Baseball is a wonderful game. There is anticipation before every pitch. What will the pitcher throw? Where will he throw it? Will the batter swing? Where will he hit it? Every single pitch is a guess. With so many different possibilities and outcomes before each pitch, it’s easy to over analyze even the tiniest of aspects in the game.
I was at the Indians walk-off win over the Miami Marlins two Sunday’s ago. I sat in front of three older gentlemen who were having an absolute blast over-analyzing every single pitch. Every time someone swung and missed (seriously, every single time), one of them followed with “stop swinging for the fences, just get a base hit.”
Do they really think that every time someone swings and misses it means they were trying to hit a home run? Because I have seen a lot of guys swing at Andrew Miller sliders that they had absolutely no chance of hitting out of the ball park, so this is new to me. Sometimes, pitchers make good pitches. Sometimes, batters take bad swings. Sometimes, a batter just misses the ball, it happens. This got me thinking about how many bad baseball clichés are out there, and I’m here to go over my least favorite, and why you should stop talking about them.
And there’s no one you’d rather have up in this situation than this guy right here.
I have heard Matt Underwood and Rick Manning utter this phrase way too many times this season when Jose Ramirez is up with runners in scoring position. Ramirez is slashing .346/.397/.449 with RISP this year, which is great. He’s also slashing .310/.362/.455 combined, which is also great. Now, you might look at those numbers and say, “look, he’s obviously better with runners on!” Sure, technically he is. But only 142 of his plate appearances have come with RISP, and it’s a very small sample size.
You wouldn’t be getting ready to crown a guy MVP after 35-40 games into the season, would you? No, you wouldn’t, because you know that it’s possible to get off to a great start and then cool down. Remember Chris Shelton? Probably not. It’s the law of averages, everyone always regresses to the mean at some point. Ramirez’s career slash is .273/.328/.397. His career slash with RISP is .286/.328/.409. So, Ramirez gets on base the exact same amount regardless of the situation, as he as a .328 on-base percentage for his career and with RISP. Yes he has a higher batting average and a slightly higher slugging percentage. But, if we check back in a few years, those numbers should level out.
There isn’t something magical that happens to Ramirez when runners end up in scoring position, it’s just random chance. Ramirez doesn’t control whether the guys in front of him got to second base or not. And if there was something that made him better at hitting with guys on, why wouldn’t he just do that all the time? If he really was better with guys in scoring position, why did he hit just .200 in those situations last year compared to .219 for the season? And, why did he hit just .250 with RISP in 2014 compared to .262 for the season? Did he do a lot of drills where he pretended there were runners on base this off-season?
A few weeks ago Ramirez was up with Jason Kipnis on first. Kipnis stole second base and Matt Underwood commented on how important that steal was because of how good Ramirez was with RISP. Did something magical happen to Ramirez while Kipnis stole second? Was he more likely to get a hit now because Kipnis was standing somewhere else? No, he wasn’t. Ramirez is a great player, but if you expect him to hit .346 with RISP next year, you will probably be disappointed.
My initial reaction was “Wow, what a useless stat.” I wasn’t necessarily referring to all five pitchers having 10 wins as I was referring to the pitcher win in general. I can’t believe the pitcher win is still used. It makes absolutely no sense and holds zero value.
A pitcher’s success should not be based on whether or not his offense showed up that day, or not. How many times have we seen Corey Kluber throw a great game and get a loss because the Indians didn’t score or scored just one or two runs? Did Kluber really deserve to be hit with a “loss?” On the flip side, how many times have we seen Josh Tomlin give up five runs in six innings and get a win? Did he really win the team the game? Trevor Bauer, Josh Tomlin, Carlos Carrasco, and Danny Salazar all have 11 wins. With all due respect to Josh Tomlin, are we really going to sit here and say that he is just as good as Carrasco, though? We shouldn’t. A stat with such inconsistencies should not be used to measure a pitcher’s impact on his team.
