Fixin' Baseball

February 20, 2015
 
Newly picked Commissioner Rob Manfred stepped on the first land-mine of his brief career last month, when he mentioned in an ESPN that he was willing to consider banning the defensive shifts that are currently in vogue in the majors, as a way to increase offense in baseball.
 
The nearly unanimous reaction, from almost everyone with a pulpit to pulpificate on, was that this would be a terrible idea. Why?
 
I think the strong reaction came because most of us believe that a solution to defensive shifts already exists within the game: if hitters like Chris Davis or Robinson Cano don’t like to see a shift every time they come up to the plate, they’re perfectly welcome to bunt singles or slash doubles into the open field.
 
So Manfred’s suggestion that he would consider prohibiting defensive shifts seemed an overstep: baseball doesn’t need the Commissioner to come in and tell us where defenders have to play. Let the players sort it out on their own, damn it.
 
If we wanted to, we could consider this as fans preferring small-governance over big-governance. Advocates for smaller government like to argue that big government is too eager to overstep its rightful bounds: if we let the commissioner take control of defensive shifts, it’s only a matter of time before he moves the bases further apart, just to stop Billy Hamilton from making NL throwing arms look bad.
 
I think this is generally the way that baseball fans prefer their changes to occur: innovation should occur within the foul lines instead of by committee vote. Let the players figure it out. Let the game adjust on its own accord.
 
The DH is a potential example: though it’s been forty years since the DH came into existence, it remains a deeply contested changes in baseball. Why? I would hazard that a part of the animosity is how it came about: in January of 1973 some suits in a room voted for it, and the game was changed. And it forced a change in how the game was played: instead of pitchers having to hit, we now had an extra hitter for AL teams. It also split the leagues: it created discontinuity. You had one league doing one thing and another league doing something different. I like that, but I’ve grown up with that. I can understand how that would offend someone’s sensibilities.
 
There is much less anger about the decision, following the 1968 season, to standardize the height of the pitching mounds. While this influenced the game, it didn’t alter what the players were doing on the field. And it didn’t really alter what we saw: the average fan couldn’t see the supplemental oxygen tanks left at the top of the pitcher’s mound in LA.
 
This goes a long way towards explaining away the disconnect I felt when the off-season conversation turned its focus on a real problem in baseball: the ever-increasing rate of strikeouts.
 
Last year major leaguers struck out at a rate of 7.7 times per nine innings pitched. The Cleveland staff struck out 8.9 batters per nine innings pitched….just putting that in perspective, Felix Hernandez has only notched 8.5 k/9 in his impressive career.  
 
Many writers have chimed in with suggestions on how we could change rules to combat this problem. Major League Baseball’s "Rule Committee" is currently considering shrinking the strike zone. Jonah Kerr and Neil Paine over at Five-Thirty-Eight have pointed out that bullpens are at fault for the strikeout increase. Dave Cameron at FanGraphs suggested a cap of three pitching changes per game, while Ken Rosenthal posited that relief pitchers face more than one batter. Even the guy on our masthead has advocated changes that we change bats, and fences, and baseballs themselves to curb the problem.
 
While these are all fine suggestions worth considering, a different set of questions rattled around in my brain:
 
Is there a way for this problem to be solved within the lines? That is: is there a way to adjust with the problem of strikeouts without tinkering with the rules?
 
And:
 
Have some teams already started to figure this out?
 
*             *             *
 
Taking a detour: it is a legitimate question where strikeouts ARE a problem. I don’t mean from an entertainment perspective….I mean from an in-game perspective.
 
Bill has converted me to the belief that baseball is an ever-improving game: I am sold on the idea that baseball as it is played in 2014 is a more difficult game than baseball as it was played in 1920. Or 1960.
Or 1980. All of those moustaches were horrible.  
 
Baseball’s strikeout rate has increased steadily over this time, as the game has gotten incrementally better. It is certainly possible that strikeouts are actually important to an effective offense. It’s possible that the contact-first model that died out in the early 1920’s did so because it was inefficient, and the current trend reflects an improving game.
 
