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Thread: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    That is what Dave Cameron may be suggesting with his article today at Fangraphs:

    but the timing of the strikeout leap seems to suggest to me that PITCHF/x data is having a larger impact on the game than perhaps anyone anticipated.
    Basically, the strikeout rate has climbed dramatically since the Pitch F/X systems have been installed in all stadiums. The swinging strike rate hasn't increased really, but the called strike rate has.

    It is interesting. Go check it out.

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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    Since hitters take more pitches or work counts more than they used to...when I was watching baseball in 70's and 80's.....I am not surprised that more called 3rd strikes do happen, F/X or no F/X. Pitching to contact was a lot easier in the 70's and 80's as well. More Juan Castro types littered the lineups. Thinner guys with no power or guys who just wanted to make contact (Duane Kiper, Dave Chalk, Felix Mantilla, Marty Perez, Horace Clark, Tom Lawless, Tom Herr, Ken Oberkfell are some names that are off the top of my head) were more prevelant. Good article.

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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    That is interesting. I'm wondering how much the last comment has to do with it -- since the 'advent' of 'Moneyball' how many players are consciously trying to get deeper into counts to improve their OBP as opposed to swinging where they may not have before.

    The theory obviously has some missing information currently, but it's definitely a plausible explanation.
    I see great things in baseball. It's our game.

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    breath westofyou's Avatar
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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    You pay batters to produce big then they'll learn to work the count, you drill into players that borderline pitches don't garner the best contact and that taking a 3rd strike is no longer stigmatized and yes... you'll see swinging K's go down, taken 3rd strikes rise.

    There's more to the data than F/X software

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tony Cloninger View Post
    Since hitters take more pitches or work counts more than they used to...when I was watching baseball in 70's and 80's.....I am not surprised that more called 3rd strikes do happen, F/X or no F/X. Pitching to contact was a lot easier in the 70's and 80's as well. More Juan Castro types littered the lineups. Thinner guys with no power or guys who just wanted to make contact (Duane Kiper, Dave Chalk, Felix Mantilla, Marty Perez, Horace Clark, Tom Lawless, Tom Herr, Ken Oberkfell are some names that are off the top of my head) were more prevelant. Good article.
    That is the thing though, more called strikes are happening since Pitch F/X showed up in 2008 than were happening in 2002-2007 and the hitters haven't changed since then in terms of their approach.

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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    Pitchers are also throwing better than 2002-07? Is that beacuse the carnage of adding 4 teams in 5 years....finally started to wear off? Pitching coaches and Pitchers went back to the drawing board and changed their approaches to pitching?
    I see more and more....pitchers pitching backwards. 2-0 change ups and sliders and curves. If hitters are going to swing from their heels, like they were in the early and middle part of 2000.... you can going off speed and breaking ball, let them dig their own hole and then catch them guessing for the 3rd called strike.

    I am sure this F/X system is helping as well, but i do not see it as the main cause.....just correlation.

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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    No one likes to be second guessed by a computer.
    "This isnít stats vs scouts - this is stats and scouts working together, building an organization that blends the best of both worlds. This is the blueprint for how a baseball organization should be run. And, whether the baseball men of the 20th century like it or not, this is where baseball is going."---Dave Cameron, U.S.S. Mariner

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    I'd like to see aggregate umpire heat maps regarding what percentage of pitches in various parts of the zone are being called strikes. Because I could see a case being made that pitch f/x has caused some umps to call fewer strikes, especially those off the plate outside.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    KungFu Fighter AtomicDumpling's Avatar
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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    The reasons why strikeouts continue to increase in frequency and run scoring continues to diminish:


    1. Pitch velocity has been steadily rising for 20+ years.
    --- Pitchers are taller and healthier than ever before (despite the lack of steroids) due to better diet and nutrition. Grilled chicken and baked fish instead of pizza and beer after the games. No smoking.
    --- Improved conditioning, strength training and flexibility regimens.

    2. Better coaching yields better mechanics. Look at some of the wacky mechanics pitchers used in the 50s, 60s and 70s that reduced their velocity and effectiveness. The science of pitching has evolved tremendously.

    3. More careful, less abusive handling of pitchers utilizing pitch counts and innings limits keeps the best pitchers healthier and on the mound at full strength and maximum effectiveness instead of having them pitch while hurting or breaking down and being replaced by lesser pitchers.

    4. Steadily improving surgical techniques such as Tommy John surgery keep the best pitchers in the league instead of having them replaced by lesser pitchers from the minors like they used to be in prior decades.

    5. Heat maps of hitters' strengths and weaknesses are more prevalent and more accurate every year. The blueprint for how to defeat a hitter is easily available. These reports are based primarily on PITCHf/x graphs. These type of reports help pitchers much more than hitters.

