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Don Mattingly thinks pace of play can be improved by changing views on strikeouts

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Marlins manager Don Mattingly has one potential solution to the pace of play issue: change the way people value strikeouts, the Associated Press reports.

Strikeouts have been rising steadily since 2005. Then, a typical game averaged 6.30 strikeouts. In 2016, there were 8.03 strikeouts per game. There are many explanations for this phenomenon. For one, teams are searching specifically for young pitchers who can throw hard — like triple-digits hard. They figure they can teach them the other pertinent skills in the minors. Second, Sabermetrics has shown that a strikeout is only marginally worse than an out made on a ball put in play. Sometimes, the strikeout is preferable, especially if there’s a runner on first base with less than two outs and a weak hitter at the plate. Sabermetrics has also shown home runs to be the best and most efficient way to contribute on offense. Furthermore, younger players tend to focus more on power in order to get noticed by scouts. Unless it’s paired with other elite skills, a scout isn’t going to remember a player who hit the ball into the hole on the right side, but he will remember the kid who blasted a 450-foot homer.

Here’s what Mattingly had to say:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value — the strikeouts — guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

[…]

If our game values [say that] strikeouts don’t matter, they are going to keep striking out, hitting homers, trying to hit home runs and striking out.

Simply believing strikeouts are bad won’t magically change its value. However, creating social pressure regarding striking out can change it. Theoretically, anyway. Creating that social pressure is easier said than done.

There is a dichotomy here as well. Home runs are exciting. Strikeouts and walks are not. Often, though, the three go hand-in-hand-in-hand. A player actively trying to cut down on his strikeouts by putting the ball in play will also likely cut down on his strikeout and walk rates. There doesn’t seem to be an elegant solution here. Wishing for fewer strikeouts, walks, and homers doesn’t really seem to give way to a more exciting game.

Rays acquire Peter Bourjos from the White Sox

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The Rays announced on Tuesday that the club acquired outfielder Peter Bourjos from the White Sox in exchange for a player to be named later or cash considerations.

As all three starting outfield jobs in Tampa Bay are spoken for, Bourjos is looking at a bench role to open the 2017 regular season. Last season with the Phillies, Bourjos hit .251/.292/.389 with 20 doubles, 23 RBI, and 40 runs scored in 383 plate appearances. The bat is still weak, but he also still plays solid defense and runs the bases well.

Reds claim Scooter Gennett off waivers from the Brewers

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The Reds claimed second baseman Scooter Gennett off waivers from the Brewers, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reported on Tuesday.

Gennett, who turns 27 years old on May 1, was expendable as the Brewers planned to use Jonathan Villar on an everyday basis at second base. He’ll provide infield depth in Cincinnati.

Over parts of four seasons in the majors, Gennett has hit .279/.318/.420 with 35 home runs and 160 RBI in 1,637 plate appearances.