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Position Players Pitching Newsbeat

Sunday, August 08, 2021

Baseball’s Great Debate: Who’s Worse, Pitchers Who Hit, or Hitters Who Pitch?

Yet despite the utter incompetence of non–Shohei Ohtani pitchers who hit and hitters who pitch, both are fairly frequently called upon to make fools of themselves. Which brings us back to the question that started it all: Who’s the bigger fool?

Short answer (he says, 1,800 words into this article): It’s the pitchers who hit. Probably.

To assess how today’s pitcher hitters and position-player pitchers stack up, we have to focus on recent seasons, because pitchers have stunk much more at hitting, and position players have pitched much more often, over time. In the first year of the pitch-tracking era, only 40 pitches were thrown by position-player pitchers, according to Baseball Savant. Through Wednesday’s games, Triple-Ps were on pace for 1,368 pitches, which would be a bit below the 2019 record of 1,547. The usage of position-player pitchers spiked in 2018, so we can call 2018 to 2021 the modern pitcher hitting/position-player pitching era. Notably, as more and more hitters have moonlighted as pitchers, their average velocity has fallen; despite Brett Phillips pumping 94 mph heat, the average pitch thrown by a position-player pitcher this year has flown 70 mph, down from well over 80 a decade ago. Even the offerings classified as “fastballs” are down a few ticks from their highs, though the difference between the average fastball speeds of position-player pitchers and the league as a whole (5.1 mph) is approximately the same as the difference between the average exit speeds of pitcher hitters and the league on non-bunt batted balls (4.8 mph).

Entering Thursday, pitcher hitters excluding Ohtani had produced a 2018–21 slash line of .118/.150/.150 (.300 OPS), with a 43.4 percent strikeout rate, a 3.2 percent walk rate, and 58 homers in 13,587 plate appearances. Abysmal! In the same span, position-player pitchers (again excluding Ohtani) had allowed a slash line of .340/.410/.674 (1.084 OPS), with a 6.0 percent strikeout rate, a 9.3 percent walk rate, and 90 homers in 1,221 plate appearances (oh, and a 9.21 ERA). Also abysmal! But which is worse?

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 08, 2021 at 10:18 PM | 6 comment(s)
  Beats: position players pitching

Rangers 3B Brock Holt throws slowest called strike MLB has ever tracked

Before you read this, go crumple up a paper ball and peg it at a trash can as hard you can.

Congratulations, you’ve probably thrown an object faster than an MLB pitcher on the mound this year.

Texas Rangers third baseman Brock Holt took the mound on Saturday and came out firing with a historical dearth of heat. His first pitch: a 31 mph strike that really has to be seen to be understood.


Holt was called in to pitch with the Rangers down 12-3 to the Oakland Athletics. In a game that had pretty much been decided, he delivered one of the most unusual scoreless innings MLB has ever seen, throwing six pitches slower than 40 mph.

Holt opened the inning with eephus pitches to Josh Harrison, allowed a single to Matt Chapman that was erased when Chapman was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double and got a flyout from Tony Kemp.

According to MLB.com’s Sarah Langs, Holt’s opening 31.3 mph called strike was the slowest pitch to be called a strike since MLB started pitch striking in 2008. The previous slowest pitch had been a 41.3 mph beauty from Willians Astudillo in June earlier this year.

It’s worth noting that Holt’s other pitches had some heat, and that really shows when you overlay the two pitches.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 08, 2021 at 06:45 PM | 28 comment(s)
  Beats: brock holt, position players pitching

Friday, April 30, 2021

Position Players Are Suddenly — and Probably Fleetingly — Decent at Pitching

As a percentage of all relief appearances, the position player pitching (PPP) rate is up about 38% over last year. It’s nearly four times the rate of 2017, and nearly double the rate of ’18, the year that the phenomenon really took off. Over a full 162-game schedule, this year’s rate projects to 126 PPP appearances, 51 more than in 2019. That’s about five per week.

Particularly as their usage has proliferated, we’ve seen just how bad position players generally are at this, to the point of allowing nearly a run per inning. This year they’re actually pitching comparatively effectively, mainly by avoiding home runs, which on a per-game basis are down 11.5% from last year (perhaps due to the new ball). So far, the Angels’ Anthony Bemboom is the only one to serve up a long ball (to the Astros’ Kyle Tucker, in case you need to know). Because they’ve actually gotten batters out, the rate of PPP appearances as a percentage of batters faced (0.62%) is only up about 16% relative to last year.

The sudden success of the PPPs probably isn’t velocity, unless that means the lack of same. Via a very quick and dirty Baseball Savant study, the average pitch velocity of this year’s PPP appearances — and here I’m lumping all pitches together because classifying these guys’ offerings is rather ambiguous — is 67.5 mph, down more than three clicks from last year and seven clicks from 2018, the earliest year I checked. By that I’d guess, and this is just a guess, that we’ve gradually seen more curves, eephuses and knuckleballs than batting-practice fastballs from these guys, which to these eyes adds to the entertainment. If the phenomenon continues, I swear on a stack of Billy Ripken ****face cards that I’ll apply for a MacArthur Fellowship grant to study the phenomenon more diligently.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: April 30, 2021 at 12:23 PM | 47 comment(s)
  Beats: position players pitching

 

 

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