Just sayin’. We might not like all the strikeouts, but that doesn’t mean they’re a bad strategy.
 
*             *             *
 
Taking another detour, back to 1987.
 
1987 was an amazing baseball season. For starters, it was sort of a precursor to the offensive spike that would define the 1990’s and 2000’s. Here’s a table:
 
Year
AB
HR
1985
143072
3602
1986
143106
3813
1987
144095
4458
 
The 1987 season saw a 17% increase in homeruns. This was the year McGwire hit 49 homers as a rookie.George Bell also hit 49, with Andre Dawson outpacing Dale Murphy 47 to 44 in the NL. Twenty-eight players managed to pop 30+ homers, included two Evans’s (Darrell and Dwight) and two Larry’s (Parrish and Sheets).
 
There were lots of amazing seasons: Tony Gwynn hit .370, while Wade Boggs added surprising power to his routine 200 hits/100 walks. Alan Trammell had an amazing season. Eric Davis hit 37 homers and stole 50 bases. Pedro Guerrero had a monster season. Rookie Devon White hit 24 homers, stole 32 bases, played great defense in centerfield, and finished fifth in the AL Rookie-of-the-Year vote.
 
One of the most interesting parts of the 1987 season was the team that eventually represented the NL in the World Series. Here are the Cardinals hitters, ranked by homeruns:
 
Player
1987 HR
Jack Clark
35
Ter. Pendleton
12
Willie McGee
11
Jim Linderman
8
Tony Pena
5
3 tied at
3
 
Jack Clark was the team’s leading power threat. The second biggest power threat, at least by at-bats per homer, was Bob Forsch. Thirty-seven year old starting pitcherBob Forsch.
 
In a year where the homerun rate spiked upward, the team that lost the seventh game of the World Series had exactly one power hitter. 
 
They also had no strikeout pitchers on their rotation. The NL averaged 6.0 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. Here are the Cardinals starters:
 
Pitcher
GS
IP
K/9
Danny Cox
31
199.1
4.6
Greg Mathews
32
197.2
4.9
Bob Forsch
30
179
4.5
Joe Magrane
26
170.1
5.3
John Tudor
16
96
5.1
Lee Tunnell
9
74.1
5.9
Tim Conroy
9
40.2
4.9
 
None of the Cardinals starters topped the NL average…and the three pitchers who threw the most innings for the Cardinals were comfortably below the NL average.
 
What helped the Cardinals win the most games in the NL was their defense, which was pretty good at turning balls into outs. They had Gold Gloves at shortstop and third (Ozzie and Terry Pendleton), along with Tony Pena and Steve Lake splitting time behind the plate. Their outfield of McGee, Coleman, and Curt Ford doesn’t show up as a great defensive team, but they were certainly fast. Jose Oquendo played 116 games. 
 
I don’t know that the Cardinals were the best team in the NL in 1987: they managed to stay ahead of a very good Mets team and a solid Montreal team, and they beat a very strong Giants team in the NLCS. Maybe they were the best team in the NL, and maybe they were a little lucky to come out on top.
 
The important thing is this: in a year when homeruns spiked, the team that finished dead-last in the majors at hitting homeruns won the most games in the NL, and reached the 7th game of the World Series. They did it with one power bat, a bunch of starters who didn’t pile up strikeouts, a good bullpen, and speed on the bases.
 
*             *             *
 
I bring the 1987 Cardinals up because they illustrate a truth in baseball: there’s a lot of ways to win a baseball game.
 
And: they show the value in going against the trends. In 1987, when everyone in the league was coming around to power-hitting being the way forward, the Cardinals built a team around speed and defense and contact-pitching, and they almost won a World Series.
 
