Throw the Bum Out - Hall of Fame Edition Topic

Posted by jrd_x on 2/15/2012 10:22:00 PM (view original):
Prove your case.  There's game data for Hunter's starts.  Show that he was often handed a lead and then gave up just enough runs not to lose.  Show that when his team scored just a run or two he pitched better.  Show that his walk rate changed significantly, that he had control over his BABIP, and that his strikeout rate went down. But only when he had a big lead.  
Prove he didn't
2/16/2012 8:07 AM
Damn.  I was just getting ready to post that.

Batters hit to situations.
Fielders play to situations.
Pitchers pitch the same regardless of the situation.

That looks about right, huh?
2/16/2012 8:39 AM

Duh.  It's just common sense to anybody who's ever played or coached baseball.

When winning a close game, your goal is to prevent batters from reaching base.

When winning a blowout, your goal is to get the remaining number of outs left in the game without relinquishing the lead.

Two different mental approaches.

2/16/2012 8:46 AM
Here's the thing:

A pitcher's career is a small sample size.  As we all know, some perfect pitches get hit 500 feet while some meatballs turn into weak grounders or screaming liners to the 3B that just looks like another out in the boxscore.   So, really, the only way to even vaguely figure out if a pitcher REALLY pitched to the situation would be to track every pitch he ever threw and to get into his mind to see if that's where he wanted the pitch to go. 

But common sense says a pitcher will pitch more to the middle of the plate with a big lead.   It would be stupid to throw 6 pitches to every batter with a 7 run lead.   Or even a 5 run lead.   And, of course, the pitcher who gives up a long homerun while up 8-1 will say "Yep.  I was grooving them to make them put the ball in play" while the pitcher who blows a 6 run lead will say "Nope.  I pitched to every batter like I always do.  They hit some really good pitches."

Common sense vs. statnerd.
2/16/2012 8:54 AM
Tec - I'm glad you brought up coaching because I was just going to say that.

Any coach who's worth a salt is going to tell his pitcher to attack the zone and pitch to contact with a 5+ run lead, even if that's not his regular approach. How long does a pitcher last if he walks the bases loaded with a 5-0 lead while trying to nitpick for the strike out? Likely not long. I can't speak for Hunter specifically because I never saw him pitch. But to suggest a guy wouldn't change his approach from trying to keep guys off the basepaths, to trying to get the remaining outs as quickly as possible without giving up free bases when he has a huge lead is ridiculous.

Look at Cliff Lee. He does this all the time, not just with a huge lead - he pitches to contact. What are the results? His OAV is usually approaching average, but his BB/9 and WHIP are incredible. Some starts, he gets absolutely lit up - which is going to happen when you constantly pitch in the strike zone. But by and large, the result is a lot of strikeouts, in-play outs and shutouts.
2/16/2012 9:33 AM
Actually an infielder is likely to walk to the mound and say "Throw strikes, *******.  We're up by 8 in the 6th.  No one wants to stand around and watch you nibble at corners."
2/16/2012 9:46 AM
Whether situational pitching exists or not is a silly argument - of course it does.   The real question at issue here is whether Catfish Hunter did it so much more and had his numbers impacted so much more than most pitchers that it would become a fair statement to suggest that his numbers (mainly his relatively pedestrian ERA relative to the rest of the league) don't really reflect how good he was.  I find that doubtful, but I really don't know.
2/16/2012 9:53 AM
As I said, I didn't watch Hunter pitch (before my time), but it sure seems like those mid-70s A's had great defense. So even if a guy was pitching to contact, you'd think he wouldn't give up that many more runs unless he was constantly getting ripped for doubles and HR.

Just objectively based on some of Hunter's numbers and the defense he had behind him - I would say he was not a great pitcher that just pitched to contact when his team got him leads. It's hard to say though.
2/16/2012 10:01 AM
From 1967-1976, he averaged 277 innings per season.   He completed 160 games in the same 10 year span.    I recognize that 250-300 innings from a top of the rotation guy wasn't that unusual back then.   But he did it for 10 years.   You can't do that by missing the strike zone.   I guess, if someone had pitch counts available, I could be proven wrong(maybe he threw 130 pitches every start) but I have no idea where to get that info.
2/16/2012 10:29 AM

The numbers clearly indicate he pitched to contact/within the strike zone.  That doesn't really answer the question of whether he was a guy who was capable of dominating but sacrificed that for the sake of eating innings and finishing games.

2/16/2012 10:51 AM
42 career shutouts.  That puts him in pretty good company. 
2/16/2012 11:12 AM
Presumably all 1-0 victories, as the story goes...
2/16/2012 11:23 AM
Posted by AlCheez on 2/16/2012 11:23:00 AM (view original):
Presumably all 1-0 victories, as the story goes...
. . . and barefoot, in two feet of snow, and all uphill.
2/16/2012 11:25 AM
Just saying that ranking around 40th in all-time career shutouts probably indicates decent stuff on at least 42 occassions.

FWIW, I don't think a guy with a shutout going is pitching differently regardless of the score.   If it's 8-0 in the 6th, I think pretty much everyone still wants the shutout. 8-1, maybe switch to finishing the game.   I don't think any amount of coaching/teammate ******** changes the pitcher's approach to getting his shutout.
2/16/2012 11:30 AM
For the sake of argument, that 40th ranking would likely be much worse if guys were allowed to throw 120-140 pitches today. I routinely see guys pulled in the 7th or 8th with a shutout going who don't say a peep. That never would have happened "back in the day". Managers would have expected the pitcher to finish, and the pitcher would have put up a huge fight for the opportunity to finish.

FWIW, this is why I love what Nolan Ryan has done/is doing in Texas. It's basically a "you're not gonna get babied here, so if you get yourself into trouble, be prepared to get yourself out of it" mentality. I know it'll likely never happen, but I'm waiting for some organization to show some balls and go back to a strong, four man rotation.
2/16/2012 11:43 AM
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Throw the Bum Out - Hall of Fame Edition Topic

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