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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Verducci: Virtue, and victory, no longer synonymous with patience at the plate

The Plesac Effect…on Tom Verducci.

Jayson Werth of the Washington Nationals swings at a 3-and-0 pitch and when he grounds into a double play he invites howls of scorn about how could he have done such a dumb thing. Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds is hailed as an on-base machine because he takes more walks than anybody, though he has yet to get an extra-base hit with a runner on base and he lets more strikes go by with each passing year.

Welcome to the state of the art in hitting these days, where aggressiveness is disdained and passivity is exalted. The modern hitter is guided by the accepted wisdom in catchphrases such as “driving up pitch counts,” “taking pitches” and “quality at-bats.” There is one serious flaw in this groupthink strategy.

It isn’t working.

Hitters are striking out more than ever before in baseball history while runs, walks, hits and home runs have been on the decline for years. And while teams still preach the religion of driving up pitch counts to “get into the bullpen” of the other team, they may be pushing an outdated agenda. So fortified are major league bullpens these days, especially with hard throwers, that last year relievers posted an ERA more than half a run lower than starters and averaged almost one strikeout for every inning.

(The best idea is to strike quickly; teams that get a lead after as little as two innings win 70 percent of the time.)

The proliferation of measurables in baseball is helping a generation of hitters turn offense into a passive aggressive pursuit. While batting average rightly has lost much of its inflated value, the flip side is that ubiquitous pitch counts, pitches per plate appearance, walks and on-base percentage are influencing how hitters go about their jobs.

Repoz Posted: April 23, 2013 at 01:15 PM | 138 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, sabermetrics

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   101. BDC Posted: April 25, 2013 at 01:29 PM (#4425628)
the interesting question is why don't teams have long relievers?

Because they don't (they can't) work on a schedule. If they go five innings today, they're due for four days' rest, and then you need another long reliever if you're to employ the same tactic again.

As Steve notes, BITD that wasn't an issue, because a shelled starter would come back on short rest, a short reliever might get a 3-inning stint anyway, you had a swing man or a double-header starter sitting around to fill in at long relief, your ace starters were closing games from the bullpen, and everybody's workload was much more improvisational and unpredictable. But that's anathema any more (for excellent reasons, I'd venture).
   102. smileyy Posted: April 25, 2013 at 01:36 PM (#4425637)
But I suppose the closer model to the truth is that a guy might not have one pitch, or might have come out with a very bad plan for three or four key hitters; and if given the chance to adjust that plan, he isn't likely to get shelled any worse the second time through the order.


This makes a lot of sense...I'm sure a pitcher can tell "Holy crap, my fastball isn't moving like I want it to today" and make adjustments to be at least of long-reliever value for enough innings. It takes advantage of the sunk cost of the starting pitcher -- unless he's your #5 starter, you lose him until his next turn to pitch whether he pitches 2 innings or 7, so may as well get at least "active roster replacement value" out of him if you can.

Edit: and of course, coke to everyone.
   103. Steve Treder Posted: April 25, 2013 at 01:53 PM (#4425656)
As Steve notes, BITD that wasn't an issue, because a shelled starter would come back on short rest, a short reliever might get a 3-inning stint anyway, you had a swing man or a double-header starter sitting around to fill in at long relief, your ace starters were closing games from the bullpen, and everybody's workload was much more improvisational and unpredictable. But that's anathema any more (for excellent reasons, I'd venture).

Yes, and also has someone has noted, the schedules BITD were far more irregular than today's, with both scheduled and make-up doubleheaders proliferating, and thus with lots of days off as well. The steady-as-clockwork starting rotation makes a whole lot more sense under modern conditions than it did as recently as 30 or 40 years ago.
   104. Ron J2 Posted: April 25, 2013 at 01:57 PM (#4425661)
#102 Bouton discusses this in Ball Four. He felt that since a knuckleballer was a one pitch pitcher if he didn't have the pitch working in warmup he probably shouldn't pitch. No room to make any meaningful adjustment.