The obvious parallel to the 1987 Cardinals are last season’s Royals. Like their Missouri neighbors, the KC team won games on speed and defense, with a contact-heavy starting rotation and a strong bullpen. Like the Cardinals, the Royals team didn’t cross the century mark in homeruns. Like the Cardinals, the Royals reached Game 7 of the World Series and lost it.
 
And like the Cardinals, last year’s Royals bucked a trend: while every other offense in baseball seemed okay with the strikeout, the Royals went contact-heavy. The major league average was 1248 strikeouts per team. The second best team at avoiding the strikeout were the A’s, with 1104. Royals batter struck out just 985 times.
 
I was skeptical about the Royals all year: I wrote a few articles predicting that they’d lose the Central to the Tigers (which they did), and I thought they’d have an early exit in the playoffs.
 
When they destroyed the Angels, my thinking about them shifted. The reason for my change is obvious: I had actually watched them play. I had seen them play, of course, but I had only watched them sporadically, catching a late game here or there. The Wild Card Game and the ALDS were the first times I watched them with a deliberate focus. And I wondered how anyone ever beat them.  
 
One of my worst tendencies is to rely on statistics too much. I must’ve glanced at the 2014 Royals page on Baseball-Reference countless times, and I always came away thinking the same thing: Meh. Am I supposed to be impressed with a team that has two regulars with an OPS+ above 100? I wasn’t.
 
But…watching the Royals actually play a bunch of games, I realized that they were a really good team, and a team particularly well-designed to succeed in our modern version of the postseason. They have such a smart structure really: they have something of a one-run offense, but it works because they have a strong defense that keeps their opponents off the scoreboard, and they have a lights-out bullpen that comes in and strikes out everyone in the 7th, 8th, and 9th. They’re hard to beat from behind, and they can win the draws by scratching a run across the board in the late innings.
 
Getting back to the strikeout rate: the Royals are interesting because they seem to be a team that has found success in challenging baseball’s broader trend. Is their success a fluke, or is there an advantage to avoiding the strikeout.
 
*             *             *
 
A quick aside, which I didn’t know where to put, so I’m tossing it here:
 
One reason I am reluctant to change the rules to decrease strikeouts is that the problem will eventually find a balance on its own accord. If the strikeout rate continues to rise, there will come a point when it is valuable just to have hitters making contact. If 80% of batters are striking out, and baseball hasn’t done anything to change the rules, than the players and teams will change. Eventually teams will shift towards a contact approach out of necessity, because there will be value to it.
 
 What I wonder is this: did we see, in 2014, that tipping point?
 
*             *             *
 
I’ve invented a new junk stat, just for fun. Let’s call it Team Strikeout Edge.
 
Teams averaged 1248 strikeouts last year. That is, a team’s offense, on average, whiffed 1248 times. A team’s pitching staff had the same average, 1248.
 
Taking the Kansas City Royals. Their pitchers struck out 1168 batters, which is actually eighty fewer strikeouts than the league average. But their batters struck out just 985 times, an advantage of 263 strikeouts on their batting peers.
 
Here’s an equation:
 
Team K Rate:    (Pitching Ks – League Avg.)   +   (League Avg. – Hitting K’s)
 
Doing the math for KC:
 
(1168 – 1248)     +     (1248 – 985)
 
(-80)     +     (263)
 
Team K Edge: 183
 
We can do this for every team in the majors:
 
Team
K (Hitters)
K (Pitchers)
Team K Edge
Rays
1124
1437
313
Indians
1189
1450
261
Yankees
1133
1370
237
Royals
985
1168
183
Athletics
1104
1244
140
Dodgers
1246
1373
127
Diamondbacks
1165
1278
113
Tigers
1144
1244
100
Cardinals
1133
1221
88
Mariners
1232
1317
85
Angels
1266
1342
76
Brewers
1197
1246
49
Blue Jays
1151
1199
48
Mets
1264
1303
39
Reds
1252
1290
38
Padres
1294
1284
-10
Nationals
1304
1288
-16
Pirates
1244
1228
-16
Giants
1245
1211
-34
Phillies
1306
1255
-51
Rangers
1162
1110
-52
Braves
1369
1301
-68
Orioles
1285
1174
-111
Red Sox
1337
1213
-124
Cubs
1477
1311
-166
Rockies
1281
1074
-207
White Sox
1362
1152
-210
Marlins
1419
1190
-229
Twins
1329
1031
-298
Astros
1442
1137
-305
 
The Royals were the fourth-best team in the majors last year, by this metric, behind Tampa Bay, Cleveland, and the Yankees. The worst teams, by far, were the Twins and the Astros.
 
