Hey everyone it’s Whatever Wednesdays again. Today is just going to be a short post pondering that “Baseball has changed…” before the Dodgers game.
Baseball has changed?
Yea. I may sound like an old man, but back when I was a kid watching the Dodgers in 90s and 2000s, there were very few metrics. Perhaps the only thing people really looked at in regards to hitting was batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage and RBIs. This is very different nowadays — everything is data driven with a ton of metrics and advanced metrics.
A part of this is because of Moneyball theory and more of an emphasis on data. The idea that on base percentage was undervalued in relation to slugging percentage. However, what it boils down to is just math and statistics. After embracing data, baseball is simply different now.
Launch angle is now very important when it comes to hitting home runs. However, we also have what I think is a very useful statistic which is OPS (one base percentage + slugging). In general, when this number is > 1.000, then your hitter is getting on base and hitting the ball well. It’s a good number to determine “relative value” amongst other hitters.
Then you have “the shift”. I’m sure you’ve seen it. Where you have half the infield on one side (the pull side of the hitter). The data doesn’t lie. If you know John Smith pulls the ball 70% of the time, then it simply makes more sense to put more defenders on that side. The data was never considered valuable before, but it is very very valuable now. We’ve seen people try to beat the shift by slapping the ball into the opposite hole through the infield… however, that limits damage, which is also the point of the shift. If a power hitter naturally wants to pull the ball over the fence and you try to force him to slap the ball through the opposite field for a single, you’ve kind of won the battle — and potentially the war.
Unfortunately, things like launch angle have and the shift have really messed with statistics. Before you would look at a guy’s batting average and if he was above 0.300, he was good. Guys below 0.250 didn’t really last very long in the majors. However, nowadays virtually both leagues have below 0.300 batting averages. Only the batting average leaders (top ten or so) of both leagues are hitting above 0.300. What this means is that home runs are valued over batting average.
The attitude is something to the effect of:
“I don’t care if he only hits 0.200 as long as he can hit 30+ home runs a year.”
As expected, with the decrease in batting average, and increase in home runs, strikeouts have risen as well.
When I watched baseball as a kid, pitchers generally threw in the high 80s and low 90s. Nowadays, if your fastball isn’t 95+, then you’re just average when it comes to velocity. The margin for error for pitchers who don’t have overwhelming stuff is razor thin. Orel Hershiser only ever threw in high 80s, maybe touching 90 once in awhile and he was the most dominant pitcher there was in 1988. I liken him a lot to Ross Stripling on the Dodgers. However, when your stuff isn’t +++ you can’t make any mistakes, especially to the top tier hitters who are already swinging for the fences, who have perfected their launch angle of 30 degrees.
There is a new idea that starters pitch fewer and fewer innings. There is even an idea where you don’t even have a starter, but an “opener” who only pitches the first three innings. Then you have a secondary (the “bulk” guy) for the next few innings, then a closing team.
Read more here:
How the Tampa Bay Rays Reinvented the Concept of Starting Pitching
So is this good or bad?
It’s not good or bad. It’s just different.
The game has evolved and continues to do so. I hate to sound like an old man, but part of me wants to see a renaissance of some of the old baseball, with people bringing their averages higher with less worry about launch angle. However, I doubt that will happen. The truth is hitting home runs will keep you on the team, just ask Max Muncy.
Maybe I’m just an old man set in my ways… but when my kids play baseball I won’t be talking to them about launch angle. I’ll just be telling them to make contact with the ball… and to have fun.
All that said, I hope my Dodgers can beat the Brewers tonight and my boy Max Muncy hits a home run. 😀
Baseball has changed.
Money ball. Data baseball. Launch Angle. The shift. Velocity. Bullpening.
The game continues to evolve, although I do hope there is a renaissance of sorts to make batting average more important again.
Agree? Disagree? Questions, Comments and Suggestions are welcome.
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