I've speculated before that one reason that Weaver got consistent high workloads from his starters is that they called their own game. Arm doesn't feel right when you throw the slider, junk it for the day.
   105. BDC Posted: April 25, 2013 at 02:38 PM (#4425694)
The steady-as-clockwork starting rotation makes a whole lot more sense under modern conditions

Right. Naturally for an old-timer like me (or even a very new-timer, probably) it's frustrating, say, to see a pitcher come in in the seventh inning, get three quick outs on six or seven pitches, and then sit down again because the eighth inning is the 8th-inning-setup-guy's role. 7th-inning-guy demonstrably does "have it" today, and isn't likely to lose it in another inning of work against batters who haven't seen him recently, or tire himself unduly in doing so. But the assembly-line system has its advantages.

   106. Tom Nawrocki Posted: April 25, 2013 at 03:35 PM (#4425740)
Yes, and as I believe someone might have noted above, BITD your staff probably had a designated "long reliever" available, and in those days "long" meant at least 3 or 4 innings, maybe 7 or 8 innings of work "long." So yanking the starter early didn't guarantee chewing through the bullpen the way it does today, when a reliever practically never works more than 2-plus innings.


One side effect of this is that when a team needs a starter on short notice today, it almost always brings up a starter from the minors. Thirty years ago, teams would let a long reliever make a spot start, or even have a designated swingman to fill that role. Willie Hernandez made an emergency start for the Cubs as late as 1983.

Nowadays, the Rockies will bring up Tyler Chatwood from AAA to make a start (as they did yesterday), even though they have relievers like Adam Ottavino with experience starting.
   107. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 25, 2013 at 03:40 PM (#4425747)
Because they don't (they can't) work on a schedule. If they go five innings today, they're due for four days' rest, and then you need another long reliever if you're to employ the same tactic again.

As Steve notes, BITD that wasn't an issue, because a shelled starter would come back on short rest, a short reliever might get a 3-inning stint anyway, you had a swing man or a double-header starter sitting around to fill in at long relief, your ace starters were closing games from the bullpen, and everybody's workload was much more improvisational and unpredictable. But that's anathema any more (for excellent reasons, I'd venture).


I think they've overdone it. I see no evidence modern pitching patterns have reduced injury rates, and they sharply limit your flexibility.
   108. GuyM Posted: April 25, 2013 at 03:51 PM (#4425751)
I think they've overdone it. I see no evidence modern pitching patterns have reduced injury rates, and they sharply limit your flexibility.

These patterns have significantly increased strikeouts, which has reduced scoring. That seems more important than "flexibility." Preventing runs is what we pay pitchers to do.

Again, you are providing an aesthetic judgment masquerading as baseball analysis....
   109. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: April 25, 2013 at 03:56 PM (#4425756)
These patterns have significantly increased strikeouts, which has reduced scoring. That seems more important than "flexibility." Preventing runs is what we pay pitchers to do.

Again, you are providing an aesthetic judgment masquerading as baseball analysis....


No, I'm not.

I'm saying if CC Sabathia gives up 5 runs in the first, you're probably losing the game anyway. Also, he probably doesn't have his best stuff, and I doubt laboring through 5 IP is a good way to avoid injury to your valuable asset. Pull him, let the 6th SP sop up the low leverage innings, and bring CC back to start two days later.

I want to have my best pitchers pitching in games I can win.

We also have no real idea if these patterns are the cause of increased Ks. Starter Ks are up almost as much as RP Ks.

These patterns also have a consequence on the other side of the ball in that teams can no longer platoon effectively b/c of 7, and sometimes 8, man bullpens.

   110. Steve Treder Posted: April 25, 2013 at 05:03 PM (#4425833)
These patterns also have a consequence on the other side of the ball in that teams can no longer platoon effectively b/c of 7, and sometimes 8, man bullpens.

Quite true, and this is the important consideration in this inquiry that's all too often ignored. Losing several hundred platoon-advantage at-bats per season is a big deal, and that's what extra-short offensive benches do. There are more switch-hitters now, but not enough to make up for the lost platoon positions.
   111. GuyM Posted: April 25, 2013 at 05:12 PM (#4425840)
Losing several hundred platoon-advantage at-bats per season is a big deal, and that's what extra-short offensive benches do.