We can see if there’s a correlation between Team K Edge and wins:
 
Team
Team K Edge
Wins
Rays
313
77
Indians
261
85
Yankees
237
84
Royals
183
89
Athletics
140
88
Dodgers
127
94
Diamondbacks
113
64
Tigers
100
90
Cardinals
88
90
Mariners
85
87
Angels
76
98
Brewers
49
82
Blue Jays
48
83
Mets
39
79
Reds
38
76
Padres
-10
77
Nationals
-16
96
Pirates
-16
88
Giants
-34
88
Phillies
-51
73
Rangers
-52
67
Braves
-68
79
Orioles
-111
96
Red Sox
-124
71
Cubs
-166
73
Rockies
-207
66
White Sox
-210
73
Marlins
-229
77
Twins
-298
70
Astros
-305
70
 
There is a suggestion, at least at the extreme poles, that there’s a correlation between winning and having an edge in strikeouts. Here are the teams +100 in Team K Edge:
 
Team
Team K Edge
Wins
Rays
313
77
Indians
261
85
Yankees
237
84
Royals
183
89
Athletics
140
88
Dodgers
127
94
Diamondbacks
113
64
Tigers
100
90
 
Seven of those eight teams were in their races last year, including the Rays, who had a tremendous hot-streak during the summer. Only the D’Backs were a dud.
 
Meanwhile, the -100’s:
Team
Team K Edge
Wins
Orioles
-111
96
Red Sox
-124
71
Cubs
-166
73
Rockies
-207
66
White Sox
-210
73
Marlins
-229
77
Twins
-298
70
Astros
-305
70
 
The Orioles continued to baffle everyone last year, but the rest of this group had pretty non-competitive seasons.
 
It works for 2013, too. Here are the best teams by Team K Edge:
 
Team
Team K Edge
Wins
Tigers
355
93
Rangers
242
91
Giants
178
76
Royals
160
86
Dodgers
146
92
Cardinals
144
97
Rays
139
92
 
Six contending teams, one sub-.500 one. The Cards lost the World Series to Boston. The Tigers lost the ALCS to Boston. The Rays lost the ALDS to Boston.
 
And here are the worst teams from 2013:
 
Team
Team K Edge
Wins
Padres
-138
76
Rockies
-140
74
Braves
-152
96
Mets
-175
74
Twins
-445
66
Astros
-451
51
 
One contender (the strikeout-prone Braves) and five losing teams. We might have a trend.  
 
*             *             *
 
Wrapping this up.
 
First, I think there’s evidence that teams should consider strikeouts, both on the offensive side and the pitching side: in the ever-competitive rush to find market inequalities, I suspect that a batter’s ability to avoid a strikeout is one of the more underappreciated skills in the game. Teams pay top-dollar for strikeout pitchers, but they don’t pay top dollar for contact hitters….not unless they’re Victor Martinez.
 
Take the contact-loving Royals. This offseason the team replaced Nori Aoki (8.9% strikeout rate) with Alex Rios (17.9%), for a considerable increase in cost. They replaced Billy Butler (15.9%) with Kendrys Morales (17.0%). They’ve also lost James Shields. One reason I think the Royals will lose more games this year is because their +183 mark is almost certainly going to decline in 2015.
 
And I think some teams will start exploring ways to get their hitters to make more contact. It is possible that some teams already are.
 
