When is a strikeout just like any other out?

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Mark Reynolds is hitting .274/.367/.575 with 41 homers, 28 doubles, 72 walks, and 94 RBIs in 137 games.
Adam Dunn is hitting .282/.410/.563 with 37 homers, 27 doubles, 104 walks, and 99 RBIs in 142 games.
They rank fourth and eighth among NL hitters in OPS, respectively. And yet people continue to make a big deal about their strikeouts.
Yesterday alone MLB.com had an article entitled “Reynolds not worried about strikeout totals” and the New York Times had an article entitled “Dunn keeps swinging despite detractors.”
Conventional wisdom is that strikeouts are a terrible thing and when viewed in isolation that’s certainly true. However, in the grand scheme of things strikeouts are no worse than pop outs or fly outs or ground outs. And unlike those other methods of making an out, strikeouts tend to come along with extra-base hits and walks because guys who whiff a lot usually do so while swinging hard and working long counts.
Among all hitters with at least 400 plate appearances this season, the 10 guys who strike out most often have an average OPS of .938 and the 10 guys who strike out least often have an average OPS of .753. Yet for all the criticism high-strikeout guys take for being productive in a manner that rubs some people the wrong way and all the articles questioning whether guys like Dunn or Reynolds need to cut down on their strikeouts, have you ever seen the opposite?
Where are all the people taking David Eckstein to task for making too much contact while posting a measly .265/.322/.337 line? Where are all the articles wondering if Yuniesky Betancourt should try to strike out more often to improve upon his putrid .241/.275/.347 mark? Despite all the advancements in baseball analysis, apparently there are still an awful lot of people who would prefer if guys like Reynolds and Dunn weren’t nearly as good, but grounded out to second base much more often.

Major League Baseball limits mound visits, puts off pitch clock until 2019

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Major League Baseball just announced its much awaited pace-of-play initiative for 2018. The big news: no pitch clock, with Rob Manfred deciding, in the words of the league’s press release “to defer the implementation of a pitch timer and a between-batter timer in 2018 in order to provide players with an opportunity to speed up the game without the use of those timers.”

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be changes. In rules changes which were reached with the cooperation of the Players’ Union, teams will now be limited to six non-pitching change mound visits per team per game, and one extra visit if the game goes into extra innings. Also, a new rule is being introduced that is designed to reduce the time required for inning breaks and pitching changes.

The mound visit rule is NOT limited to coach or manager mound visits. It also includes position players, including catchers, visiting the mound to confer about signals and the like. It will not count the normal conversations which take place between plays, such as when a pitcher says something to a fielder as they throw the ball around the horn. It likewise does not include things like a first baseman coming to the mound to clean his spikes off with the pitcher’s gear on the back of the mound. Mound visits to check on injuries will not count either.

While six visits may seem like a lot, it really isn’t once you realize that a pitching coach may go out two or three times in a close game and that a catcher, especially in close games, may come out to talk about signs and things seemingly countless times. Heck, they could re-name this the Jorge Posada or Gary Sanchez rule.

There will be one big exception to the rule, which relates to catchers and pitchers truly being crossed up on signals after they have exhausted mound visits. It reads thusly:

3) Cross-Up in Signs. In the event a team has exhausted its allotment of mound visits in a game (or extra inning) and the home plate umpire determines that the catcher and pitcher did not have a shared understanding of the location or type of pitch that had been signaled by the catcher (otherwise referred to as a “cross-up”), the home plate umpire may, upon request of the catcher, allow the catcher to make a brief mound visit. Any mound visit resulting from a cross-up prior to a team exhausting its allotted number of visits shall count against a team’s total number of allotted mound visits.

This makes sense as a matter of safety, if nothing else, as you don’t want a catcher truly not knowing where a pitch is going. It’s also notable as one of the few rules changes in recent years that actually adds in an umpire’s judgment rather than takes a judgment call away from an umpire. It’ll be worth watching, however, to see how easy a touch umpires are about this. Again: if we have a tense September game between Boston and New York and everyone has used up their mound visits, I wonder if the umps will truly enforce the rule.

The big problem here is that there is nothing in the new rule which talks about the penalty for trying to make a seventh mound visit. To that end:

This is gonna lead, at some point, to a pretty big argument. Should be amazing.

As for innings breaks, There will be a timer that counts down from 2:05 for breaks in locally televised regular season games, from 2:25 for breaks in nationally televised regular season games, and from 2:55 for postseason games. The timer shall start on the last out of an inning for an inning break. 

There are set things the players must be doing at certain points on the clock. To wit:

  • When there are 25 seconds left, the umpire will signal to the pitcher to complete his last warm-up pitch;
  • When there are 20 seconds left, the batter will be announced and must leave on-deck circle, his walk-up music shall begin, and the pitcher shall complete last warm-up pitch;
  • When the clock gets to zero, the pitcher must begin his motion for his first pitch of the inning.

There will be “special circumstance” exceptions, such as when other random things are happening on the field that prevents this, such as in-between inning events going too long or something, and an umpire can determine that a pitcher or batter needs more time for safety purposes.

Enforcement of the clock will be handled by umpires directing players to comply. Players who consistently or flagrantly violate the time limits will be subject to progressive discipline by the league. Put differently, no one is issuing automatic balls or strikes here. It’ll be handled by fines.