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Hoosier Red
06-15-2012, 09:25 AM
Interesting piece from Jayson Stark on the current "Age of Pitching."

http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8048897/the-age-pitcher-how-got-here-mlb

He puts too much emphasis on the reduction of steroids in my opinion.

But I thought it was an interesting piece.

traderumor
06-15-2012, 09:37 AM
Interesting piece from Jayson Stark on the current "Age of Pitching."

http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8048897/the-age-pitcher-how-got-here-mlb

He puts too much emphasis on the reduction of steroids(and doesn't mention amphetamines which played as big of a role if not larger) in my opinion.

But I thought it was an interesting piece.He made a big deal about amphtamines :confused:

OesterPoster
06-15-2012, 09:48 AM
I like his explanation a lot better than Barry Larkin's stumbling, stuttering explanation on Baseball Tonight last night. I know we all love the guy, but his opinion about pitchers just "having better stuff" doesn't hold much water with me. It's more a combination of things like Stark writes about.

Hoosier Red
06-15-2012, 09:55 AM
He made a big deal about amphtamines :confused:

Right you are. I went back and re-read it. Mental block had me skip over a paragraph apparently.

Hoosier Red
06-15-2012, 10:09 AM
What I think is interesting is how each of the factors he mentioned work not only directly but also indirectly.

In the early 2000's there were fewer pitchers throwing hard because there was less of a reward for a guy who could throw 95+. When there was a good bet the batter could turn around a 95 MPH fastball and deposit it into the seats, you were more likely to try and get by on "trickery."

This led to a league of nibblers who were just trying to stay out of the "big" inning and the best way for a marginal or even good pitcher to do that was to NOT give up a home run even if it meant they sometimes had a bunch of baserunners in an inning.

Of course pitchers still gave up Home Runs. Lots of them. Because of course marginal pitchers aren't always exact with their location, so a guy who was nibbling might leave one over the plate. Especially when he's trying to be too fine. And if you combine the lots of home runs with the fact that there's more likely to be a guy on base, then there's an explosion of offense. And games lasted longer than Dances with Wolves.


But since the tide turned, and pitchers got back to feeling like they had the upper hand, they were more likely to let loose with their fastballs. And focus on preventing a big inning by allowing fewer baserunners which led to the starting(good) pitchers being able to throw more innings which led to fewer middle(less good) relievers being used too often which allowed for greater use of the specialized relievers in their proper roles all of which meant fewer runs and an age of pitchers.

Brutus
06-15-2012, 10:16 AM
I think post-PED era is having a huge impact. And because guys aren't juicing as much, I think teams are starting to adapt their philosophy to recognize pitching and defense are much more important again.

Cyclone792
06-15-2012, 10:18 AM
The game ebbs and flows, and we've just been seeing some of the transition with that ebb and flow over the last four or five years.

This is no different than any other change of eras during the game's history. I just took a casual look, and in 1930 teams averaged 5.5 runs per game. By 1940, run scoring was down to 4.7 runs per game. The swings favoring hitters and pitchers are always taking place. 20 years ago the game began swinging toward hitters, and now over the last several years it's been swinging back toward pitchers.

Personally, I enjoy the swings and I love how the game ebbs and flows over years and decades. It brings out all sorts of different brands of baseball.

westofyou
06-15-2012, 10:21 AM
Right you are. I went back and re-read it. Mental block had me skip over a paragraph apparently.

Ritalin fixes that ;)

Btw there seems to be more MLB players with ADD than the average number in the whole population

Surprise!!

Edskin
06-15-2012, 10:36 AM
There are other factors coming into play, but if you don't think the reduction in PED's is THE number one reason for the "golden age" of pitching you are really kidding yourself.

traderumor
06-15-2012, 10:47 AM
I'm still a skeptic that there is only organic reasons for such a dramatic shift immediately following the steroid era. I recall all the organic explanations in the early years of the steroid era. There were all kinds of reasons to explain it, none of which mentioned some form of cheating. I imagine there are still pieces available on the internet that were written in the late 90s through the first part of 00s that were looking at "just the cycles of the game." Tripling the number of hard throwers? I smell something fishy, a cover up of some sort. Don't ask me what it is, but as long as Selig's around, things that don't add up usually don't add up.