Maybe, but I suspect that exaggerates the impact quite a bit. Let's be concrete. You're a Giants fan I think. So tell me which one AAA player SF should promote (and which pitcher gets demoted), and give me a rough sense of how he will get "several hundred" PA (always with the platoon edge!), and which starting position player(s) who will lose these PAs? I suspect that adding a 14th position player doesn't bring as much value as you think it does.
   112. Steve Treder Posted: April 25, 2013 at 05:35 PM (#4425866)
So tell me which one AAA player SF should promote (and which pitcher gets demoted), and give me a rough sense of how he will get "several hundred" PA (always with the platoon edge!), and which starting position player(s) who will lose these PAs?

The current Giants roster doesn't lend itself well to such an improvement, because they have (a) a superstar-hitting catcher, (b) switch-hitting regulars at third base and center field, (c) a full-time platoon in place in left field, and (d) a left-handed-batting regular shortstop. (Nor is it an especially relevant question to ask "which AAA player" would a team immediately promote; it's a question of strategic roster design more than instant modification within an established paradigm of 12-13 pitchers as the norm.)

But all through the leagues every year, there are multiple teams that have one or more of either (a) two right-handed-batting catchers, (b) a right-handed-batting regular at either SS or 2B or 3B (including even the current Giants, who would benefit with a credible LHB to platoon with Scutaro at 2B).

And all it takes is to convert one position currently manned by a regular RHB to a platoon, and the team gains, conservatively, 300 platoon-advantaged at-bats.
   113. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 25, 2013 at 05:47 PM (#4425875)
The evidence is pretty clear that starters who get hit hard in the early innings are not more likely than average to pitch poorly the rest of that game (accounting for their overall talent level)

Which is counterintuitive,...


It is. I also wonder whether, since if a pitcher gets hammered he's most like to get hammered by the meat of the opposing team's batting order, the following inning is likely to be started off by the opposing team's weaker hitters. Any time you do a study that figures pitcher ERA, it'll be skewed in favor of pitchers who start an inning facing the number 7 or 8 hitter as opposed to some random hitter, and especially skewed against samples that include the first inning, starting against the lead-off hitter.
   114. GuyM Posted: April 25, 2013 at 05:51 PM (#4425879)
And all it takes is to convert one position currently manned by a regular RHB to a platoon, and the team gains, conservatively, 300 platoon-advantaged at-bats

Ah, but you're not playing fair. You are replacing a team's 7th best reliever -- essentially a replacement level pitcher -- with a LHH 2B as good as Scutaro. Of course that's an improvement, but you've implicitly conjured up additional financial resources.

To level the playing field, you must add a replacement-level middle infielder who hits LH. Now, is SF better off? Probably not. Even with the platoon edge, he probably doesn't hit better than Scutaro. And is his glove as good?

This is the real choice we're talking about: dropping a team's worst pitcher, and adding a replacement-level position player. So my AAA request is exactly germane. And my guess is that for most teams, this swap would be at best a wash.

   115. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 25, 2013 at 06:07 PM (#4425894)
What's a typical platoon advantage anyway? I recall hearing somewhere it averages out to 25 points of BA. Don't know OBP or SLG.
   116. Greg K Posted: April 25, 2013 at 06:17 PM (#4425897)

We also have no real idea if these patterns are the cause of increased Ks. Starter Ks are up almost as much as RP Ks.

I'm actually curious myself, how do we know that it is usage patterns that have increased strikeouts? Not staking out a position myself (I have no clue) but how does one go about proving or disproving this?
   117. Steve Treder Posted: April 25, 2013 at 06:26 PM (#4425902)
This is the real choice we're talking about: dropping a team's worst pitcher, and adding a replacement-level position player. So my AAA request is exactly germane. And my guess is that for most teams, this swap would be at best a wash.

In the immediate term within the current-day paradigm, yes, I agree. But what this fails to consider is that the paradigm itself has had effects on roster construction for at least a decade now, and that effect has been to increase the supply of serviceable short-stint generic relievers (because the roster spots demand them), and effectively drive out of the league many of the sort of platoon-specialist bats who enjoyed thriving little careers as recently as the '70s and '80s -- because of the drying up of roster spot demand. These typically late-20s/early-30s types, often washed-out one-time prospects, might hang on in AAA nowdays, but not likely because the AAA roster is similarly constructed. Often nowdays they drift to Japan.

