best place to throw a dufus with a good bat and a little bit of speed.
   87. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 04:35 PM (#4705315)
I just couldn't get over just how far Weeks' bat was from what wasn't an incredible offering.

that began to crop up in 2012 hence rickie's until very recent status of being rightie platoon partner at second base/primary pinch hitter
   88. dlf Posted: May 12, 2014 at 05:21 PM (#4705337)
1975-1992 was a good time for baseball. lots of contrasting styles, lots of individual achievement in a breadth of categories and different teams in the mix with a sprinkling of mini-dynasties


The spread in styles in this era, combined with having been born in 1967, combined to make me a huge baseball fan. I suspect that if I were 20 years younger and came up through the take and rake slow ball, I'd be more of a fan of football or basketball. That the two best hitters in any year could be as different as Reggie Jackson and Rod Carew, crafty junk-ballers like Randy Jones and flame throwers like J.R. Richard could oppose one another, Mr. Small Ball Gene Mauch matched wits with Walks and Three Run Homer Weaver, and nearly every team had its Omar Moreno or Ron Leflore who could be counted on to try to steal ... I fell in love and, despite the changes, haven't lost the passion.

...........

Talking about changes in the game to decrease Ks: unless I've missed it, one thing that was visually challenging, but would contribute to more of an effort to have more balls in play - bring back artificial turf. In the days of the carpet, medium hit grounders had a much better chance of getting through and hard hit liners were doubles. That would incentive teams selecting more for contact skills.
   89. PreservedFish Posted: May 12, 2014 at 05:22 PM (#4705338)
I perceive no way at all that any football league that isn't the NFL can survive in the US (and numerous have tried). I don't think there's any way to make football meaningfully different from how the NFL plays it while still being recognizably football, and the only way to carve a market out of one of the major sports is to offer a product that is DIFFERENT, but still recognizably the same sport.


Isn't football actually the one sport that does have a successful alternative league, Arena League?

Regardless, it sounds like you were describing normal baseball but with a few touches to make it seem faster and more exciting. Which is how the XFL was marketed ("no fair catches"). Were you thinking about something more radical? Like baseball with continuous play?
   90. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 05:30 PM (#4705346)
I'm not sure what your definition of 'successful is, but the AFL folded a few years back, and returned somehow reorganized after a year. It survives, I guess.

The XFL may have been marketed that way in part, but the X in its title highlights what it was really about: it was supposed to be EXTREME football, you see. I think it was sunk by a combination of two factors: The inherent difficulty of competing with the NFL, and the absolute impossibility of any competitive sports entity headed by Vince McMahon being taken seriously.

Edit: It probably was also a victim of overambition. McMahon spent a ton of money marketing the league on national television, and should have known that producing enough revenue in Year One to not be immediately bankrupted by those expenditures was practically impossible.
   91. Walt Davis Posted: May 12, 2014 at 05:44 PM (#4705351)
but scoring is decreasing.

I suppose it's mostly covered but ... on-contact, hitters have been consistent for the last 20 years (although I've not seen 2014 numbers yet). The change has essentially all been K and BB rates. There's been no drop in power, etc. If I recall there has been some movement in GB rates suggesting pitchers are keeping the ball down more ... consistent with the expansion of the lower part of the strike zone.

A contact-oriented approach would greatly decrease on-contact production and reduce walk rates. That might balance out but I would guess not and scoring would be down further. There's no obvious reason for teams to shift towards contact-oriented hitters.

I don't know that there's any evidence that they are either. Top striekout totals from 2010-14:

#3 is Drew Stubbs -- not exactly a young player but still new to MLB
#4 is BJ Upton who signed a big contract (oops)
#5 is Uggla who signed a big contract (oops)
#6-11 are all players who were 23 or younger in 2010 -- Bruce, A Jackson, Stanton, J Upton, Alvarez and Rasmus.

A search in 2012-13 looking for players 24 or younger, 300+ PA and a K-rate better than 1 per 7 PA turned up 14 seasons by 12 players. Of these 6 have an ISO under 100. Only one season had a BA over 300 with a median BA around 282 and a median OPS around 700. Nothing wrong with that these days but the best hitter in this bunch is Sal Perez or maybe Segura. Tabata is the only 1B/LF/RF on the list. The best walk rates were about 1 per 11 and several were worse than 1 per 20. Elvis Andrus is the on-base machine in this group.
   92. SoCalDemon Posted: May 12, 2014 at 05:47 PM (#4705353)
Re 76: So I thought this would not hold up, given Pujols own career-low walk rate, but Trout through July 26th (Pujols last game (49 in 462 PA, basically same rate as 2012), July 27th through the end of the season, 61 in 254 PA (holy ####). SO, alright, lets not worry about his BB, "real" Trout BBs 11% of the time. But Trout, through July 26th, 80 SOs (17.3% SO rate, .61 BB/SO), after July 26th, 56 SOs (22.0%, 1.09 BB/SO). This year, he has a .41 SO/BB ratio, and a 28% SO rate. This is not like pre-Pujols Trout (although BB-wise, he is exactly the same; good catch there; I did not realize he had increased his walk rate THAT much.
   93. Al Kaline Trio Posted: May 12, 2014 at 06:32 PM (#4705392)
There's nothing wrong with baseball so long as there are young exciting players in the league.