RedsManRick
06-15-2012, 11:28 AM
Interesting piece from Jayson Stark on the current "Age of Pitching."

http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/8048897/the-age-pitcher-how-got-here-mlb

He puts too much emphasis on the reduction of steroids in my opinion.

But I thought it was an interesting piece.

There was a lot of circular reasoning in there, trying to ascribe blame/credit to one group or the other by citing decreased homers, increased strikeouts, etc. It's a zero sum game. All of those stats come from the same dynamic.

E.g. It's not cutters vs. home run swings. It's both.

What's also silly, of course, is that he smooths over the fact that he's using extrapolated numbers to make a case for this year being extreme, which completely ignores the law of large numbers. He slides the "if this continues"
in there like it's a safe assumption. It's not. Period.

Notice he didn't point out that we have 6 hitters on pace for 50+ homers, 5 guys batting .350+ and Joey Votto with the highest wOBA since Bonds in 2004. The on pace stuff ignores both that some things are seasonal (HR rates typically increase in the summer months) and that smaller samples mean more outliers.

But here's the biggest issue of all Is run scoring down? Yep. It's down pretty significantly, from 5.0 runs per game in the NL in 2000 to 4.2 runs/game this year. But guess what? This year is actually very close to the historical average of run scoring.

http://img12.imageshack.us/img12/9517/runspergame.png (http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/12/runspergame.png/)

westofyou
06-15-2012, 11:42 AM
2000 was the 2nd biggest offensive year in the history of "modern" baseball though, that was the outlier, the whole era was an outlier

Net result?

Fans who think the game was always like that is one, players who have one dimensional approaches, long arse games

jojo
06-15-2012, 11:51 AM
The game ebbs and flows, and we've just been seeing some of the transition with that ebb and flow over the last four or five years.

This is no different than any other change of eras during the game's history. I just took a casual look, and in 1930 teams averaged 5.5 runs per game. By 1940, run scoring was down to 4.7 runs per game. The swings favoring hitters and pitchers are always taking place. 20 years ago the game began swinging toward hitters, and now over the last several years it's been swinging back toward pitchers.

Personally, I enjoy the swings and I love how the game ebbs and flows over years and decades. It brings out all sorts of different brands of baseball.

Exactly.

Hoosier Red
06-15-2012, 12:15 PM
There was a lot of circular reasoning in there, trying to ascribe blame/credit to one group or the other by citing decreased homers, increased strikeouts, etc. It's a zero sum game. All of those stats come from the same dynamic.

E.g. It's not cutters vs. home run swings. It's both.



As always, you make a ton of interesting points RMR. This one in particular caught my eye because I think it brings in the point I had about the continued interaction between the various variables.

If we can guess that when there were more home runs being hit, the optimal strategy for a hitter was to simply try to "guess" right and find a pitch he could punish. Therefore, the cost of striking out was lower compared to the chance and reward of an extra base hit.

Also because pitchers were more concerned with not allowing home runs, they pitched more carefully which made a batter's ability to control the strike zone very important because getting on base via a walk(while always important) had a greater chance of happening because even the backup 2nd baseman could take a pitcher deep.

However as pitchers have adapted and other factors have played a role in fewer home runs being hit, does the optimal strategy also change where the importance of batting average becomes more pronounced because a hitter is less likely to hit a home run, and the pitcher is less likely to walk a hitter who is less likely to hit a home run.

And if there are fewer extra base hits being hit, does the strategy shift more toward attaining bases through "small ball" ways because you aren't cheating yourself out of the chance at 1 big inning rather you're optimizing your chances at getting one run that inning which you may not have another good chance for a while.

traderumor
06-15-2012, 12:23 PM
The silliest argument for me was that kids don't have the patience to put the work in to become a good hitter. The whole game requires patience and a lot of work, moreso than other majors. Pitches having private pitching coaches? No time committment there? Has Jayson Stark not seen indoor batting cages in every town?

Vottomatic
06-15-2012, 12:38 PM
I like the current state of the game. Reminds me of the 70's. It's just adjusting our mentality that good power hitters are going to hit 25 to 40 HR's per season anymore, and not 40 to 60. And when one guy stands out, like Josh Hamilton, it's impressive and not the norm.