So the issue is that 30 years ago, there was a higher general availability of serviceable platoon bats than there is today, and so taking a snapshot of anybody's current org chart is also, as you put it, "not playing fair." A modern team planning to go a full season or seasons with a 14/11 roster would be thinking about acquisition of such platoon specialist talent on an ongoing basis, and if competently managed, their org chart would thus look different than it does today.
   118. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: April 25, 2013 at 07:04 PM (#4425919)
So the issue is that 30 years ago, there was a higher general availability of serviceable platoon bats than there is today,...
If I may butt in, how many of the 30 guys who would have been available your 30 years ago really did, say, migrate to Japan? Since these are by definition the best platoon hitters available, and not the best AAAA hitters, their demand outside the US is probably not great at all. Further, these are exactly the guys a team wants to keep in AAA because they have value if someone on the big league club goes down to injury.
   119. Steve Treder Posted: April 25, 2013 at 07:14 PM (#4425923)
If I may butt in, how many of the 30 guys who would have been available your 30 years ago really did, say, migrate to Japan?

No flipping idea, I was just tossing out the Japan example of a place where some of them probably have managed to get a job.

Further, these are exactly the guys a team wants to keep in AAA because they have value if someone on the big league club goes down to injury.

It's been my observation that the kind of guy I'm thinking about -- generally corner infielder or corner outfielder, less often C or 2B, with modest defensive skill, but not a serious enough bat to be a prime DH candidate -- has a hard time hanging on past his late 20s in AAA. He gets crowded out by younger and cheaper guys who are still regarded as prospects, and the kind of talent teams tend to prefer to stash as injury insurance is more typically the guy with more defensive versatility and capability (and therefore generally more baserunning capability) at the typical cost of a lighter bat.
   120. Mike Emeigh Posted: April 25, 2013 at 08:39 PM (#4425981)
I'm actually curious myself, how do we know that it is usage patterns that have increased strikeouts?


We don't, but I think it's a fair assumption that usage patterns have contributed to the increase in strikeouts. Both starters and relievers can go out and work harder knowing that their workload is going to be limited (starters to around 100 pitches, relievers to around 20-30).


It's been my observation that the kind of guy I'm thinking about -- generally corner infielder or corner outfielder, less often C or 2B, with modest defensive skill, but not a serious enough bat to be a prime DH candidate -- has a hard time hanging on past his late 20s in AAA. He gets crowded out by younger and cheaper guys who are still regarded as prospects, and the kind of talent teams tend to prefer to stash as injury insurance is more typically the guy with more defensive versatility and capability (and therefore generally more baserunning capability) at the typical cost of a lighter bat.


Perhaps. Mike Hessman is still hanging around (he's in Louisville this year at age 35), so's Dan Johnson (S-WB at age 33), Ryan Langerhans is still playing (Buffalo), Chris Richard hung around forever until retiring three years ago - these are guys who probably would have gotten more shots at a platoon role had there been one available. Durham's Leslie Anderson is in that mold now - he got a late start because he was a Cuban defector, so he's 31 now, and he's a 1B/corner OF who can hit line drives all over the ballpark but who doesn't hit for power. He reminds me a lot of Adrian Gonzalez when the latter was 21 and playing at AA - but that 10 years of age makes all the difference.

-- MWE
   121. GuyM Posted: April 25, 2013 at 09:41 PM (#4426026)
But what this fails to consider is that the paradigm itself has had effects on roster construction for at least a decade now, and that effect has been to....effectively drive out of the league many of the sort of platoon-specialist bats who enjoyed thriving little careers as recently as the '70s and '80s -- because of the drying up of roster spot demand.

Boy, this is pretty thin broth, Steve. The theory that pitching staffs are too big now hinges on the theoretical contribution of some now "missing" thirty-something corner OFs? This hinges on the premise that there is some specific skill that makes someone a valuable platoon player, and yet not talented enough to win a 4th or 5th OF job on a team today. I can't imagine what that would be. And the fact is very few teams seem able to find a good platoon partner among these current 4th and 5th OFs (and backup corner infielders), who are almost certainly better players than your retreads playing in Japan. Can you give us some examples of players now in their 30s and out of baseball but who seem likely to be better than players currently in MLB? (Remembering that players peak at age 27-28.) I would also note that the average age of position players is slightly older than in the 1970s and 1980s.