    6. Greatly increased usage of the cut fastball. The spread of this highly effective pitch grows every year.

    7. A greater understanding amongst teams that K:BB ratio is the key indicator of success for a pitcher. Nearly every effective pitcher has a good K:BB ratio and nearly every pitcher with a poor K:BB ratio is a sub-par pitcher. Strikeouts and Walks are the only major way for a pitcher to influence the outcome of a game. GB:FB ratio is a lesser influence, HR:FB rate is even lesser and the pitcher has less control over it. Pitchers have little influence over what happens if the ball is hit (certainly much less than hitters do), so for the pitcher to positively influence an at-bat he needs to strike the hitter out.

    8. A greater understanding amongst teams that a high strikeout rate for a hitter is not necessarily a bad thing. Many hitters can compensate for a high strikeout rate by having a high Walk rate and/or hitting for power. Many of the best hitters in the league strike out frequently -- even Joey Votto. The result of this understanding is that high-strikeout hitters are no longer discriminated against when building a team as long as they have a good K:BB ratio and/or hit for power. "How many outs you make is the key, how you make your outs is irrelevant."

    9. Less usage of a "pitch to contact" strategy by pitchers. (corollary to #7).

    10. Slightly larger strike zone being enforced by umpires.

    11. Greater use of relief pitchers allows starting pitchers to air it out instead of conserving energy to pitch the full game.

    12. Greater use of specialist relievers and platoon splits.

    13. Use of the humidor in Denver.


    Each of these factors by themselves would not have a large effect on the leaguewide strikeout rate and scoring levels. But taken together as a whole they have overcome the advantages that allowed hitting to dominate during the 1990s (smaller ballparks, bigger hitters, juiced baseballs, league expansion, denser bats etc). This is why run scoring began to fall long before steroid usage peaked and began to decline.

    I think #s 1, 5 and 6 are the biggest reasons.
    Last edited by AtomicDumpling; 04-12-2013 at 02:10 AM.

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    Et tu, Brutus? Brutus's Avatar
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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    There's absolutely no evidence that suggests the overcaution of pitchers has led to healthier pitchers. In fact, there might be more trips to the DL now than 30 years ago.

    I think the most correct answer, at least out of several factors, is that hitters are taking so many more pitches now. So it's natural that when you're taking more pitches, you're going to have a higher risk of striking out.
    "No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference." ~Tommy Lasorda

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    Quote Originally Posted by Brutus View Post
    There's absolutely no evidence that suggests the overcaution of pitchers has led to healthier pitchers. In fact, there might be more trips to the DL now than 30 years ago.

    I think the most correct answer, at least out of several factors, is that hitters are taking so many more pitches now. So it's natural that when you're taking more pitches, you're going to have a higher risk of striking out.
    But they aren't taking more pitches today than they were in 2006. But strikeouts are up significantly since then.

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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    I think pitcher height has something do to with it too. The average height of pitchers has increased dramatically over the last decade, especially since 2006. Not only has the average velocity gone up, but taller pitchers tend to have a release point closer to home plate.

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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    It seems like, with enough data crunching, there could be a study into the accuracy of called strikes and therefore the rise in strikeouts. Not really sure why that is missing here. He shows the Pitch F/X data for strikes, and we have the strikeout rate. We also have the overall strike numbers. Yet with enough number crunching there should be a clear answer here.

    The elephant in the room is the umpire strike zone. There was an effort not too long ago to increase the number of high strikes being called, and I know I see it called more often than it used to be. That may have nothing to do with pitch F/X and more to do with the umpires calling a larger strike zone due to pressure from MLB. I remember a time when anything near the letters was a ball. Heck, just about anything over the belt was a ball. That is no longer true. Sure, it's not up to the armpits like the book says, yet I know MLB pushed the umps to start calling more high strikes.

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    The Boss dougdirt's Avatar
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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    Quote Originally Posted by scott91575 View Post
    I think pitcher height has something do to with it too. The average height of pitchers has increased dramatically over the last decade, especially since 2006. Not only has the average velocity gone up, but taller pitchers tend to have a release point closer to home plate.
    Pitchers are taller from 2006-2013? Where are you seeing this data?

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    Et tu, Brutus? Brutus's Avatar
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    Re: Is Pitch F/X responsible for the recent surge in strikeouts?

    Quote Originally Posted by dougdirt View Post
    But they aren't taking more pitches today than they were in 2006. But strikeouts are up significantly since then.
    2013 - 3.86 P/PA
    2012 - 3.82 P/PA
    2006 - 3.75 P/PA
    1996 - 3.71 P/PA
    1988 - 3.58 P/PA

    I dunno. Sure seems like a trend to me.
    "No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference." ~Tommy Lasorda


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