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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) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: position players pitching

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   1. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 09, 2021 at 12:59 PM (#6033533)
How can you really test hitters who pitch when they only get called in during garbage time?
   2. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: August 09, 2021 at 01:02 PM (#6033534)
It is definitely the pitchers who try to hit that are worse. Consider this: By definition, the position players are only pitching when the game is over. People are laughing on the field, and the goal is to get the game over as quickly as possible, using as few pitchers as possible, with no injuries.

When a pitcher attempts to hit, in virtually 100% of cases, it is when the game is competitive. These guys are actually supposed to be trying! Compared to, say, 40 years ago, I think pitchers coming to the plate are much more likely to not try, even in a competitive game. You see more pitchers who literally leave the bat on their shoulder until there are two strikes, sometimes even for the entire plate appearance. If the argument is that this makes sense, given how pitchers who can hit continues to die off in the sport, then it really is an argument for getting rid of pitchers hitting altogether, and just go to a DH everywhere. Heck, maybe the team at bat should be able to waive the plate appearance if they wish, and call it an "intentional Out" if they really aren't going to have the pitcher swing the bat.
   3. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: August 09, 2021 at 02:33 PM (#6033545)
Heck, maybe the team at bat should be able to waive the plate appearance if they wish, and call it an "intentional Out" if they really aren't going to have the pitcher swing the bat.

There are some teams where an Intentional Out might be the best option for a good portion of the starting lineup.
   4. Rally Posted: August 10, 2021 at 01:38 PM (#6033668)
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.


I don’t think the top velocity is down. Just that these guys find it more effective to through some ephus pitches, bringing down the average, than throwing an 85 mph fastball. Brett Phillips established his fastball, but then just threw a bunch of 47 mph pitches up there. So his average was probably around 60 in that game.
   5. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: August 12, 2021 at 12:26 AM (#6033981)
Heck, maybe the team at bat should be able to waive the plate appearance if they wish, and call it an "intentional Out" if they really aren't going to have the pitcher swing the bat.
Not entirely sure why they would want to do that - decreasing the chance of an injury via HBP, I guess? - but in any case, it seems like there must be some way to do it. I think there are lots of rarely-invoked "the batter is out if" rules. Maybe like refusing to step into the batter's box?
   6. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: August 12, 2021 at 12:44 AM (#6033984)
So, I looked this up, and: The ump can call a strike on someone who refuses to take the box, and so a batter can theoretically be called out by strikeout by doing it three times. However, if a particular player does it more than once in the game, they open themselves up to the possibility of league-level punishment, so that's obviously not a good option.

Better-seeming option: 6.03(a)(3): "A batter is out for illegal action when he steps from one batter's box to the other while the pitcher is in position ready to pitch". Best be quick about it, though, I guess.

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