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Saturday, January 21, 2023

Starter’s Workload: Stop Blaming Analytics for 122 Year Trend - Sports Illustrated Arizona Diamondbacks News, Analysis and More

Link fixed. Jim

One idea that might help reverse this trend a little is to further limit the number of pitchers allowed on staffs. If teams were forced to carry fewer pitchers, they’d also be forced into training their starters to pace themselves rather than throwing max effort all the time. It would have to be transitioned over time but it is doable.

One often hears baseball fans and pundits alike lament the shortened workload that MLB starting pitchers are asked to bear in the modern game. Often in the course of such discussion the argument that “analytics are ruining the game”  is trotted out and held aloft as some great insight.

The next time you hear that, please note: That’s complete and utter nonsense. In fact ever since 1901 the percentage of innings pitched by starting pitchers has continually decreased from previous years and decades. There is some ebb and flow of course, but the 122 year trend is undeniable, and did not just start since the popularization of modern analytics over the last 20 years.

jimfurtado Posted: January 21, 2023 at 10:58 AM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: analytics, history, starting pitchers

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   1. Jack Sommers Posted: January 21, 2023 at 11:40 AM (#6113824)
Looks like the link above is broken

https://www.si.com/mlb/diamondbacks/analysis/starters-workload-stop-blaming-analytics-for-122-year-trend

Story Link

   2. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: January 21, 2023 at 11:57 AM (#6113825)
Well, that and the inexorably growing strikeout rate are both trends that date back to the dawn of baseball, and also trends that have drastically accelerated in the Data Age.
   3. Howie Menckel Posted: January 21, 2023 at 12:28 PM (#6113829)

"ebb-ony anr ivory...."

this was fun while it lasted

MOST IP
274. Wilbur Wood (30) 376.2 1972
276. Mickey Lolich (30) 376.0 1971
334. Wilbur Wood (31) 359.1 1973
390. Steve Carlton+ (27) 346.1 1972
397. Gaylord Perry+ (34) 344.0 1973
408. Gaylord Perry+ (33) 342.2 1972
414. Phil Niekro+ (40) 342.0 1979
462. Phil Niekro+ (39) 334.1 1978
466. Wilbur Wood (29) 334.0 1971
477. Nolan Ryan+ (27) 332.2 1974
492. Phil Niekro+ (38) 330.1 1977
   4. Adam Starblind Posted: January 21, 2023 at 12:52 PM (#6113830)
Whatever. Thanks a lot, nerds.
   5. Walt Davis Posted: January 21, 2023 at 01:08 PM (#6113832)
this was fun while it lasted

Was it? Was it more fun than watching some other pitcher take, say, 60 of those innnings? I mean these were pretty entertaining pitchers period -- who doesn't love watching some old guy baffle batters throwing 55 MPH? -- but was it really something special to watch Wilbur Wood trot out to start (nearly) every 3rd game rather than every 4th?

One idea that might help reverse this trend a little is to further limit the number of pitchers allowed on staffs. If teams were forced to carry fewer pitchers, they’d also be forced into training their starters to pace themselves rather than throwing max effort all the time. It would have to be transitioned over time but it is doable.

Forcing them to carry more position players that do nothing but sit on their butts 95% of the time? To placate a bunch of whiners who will just start whining about something else?

There are arguably legit aesthetic problems with the games -- game time, strikeouts, scoring -- and starters pitching 6-7 instead of 5-6 address none of them really. This proposal amounts to "let's force tiring, ineffective pitchers to the mound and see what happens."

   6. Mayor Blomberg Posted: January 21, 2023 at 01:39 PM (#6113833)
Several of those Niekro and Perry years there wasn't a better pitcher (by ERA) on the team to take those innings.
   7. Howie Menckel Posted: January 21, 2023 at 01:47 PM (#6113836)
having the best players in a sport participate more often is, to me, indeed more fun.

the Warriors visit Cleveland once this year, and they just decided to sit Curry, Thompson, and Green for "load management" in that game. so people paid 200+ dollars to watch a CBA team.

eventually, even the dumbest of suckers will realize the scam and stop buying tickets.

