The vanishing pitchout

Associated Press

A good article from Ben Lindbergh at Fivethirtyeight about how the pitchout is quickly becoming an endangered species in baseball:

MLBAM’s records claim that the 2015 Boston Red Sox were the first team to play a full season without a single pitchout. Red Sox manager John Farrell disputed that stat, saying that the Sox threw three, according to the team’s internal numbers. But he acknowledged that Boston downplays the pitchout, although the coaching staff’s philosophy wasn’t dictated by a front-office study. “We try to put it in the hands of the pitcher and the catcher,” Farrell said. “So, varying our hold times, making sure that we school guys enough to have unloading times where they’re controlling the running game and minimizing that without artificially doing it through a pitchout.” In 2015, Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price and then-Seattle Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon pitched out 30 and 28 times, respectively, making them by far the most anachronistic skippers in their respective leagues.

And don’t blame this on the statheads and their spreadsheets, necessarily. Lindbergh talks to John Baker, former MLB catcher, who talks about how he and other catchers hated pitchouts.  They’re all called by the manager. The players prefer to control the running game without wasting pitches.

My guess is that sabermetric observations take a lot of time to become integrated into the game generally speaking, but if the sabermetric observations correspond with player desires — bam! — change can happen almost overnight. It’s not always an adversarial process.

Oh, and yes: I realize that pic is really an intentional walk and not a pitchout, but I couldn’t find one of an actual pitchout. They happen kind of fast, you know.

Nationals’ Stephen Strasburg’s status for 2023 ‘a mystery’

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — Stephen Strasburg‘s status for 2023 is up in the air after a series of injuries that limited him to one start this season, Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo said.

“It’s still a little bit of a mystery,” Rizzo said about the 2019 World Series MVP before the Nationals were scheduled to play a doubleheader at the New York Mets. “I know that he’s working hard strengthening his core and the other parts of his body. We’re just going to have to see. With the type of surgery and rehab that he’s had, it’s unfamiliar to us. It’s unfamiliar to a lot of people. We’re going to have to take it day by day.”

The 34-year-old right-hander has thrown a total of 31 1/3 innings across just eight starts over the past three seasons combined. He had carpal tunnel surgery in 2020, then needed an operation to correct thoracic outlet syndrome in 2021.

After his only start of 2022, he went back on the injured list with a stress reaction of the ribs.

“We’ll have to see where the rehab process takes us later on in the winter,” Rizzo said. “We’re going to monitor him. He’s local, so we’ll see him all the time and we’ll see where he’s at going into spring training mode.”

Strasburg is a three-time All-Star who signed a $245 million contract after helping Washington win a championship in 2019.

He is 113-62 with a 3.24 ERA for his career.

Meeting with reporters toward the end of a rough season – Washington entered with a majors-worst and Nationals-worst record of 55-104 and shipped away the team’s best player, outfielder Juan Soto, at the trade deadline – Rizzo talked about doing “an autopsy of the organization.”

“I look at the season as a disappointment. I’ve always said that you are what your record says you are, and our record says we’re the worst team in the league right now. It’s hard to argue with that,” Rizzo said. “The flip side of that is we’re in a process.”

Rizzo and manager Dave Martinez were given contract extensions during the season. Martinez said his entire coaching staff will return next year.