Certainly, teams could do this. Bill has suggested that major league baseball gradually increase the thickness of bat handles. What I wonder is what is stopping the Boston Red Sox from doing exactly that? In this age of escalating strikeouts, there’s bound to be an advantage in making contact. Why don’t the Red Sox try and cultivate a more contact-focused approach in their minor league system?
 
I don’t know if I want baseball’s rules committee to pass a bunch of changes: just my preference, I’d like to see teams figure it out themselves. It was very interesting, last year, to watch the contact-reliant Royals dispatch the walk-happy A’s and the brilliant Angels and the homer-hitting Orioles in the playoffs: I imagine that the level pullers on those franchises left those games a little stunned by how badly they were whipped. Maybe one or two of them (not the Orioles, though) will try to emulate the kind of baseball the Royals brought to the playoffs last year. That’d be fun.
 
I worry that any measure passed down from either the commissioner or the rules committee would limit such variety. If every team starts making more contact, then teams like the Royals will stand out less. Baseball is best when it has a variety of strategies being tested: I don’t know that it is in the game’s best interests to tip the scales in any direction.
 
A solution exists on the field. Let the teams figure it out for themselves.
 
Dave Fleming is a writer living in Wellington, New Zealand. His attention is currently diverted by the Cricket World Cup, which is surprisingly interesting.  
 
 
 
 

COMMENTS (18 Comments, most recent shown first)

Brock Hanke
So far unmentioned is one big factor in K rates: the ballparks. Small parks encourage homer hitting, which means uppercuts, which means strikeouts. Larger parks are harder to hit the ball out of, so players who don't hit homers have more value. Also, bigger parks are bigger in the outfield (the infield stays the same), which puts a premium on speed in the outfield.

The 1987 Cardinals played in a gigantic 1960s turf park. Everyone in the lineup except Jack Clark and Jose Oquendo was way up in the upper half of speed at that position (this was the team that was called "Jack Clark and the seven leadoff men"). Whitey Herzog knew that hitting the ball out of Busch was impossible for anyone with less power than Jack Clark, but that he needed a real fast outfield, and a team that could manufacture runs by doing things like stealing a lot of bases, taking many extra bases, and knowing how to bunt.

Ballparks have been getting smaller, not larger. There are good reasons for this: Busch Stadium was so slowly raked that the players looked like ants if you were in the third deck. They built it that way because they didn't want to have the problem that the old 1910s parks had - girders in front of many of the seats, and blocking part of the vision of many more (Wrigley and Fenway are like this). The concrete and steel technology of the 1960s didn't allow you to get rid of the girders unless you raked very slowly. Modern concrete and steel are so good that you can, essentially, place one deck right over the lower one, as was done in the 1910s, but without blocking sight lines with girders, which was the big selling point of the 1960s monster domes. My guess is that unless to do something to address the ballpark size decrease, you aren't going to really stop the current trends in Ks and Ws.
12:44 AM Feb 24th
 
jollydodger
Radical or drastic changes are not the answer. We are still only a few years out of the PED era. Teams are still full of players playing PED baseball, but without the PEDs. Swinging for the fences without the wherewithal to get the ball out of the yard. Swinging big and missing big, without as much payoff.

Let us get a generation removed from the PED era, and baseball will magically be bereft of 8-hole batters with 100+ Ks trying to hit 25 HRs.

5:39 PM Feb 22nd
 
sbromley
As Bill often points out, the trend of increasing strikeouts has basically been going for 100 years now, so I don't really buy the idea that it is going to suddenly reverse because of a single fluky team. At best, you might hope for strikeouts to stop going up.

And even if strikeout rates would stop going up, we would still be stuck with an extremely unaesthetic level of strikeouts in the game. If baseball wants to draw in fans or even keep the ones it has, it should act to remediate the problem.