I know I watch MLB less often because of the endless parade of anonymous relievers - it's a less entertaining product imo.
   8. Jack Sommers Posted: January 21, 2023 at 02:07 PM (#6113839)
Well, that and the inexorably growing strikeout rate are both trends that date back to the dawn of baseball, and also trends that have drastically accelerated in the Data Age.


Yup, there is a 4TO chart in the article as well. (I use 4 TO instead of 3, including HBP). Obviously K's make up the biggest percentage of the growth in 4TO.

It will be interesting to see if the drop in K% last year is a one year blip and that trend flattens out, or if the increase in K% trend continues upward.

K% 1901-2022
   9. Jack Sommers Posted: January 21, 2023 at 02:24 PM (#6113840)
Howie, I feel ya. I even mention that at the end of TFA. But the point I'm trying to make is this has been going on for 122 years. We are just at the end of a 7 year acceleration point, so there is some recency bias in how it's viewed, but there have been several of those acceleration points through history too.

It's not a scam. It's just the natural progression of things. Nothing was going to stop it. Maybe without most teams relying heavily on analytics departments it would have taken a couple extra years to get to the threshold we're at now, but it was heading here regardless.

I'm sure Bob Feller , who AVERAGED almost 330 IP in 5 consecutive full seasons when not off to war (1939-1941 & 1946-47) looked at Nolan Ryan's two seasons of 300+ IP in 162 games seasons in 73-74 and thought BFD. And how many arms in Texas did Ryan break trying to get that organization to have starters throw as much and use them the way they were used in his day?

From 2011:

Nolan Ryan has preached pitcher's stamina ever since he took over as team president of the Texas Rangers in 2008. Coming from a guy who has thrown the fifth most innings in the history of the game, you would expect that.

Ryan is convinced that the pitch count has ruined pitching as he knew it, and it's hard to argue with that.


LINKY



   10. DCA Posted: January 21, 2023 at 04:54 PM (#6113851)
the Warriors visit Cleveland once this year, and they just decided to sit Curry, Thompson, and Green for "load management" in that game. so people paid 200+ dollars to watch a CBA team.

And Wiggins. And they won anyway.
   11. Howie Menckel Posted: January 21, 2023 at 05:37 PM (#6113857)
in this era of fandom, many young NBA backers care more about seeing stars play than about which team wins.
   12. SoSH U at work Posted: January 21, 2023 at 05:46 PM (#6113859)
And they won anyway.


Which is probably the worst possible outcome for the majority of people at the game. They don't get to see the stars and their team still lost.

   13. BDC Posted: January 21, 2023 at 10:24 PM (#6113877)
And how many arms in Texas did Ryan break trying to get that organization to have starters throw as much and use them the way they were used in his day?

I honestly don't recall any horror stories of that ilk. The Rangers in the Ryan years had only slightly above-average CG totals. Several of their young starters had OK careers – Derek Holland drew some attention by throwing four shutouts in 2011 but that hardly broke his arm; he would pitch another ten years in the majors after that. Was there some notable pitching-prospect catastrophe from that era that I have forgotten? They did have a first-round pick named Tanner Scheppers who threw very hard and also battled arm trouble – but they converted Scheppers to relief early, in the minors. He was strictly a one-inning guy.

It is quite possible I have developed amnesia about Ranger pitching failures, though :)
   14. willcarrolldoesnotsuk Posted: January 21, 2023 at 10:54 PM (#6113881)
One thing I really don't like about proposals such as "limit the number of pitchers" is that (unless there's something I'm not aware of) there is, technically, no such thing as "a pitcher" in a general sense. There is certainly a pitcher on the mound, and of course people are generally considered "pitchers" whether currently on the mound or not, but there are no actual rules differentiating any players at all except when they're actually playing in a game. And even then, it's to a lower extent than commonly thought; there are specific rules for what the pitcher and catcher can and can't do, but what else? First basemen are allowed a special kind of glove... but I don't think there's even a rule that says that "the first baseman" needs to be playing anywhere near first base, is there? There's just a guy who is designated to be "the first baseman", who therefore is allowed a special glove, and if you want, that guy could be in left field, or at shortstop, or anywhere besides the pitcher's mound or the catcher's... catching box thingy, I guess.