   122. Squash Posted: April 26, 2013 at 02:59 AM (#4426076)
I'm saying if CC Sabathia gives up 5 runs in the first, you're probably losing the game anyway. Also, he probably doesn't have his best stuff, and I doubt laboring through 5 IP is a good way to avoid injury to your valuable asset. Pull him, let the 6th SP sop up the low leverage innings, and bring CC back to start two days later.

I understand the theory, but in practice it's not quite that simple. For a starter who's going on a set schedule, going from cold to hot (i.e. getting game-ready warmed up and then throwing 35 or so pitches in a game to give up the 5 runs) can pretty much mean he "has thrown" today regardless, plus you add the stress of all those pitches with guys on base. It's not as if he just went out there and threw 20 pitches in a between-starts bullpen at 75% with no one there but the bullpen coach and the third catcher.

How many times a year does your stud pitcher give up 5 runs in the first anyway (or a pitcher who's good enough that it's worth monkeying with the rest of the staff's schedule)? It's probably better in the end to just get 85 pitches out of him on those rare occasions since you're not getting him back two days later anyway, especially if the alternative is to burn all your long(er) relievers for a few days sopping up 8 innings, then risk dinging up C.C.'s arm by bringing him back on short rest. Your team might come back.
   123. Howie Menckel Posted: April 26, 2013 at 06:50 AM (#4426087)

I think the real problem is that it doesn't seem like any MLB execs would even bother thinking these ideas through, as you guys are doing.

Take closer usage: Everyone, it seems, is slave to the written rule of using a closer even when your team is up 3 runs in the 9th, including when the bottom of the order or weak lefties are coming up - even if the closer pitched the night before, and thereby might wind up being unavailable in a one-run game the next night.
   124. bobm Posted: April 26, 2013 at 07:12 AM (#4426089)
How many times a year does your stud pitcher give up 5 runs in the first anyway (or a pitcher who's good enough that it's worth monkeying with the rest of the staff's schedule)?

In 2012 it was some fraction of 42 times (out of a total of 4860 starts)

B-R: 2012 Runs Scored by Inning

                                                                          
Inning       #     0   Any    1    2    3   4   5 Most Total  Avg Avg/9inn
1         4860  3331  1529  840  377  166 104  42    8  2735 0.56     5.06
   125. bobm Posted: April 26, 2013 at 07:20 AM (#4426092)
For comparison, 1972 Runs Scored by Inning

                                                                  
Inning      #    0  Any   1   2   3  4  5 Most Total  Avg Avg/9inn
1        3714 2703 1011 554 259 122 54 22    7  1773 0.48     4.30
   126. BDC Posted: April 26, 2013 at 09:25 AM (#4426140)
Aesthetically, I hate the big staffs and frequent changes, but they seem to work: one often gets a sense in the late innings, especially in the last couple of years as scoring rates have declined, that all really is lost when you head into the seventh down a couple of runs. There are some gaudy bullpen ERAs on almost every club these days (always excepting the Cubs and such :)

when a team needs a starter on short notice today, it almost always brings up a starter from the minors

That's an interesting point. Roster rules facilitate this strategy, as does better coordination across the organization (i.e. you're not placing a trunk call to Wichita and finding that Old Highpockets has burned the starter you wanted in long relief yesterday). Travel is comparatively instantaneous compared to 50-60 years ago, and on top of that, I have a sense that many teams have been drawing their farm clubs closer to home, so that you no longer have your AAA club in Hawaii or Edmonton or some damn place. It's a minor advantage (the starter you need in San Francisco tomorrow may still be in Richmond VA today) but all these minor factors combine.
   127. GuyM Posted: April 26, 2013 at 09:37 AM (#4426151)
I'm actually curious myself, how do we know that it is usage patterns that have increased strikeouts?

We can estimate the impact of individual changes in pitcher usage, and most/all of them increase Ks:
1) Starters are more effective on 4-5 days rest than 3;
2) Starters are less effective in the late innings, so removing them earlier should increase their K rate;
3) A good starter who is hit hard early is still a better pitcher than a mop-up man, so reducing early hooks should increase Ks;
4) Short relievers have a large K advantage over starters (or long relievers), so more innings from short relievers should increase Ks;
5) More relief pitchers means pitchers have platoon edge more often (59% last year, vs. 55% in 1992).

