This week, huh? I haven't been able to watch as much baseball as I'd like because of schoolwork, Kris Bryant still hasn't batted in the majors, and the new Passion Pit album is really disappointing so far. Isn't that the worst feeling, to be anticipating something for so long and then to be totally let down? Thankfully, baseball never does that to us. Anyway, I've gone on long enough.
Racial bias in umpires' ball-strike calls is not, as of now, a problem whose existence is supported statistically: Further Evidence of Potential Discrimination Among MLB Umpires, by Scott Tainsky, Brian M. Mills and Jason A. Winfree, Journal of Sports Economics (Full article, for those on college wi-fi networks)
Although portions of our data do not contain all of the control variables used in previous work, the analyses presented in this study demonstrate that the finding of MLB umpire discrimination is not particularly robust. We ran multiple estimations with various data sets and measures accounting for factors that could potentially explain variation in called strike percentage. In our data, only when pitcher, umpire, and year effects were not accounted for was there any support for the notion that there was discrimination.
Is offense coming back? Absolutely not, if you take the first week of the season as an indicator: Looking at (way too early) offensive trends, by Scott Lindholm, Beyond the Box Score
Five games of data truly is too small a sample size, and I'm not suggesting that batting average will drop 20 points from last year, but many of the charts suggest what's been seen so far will likely not vary much over the entire season. In fact, there was a good amount of offense on Sunday, which was game six for most clubs. As the weather warms, offense will increase, Kris Bryant and Carlos Rodon will be called up and the Cubs and White Soxwill rocket to the top of their divisions and meet in the World Series. When that occurs, these early-season blips will be forgotten, and well they should–I just won't be holding my breath.
Hitting your pitcher eighth is good for basically zero edge when it comes to wins, and it means you have a greater chance of being bitten in tight spots late in the game: Hit the Pitcher Eight? by Russell Carleton, Baseball Prospectus
The eight spot in the lineup gets one of these close-game-should-he-or-
shouldn’t-he situations in the decision zone (innings five-seven) in roughly 2 percent more games than does the pitcher’s spot now. If the pitcher is batting eighth, that means that the manager will have to make that decision two or three more times per year than he otherwise would have to. That’s roughly two or three plate appearances that will likely be moderately high-leverage situations (it’s getting later, the score is close, there might be runners on) in which the manager might have to send up an automatic out to the plate or he might have to sacrifice his pitcher before he otherwise would. In some cases, the pitcher’s pitch count might make the decision for the manager. He might be pitching well, but why risk an injury? But even if we allow that one of those situations might have the decision made for him, we still have one or two extra times where the manager is in a tough spot tactically, all because he hit the pitcher eighth and that decision snuck up on him. If he had hit the pitcher ninth, he wouldn’t be in this spot.
If you want to pitch like this, well, uh, go ahead! Carter Capps, Jordan Walden and Legal Deliveries, by Dave Cameron, Fangraphs
Get a little more use out of his legs, indeed. Mission accomplished, sir. But is this really legal? PCL umpires didn’t think so, when his first two pitches in an appearance last week were ruled automatic balls for “disengaging the rubber”. But if you look at the MLB rules, there’s nothing actually in there that says your back foot has to remain on the rubber when delivering a pitch to the plate.
In MLB’s official rules on the “legal pitching delivery”, the phrase “disengaging the rubber” is used, but only in regards to what a pitcher can and cannot do with regards to pickoffs. For instance, it specifies that a pitcher must drop his hands if he disengages the rubber — in order to show that he’s no longer preparing to throw a pitch — but there isn’t any wording in there that says you cannot disengage the rubber during your natural throwing motion.
The fact that Walden has been doing this for years without punishment set a precedent that it was legal, and Capps even got assurance from MLB that his delivery is indeed allowable.
Pitchers who work faster tend to have lower ERAs, lower BABIPs and strike out fewer hitters, based on last season's results: Pitchers like C.J. Wilson finding a new way to win battle with hitters, by Tom Verducci, Sports Illustrated
Wilson is far from alone in picking up the pace. The overall average time between pitches has dropped from 23.0 seconds to 22.2 seconds—cutting 3 1/2 minutes off the average time of game right there. Starting pitchers have cut their average time between pitches from 22.3 seconds to 21.5 seconds. The number of qualified starters using less than 20 seconds between pitches has jumped from nine last year to 19 this year (though as with all statistics this early in the year, beware the small sample size and hold off on your conclusions).