Kershaw, Sale, Jose Fernandez

Trout, Stanton, Machado, Bryce Harper

It's all good
   94. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 07:53 PM (#4705433)
walt

All your arguments be it around offense or defensive positioning is that nothing is wrong and all is well

Each time it's a variation of the old statman adage about a guy having one foot on a block of ice and one foot on fire and on average being fine

I adore this game. And I recognize it's less pleasing to watch due to the reduced level of involvement by others on the field

But instead of talking about changingn rules I suggest teams make tactical or strategic changes in response to the strategic change of collecting power arms and the tactical usage of said arms

If not contact hitters then what? If not a john olerud or even peak Wally Joyner or Cecil cooper then what?

why mess with bat handles if teams can respond with player development of skill set?

but don't tell me not to worry my pretty little head because I don't understand The game is creeping towards the '60's and the 60's Were not my thing
   95. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:13 PM (#4705445)
There's nothing wrong with baseball so long as there are young exciting players in the league.

Kershaw, Sale, Jose Fernandez


Funny you should mention that; Fernandez was just DL'd and in all likelihood will shortly have Tommy John surgery. Ah, pitchers...
   96. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:16 PM (#4705446)
Hearing about Fernandez makes me unhappy
   97. Booey Posted: May 12, 2014 at 08:49 PM (#4705460)
I don't think there's any parallel between what I suggested and the XFL at all. Please enlighten me on what I'm missing here.


Not really referring to any specifics, just the basic idea of a rival league with some rule changes implemented to increase action and excitement sounds similar to me.

I don't follow football, but I always figured that part of the problem with the XFL was that fans (understandably) had a hard time getting over the fact that anyone playing in that league was doing it cuz they weren't good enough to cut it in the NFL. There had to be a massive drop off in talent. Would you play for 50k a year if you could switch leagues and make 5 mil? Neither would I. I suspect any XFLers that DID develop into legitimate stars would jump ship as soon as possible.
   98. PreservedFish Posted: May 12, 2014 at 09:09 PM (#4705468)
#97 - ditto
   99. Cooper Nielson Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:01 PM (#4705528)
On, the other hand, he does still have a 147 OPS+ and is still on track for a 10 WAR season, so it wouldn't take much for him to have a decent season.

Something strange seems to be going on in Anaheim this year. We're so used to seeing Trout at the top of the WAR leaderboard (at the moment he's second in the AL to Donaldson on BB-Ref; 2.3 to 2.5) that maybe we don't question it, but I feel like something's awry.

Despite the Ks, Trout is having a very good year offensively, but it's nothing THAT special. He's 6th in the AL in OPS, 6th in SLG, 6th in R, 8th in HR, 12th in RBI, 13th in BB, only 28th in OBP, 36th in AVG. He's only stolen 4 bases. A few hitters, like Jose Bautista and Victor Martinez, probably Jose Abreu, have been clearly better than him. Of course, Trout does play center field and apparently plays it pretty well. His dWAR is 0.8 already. But last year his dWAR was negative, and I remember in a Tigers-Angels series earlier this year, the Tigers were running on him every chance they got. So I'm a bit skeptical that he's truly an elite defensive center fielder.

But what really seems strange is that if you look at the WAR leaders, you also see Howie Kendrick at #4, Colin Cowgill at #10, and Erick Aybar at #12. Kendrick's having a pretty good year, but Cowgill only has 83 plate appearances (Trout, for comparison, has 165) and Aybar has a .713 OPS, which somehow equates to a 103 OPS+. J.B. Shuck has 0.7 dWAR in just 19 games.

So what's going on here? It seems like WAR is treating Angel Stadium like it's Dodger Stadium in 1968, even though it has played as a hitter's park this year. It also seems that Angel players, especially outfielders, are getting a huge boost in defensive value (possibly relating to park factor?). Back to Trout, he is indeed "on pace" for 10+ WAR, which would be a better season than last year (9.2 WAR), when he hit .323/.432/.557 with 33 SB. That doesn't seem right.

Is this just a small-sample-size problem that will go away by the end of the year? Or is WAR broken in Anaheim?
   100. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 12, 2014 at 11:12 PM (#4705535)
Is this just a small-sample-size problem that will go away by the end of the year? Or is WAR broken in Anaheim?


Just spitballing, but are WAR's park adjustments based on last year's (or rolling three-year's) factors for a portion of the season, and won't be changed to the current year until X number of games have been played? This would explain the high oWAR figures for the guys you mentioned, numbers that would get adjusted downward once the 2014 numbers are included (if the current offensive levels there continue).

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