My only gripe is that some of the players are still stuck in the HR mentality. Lots of K's mixed with HR"s. Need more singles and doubles hitters. More small ball.

dougdirt
06-15-2012, 12:58 PM
Small ball sucks.

Really though, if more guys can be singles and doubles hitters who make contact at a high rate, then I don't have a problem with it. I just don't know that those guys can exist in todays game given how much better pitchers are today at missing bats.

jojo
06-15-2012, 01:09 PM
Small ball sucks.

It is kind of boring.

757690
06-15-2012, 01:47 PM
The game ebbs and flows, and we've just been seeing some of the transition with that ebb and flow over the last four or five years.

This is no different than any other change of eras during the game's history. I just took a casual look, and in 1930 teams averaged 5.5 runs per game. By 1940, run scoring was down to 4.7 runs per game. The swings favoring hitters and pitchers are always taking place. 20 years ago the game began swinging toward hitters, and now over the last several years it's been swinging back toward pitchers.

Personally, I enjoy the swings and I love how the game ebbs and flows over years and decades. It brings out all sorts of different brands of baseball.

These ebbs and flows, though, happened for specific, explainable reasons. It wasn't just a natural ebb and flow that was going to happen organically.

They changed to a new ball, fielders got better gloves, batters switched to lighter bats, better off speed pitches were developed, blacks entered the game, international players entered the game, specialized relief pitching entered the game, the mound was lowered, expansion, stadiums got smaller, steroids and then steroid testing. And that is just off the top of my head.

A retarded monkey could look at the stats over the last 20 years and see the correlation between steroids and the ebb and flow of offense during those years. This wasn't organic.

RedsManRick
06-15-2012, 01:52 PM
Small ball sucks.

Really though, if more guys can be singles and doubles hitters who make contact at a high rate, then I don't have a problem with it. I just don't know that those guys can exist in todays game given how much better pitchers are today at missing bats.

Small ball could be extremely exciting if it was about maximizing both the number of guys on base and the opportunities those runners have to advance and score.

The problem, of course, is when the #1, fundamental key to small ball is ignored or devalued in favor of the most exciting aspects of it.

Everybody loves to talk about the speed on Whitey Herzog's mid 80's Cardinal teams. And they certainly dominated the stolen base category. But people don't remember that when those teams scored, it was when they got on base. The SB were memorable, but the OBP was/is the heart of run production.



Rank '81 '82 '83 '84 '85 '86 '87 '88 '89
Runs 2nd 5th 5th 6th 1st 12th 2nd 11th 7th
SB 7th 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 1st 4th
OBP 2nd 1st 2nd 7th 1st 12th 2nd 6th 1st
SLG 3rd 8th 4th 11th 6th 12th 9th 12th 7th

RedsManRick
06-15-2012, 01:53 PM
These ebbs and flows, though, happened for specific, explainable reasons. It wasn't just a natural ebb and flow that was going to happen organically.

They changed to a new ball, fielders got better gloves, batters switched to lighter bats, better off speed pitches were developed, blacks entered the game, international players entered the game, specialized relief pitching entered the game, the mound was lowered, expansion, stadiums got smaller, steroids and then steroid testing. And that is just off the top of my head.

A retarded monkey could look at the stats over the last 20 years and see the correlation between steroids and the ebb and flow of offense during those years. This wasn't organic.

Agreed. Cyclical doesn't imply random, particularly when we know for a fact that the game made purposeful changes to adjust at the peaks.

marcshoe
06-15-2012, 03:28 PM
The answer is obvious: pitchers are studying hypnotism and have learned how to mesmerize hitters. Should have happened a long time ago. I defy anyone to prove this is not happening.

westofyou
06-15-2012, 03:45 PM
Every time the game changes it affects the bottom line, runs.

Back before Musial retired he had this to say about the slider

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1072400/index.htm

I doubt that there will ever be a lot of .300 hitters again in the majors." The speaker was Stan Musial, a man eminently qualified to discuss the problems of the .300 hitter.

"Lot of things make it tougher for a batter today than it was 20 years ago," he said. "The shape of the bat has changed because everyone swings for the fences now. Why shouldn't they? The home run hitters draw the big money. Used to be bats had thick handles and a big barrel. Then they found out it's not the size of the bat that gets home runs—it's the speed with which you can swing it. So now everyone uses a bat like this. See? A thin handle and a long taper, so that most of the wood's in the end of the bat. You can whip this one around and get power in your swing.