The real beauty of the game as a spectator sport is on the field – in the interaction between ball, the runners and the fielders. This is literally disappearing before our eyes as the "three-true outcomes" increasingly dominate.
2:41 PM Feb 21st
 
FrankD
Interesting. I agree that bucking the trend has potential to be good strategy. Just like contrarian investing. As 'everybody' accepts increasing KOs, contact hitters may become relatively undervalued. And, defense may become less important. Thus you can get players at reasonable cost that exploit other teams weaknesses...... Because in almost all endeavors there is reversion to the mean, in that trends almost always go to the extreme, baseball will self-correct and there is no need for rule changes as towards increasing KOs
12:46 AM Feb 21st
 
the_slasher14
337 -- message received and replied to. Thanks for it, and thanks for getting me to check out readers posts.
8:42 PM Feb 20th
 
OldBackstop
It just occurred to me that maybe instead of a rule on positioning players, we could do what golf does and add some hazards....a few sand traps, maybe, in short right. Maybe a water feature.
8:25 PM Feb 20th
 
ChitownRon
My 2 cents, leave the game alone.

As you stated below:
"A solution exists on the field. Let the teams figure it out for themselves."


6:08 PM Feb 20th
 
Hal10000
I've always wondered, with sports, if there is an advantage to teams that go against the grain. That when everyone is scoring tons of runs, the big advantage is to teams that can keep them off the board. Likewise, in a pitcher's era, teams that can score runs have an advantage. For example, in the Steroid Era, no team with a big home run hitter won the World Series until the 2001 Diamondbacks. Teams with lots of pitching (the Braves and Yankees) did well. I also see parallel's in football, where strong defenses seem to have the advantage in a scoreboard-spinning era. So I do wonder, in an era where everyone is swinging for the fences and striking out a tone, if there is a big advantage to having an offense that pulls up and puts the ball in play.
5:16 PM Feb 20th
 
CharlesSaeger
Here's how to cut the relievers down to size:

1) Expand to 36 teams. Getting 6 cities to pony up for a new team won't be an issue.
2) Cut the rosters down to 20 players.
3) Get rid of the DH. The Big Papis will have a grandfather clause.

The upshot of this is that the players' union will only lose 30 jobs—750 players will go down to 720. All of those jobs will be taken away from relievers. Getting rid of the DH will keep teams from layering their remaining bullpens, which would only be about four men anyways. Besides, there will be about 30 new jobs for batters anyways, so the existing DHs will get plenty of chances to play.

The rosters under this would work out to something like the everyday eight, four guys on the bench, four starters, and four relievers. Since teams only have about 12-13 batters anyways, all the loss will come from pitchers, and mostly relievers. The relievers will be forced to go for longer stints, and the LOOGYs will be gone from the game immediately.
5:01 PM Feb 20th
 
CharlesSaeger
To be brutally fair, the 1987 NL starters had a K rate of 5.7 K/9, which one of the Cardinal starters beat, albeit not by much.
4:48 PM Feb 20th
 
chuck
I agree that some more time might be given to teams sorting this issue out on their own. Success like the Royals and Giants have had should breed imitation.

I think the Giants have been kind of leading the way on this recently. Below is how they ranked in the NL in strikeout ratio, home run ratio, and batting average on balls in play. Pardon if the tables come out crooked- no way to edit here.

SFG offense
YEAR .... SO ... HR .. BABIP
2010 .... 5th .. 6th .. 11th ... (won WS)
2011 .... 6th .. 11th .. 16th ... (2nd in the West)
2012 .... 1st .. 16th .. 3rd ... (won WS)
2013 .... 1st ... 14th .. 4th ... (4th in the West)
2014 .... 6th ... 7th ... 5th ... (won WS)

SFG pitching and defense
YEAR .. SO .. HR .. BABIP
2010 .... 1st .. 6th .. 1st ... (won WS)
2011 .... 1st .. 1st .. 3rd ... (2nd in the West)
2012 .... 8th .. 5th .. 7th ... (won WS)
2013 .... 7th .. 8th .. 11th ... (4th in the West)
2014 .... 10th ..9th ... 2nd ... (won WS)

The Giants have been above average on offense in not striking out each of the 5 years, and in 2010-11 were also first in striking out opponents.

