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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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   101. SoCalDemon Posted: May 13, 2014 at 03:35 PM (#4706016)
A big portion of his WAR right now is his defense, which one assumes will level out; I don't expect that he is going to put up a +25 season. Angels stadium has been a pitchers park the last few years, but it really isnt that extreme. Right now the AL has an avg OPS of .718, so a .713, with no park factor, would be a 98 or 99 OPS+, so you are talking about something like a park factor of 95 or 96 (and indeed, bbref has the ANgels as a 96 for batters and 95 for pitchers). I think Trout's .883 OPS just still doesn't "look" impressive, but even just by straight OPS, he's 6th in the entire AL; in 2000, ALex Rodriguez was 6th in the AL with a 1.026 OPS. It is a different time. But still, Trout has dropped a chunk from last year. Of you just look at oWAR, last year he was at 9.7 oWAR; this year he is on pace for 7.0 oWAR.
   102. Walt Davis Posted: May 13, 2014 at 06:00 PM (#4706116)
All your arguments be it around offense or defensive positioning is that nothing is wrong and all is well

This is incorrect. I offer no opinion on the aesthetics or the "health" of the game or optimal scoring levels or what have you.

My key point is this: if you want to "fix" the game or halt the changes to the game or whatever, then you need to understand what is driving the changes.

1. People talk about declining offense. It's true scoring is down. This has little/nothing to do with steroids or power drops or defensive shifts. It is almost entirely about increasing K-rates, some drop in BB rate and maybe some spike in GB rate. Everyone of those is consistent with a larger strike zone, especially one that's expanded on the lower end. A recent study looked at pitchf/x over the last couple of seasons and seemed to find exactly that.

2. Therefore if you want to change that, make changes that will decrease the K-rate while maintaining on-contact production and walk rates.

I don't happen to think 2 is very possible to do other than by shrinking the strike zone. Contact-oriented hitters might reduce the K-rate but will decrease on-contact production and walk rates leaving you with a game that some may find more aesthetically pleasing but will most likely result in less scoring, not more.

On shifts, I simply want to see good analysis. Defensive IF shifts should affect only certain things -- BABIP on GBs (and GBs only) being the most obvious and possibly GB/FB mix and pull/straight/away hitting tendencies. To be effective, they need to decrease the BABIP on GBs of one large group while leaving the other groups unchanged or at least produce a net gain. We are not seeing this.

One possible explanation is that batters adjusted almost immediately to the shifts. It's also possible that the same increased data awareness that led teams to discover the benefits of shifting also led them to discover how much higher production is on pulled balls and so decided that, on offense, shift or no shift, it was still better to pull the ball. There is some evidence that batters are going the other way slightly less often than they did in the pre-shift fad days.

Show me actual evidence that contact-oriented hitting will increase scoring or that shifts have significantly impacted the outcomes on GBs ... and an actual analysis of OF positioning please! ... without creating counter-effects that wipe out that impact and I'll listen.

Until then ... yes, I believe that the best strategy to combat high-K pitchers is to murder the ball when you do make contact. That's a dumb strategy if you're Juan Pierre but so was Pierre's swing at everything strategy (or at least his skill at it wasn't sufficient, it works fine if you're Ichiro or Gwynn or can play SS). I'll admit my aesthetic preference is not to have a league full of Juan Pierres.
   103. zenbitz Posted: May 13, 2014 at 06:40 PM (#4706131)
I can solve this problem with 32 pairs of black tape strips 1" x 8.5" long.
   104. alilisd Posted: May 13, 2014 at 06:49 PM (#4706136)
Hearing about Fernandez makes me unhappy

Me too!
   105. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: May 13, 2014 at 07:37 PM (#4706159)

I specifically listed mark grace. John olerud. Wally Joyner

Instead you keep hammering the one reference to Juan Pierre

You are discussing in bad faith and it's obviously by choice

I don't employ the ignore feature but do not anticipate me exchanging things with you in the future

I weary of such nonsense. It reminds me of the doofi from the bad old peds discussions

Good day
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