"But that's only part of it," he said. "When I came up to the majors in 1941, very few pitchers had the slider. You practically never saw it, and it wasn't very effective. Now every pitcher you face has the slider and uses it pretty well. It fits the shape of this bat. They used to call a slider a nickel curve. It's not that. It comes in like a fast ball and breaks a few inches in toward the hands of the batter in the last few feet of its flight. That means it breaks in where there's no wood in the bat. Just the thin handle. It breaks so late you can't adjust your swing for it. And it's a fourth pitch, remember. Used to be all you had to worry about was the fast ball, the curve and the change-up. Add the slider, and right there the batter's problem is 25% harder."

marcshoe
06-15-2012, 04:05 PM
Really interesting article. I think my next reading binge is going to involve baseball from Musial's era. When I was in junior high and high school I read everything about thay time I could get my hands on, but it's been a while.

IslandRed
06-15-2012, 05:03 PM
Really though, if more guys can be singles and doubles hitters who make contact at a high rate, then I don't have a problem with it. I just don't know that those guys can exist in todays game given how much better pitchers are today at missing bats.

I think a Pete Rose-style hitter is perfectly feasible in today's game, but not a lot of guys are trying to be that kind of hitter anymore. Pitchers might be a little better at missing bats these days but hitters are complicit, too, in that they're more focused on power and are less concerned about striking out. Setting aside the sabermetric debate over the issue, there's no doubt the typical hitting approach has changed.

RedsManRick
06-15-2012, 05:24 PM
I think a Pete Rose-style hitter is perfectly feasible in today's game, but not a lot of guys are trying to be that kind of hitter anymore. Pitchers might be a little better at missing bats these days but hitters are complicit, too, in that they're more focused on power and are less concerned about striking out. Setting aside the sabermetric debate over the issue, there's no doubt the typical hitting approach has changed.

There are a fair number of guys like that out there today. Placido Polanco, Marco Scutaro, Daniel Murphy. For guys that don't have natural HR power, a more contact oriented approach makes a lot of sense.

It's not really rocket science. Take an approach that maximizes your strengths.

I think what's changed is not just that more guys are trying to hit homers. It's that there was recognition in the true productive value of power. The Drew Stubbs/BJ Upton/Chris Young types may have never gotten a chance in the majors 30 years ago. So we're seeing a more diverse group of hitting approaches than ever before; though it's certainly possible, if not likely, that the pendulum has swung too far in the power direction, hurting guys who would be more productive if they focused more on mere solid contact. What's frustrating to me is the insistence in some circles that all hitters would benefit from a more contact oriented approach.

mdccclxix
06-15-2012, 06:22 PM
I had similar thoughts to Stark after another perfect game this week - reflecting on the rise of pitching. Earlier this season too, I had questions about the efficacy of the 1st few rounds of the draft and was taken a bit back by the number of quality pitchers that have arrived since 2000 - especially in comparison with hitters. Our own Mike Leake is an example. It made me consider then if this was just an "ebb" of the game.

I have to consider that it is just an ebb. It is also related to steroids insomuch as pitching at all levels was preparing to be strong enough to withstand an onslaught at the MLB level.

With that said, I think your Trout's and Harper's, and well, Votto's are that much more important to the game. They'll be like the great hitters of the 80's like Ripken and Boggs, etc.

AtomicDumpling
06-15-2012, 07:02 PM
Stark failed to mention the number one reason scoring is down -- see #1 below.

The average player is bigger and stronger now than they were at the height of the steroid era. About half of the players caught juicing were pitchers.

The end of the steroid era does NOT correlate very well with the decline of run scoring in baseball. Scoring began to decline rapidly while steroids were still rampant in 2001 and 2002 and 2003. When steroids were finally stopped in 2005-2007 there was not a corresponding precipitate decline in scoring, but rather a continued decline at the same rate as the previous several years which has continued long after steroids were abolished.

In my opinion, the people who still think steroid testing is the reason scoring is way down are missing some of the most sweeping changes in the history of baseball.