The simple rule: the less a pitcher has to pitch, the more effective he is.

And while none of us wants to hear this, if there are further changes it's likely to be in the direction of starters getting pulled even earlier, not later. Here is hitter OPS by inning, last 3 years:
5th .737
6th .753
7th .714
8th .694
9th .670

If there's a remaining inefficiency in pitcher management, it's leaving too many starters in to pitch the 6th. Eventually, some teams will start to exploit this, and others will follow. As a corollary, in the NL managers should basically never allow a pitcher to hit after the 5th inning in a close game. On Monday the Cards let Shelby Miller hit in the top of the 6th, bases loaded, two outs, 2-run game (LI = 3.00). Almost certainly a mistake to let him hit there, even though he's a good pitcher and gave them two more innings. Managers sometimes let pitchers hit in these situations, only to pull them the next inning if they give up a baserunner or two -- which is nuts.
   128. Ron J2 Posted: April 26, 2013 at 11:03 AM (#4426226)
#115 From an old study of mine:

Here's the way hitters with 1000+ PAs between 1984-97 broke down

.        vs Left             vs Right
Bats    BA  OBP  SLG  OPS   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS  diff  OA
Right .280 .354 .457 .811 .260 .325 .411 .736 .075 .761
 Left .273 .342 .404 .746 .296 .377 .472 .849 .103 .814
 Both .259 .325 .368 .693 .258 .331 .370 .701 .008 .698 


Diff is OPS on the better side - OPS on the weaker side OA is overall OPS.

Looks like the switch-hitters at least avoided platoon splits. Not really. It's just that the mix of switch hitters who hit better against left and right respectively is such that as a group they
produce broadly the same numbers versus left and right.

Here's how they break down at the career level

OPS diff       Both Left Right
176 
or more     12%  14%   3%
126 to 175       8%  27%  13%
76 to 125       17%  24%  29%
26 to 75        34%  27%  41%
25 to -25       29%   8%  12%
-
26 to -75                 2%
-
76 or more                1
   129. GuyM Posted: April 26, 2013 at 11:44 AM (#4426266)
The decline of platooning is an interesting phenomenon, and it's not clear to me why it has happened. But it doesn't appear there are a lot of obvious platoon candidates playing today. Here are the LHH who got at least 450 PA last year, with an OPS+ of 100 or below. You'd expect these players to do very poorly vs. LHP in general, and finding a RHH to platoon with them worth considering.
Michael Bourn
Dustin Ackley
Ichiro Suzuki
Colby Rasmus
Mike Moustakas
Carlos Pena
Eric Hosmer
Kelly Johnson
Ben Revere
Brennan Boesch
Casey Kotchman
Brian McCann
Brandon Crawford
James Loney
Lucas Duda
Gregor Blanco

Only 16 guys. And some are young guys who teams want to give a chance to develop into better players. Some play C or other key defensive positions, and finding an acceptable fielder to platoon with them won't be easy or cheap. Suzuki has no platoon split. Yes, there are probably a few guys here who should be platooned if possible (Pena, Rasmus). But it's not like there are a lot of LHH being allowed to face LHP for no good reason.
   130. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: April 26, 2013 at 11:56 AM (#4426276)
The decline of platooning is an interesting phenomenon, and it's not clear to me why it has happened.


I think the expansion of pitching staffs would be the big reason. When you've got a 15/10 roster construction you can afford to have 2 guys at a couple of positions. When you've got 13/12 you're stuck with single backups at C, IF, OF and one wild card (usually a 5th outfielder). That makes it difficult to do any tactical platooning.
   131. Steve Treder Posted: April 26, 2013 at 12:59 PM (#4426325)
I think the expansion of pitching staffs would be the big reason.

It cannot help but be, at the very least, a major contributor.
   132. AROM Posted: April 26, 2013 at 02:09 PM (#4426364)
That seems obvious to me. When you are down to a 3-4 man bench platooning is very difficult. One of those spots has to be a catcher, at least one has to be an infielder who can play multiple positions. These guys can't hit, if they could then they wouldn't be bench players. At best maybe your 4th outfielder can platoon with an OF who hits with the opposite hand.

It's possible that platooning fell out of favor first, led to an excess of players on the bench, until management said "if he's not contributing, maybe I should use that spot for another pitcher".

