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God NL baseball is awful


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Another thing; any evaluation of the hitting of individual pitchers runs into the old problem of insufficient sample sizes. I contend that it really takes something approaching a full season's worth of at bats -- 400 or 500 of them -- before evaluations of hitters begin to have substantial validity. Pitchers don't get that; neither do pinch hitters. Any assessment of the hitting ability of an individual pitcher or pinch hitter as to begin with the acknowledgement that there aren't enough at bats for the assessment to have much validity.

The OPS of an everyday player can vary by several hundred points between one monthly split and another. A monthly split for a position player is usually 90 to 120 at bats, while a starting pitcher will normally have only 50 to 90 plate appearances over an entire season. How can we possibly place much credibility in an evaluation of the hitting skills of a hitter based upon 50 to 90 at bats?

In individual pitchers in individual seasons, sure, you have a point. But over careers, or over pitchers taken as a group? You have large samples and indisputable evidence that they far worse than any other group of major league players.

In 2006 pitchers had 5142 at bats and a .342 OPS. From 1990-2006 pitchers had 82,011 at bats and a .363 OPS. That's not a fluke of small samples, that's incontrovertible evidence that pitchers can't hit.

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Getting back to davearm's point that NL baseball is better because "every guy plays both ways." If that's true, we can trace the decline and fall of baseball as a real sport from that statement. The end began in 1891 when the rules were amended to allow for unchallenged substitutes to occur at any point in the game. Before that rule was enacted every player on every team had to be willing and able to play anywhere on the diamond because all substitutes required the permission of the opposing team. And that permission was rare, indeed.

Take a look at some prominent players from the 1880s. King Kelly is a Hall of Famer. So is Buck Ewing. Dave Foutz was a top pitcher, as was his teammate "Parisian" Bob Caruthers.

Kelly played at least 12 games at every position on the field, including pitcher. Ewing played every position at one time or another. For Foutz a typical year was 1886, when he pitched in 59 games, played 34 in the outfield, and 11 more at first base. That same year Caruthers pitched 44 games, played the outfield in 43, and filled in at second base twice.

That, my friends, is the opposite of specialization. Every man could play every position on the field at the drop of a hat. From that perspective relief pitching is a radical, ultra-specialized change. When you have to have the permission of the other team to make a substitute your relievers have to be players who play other positions. You think the Yankees would let the O's take out Steve Trachsel after he's given up five runs in 2 1/3? Of course not, the Orioles would have to switch Trachsel to right field and put Nick Markakis on the mound. Or they'd have Adam Loewen starting in left, and he'd come in to pitch, switching places with Trachsel.

If you look at the players who spent the majority of their careers after 1891 they look a lot like today's players. The vast majority played one or two positions. Pitchers rarely played the field, and position players rarely pitched. And to take advantage of the substitute rule rosters began to grow, leading to further specialization with relievers, pinch hitters, and other situational subs.

If the DH is an abomination, why aren't pinch hitters? Why aren't relievers? Or pinch runners? Or defensive subs? They're all using limited players, players who weren't even good enough to start, to cover for the weaknesses of another limited player. If making concessions for players who can't field is an affront to the traditions of the game, why aren't similar concessions for players who can't hit or can't pitch?

In my opinion the DH is just a logical extension of the unchallenged substitute rule. That rule, not the DH, was the most radical change specializing baseball players in the game's history - and that's not my opinion, that's a fact.

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Anybody catch Daniel Cabrera batting in his start against Arizona. To save time and effect, he should have just sat in the dugout and let Webb throw to no one at the plate. 3 strikeouts and Webb only threw 10 pitches to him. I don't think he swung at any of the pitches...

... now that's what I like about NL baseball. ;)

So far in career, he has 9 AB's with 9 strikeouts!

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Anybody catch Daniel Cabrera batting in his start against Arizona. To save time and effect, he should have just sat in the dugout and let Webb throw to no one at the plate. 3 strikeouts and Webb only threw 10 pitches to him. I don't think he swung at any of the pitches...

... now that's what I like about N baseball. ;)

So far in career, he has 9 AB's with 9 strikeouts!

You banal, plebeian, home run loving commoner! Don't you know strategy when you see it?!

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Anybody catch Daniel Cabrera batting in his start against Arizona. To save time and effect, he should have just sat in the dugout and let Webb throw to no one at the plate. 3 strikeouts and Webb only threw 10 pitches to him. I don't think he swung at any of the pitches...