The reasons scoring is down are stronger emphasis on defensive skill, defensive shifting, use of video to find hitters' weaknesses, the humidor, larger population equals larger talent pool to draw pitchers from, greatly improved science of pitching mechanics, most pitchers now throw multiple pitches well, the advent of the cut fastball, greater use of situational relievers, the average fastball velocity has rapidly risen around the league, and last and most significantly is the medical science that has repaired excellent pitchers and kept them pitching at their best level even after arm injuries that would have reduced their effectiveness or ended their careers previously.

Here are the reasons scoring has declined ranked in order of importance:

1. Increased quality and ubiquity of elbow and shoulder surgery keeps good pitchers on the mound at full effectiveness.
2. Greatly improved science of pitching mechanics and philosophy.
3. Use of video to identify and exploit the weaknesses of hitters.
4. Use of spray charts and defensive shifting to take hits away.
5. Greatly increased usage of the cut fastball.
6. Pitchers throw a greater variety of pitches, makes it harder for hitters to anticipate and identify pitches correctly.
7. Improved physical conditioning and strength of pitchers.
8. Velocity has rapidly increased around the league (mostly a product of #1, #2 and #7 above).
9. Increased emphasis on using good defensive players in the lineup.
-- A. Good defensive players prevent hits and errors.
-- B. Good defensive players tend to be less productive hitters.
10. Wider and wiser use of situational and specialist relievers.
11. Larger population in USA and Latin America yields a larger talent pool.
12. The "humidor effect" where balls are stored more carefully before being used in games.
13. Some of the newest ballparks are pitcher-friendly.
14. Steroid and PED testing.

Here is an interesting question, if these trends continue could it eventually become necessary to further reduce the height of the mound or increase the distance to the plate?

hebroncougar
06-15-2012, 07:08 PM
I think on top of steroids being outed, several large ballparks have opened in the past 5-7 years. Citifield, Target Field, Marlins Park, New Busch (I think it's played large), Petco have all opened since 04. New Yankee, Citizens Bank would be hitters parks that have opened since, and I think Nationals Park plays pretty neutral.

*BaseClogger*
06-15-2012, 10:41 PM
Another article about the Age of Pitching, another article that ignores the Age of Fielding.

This is similar to the point RMR made about front offices being more tolerant of high-strikeout hitters who can remain productive. I think front offices have placed a much greater emphasis on fielding over the last five seasons or so. Better fielders means less balls in play turn into hits.

MLB BABIP
2008 - .299
2009 - .299
2010 - .296
2011 - .295
2012 - .295

That four percent is huge, especially when you consider the increase in strikeouts. That's a lot less hits.

And there is another product of improved defense--better fielders tend to be weaker hitters. Once again, the variables are interacting in a stew of sorts that has all of these flavors resulting in decreased scoring...

hebroncougar
06-15-2012, 11:12 PM
Another article about the Age of Pitching, another article that ignores the Age of Fielding.

This is similar to the point RMR made about front offices being more tolerant of high-strikeout hitters who can remain productive. I think front offices have placed a much greater emphasis on fielding over the last five seasons or so. Better fielders means less balls in play turn into hits.

MLB BABIP
2008 - .299
2009 - .299
2010 - .296
2011 - .295
2012 - .295

That four percent is huge, especially when you consider the increase in strikeouts. That's a lot less hits.

And there is another product of improved defense--better fielders tend to be weaker hitters. Once again, the variables are interacting in a stew of sorts that has all of these flavors resulting in decreased scoring...

But, that's not 4%. It's .004

*BaseClogger*
06-15-2012, 11:22 PM
But, that's not 4%. It's .004

You are correct, thank you :) My basic point still stands, however...

hebroncougar
06-15-2012, 11:23 PM
You are correct, thank you :) My basic point still stands, however...

Yeah, I gotcha :beerme:

marcshoe
06-15-2012, 11:33 PM
But, that's not 4%. It's .004
I'm an English guy, not a math guy, but wouldn't that be .4%? You're going from 29.9% to 29.5%.

*BaseClogger*
06-16-2012, 02:57 AM
I'm an English guy, not a math guy, but wouldn't that be .4%? You're going from 29.9% to 29.5%.

".004" in decimal form is the same as ".4%"...

marcshoe
06-16-2012, 04:38 AM
".004" in decimal form is the same as ".4%"...

Okay. I had read a percent sign into the sentence. Parallel structure and all that.:confused: