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Article: Minnesota Making Strikeouts A Priority

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#21 Elliot

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 08:09 AM

"the strikeout has been (fairly) reduced to just another out."

 

True, an out is an out.Why is this true statement followed by an entire article of why a strikeout is more important than any other out.To me it is a parallel to the dunk in basketball.All kinds of hype and emotion, but when all is said and done it is worth 2 points.

 

Get pitchers who can get people out.I would love to see some analytics on fielding performance on batted balls in play behind strikeout pitchers as compared to pitch to contact guys.My guess would be that fielders perform better when batters see fewer pitches.Nothing like a 8 or 9 pitch at bat to put fielders on their heels.


#22 ashburyjohn

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 08:25 AM

"the strikeout has been (fairly) reduced to just another out."

 

True, an out is an out.Why is this true statement followed by an entire article of why a strikeout is more important than any other out.To me it is a parallel to the dunk in basketball.All kinds of hype and emotion, but when all is said and done it is worth 2 points.

What you say is true, once the play is completed.

 

But just in advance of that, a dunk is about a 95% shot to make it, versus something around 50% for various other locations around the floor. If you could work it so you had a slam dunk every time down the court, you'd win going away.

 

And what is the On Base Percentage for strikeouts, versus walks, versus balls put in play by the batter? Those are .000, 1.000, and around .300, respectively.

 

The strikeout is just another out, except you get about 30% more of them versus letting the batter get wood on the ball.

 

That's what the strikeout does for your team. It is, indeed, analogous to a slam dunk by the pitcher.

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#23 USAFChief

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 09:01 AM

"the strikeout has been (fairly) reduced to just another out."

True, an out is an out. Why is this true statement followed by an entire article of why a strikeout is more important than any other out. To me it is a parallel to the dunk in basketball. All kinds of hype and emotion, but when all is said and done it is worth 2 points.

Get pitchers who can get people out. I would love to see some analytics on fielding performance on batted balls in play behind strikeout pitchers as compared to pitch to contact guys. My guess would be that fielders perform better when batters see fewer pitches. Nothing like a 8 or 9 pitch at bat to put fielders on their heels.

The 8 or 9 pitch AB happens a lot for pitch to contact pitchers, too. Actually more IMO. They can’t get strike three past a hitter, leading to lots of foul balls and long ABs. Typically, the guy starting the 5th inning with 82 pitches isn’t the guy with 7 K’s at that point, it’s the guy with 2.

The error in analytics is not in thinking K’s are a positive for pitchers. Rather, the error is in thinking K’s aren’t a negative for hitters. As Ash notes above, an out is NOT an out. Nobody ever knocked in a run on a K.
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#24 ashburyjohn

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 09:26 AM

I would love to see some analytics on fielding performance on batted balls in play behind strikeout pitchers as compared to pitch to contact guys.My guess would be that fielders perform better when batters see fewer pitches.Nothing like a 8 or 9 pitch at bat to put fielders on their heels.

I'm taking the second half of your post separately as I see it as a separate (and interesting) issue.

 

Baseball-reference.com has all kinds of seasonal stats that one can sort on. The stats that apply here would be SO/9, BABIP (BA on Balls In Play), and Pitches/PA. (Actually I wish they offered SO/PA, but it is what it is.) BABIP would seem to address what you are asking about.

 

Unfortunately the site does not place these three on the same page with each other, and I am not a wizard with databases. So all I can do is sort on one stat or another, and do a bit of sampling rather than try to do something more statistical. Maybe somebody with mad skillz can help me out here.

 

One initial observation is that BABIP is renowned for high variability. The same pitcher may have consecutive seasons of BABIP above and below average (which usually is around .300) - few pitchers are really consistent year to year, suggesting that low or high is not a repeatable skill held by the pitcher.

 

OK, so if I sort 2017 MLB pitchers who had enough innings to qualify for the ERA title, I see at the top for pitches per PA Jake Odorizzi. Your surmise would be that his fielders are on their heels; instead, he has a very stellar BABIP of .228 this year, indicating his fielders were making the plays for him, when the batter did finally put the ball in play. I bet he doesn't repeat that feat next year, but anyway we're off to a bad start. Next on the list is Eduardo Rodriguez; his BABIP is .300, a very average figure. Third is Wade Miley, and his BABIP is .333, in keeping with your surmise. Next is Trevor Bauer, and his is .338. Next is the sainted Mike Pelfrey, and his BABIP is .276. A very mixed bag.

 

Working next from the bottom of that list, the fewest pitches per PA belonged to Iván Nova. His BABIP was .303. Next best was Big Sexy himself, Bartolo Colon. His BABIP was not very good, .335. Next comes Clayton Richard with BABIP .354, Mike Leake with .312, and Luis Perdomo with .327. These are the guys whose fielders should be the most alert, and again it's a mixed bag or even trending the wrong way.

 

Now, this methodology, if you can even call it that, of the 5 top and 5 bottom, is slanted toward good starting pitchers - pitchers who were trusted enough to rack up a lot of innings pitched by br-com's cutoff for rate stats. Maybe a careful study that includes relievers and/or bad starters would show a different trend.

 

You can approach it differently, by sorting on SO/9 (since SO is the subject here), since the top Pitch/PA is not necessarily the top strikeout pitchers. Again, we'll only look at pretty good starters this way. Chris Sale was the top pitcher for strikeout rate, and his fielders allowed him to amass a BABIP of .303. Next was Robbie Ray, and he had BABIP .270. Max Scherzer, .248. Corey Kluber, .268. Chris Archer, .325.

 

Among the pitchers with lowest strikeout rates: Ty Blach, .296. Andrew Cashner, .267. Jeremy Hellickson, .248. Martin Perez, .330. Zach Davies, .306.

 

Every time I start to see a pattern emerge, another datapoint comes along to break it up. It reminds me of flipping coins.

 

Interestingly, as a side note, the list of highest strikeout pitchers does not correspond to the list of pitchers with highest pitcher per plate appearance. (Edit: just as Chief expressed.)

 

I wrote this rather stream-of-consciousness, expecting to rewrite it or at least condense it when a pattern emerged. It didn't, so for whatever it's worth, this is a very shallow but non-cherry-picked look at your question. I don't think a pattern exists, and this sampling of data doesn't motivate me to go take a course in database analysis to try to dig one out. :)

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#25 ashburyjohn

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 09:54 AM

and I am not a wizard with databases.

It finally dawned on me that the reason I'm not a wizard with b-r.com's database in particular is that I've been too big a cheapskate to pay for their Play Index which does allow more of what I want. Perhaps Santa will hear my wish in a few weeks...

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#26 Dantes929

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 11:03 AM

 

What you say is true, once the play is completed.

 

But just in advance of that, a dunk is about a 95% shot to make it, versus something around 50% for various other locations around the floor. If you could work it so you had a slam dunk every time down the court, you'd win going away.

 

And what is the On Base Percentage for strikeouts, versus walks, versus balls put in play by the batter? Those are .000, 1.000, and around .300, respectively.

 

The strikeout is just another out, except you get about 30% more of them versus letting the batter get wood on the ball.

 

That's what the strikeout does for your team. It is, indeed, analogous to a slam dunk by the pitcher.

Makes complete sense and difficult to argue with but something happens around the edges that makes it less. Just based on your analysis, two of our 3 best pitchers last year were very obviously Duffey and Pressley and Kintzler one of our worst.. Teams with the most dunks should score the most points because they have the highest amount of 95% shots but I don't think there is that much of a correlation.. A quick look at the team stats says Cleveland had the best ERA and the most strikeouts but its kind of a mixed bag after that. Houston had the 2nd most strikeouts but the 11th best ERA. Twins had the 2nd worst strikeout rate but still managed 19th in run prevention.So we are looking at a connection but rather a loose connection between strikeouts and ERA.Cleveland was also best in the league in not giving up walks. There appears to be a similar connection between walks and run prevention. Its there but somewhat loose. Texas for example had the fewest strikeouts and gave up the 7th most walks but were still somehow better in ERA than 9 other teams. I would tend to say striking out the most and walking the fewest is a great combination but not everyone can be a Verlander or Kershaw.What makes Kintzler better than Pressley or Duffey? 

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff ... and it's all small stuff.


#27 ashburyjohn

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 11:46 AM

 

Makes complete sense and difficult to argue with but something happens around the edges that makes it less. Just based on your analysis, two of our 3 best pitchers last year were very obviously Duffey and Pressley and Kintzler one of our worst.. Teams with the most dunks should score the most points because they have the highest amount of 95% shots but I don't think there is that much of a correlation.. A quick look at the team stats says Cleveland had the best ERA and the most strikeouts but its kind of a mixed bag after that. Houston had the 2nd most strikeouts but the 11th best ERA. Twins had the 2nd worst strikeout rate but still managed 19th in run prevention.So we are looking at a connection but rather a loose connection between strikeouts and ERA.Cleveland was also best in the league in not giving up walks. There appears to be a similar connection between walks and run prevention. Its there but somewhat loose. Texas for example had the fewest strikeouts and gave up the 7th most walks but were still somehow better in ERA than 9 other teams. I would tend to say striking out the most and walking the fewest is a great combination but not everyone can be a Verlander or Kershaw. 

The analogy of SO to dunks probably breaks down when considering that dunks are much less common. Nobody dunks often enough to make that be what defines their team's season.

 

Likewise, I don't think I was demonstrating why strikeouts must line up precisely with ERA (they won't). And certainly not that the pitcher with the most Ks is the "best". Merely to explain a reason why a strikeout is more valuable among other outs, and not simply a paradox; you have to look further up the stream than after the out has been recorded, to notice why.

 

As for correlation, I note if you rank major league teams by strikeouts recorded by their pitchers, you need to go down all the way to #9 (Mets) to find a team that missed the playoffs. The two teams that did make the post-season, but weren't in the top 8 in SO, both were bounced in single-game appearances. Strikeouts by batters aren't quite so dire - you can find a team at #6 (Arizona) who made the post-season. :)

 

But yes, there is much in baseball that counts besides just strikeouts. Thank goodness!

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#28 ashburyjohn

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 12:02 PM

What makes Kintzler better than Pressley or Duffey? 

I ducked this part in my other reply because it's really far from my point about strikeouts in relation to other outs, but...

 

I'm not even sure I'm willing to say one "is" better than another. Kintzler had a better *2017*, because mainly he didn't give up so many walks and (especially) HR as those other two. I spent some time explaining elsewhere my reservations about FIP for backward looking purposes, but as a predictive tool for 2018 FIP suggests it's about even-money whether Duffey or Kintzler will have the better year. Pressly... he needs to work on a few things. :)

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#29 snepp

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 03:59 PM

 

It finally dawned on me that the reason I'm not a wizard with b-r.com's database in particular is that I've been too big a cheapskate to pay for their Play Index which does allow more of what I want. Perhaps Santa will hear my wish in a few weeks...

 

Fangraphs supports creating custom leaderboards.

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#30 ashburyjohn

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 04:05 PM

Fangraphs supports creating custom leaderboards.

Let me know what different results you get from studying this question. :)

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#31 snepp

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 04:45 PM

 

Let me know what different results you get from studying this question. :)

 

But that sounds an awful lot like work, and I've come down with a severe case of allergies to that.

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#32 Elliot

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 04:48 PM

I am still baffled by the concept that a strikeout is not a bad thing from a hitter's perspective (an out is an out) so just swing for the fences no matter the situation or the count; but that from a pitcher's perspective a strikeout is the number one priority.The goal for the pitcher and defense is to get outs.Admittedly there are situations in which a strikeout is paramount; runner on third and less than two outs; but those are not measured by SO's/9 innings.One SO per nine is great if you get it when you need it.

 

The Twins simply need better pitchers,not necessarily harder throwers or strikeout machines.


#33 ashburyjohn

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 05:42 PM

The goal for the pitcher and defense is to get outs. 

They almost assuredly will get 24 of them, one by one by one - barring rain or a forfeit or other unusual and premature end to the game.

 

The difference maker is how many balls are put in play while accomplishing that arduous task, because some of those fall in safely or leave the park as home runs. Strikeouts cut down on the chances of the first of those happening, giving no chance for good things to happen for the offense. That, plus walks+HBP, will define their success.

 

With enough success, or with home field advantage, they may even be allowed to try for 27 outs. And that's the goal. :)

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#34 ashburyjohn

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Posted 03 December 2017 - 05:53 PM

I am still baffled by the concept that a strikeout is not a bad thing from a hitter's perspective (an out is an out) so just swing for the fences no matter the situation or the count; but that from a pitcher's perspective a strikeout is the number one priority.

Pitching and hitting are not mirror images of each other. Pitching is about achieving location. Hitting is about either punishing the mistakes or going with what is given to them. Batters of both kinds can succeed, and many batters adopt a blend. It's rare for a pitcher without command to get anywhere in the majors, with just his stuff.

 

So it's no paradox for pitchers to try to strike batters out without giving them anything good to hit, while power hitters may swing for the fences when they see something they like.

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#35 The Wise One

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 08:32 AM

They need to find pitchers who can effectively pitch. Not many starters have K rates greater than 9.5/9Average is around 8. There are plenty of pitchers out there that strike batters out at a greater than 8 but less than 9.5 but get hammered the rest of the time. Ubaldo is one example. There are plenty of others. Fiers was better than average at strike outs. Houston let him go.Just something to keep in perspective


#36 Mike Sixel

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 09:42 AM

There is no evidence of this front office making strikeouts a priority or not. We literally have no idea, based on their inaction last year or this, so far. People keep posting about the front office like we have any idea what they will do. How do you know?
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I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#37 caninatl04

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Posted 11 December 2017 - 04:56 PM

 

Strikeouts are boring,Besides that, they're fascist. 
I heard that someplace before.

A couple of the World Series games were ludicrous as far as HRs go.The ball couldn't stay in the park, and that was with some of the best pitchers in the game.There is something to be said about stringing together hits, manufacturing runs, etc. 

Yup, give me late 70's mid 80's with boxscore lines like 4 runs on 3 hits. (And time of game = 2:00)




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