... now that's what I like about NL baseball. ;)

So far in career, he has 9 AB's with 9 strikeouts!

Had Cabrera ever swung a bat as a professional player until he got to interleague games? What makes the .250 with 2 home runs that Ankiel hit as a rookie was that, even with the 78 major league at bats he had that year, he still had fewer than 100 at bats since he'd become a professional ballplayer. That's why I'm convinced that Rick Ankiel will become an all star outfielder someday if he can remain healthy; he's a natural.

That's the problem with the proliferation of the designated hitter throughout baseball. Pitchers are getting their bats taken away from them before they've had much opportunity to develop any hitting skills. The pitcher who was the best hitter on his high school team ends up playing the outfield when he's not pitching, but the pitcher who was a little slow developing with the bat and needs extra time/coaching not only doesn't get it, he loses what little opportunity he had because high school and college coaches can't afford to sacrifice winning for player development. There's no motivation for a kid like Cabrera to keep working on his hitting because he'll never need it unless he gets traded to an NL team.

The DH is an abomination, a perversion of baseball, and it has now ruined a generation or more of pitchers. There were always a few pitchers like Ryne Duren who were absolutely worthless at the plate (and Ryno's eyes would be corrected through lasik now), but the hitting development of AL pitchers essentially stopped when they graduated from high school, and perhaps even earlier in some cases.

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In my opinion the DH is just a logical extension of the unchallenged substitute rule. That rule, not the DH, was the most radical change specializing baseball players in the game's history - and that's not my opinion, that's a fact.

And allowing slug-footed designated hitters like Jack Cust to hit for slick fielding shortstops like Adam Everett is only a "logical extension" too. From there, it's a never ending series of similar logical extensions to 50-player rosters and unlimited substitutions in and out, but it wouldn't be the baseball that you and I love. American League baseball is already an obscene perversion of the game that I grew up playing, loving, and enjoying.

The gripe against baseball has always been that it's difficult for the neophyte fan to appreciate because there's so little going on most of the time. Real baseball fans appreciate having time to think about the subtleties of the game and get more enjoyment from a 12-inning zero-zero pitchers' duel like the match up by Lew Burdette and Harvey Haddix on May 26, 1959 than they do from a 20 run slug fest. Baseball's moguls made 2 significant moves to make the game more exciting for the marginal fans who didn't understand it when they lowered the pitchers mound in 1969 altered the rules to permit a designated hitter in 1973. Both moves were specifically targeted towards increasing scoring in baseball, thereby making it hopefully more appealing to the legions of sports fans flocking to baseball who didn't have the patience to appreciate the subtleties of real baseball.

It amazes me that American League fans can be so defensive of an aberration which has only increased the scoring of runs by one per team every 4th or 5th game, and I'm forced to conclude it's just another example of the "Mine is bigger than yours" boasting that immature adolescent males go through. Yes, I agonize when a run scoring opportunity is wasted because Braden Looper is only hitting .130, but I get a lot more frustrated when Scott Rolen or Jim Edmonds hits into an inning ending double play with the bases loaded and the winning run on 2nd in the bottom of the 9th. That's just part of baseball; weak hitting pitchers (and some pitchers who handle the bat very well) are an integral part of the game, just as having position players fail 3 times out of every 4 trips to the plate is part of it too.

I notice that you also avoided commenting on my remarks about Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, and Cal Ripken. I don't see how any legitimate baseball fan could possibly defend a rule which quite possibly would have cost us the greatest legend in the history of the game if it had been on the books when Ruth first began his professional career as a pitcher.

In his first full season, 1915, Ruth only had 96 at bats in 28 games started and 4 relief appearances. He had 136 at bats the next season in 41 starts and 3 relief appearances. He did pinch hit 10 times in 1915 and 23 times in 1916, but it's not like he was continually pinch hitting for other pitchers or weak hitting position players those years, nor was he hitting lots of home runs. Ruth did not begin playing the outfield occasionally when he wasn't pitching until 1918 and, if there had been an early day version of an Edgar Martinez or a Mike Piazza on the Red Sox when Ruth first arrived on the scene, it's very likely that Ruth would be in the Hall of Fame today as a very good but not quite top notch pitcher, if he made it to the Hall at all.

Musial injured his pitching arm as a young minor leaguer, so there's a strong probability that the practice of using a designated hitter for the pitcher wouldn't have had time to atrophy his hitting skills before the arm injury, but the Babe was a superlative major league pitcher whose hitting skills might never have become so obvious if he'd begun playing in an era of universal designated hitters. Likewise, if Cal had been drafted by any other AL team besides the Orioles, there is a very good chance that he'd have never had an opportunity to demonstrate his skill with the bat. Pitchers like Mike Hampton and Jason Marquis who really can hit very well make up for all the Cabreras and Durens at the plate.

Last night against the Phillies, in stultifying heat, the 44-year-old Jamie Moyer stroked a hit through the hole between the shortstop and a diving Scott Rolen. Jamie went on to score from 2nd base on a bloop single that he read correctly off the bat and hustled all the way, then hustled it down the line and made it close on a sacrifice bunt later in the game. Even as a fan of the opposing, losing team, I can admire performance like that from a pitcher who takes his hitting seriously, and it infuriates me to no end that Neolithic American League fans would take that pleasure away from me for the benefit that one extra run every 4th or 5th game gives them.

Of course, there are a lot of other changes which I would decree if I were King, and you don't want to hear about them either.

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Jon here's a question for you, since you're the resident historian.

Were bigleague pitchers such bad hitters from, say, 1900 to 1960?

My guess is that to a certain, potentially large extent, the blanket application of the DH rule across basically all leagues creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If a guy gets labeled a pitcher early on as a teenager, and never picks up a bat after age 16, then of course he's going to be a lousy hitter at age 25, facing the world's best pitchers. However that same guy might be a significantly better, and perfectly functional hitter at age 25 if he was allowed to hit regularly throughout college and the minors.

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That's the problem with the proliferation of the designated hitter throughout baseball. Pitchers are getting their bats taken away from them before they've had much opportunity to develop any hitting skills. The pitcher who was the best hitter on his high school team ends up playing the outfield when he's not pitching, but the pitcher who was a little slow developing with the bat and needs extra time/coaching not only doesn't get it, he loses what little opportunity he had because high school and college coaches can't afford to sacrifice winning for player development. There's no motivation for a kid like Cabrera to keep working on his hitting because he'll never need it unless he gets traded to an NL team.

If that we're true, we'd expect that pitchers hit significantly better before the DH, right?

In 1962, pitchers had a .389 OPS (OPS+ of 9)

In 1972, the year before the DH was installed, pitchers in the majors combined for a .368 OPS, or an OPS+ of 11.

In 1982, ten years after the DH was introduced to the game, pitchers had an OPS of .375, or an OPS+ of 6.

In 1992, pitchers put together a brilliant .336 OPS collectively, good for a -3 OPS+.

In 2002, pitchers hit for an OPS of .371, which gave them an OPS+ of 0.

This lack of regular plate appearances for pitchers has has caused their collective OPS to go up .003 points since the advent of the DH. And adjusting for the run scoring context of the leagues, pitchers have regressed from abysmal hitters to slightly more abysmal.

The gripe against baseball has always been that it's difficult for the neophyte fan to appreciate because there's so little going on most of the time. Real baseball fans appreciate having time to think about the subtleties of the game and get more enjoyment from a 12-inning zero-zero pitchers' duel like the match up by Lew Burdette and Harvey Haddix on May 26, 1959 than they do from a 20 run slug fest. Baseball's moguls made 2 significant moves to make the game more exciting for the marginal fans who didn't understand it when they lowered the pitchers mound in 1969 altered the rules to permit a designated hitter in 1973. Both moves were specifically targeted towards increasing scoring in baseball, thereby making it hopefully more appealing to the legions of sports fans flocking to baseball who didn't have the patience to appreciate the subtleties of real baseball.

I was always under the impression that real fans of baseball recognized that the game had consisted of both slugfests and pitchers' duels since its inception and appreciated the variety inherent in the game.

If we should be enjoying the game the way it was meant to be played, as National League fans seem to believe, we ought to be trying to ensure we see less of these boring one run pitchers duels that became so prevalent nearly one hundred years into the National League's existence. After all, the National League in 1876 was a league where the average teams scored nearly six runs per game. Who cares what happened in 1968 when the National League teams couldn't collectively muster three and a half runs per game per team. That was an abomination on the game, much like the DH.

I notice that you also avoided commenting on my remarks about Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, and Cal Ripken. I don't see how any legitimate baseball fan could possibly defend a rule which quite possibly would have cost us the greatest legend in the history of the game if it had been on the books when Ruth first began his professional career as a pitcher.

And once again I'll ask National League fans why they're willing to accept players that only play defense and hit instead of requiring players that play defense, hit, and pitch. Why was it acceptable to stick Babe Ruth in the outfield because he could hit gargantuan home runs, never pitching after he made the Yankees?

