Nationals’ pitching coach Steve McCatty spoke with Yahoo!’s Les Carpenter and gave a less entertaining version of Crash Davis’ “strikeouts are boring, besides that, they’re fascist” speech:
“Strikeouts are bull[bleep],” he says … If you try to strike out every hitter you’re going to burn up pitches … Look, just do the math. If you’re taking 15-20 pitches to get through every inning that will multiply fast.” He would rather his pitchers let the hitters hit the ball.
Probably worth noting that:
- The Nationals are fifth in all of baseball and third in the NL in strikeouts per nine innings; and
- Their two best starters, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, are striking out 11.6 and 10.4 batters per nine innings, respectively, which is number one and number three in all of baseball among starters.
Indeed, there is almost a perfect correlation between how many wins a Nationals pitcher has and how many he’s striking out: the more the better.
Which doesn’t mean that McCatty doesn’t have a point. Ideally, yes, you want your pitcher to throw fewer pitches if possible and striking out guys takes more pitches. But it’s also true that the best way to control damage as a pitcher is to allow fewer opportunities for things to go wrong. Contact can lead to errors and seeing-eye hits and homers and all kinds of bad things. Strikeouts, not so much. Throw strikes and try to miss bats and you’re gonna be successful. And often times, a lot of strikeouts is the byproduct of that.
All of this reminds me of hitting coaches who get all worked up about wanting their hitters to take the ball to the opposite field, shorten their swing and not strike out despite the fact that the team’s best hitter is almost certainly a dude who pulls the ball with authority.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: