A modest proposal

Recently a friend and colleague of mine, Gregg, tried to sell me on an idea he’s been mulling over for quite some time. No, the idea doesn’t involve wife-swapping or eating our children; but rather, it’s a solution to the designated hitter debate. As it currently stands, each league plays to its own set of rules. Perhaps there is room for compromise though.

The Proposal

Both leagues would have a designated hitter. However, the designated hitter would only hit for the starting pitcher. Once the starting pitcher was removed from the game, the designated hitter would no longer be available.  The designated hitter spot would then be filled by whoever is on the mound (obviously forcing the manager to consider using a pinch hitter every time the DH is due). This would obviously force the manager into contemplating the double switch. Perhaps an additional roster spot could even added for further bench depth.

Here’s a practical example of how a scenario in this plan could play out:

A.J. Burnett is on the mound (this already sounds promising, eh?); the game is entering the top of the fifth, and up until this point Burnett’s surrendered a few runs but the team is still very much alive. Let’s pretend the score is tied up at three. As to be expected, Burnett’s pitch count is just about to surpass the century mark and the team is preparing itself for the obligatory meltdown. Jesus Montero (who was slotted into the roster as the DH) is expected to bat second in the bottom of the fifth.

Do the Yankees allow Burnett a little more leeway on the mound so that the heart of the order can have their at-bats in the bottom of the fifth? Or, does Girardi cut his losses, yank Burnett preemptively, and substitute Andruw Jones (or whichever bench player you prefer) into the game to bat in the fifth which will subsequently result in using a pinch hitter in that slot for the remainder of the game?

Possible “Pros:”

  1. Standardizes league rules.
  2. Allows for the DH to still have a role (which would obviously be required by the players’ union).  It might even create more jobs if teams were looking for an extra bat to add to their rosters.
  3. It makes the NL lineups deeper which could result in more exciting outcomes.
  4. Would encourage even more strategic decision making.
  5. Pitchers would not be hitting which would limit the “easy outs” and injuries.

Possible “Cons:”

  1. The DH value is minimized due to less at bats and a codependency on the pitcher.  Just think, in 605 plate appearances in 2011, David Ortiz earned a 4.2 fWAR by posting a .309/.398/.554 triple slash (.405 wOBA — seventh best in the league).  Imagine how frustrated Sox fans would be if he were limited to 350-400 plate appearances.
  2. Could encourage less lineup optimization (although admittedly, the net effect of this over the course of the season is minimal).
  3. Reduces some of the strategy currently deployed by NL pitchers (pitching around certain hitters intentionally to try and get to the opposing pitcher for the “assumed out”).
  4. Somewhat aggravates the purists who believe a pitcher is a player and should hit.
  5. Somewhat aggravates the reformists (is that what we want to call them?) who want to see strictly see a DH as the role is currently defined.

Personally, I’m still not sold on the idea as I tend to enjoy American League rules.  That said, it’s still a creative compromise that’s worth considering.  What’s your take?

How do you feel about the proposal?
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Open Thread: Veterans Day

I just want to take a second to say Happy Veterans Day to all you veterans out there, it’s the brave and wonderful people like you that let wimpy saps like me talk about baseball and post videos of Jonathan Papelbon blowing games against the Yankees all day. You guys are great.

Here’s tonight’s open thread. The Devils and Rangers are both in action tonight, but talk about anything you like here. Especially Papelbon blowing games. We’ll have to watch him do that in the other league now. Some more Papelblown videos after the jump…

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Girardi Stuff: Sabathia, Noesi, Pitching, Coaches, Montero

As the work week winds down, let’s round up some news and notes from Joe Girardi. Marc Carig spoke to the skipper recently, but here’s the really important stuff…

  • “I always thought that he’d be a Yankee and something would be worked out,” said Girardi when asked about re-signing CC Sabathia. “I’m glad I was right. I didn’t want to imagine life without CC.”
  • When asked about potential pitching reinforcements from the minors, the first name out of Girardi’s mouth was Hector Noesi. “Is it the ideal situation where we all think they have enough innings in the minor leagues? Maybe not,” said the skipper. ” Between the regular season and winter ball, Noesi is now up to 102.2 IP this season after throwing 160.1 IP in 2010.
  • Just as Brian Cashman said the other day, Girardi reiterated that it’s still too early in the process for him to begin making recruiting calls to free agents. I suspect we won’t hear about teams (not just the Yankees) getting serious with major free agents until the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is announced and everyone knows what’s up.
  • “If he wants to continue to play, and there’s not a spot here, I would encourage him to do it because as a player, you have to make sure all of that is out of you before you decide to retire,” said Girardi when asked about Jorge Posada. Jorge recently said he’s accepted that his Yankees career is over.
  • “I think our guys did a good job last year but these are things we need to sit down and discuss,” said Girardi in reference to his coaching staff. Pitching coach Larry Rothschild and hitting coach Kevin Long are in the middle of multi-year deals, but everyone else’s contract is up.
  • Jesus Montero‘s role next season is still to be determined. He could be the full-time DH, a part-time DH, the backup catcher, whatever you can think up. Girardi did say that Montero’s strong September showing leads him to believe he can have an impact next year.

The RAB Radio Show: November 11, 2011

Today we bring the newest member of RAB, Moshe Mandel, onto the show. It’s nice getting a third voice onto the podcast, at least in terms of recording and discussion. We hope you agree.