This much is true: pitchers are working faster, and so far, they are sucking more offense out of the game. Compared to last April, the leading offensive indicators are down slightly, including batting average (.242 from .249), OPS (.693 from .706) and runs per team per game (4.20 from 4.21). Let’s see how the rest of the season plays out. But for now, in addition to increased velocity, increased use of the cutter, a lower strike zone, defensive shifts and more specialized relief pitching, pitchers may have found yet another weapon in winning the war on offense: work faster.
Adding a new pitch tends to help pitchers outdo their projections. Also, cutters seem to be the most commonly added pitch. Also, lots of other things: The Power of New Pitches: What an Added Offering Is Really Worth, by Ben Lindbergh, Grantland
In each sample, the pitchers handled hitters better than PECOTA foresaw. A difference of 5.5 TAv points for the 5-percenters might not sound like much, but over a sample this large, it’s not insignificant. Based on BP’s rule of thumb that each TAv point is worth half a run over 500 plate appearances/batters faced, 5.5 points is worth roughly five runs, or about half a win, over a full season by a starting pitcher. Mastering new pitches isn’t easy, but half a win would be a strong incentive to get good enough with an extra offering to throw it at least one time in 20.
Pitchers are bad at hitting, and they're getting worse, and they're probably not going to get any better: Three Reasons Why Adding DH Makes Sense For NL, by Matt Eddy, Baseball America
Pitchers as a whole simply don’t receive the meaningful experience in the minor leagues required to improve their ability to hit high-level pitchers. Nor does good batsmanship enhance their odds for advancement through the minors, meaning that pro pitchers have neither the means nor incentive to improve their hitting skill.
Not only do many top-flight pitchers forgo batting repetitions while amateurs, but not even as professionals do they focus on honing their swings.
“It’s really a question of time and value,” the NL assistant GM said. “We don’t have much time for our guys to practice, so we choose to make sure they practice the pitching side of things rather than the offensive side of things.
The city of San Jose has called on the Supreme Court to hear arguments regarding the A's potential move to the city, but based on past precedents and trends, they face a tough road ahead: U.S. Supreme Court Asked to Overturn Baseball's Antitrust Exemption, by Nathaniel Grow, Fangraphs
As a result, the city urges the Court to take this opportunity to overturn the baseball exemption. Interestingly, not only does San Jose argue that the doctrine is hurting its city by allowing MLB to deprive it of a major league team, but it also points to other questionable practices to further illustrate the exemption’s harmful effects. In particular, the city’s appeal discusses at some length MLB’s various anticompetitive broadcasting policies, helping emphasize the impact that the exemption has had on the industry. (In actuality, a federal court held that the exemption does not extend to MLB’s broadcasting activities last year.)
Despite these arguments, the city’s odds of persuading the Supreme Court to take the case are likely rather slim. As a general matter, the Court only accepts around 1-2% of appeals each year. And while San Jose’s appeal probably has better odds of being granted than most – given both the quality of its legal representation and the controversial nature of baseball’s antitrust exemption – MLB will be able to assert several persuasive arguments in response to the city’s appeal.
For starters, MLB will likely argue that rather than remain neutral, Congress has in fact expressly approved of its antitrust exemption in the Curt Flood Act. In particular, the law states that it “does not create, permit or imply a cause of action by which to challenge under the antitrust laws … franchise … relocation.”
It looks like strategies to quicken games are working in the minors, too: Early Returns Show Minor League Games Are Shorter, by J.J. Cooper, Baseball America
Yes, it’s a small sample, but comparing only nine-inning games, if you look at the first eight days of the PCL season last year, the 54 games averaged 2:56 per game, just one minute slower than the average time of game for the league for the full season. In the first eight days of this season, the PCL has seen six games that were quicker than the fastest game of the first eight days of last season. Last year a full 46 percent of those early-season PCL games took three hours or longer. This year, only 21 percent of the PCL’s games are taking three hours or longer.
It’s possible that these numbers could improve. While Double-A and Triple-A leagues have added pitch clocks to speed up the time between pitches and to ensure that between-inning breaks are limited to two minutes, 25 seconds, there are only warnings. Enforcement of those time limits will take place until May 1, meaning we could see even quicker times.
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