In 1919 he made nearly 20 starts and played 100+ games in the outfield. Why should he be allowed to do only one of the two? This rule allowing players to specialize in only defense and hitting has perhaps deprived us all of seeing what could have been a Hall of Fame pitching career from Babe Ruth. Imagine, a player with over 90 wins and an ERA in the just above 2.00 at age 23, never pitching again due to the game's specialization. A blight on baseball, indeed.

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Those OPS+ stats are all out of whack, Eight.

As I understand it, OPS+ is simply the ratio of the player's (or group's) OPS to the leaguewide average OPS.

Thus it's mathematically impossible to go negative, and it's difficult to go much below 50.

Those single digit values you're reporting cannot be correct.

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Those OPS+ stats are all out of whack, Eight.

As I understand it, OPS+ is simply the ratio of the player's (or group's) OPS to the leaguewide average OPS.

Thus it's mathematically impossible to go negative, and it's difficult to go much below 50.

Those single digit values you're reporting cannot be correct.

Nope. An OPS+ of "0" doesn't represent an OPS of .000, but rather an OPS of half the league average. Negative OPS+ values are ones from .000 up to half the league average. It makes sense conceptually - if 100 represents the average OPS, then in OPS+, an OPS twice the league average (OPS+ = 200) will be the same distance away from 100 as an OPS of half the league average (OPS+ = 0).

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The one rule everyone is forgetting that needs to be removed is that darn infield-fly rule. It's completely arbitrary that a batter is called out without the fielders having to do anything. It also removes all of the strategy involved with the baserunners having to guess whether the infielder will catch the ball or not. :)

All kidding aside, I like the DH rule. I think it makes for a more enjoyable game. I also think it makes the core part of baseball, the batter-pitcher matchup, better. Sac bunts with 1 out and intentional walks of bad number 8 hitters to get to an even worse batting pitcher seem like something a manager has to do instead of wants to do.

The slippery slope, "purity", or "balance" arguments seem hollow to me. If "balance" is what is desired why doesn't each player have to pitch one inning since there are 9 players on the field and 9 innings in a game? Why not have the players rotate positions every inning like in volleyball? Neither way is the right or wrong way to play baseball.

However, I do like pitchers batting in the NL. It provides a little change of pace during the long season. The different DH rules give the leagues their own flavor, something unique to baseball unlike the NFL or NBA. My personal preference though is not to see a pitcher bat 162 games a year.

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Anybody catch Daniel Cabrera batting in his start against Arizona. To save time and effect, he should have just sat in the dugout and let Webb throw to no one at the plate. 3 strikeouts and Webb only threw 10 pitches to him. I don't think he swung at any of the pitches...

... now that's what I like about NL baseball. ;)

So far in career, he has 9 AB's with 9 strikeouts!

Daniel Cabrera getting into the batter's box is like me getting into the batter's box. At least most pitchers had to hit in little league. Danny was discovered when he was 17 and only recruited for his arm. If he even makes contact with the ball he should consider it an achievement!

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Daniel Cabrera getting into the batter's box is like me getting into the batter's box. At least most pitchers had to hit in little league. Danny was discovered when he was 17 and only recruited for his arm. If he even makes contact with the ball he should consider it an achievement!

He has to take the bat off his shoulder first... which he didn't.

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The DH is an abomination, a perversion of baseball, and it has now ruined a generation or more of pitchers.

The DH is a beautiful, beautiful thing that makes baseball grander and more glorious than it ever was before. And it's allowed a generation or more of pitchers to hone their crafts to a level heretofore impossible.

Look, I can post opinions too! Orange is better than green!

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Jon here's a question for you, since you're the resident historian.

Were bigleague pitchers such bad hitters from, say, 1900 to 1960?

My guess is that to a certain, potentially large extent, the blanket application of the DH rule across basically all leagues creates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If a guy gets labeled a pitcher early on as a teenager, and never picks up a bat after age 16, then of course he's going to be a lousy hitter at age 25, facing the world's best pitchers. However that same guy might be a significantly better, and perfectly functional hitter at age 25 if he was allowed to hit regularly throughout college and the minors.

Eight already posted numbers, but yes. There's been a fairly linear decline in the relative hitting performance of pitchers from 1876 to today. If anything the slope of the curve has flattened a bit since the advent of the DH, although that could be because pitchers are starting to approach the theoretical minimum.

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