It would be interesting if there was a way to look up, historically, the composition of players on the 25 man roster over the course of the season. Almost impossible to tell by looking at final season stats since you have so much turnover.

First year I followed baseball was 1982. Earl Weaver used 13 pitchers total, it looks like went with 9. First computer game I had set up for season play was Microleague in 1987. If I remember correctly rosters required 15 players and 10 pitchers, so that must have been the norm. My guess is that 11 became common around 1990, and 12 sometime after 2000. A few teams go with 13 for parts of the season now, but I don't think that lasts very long.

I doubt any team could carry 14 pitchers on a 25 man roster, for any length of time.
   133. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: April 26, 2013 at 02:15 PM (#4426368)
I remember that Microleague requirement. Used to frustrate me for playoff games because I always wanted to go 16/9.

I doubt any team could carry 14 pitchers on a 25 man roster, for any length of time.


Shush. AROM Sr. probably once said "I doubt any team could carry 12 pitchers on a 25 man roster." Let's not be giving any ideas here.
   134. GuyM Posted: April 26, 2013 at 02:53 PM (#4426408)
That seems obvious to me. When you are down to a 3-4 man bench platooning is very difficult.

It may seem obvious, but that doesn't make it so. Most teams are carrying 5 bench players, a C, 2 IF, and 2 OF (give or take). Why would adding 1 or 2 more bench players, who would in general be inferior players, lead to better platoon opportunities? The only plausible answer I see is that today's bench players need more defensive versatility, and that reduces offensive talent on the margins. But I doubt that makes a big difference.

I suspect it's true that platooning fell out of favor, managers found themselves with expendable guys on the bench, and decided "I'd rather have another reliever available." Maybe service/arbitration rules played a role, giving teams a disincentive to let young players start their careers as platoon/bench guys?
   135. BDC Posted: April 26, 2013 at 03:21 PM (#4426432)
One of those spots has to be a catcher … These guys can't hit

I was hoping Pierzynski and Soto would be the exception to this rule for the Rangers this year, but Soto looks like he may never revisit the Mendoza Line.

Most teams are carrying 5 bench players

But in AL parks, one of them is always in the lineup; and sometimes that one is more or less an everyday DH, too. I suspect there are more relievers nowadays because managers are panicked about not having enough relievers around; but my impressions merely contrast to yours; maybe both dynamics were/are at work.
   136. Kiko Sakata Posted: April 26, 2013 at 03:34 PM (#4426444)
If I may butt in, how many of the 30 guys who would have been available your 30 years ago really did, say, migrate to Japan? Since these are by definition the best platoon hitters available, and not the best AAAA hitters, their demand outside the US is probably not great at all. Further, these are exactly the guys a team wants to keep in AAA because they have value if someone on the big league club goes down to injury.


Matt Murton seems like a good example of the kind of player Steve's thinking of. Career OPS+ of exactly 100 who plays a mediocre corner outfield; bats right-handed so he's the short end of a platoon. My understanding is that he's become something of a minor star over in Japan (set the record for hits in a season over there in 2010).
   137. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: April 26, 2013 at 03:52 PM (#4426459)
Oakland right now may be an exception, and it would seem that their usage of platooning may help explain why their offense isn't nearly as bad as one would predict. It seems purposeful, at least.
   138. GuyM Posted: April 26, 2013 at 04:00 PM (#4426468)
136: OK, so let's say Matt Murton is still kicking around at age 31, and is maybe a 90 OPS+ hitter. Against LHP, he's obviously better than that. Now, here are the 2012 LHH corner outfielders with 400+ PA. Who do you platoon with Murton? And what do you think the net gain is on offense/defense?

Josh Hamilton
Shin-Soo Choo
Garrett Jones
Nick Markakis
Alex Gordon
David Murphy
Andre Ethier
Bryce Harper
Carlos Gonzalez
Jay Bruce
Jason Kubel
Jason Heyward
Matthew Joyce
Will Venable
Tyler Colvin
Josh Reddick
Seth Smith
Norichika Aoki
David DeJesus
Raul Ibanez
Lucas Duda
Juan Pierre
Ichiro Suzuki
Gregor Blanco
Gerardo Parra
Ben Revere
Brennan Boesch
Brian Bogusevic
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