Anyway, regardless of whether there are other specific rules for other positions, and even if the distinction has little practical effect, I like the whole theoretical "Nobody is definitively a name-that-position except within the context of any single specific play during an actual game" thing.
   15. sunday silence (again) Posted: January 22, 2023 at 02:05 AM (#6113885)
I like the whole theoretical "Nobody is definitively a name-that-position except within the context of any single specific play during an actual game" thing.


have you read the new shifting rules?
   16. Tony S Posted: January 22, 2023 at 08:46 AM (#6113889)
Which is probably the worst possible outcome for the majority of people at the game. They don't get to see the stars and their team still lost.


But it was a rational act (with an optimal outcome) on the part of the Warriors organization.

If the NBA's playoffs weren't so generous (now they have "play-in games" for the exclusive privilege of getting into the 16-team postseason), then the Warriors would be incentivized to play their stars more often in the regular season.

I don't blame the Warriors (or any organization) for using the league's misguided practices for their benefit. You want your players sharp and rested for the games that actually matter.

And risking injury to your best players in a glorified exhibition game isn't the smartest thing to do.

   17. Tony S Posted: January 22, 2023 at 08:49 AM (#6113890)
in this era of fandom, many young NBA backers care more about seeing stars play than about which team wins.


If I wanted to see skilled athletes show their moves for no competitive purpose, I'd go catch a ballet. But I'm an old guy. Kids these days...

But maybe the Reds and Pirates GM's are on to something...
   18. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 22, 2023 at 09:23 AM (#6113891)
I can't blame the Warriors for thinking long range to the playoffs, but sitting stars sure isn't a good way to incentivize ticket sales for glorified exhibition games, especially at today's hyperinflated prices.
   19. NaOH Posted: January 22, 2023 at 10:27 AM (#6113894)
Brian Scalabrine was a punchline for most of his NBA career. He averaged all of 3.1 points per game as an end-of-the-rotation guy. His modest stats and goofy appearance earned him the nickname “White Mamba.” But make no mistake: even at 43, he’s still one of the most elite basketball players on the planet, as one unfortunate high schooler learned recently.

Or, as Scalabrine once told a different challenger, “I’m closer to LeBron than you are to me”. Even at that stage he was probably one of the best 1,000 players in the world. I guess some people want to see the greatness of a star player more than greatness. Not me.

Worth watching for the video.
   20. SoSH U at work Posted: January 22, 2023 at 10:38 AM (#6113895)

But it was a rational act (with an optimal outcome) on the part of the Warriors organization.


No argument. But as we see more and more, team goals and league goals are often at odds. It is the league's responsibility to make the games more entertaining, however feasible. Teams will not act that way.
   21. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 22, 2023 at 11:19 AM (#6113897)
No argument. But as we see more and more, team goals and league goals are often at odds. It is the league's responsibility to make the games more entertaining, however feasible. Teams will not act that way.

But the real question is "How should teams act in the face of conflicting goals?"

The league's goal is maximizing entertainment value, but even there you'll often see a conflict between the short term and the long term. The short term says to put your showcase stars on the court for every game. The long term says to make sure that those showcase stars are at maximum capability during the league's most showcase games, i.e, the postseason. And that latter goal, which coincides with the individual teams' goal, is much harder to accomplish if you prioritize the former goal for the sake of not pissing off regular season fans a few times a year.

About the only things I could suggest would be (1) letting fans know a day or two in advance that the superstars were going to be given a night off; and (2) offer ticketholders a full advance refund for that game. In this case the teams would be sacrificing short term profit for long term credibility, a tradeoff that IMO would be worth it. Obviously this wouldn't apply in cases where the superstar was sitting due to an actual injury.