In 2010 their strengths were more on the pitching and defense side, being the hardest team to make contact on, as well as the hardest to get hits in play off of. That team was also above average in making contact on offense and in home run ratio.

In their 2nd world series year they were last in homers but near the top in batting average on balls in play, combined with the lowest strikeout ratio in the league- kind of the reverse side of the coin from 2010 when their staff and defense led in both areas. In 2012 the staff and defense were near average in those 2 areas.

In 2014 the staff was below average in strikeout rate and in allowing the long ball, but the team was near the top in preventing hits on contact and was above average in offensive contact rate and hits in play average.
1:20 PM Feb 20th
 
OldBackstop
Very cool, Dave. You could could almost look at it as one team is getting 22 outs and the other team is getting 18 or whatever.
10:10 AM Feb 20th
 
ventboys
I've always kind of thought questec was the prime culprit behind both increased strikeouts and decreased walks. A lot of us have been watching baseball since the seventies - and earlier - and until questec there was no such thing as a high strike that wasn't in the middle of the plate. The zone looked more like a bell curve than a rectangle. The honest strike zone has created a bunch of these monsters - pitchers with blast furnace k rates and black painter walk rates - that used to be rare animals.

I agree that the players should be given some time to make adjustments before anyone tries to legislate normality, and I sure as hell don't want the new Commissioner to be a micromanager. One thing I always liked about Selig was that he took pains to gain a consensus among the owners before he did anything rash.

Dave, are you doing a sleepers and busts article this year? I always look forward to that, and your other springtime articles like X number of players and your bold (translation: insane) predictions.

PS: you had a stat snafu up there, the homerun totals of Dawson and Bell are backwards.
9:29 AM Feb 20th
 
greggborgeson
I like your Team Strikeout Edge. It would be interesting to create a Team Home Run Edge, and perhaps Team Walk Edge, and then compare them to wins as you do here. Fascinating to see which has the higher correlation.
7:18 AM Feb 20th
 
337
Slasher--sent you a PM the other day. It was no big deal, but I don't know if you look for PMs--there's a notification tab in the banner of "Reader's Posts," just in case you didn't realize that. Nothing you need to respond to, just making sure you know you've got a PM.
6:54 AM Feb 20th
 
337
"Evanses," not "Evans's." Plural, not possessive.
6:51 AM Feb 20th
 
evanecurb
I think walks and BABIP are important to this analysis. If I remember correctly, walks have been decreasing in recent years, while strikeouts continued to increase. As batters take more pitches, there are going to be more strikeouts (bad) but also more walks (good). Now that this trend has reversed, the value of taking pitches declines, and the value of contact increases. But BABIP is also a factor, because, as BABIP decreases, the value of contact decreases.


6:27 AM Feb 20th
 
the_slasher14
I think this article makes an excellent point, but I see a problem with it, which is the players themselves. There are only so many Tony Gwynns and Ichiros who are so good without hitting lots of homers that they make huge bucks. Most players, however, will want to hit for power, because that's where the money is. The Padres and the Mets are both bringing in their fences not because it's going to make them win more often -- it almost certainly won't have much of an effect -- but because it's hard to get players to sign with a team that has a park that's going to suppress their numbers -- the numbers that determine their future salaries.

Teams might FORCE players to use bats with bigger handles (but the union may have something to say about that), but if you ask somebody like Kris Bryant to do it, he's likely to refuse because he would figure, probably correctly, that batting .260 with 40 HRs is going to get him more money than hitting .300 with 25.

I think the point of the 1987 Cardinals is that none of them, except Jack Clark and maybe Ozzie or Willie McGee, ever made much money. And does anyone think any of the 2014 Royals is going to sign a five-year contract for major bucks anytime soon. Every player wants the rings, but the money matters, too.
3:23 AM Feb 20th
 
 
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