  • We lead off with the Yankees’ pursuit of, well, everyone. Are they just feeling out the market, or are they laying big plans?
  • Onto the smaller moves that have happened already, and a bigger one that wasn’t. We talk about how these moves affect the market going forward.
  • Another event that will affect the market: Yu Darvish getting posted. It’s no guarantee but it looks very likely. That will change how teams operate.
  • Caddy for A-Rod? We further the discussion from Mo’s article earlier this week.
  • And plenty of miscellany to fill time.

Podcast run time 42:32

Here’s how you can listen to podcast:

  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
  • Listen in your browser by left clicking the above link or using the embedded player below.
  • Subscribe in iTunes. If you want to rate us that would be great. If you leave a nice review I’ll buy you a beer at a meet-up.
[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow111111.mp3]

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.

Phillies sign Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan Papelbon has faced the Yankees 46 times in his career, but it could be a long time until he reaches appearance No. 47. After spending the first seven seasons of his big league career with the Red Sox, Papelbon will pitch for the Phillies in 2012 and beyond. Jim Salisbury of Comcast SportsNet reports that the Phillies have signed Papelbon to be their closer. That pushes out Ryan Madson, with whom the Phillies reportedly had a deal earlier in the week. That apparently was a false report and was never as far along as reports indicted. There’s no word on contract terms yet, but that’s just a matter of time. Papelbon is one face that Yankees fans won’t mind missing, though he has been part to some of our favorite comebacks in the past few years.

Update (2:39 p.m.): Salisbury tweets that the deal is “four years and approaches $50 million.” That’s definitely the kind of payday Papelbon has repeatedly said he seeks in free agency.

Dispelling the RISP Fail myth

Ah, RISP Fail, a phenomenon that really gained traction — merited or not — during the 2010 season. Last year’s team posted a .267/.357/.441 line with runners on, good for a 103 tOPS+, and 12% better than league average (112 sOPS+); and a .258/.363/.420 line with runners in scoring position, which was essentially exactly how they hit in all other situations (100 tOPS+), and a mark 9% better than league average.

While those full-season numbers with runners on and RISP are plenty respectable, the RISP Fail meme grew to apocalyptic proportions during the 2010 season’s final month, as the team hit just .225/.350/.331 (.681 OPS) in 338 September plate appearances with runners in scoring position. Coupled with an anemic offensive performance against Texas in the 2010 ALCS, and the team’s seeming futility with runners in scoring position became an easy scapegoat for the team’s shortcomings.

So was there any truth to this perception? Below are two charts showing the team’s numbers with runners on and with runners in scoring position going back to 2007. As an aside, the reason I’ve chosen 2007 as the cutoff for the majority of the historical team-wide comparisons I’ve been doing thus far is because several seasons worth of data helps detect patterns and/or trends, but going back any further than five years will likely make any conclusions less meaningful given that the composition of both the team and the league was quite a bit different. Even going back to 2007 doesn’t really tell you anything about the 2011 team, but simply showing the 2010 and 2011 numbers paints a fairly limited picture.

Anyway. (click to enlarge)

It turns out the one year fans may have actually had a legitimate gripe regarding the team plating baserunners was 2008, the only season of these five they were below-league average both with runners on and runners in scoring position. Though the 2010 season did end up coming in as the second-lowest of the five in terms of sOPS+, lending perhaps some credence to the frustration with the team’s periodic inability to hit with RISP, at least in comparison to how Yankee teams of recent vintage fared.

Fortunately the 2011 team put the 2010 Yankees to shame when it came to hitting with both men on and runners in scoring position, posting five-year highs in both tOPS+ and sOPS+ in both splits. In fact, they were the second-best hitting team with runners on and the best-hitting team with runners in scoring position compared to the league in 2011:

Men on AVG OBP SLG tOPS+ sOPS+
BOS .294 .364 .474 107 127
NYY .270 .349 .465 106 120
DET .288 .349 .444 105 115
TEX .277 .335 .438 94 110
BAL .266 .329 .432 109 106
CLE .271 .345 .412 113 106
KCR .277 .330 .419 101 103
CHW .259 .333 .401 108 100
TBR .242 .326 .406 102 99
TOR .248 .324 .406 100 98
LAA .252 .316 .406 102 96
OAK .254 .321 .376 105 90
MIN .253 .317 .360 104 85
SEA .241 .307 .357 108 81

 

RISP AVG OBP SLG tOPS+ sOPS+
NYY .273 .361 .455 108 122
BOS .278 .359 .452 101 121
TEX .285 .354 .450 102 119
DET .280 .350 .426 101 112
CLE .269 .354 .409 115 108
KCR .276 .333 .426 104 107
BAL .263 .332 .416 106 104
OAK .266 .340 .399 118 102
LAA .255 .334 .405 108 102
TOR .237 .331 .387 98 96
CHW .239 .324 .373 98 90
TBR .224 .322 .371 92 89
MIN .248 .319 .354 103 84
SEA .222 .306 .325 98 73

Interestingly, Cleveland of all teams really turned things on when they had runners on, compared to the way they hit in all situations, with an AL-high 113 tOPS+ with men on, and a second-best-in-the-league 115 tOPS+ with runners in scoring position. Strangely enough, Oakland led the league in tOPS+ with RISP, hitting 18% better than usual in these situations, though given their overall season line of .244/.311/.369 that’s still not saying much.

Also, next time you’re concerned about the Yankees’ hitting with RISP, just be glad you’re not a Mariners fan. The folks in Seattle must be among the most patient in the world; I’m not sure how you follow a baseball team that not only put up a .233/.292/.348 line over 162 games, but actually managed to hit 2% worse than that with runners in scoring position.