There are also variants on this dilemma. Look at last night's KC-Jacksonville game, where Mahomes was visibly injured and to a great degree immobile after his injury, but the Chiefs let him tough it out and wound up winning the game, in spite of the fact that they had a perfectly capable backup QB and in spite of the fact that keeping Mahones out would've given him a better chance to recuperate for next week's AFC championship game. To put it mildly, the Chiefs were lucky as ####.

But what if he'd been re-injured? He might have wound up as another RGIII, a now forgotten showcase Redskins QB who was kept on the field during a playoff game 10 years ago after an obviously debilitating injury, and had his once-brilliant career destroyed forever.
   22. SoSH U at work Posted: January 22, 2023 at 11:38 AM (#6113901)

But the real question is "How should teams act in the face of conflicting goals?"


I generally defer to them to do what they think is in their best interests.

And as I said, leagues should act where feasible. Forcing teams to never rest stars isn't necessarily something the NBA should do. Forcing pitchers to throw the damn ball/batters to get in the box is something baseball should do.

   23. vortex of dissipation Posted: January 22, 2023 at 11:56 AM (#6113903)
And even then, it's to a lower extent than commonly thought; there are specific rules for what the pitcher and catcher can and can't do, but what else? First basemen are allowed a special kind of glove... but I don't think there's even a rule that says that "the first baseman" needs to be playing anywhere near first base, is there? There's just a guy who is designated to be "the first baseman", who therefore is allowed a special glove, and if you want, that guy could be in left field, or at shortstop, or anywhere besides the pitcher's mound or the catcher's... catching box thingy, I guess.


It's a grey area, and the rules aren't that clear. It can interpreted in different ways. In 2016, there was an incident where Anthony Rizzo was playing first base for the Cubs and Ben Zobrist was playing second base. With a runner on first and the pitcher batting, Rizzo was playing in for the bunt, and Zobrist moved over to hold the runner at first. Prates manager Clint Hurdle complained that they had switched positions, and Rizzo couldn't use a first baseman's mitt if Zobrist was playing closer to the bag. The umps agreed, and made Zobrist wear a first baseman's mitt and Rizzo had to get a regular fielder's glove. Joe Maddon said that there was nothing in the rule book that specified which player had to wear which glove, and that he had done the same thing previously without them having to switch gloves, but lost the argument. Once that play (which was a sac bunt fielded by Rizzo) was over, both players went back to their normal positioning, and returned to their original gloves.
   24. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: January 22, 2023 at 12:03 PM (#6113904)
I remember that play. Boy, was that argument a worthwhile use of everyone’s time.

Hurdle was the worst with that stuff. One time he made a replay challenge of the count, just to stall because he hadn’t gotten his next pitcher warming up soon enough.
   25. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: January 22, 2023 at 12:41 PM (#6113909)
But the real question is "How should teams act in the face of conflicting goals?"

I generally defer to them to do what they think is in their best interests.

And as I said, leagues should act where feasible. Forcing teams to never rest stars isn't necessarily something the NBA should do. Forcing pitchers to throw the damn ball/batters to get in the box is something baseball should do.


Agree on all counts.
   26. TedBerg Posted: January 25, 2023 at 05:04 AM (#6114346)
First basemen are allowed a special kind of glove... but I don't think there's even a rule that says that "the first baseman" needs to be playing anywhere near first base, is there?


I'm pretty sure there is, and only the guy standing closest to first base can wear it. It came up with the Cubs a few times with Anthony Rizzo, when they'd use aggressive shifts to defend bunts. I can't find the specifics in MLB rules (there are specifications for 1B gloves, but I can't find what officially designates a guy as "the first baseman"), but I think it's just that only the guy standing closest to first base can wear one. On Rizzo's baseball-ref page, it shows 13 appearances at second base between 2016 and 2021.

That said, I agree w/r/t setting roster limits on positions. Each team has 26 baseball players and the manager gets to choose how to best deploy them.

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