Spring Training: What I’m thinking about – Feb 24

25/02/2014 § Leave a comment

Strikeouts. Namely, the rate of strikeouts.

First, a graph (from the handy people at Fangraphs):

Screen Shot 2014-02-25 at 12.11.48 AMThose are the major league means since 2000. Why 2000? Because that’s the year that walks reached its peak.

You’ll note its been in steady decline ever since. That’s probably something to write about later.

But for now, a few thoughts.

First of all, Major League pitchers are looking more and more like this:

Yovani-GallardoThat’s Yovani Gallardo. Before 2013, he was hitting a strikeout per nine innings rate well in excess of 9.

In 2012, he sank to 7.17.

The long and the short of it? He needs to get his curveball under control. Hitters aren’t swinging at it anymore.

Nonetheless, he’s representative of the overall rise of the ‘three true outcomes‘ pitcher. Conventionally, we think of TTO as applying to hitters; but I like to think of how pitchers (and pitching coaches) have changed their approach. Plenty of research has shown that pitchers have little control over batted balls, beyond their ability to suppress fly balls. Generally ground ball pitchers are preferable – they are less prone to home runs. Ground ballers who also strike out batters? Gold.

Pitchers, as we can see by the numbers, go for strikeouts. They don’t heed Crash Davis’ advice that strikeouts are fascist. That may be so, Crash, but they also don’t carry potential baserunner risk.

Of course gunning for a strikeout does raise the risk of walks. Thus, the rise of pitchers who can command the strike zone with an arsenal of pitchers. There’s pitching and then there’s pitching for strikes.

So, Yovani Gallardo needs to get his K groove back. He already walks too many batters to have a below-league-average strikeout rate. Seems pretty obvious what his focus should be heading into the championship season.



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