It’s 2016, people, we are smarter than this. A pitcher’s job is to not give up runs. He has no control whether the offense scores enough for him to get a win. Start judging pitchers by what they do, not what their offense does or does not do.
Andrew Miller needs to be the closer.
That sentence has been tweeted out roughly one gazillion times since the Indians acquired the dominant lefty. If you think your best relief pitcher should be your closer, then Andrew Miller should be the Indians’ closer. However, the closer is such a stupid role.
There are 27 outs in a baseball game. All 27 outs have equal value, as they are all worth one out. Three outs in the ninth inning are the same amount of outs as three outs in the fourth inning. The cliché that the last three outs are the hardest to get is just that: a cliché.
There is zero statistical evidence that it is harder to get three outs in the ninth than it is any other inning. But you know what? There is statistical evidence that suggests it’s harder to get the one-to-five hitters out compared to the six-to-nine spots in the lineup. The statistical evidence we have there are things called batting average and on-base percentages. Players who hit at the top of the line-up generally have significantly better numbers than the guys who hit at the bottom.
Are you going to bring your best pitcher in when your team is up 4-2 in the seventh with the bases loaded, one out, and the opposing team’s lead-off three hitter up, or are you going to wait for him to face the 7-8-9 hitters in the ninth, because he’s the closer? Because I’m pretty sure the opposing team is more likely to tie up the game or take the lead in the first situation than the second. So, if you really think Cody Allen is that bad, which he’s not, but that’s a story for another day, then you should be happy that he’s coming into games in the ninth with no one on base, rather than coming in during a jam in the seventh or eighth, like Miller occasionally does.
Quick fun fact: In 25 of Cody Allen’s last 27 appearances, he has not given up an earned run and his ERA is 1.98. And, if you remove his five-run shelling against the White Sox away as an outlier, then his ERA is just 0.33 over those 27 innings. I’d say that is OK.
You have to find a way to manufacture runs.
Manufacture runs is probably my least favorite term in baseball. What exactly does it mean? It seems to me that manufacturing runs means scoring runs while making outs at the same time. Announcers always talk about bunting a guy to third base and then hitting a sacrifice fly to get him in as manufacturing. Do you really want to make two outs just to score one run? I mean, if you could trade two outs for one run, yeah do it, because that’s 13 runs per game. Too bad it doesn’t always work like that. Is a guy hitting a double and then the guy behind him singling him in not considered manufacturing a run? Old baseball guys love the team that can score without actually getting hits, and I don’t get why. I’d much rather a guy get on without making an out than him move a guy over while making an out.
If you are going to get out, it is better to move the runner than not move him, but when there is a guy on second base, you shouldn’t try to pound a ball in the ground to second base just so the next guy can possibly hit a fly ball and score the run. You should try to get a hit. If you don’t believe me, look at the running expectancy percentages from the last 100 years. You are more likely to score more runs with a guy on second and no one out than you are with a guy on third and one out. You can’t argue math. So, kids, don’t purposely give up your at bat just to try and move a guy and manufacture a run. Swing the stick.
I don’t want a guy who walks.
I’ve had the same argument with my dad about Carlos Santana for about five years now. My dad always complains about Santana’s batting average, while I always remind him of his above average on-base percentage and how positional value is a thing. My dad would always respond with, “I want a guy who hits, not a guy who walks.”
Even though smart baseball people have discovered over time that on-base percentage is a much more useful tool than batting average when it comes to success, a lot of baseball people just don’t care. My favorite part about complaining about a guy who walks a lot is when your your pitcher walks someone it becomes “walks kill you.” So, walks kill you when you pitch, but they’re next to useless when you’re hitting? Something does not add up.
Old baseball clichés and thoughts are the worst. And, I’m sure these sayings and stats that I have discussed are not going anywhere anytime soon. So, while old guys keep telling me how important the pitcher win, save, and RBIs are, I will just keep writing articles about how they don’t matter.
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