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.