Unculture
Published in

Unculture

The Show Notes

Issue №2: April 19th — May 3rd

The sport of baseball has always been a cat-and-mouse game where pitchers hold a slight advantage over hitters. Due to a spike in pitching development success over the last decade, pitchers in Major League Baseball have become more effective, throwing strikeouts and (whatever the phrase for pitches that you can’t get hits off of is) at a dramatically increasing rate. Many individuals throughout the realms of baseball are placing far too much blame on the hitters, and are not recognizing, or actively ignoring, the fact that starting pitchers and relievers have reached a new level in terms of ability. The current era of baseball is being erroneously and disingenuously covered due to inherent bias and/or a lack of in depth knowledge about the state of the game.

Pitchers are throwing harder than they ever have, possess secondary pitches with ever improving movement profiles, and are learning how to more effectively sequence pitches with slow motion cameras and other technology. These are just three of the breakthroughs pitchers have benefitted from during the 2010s. Average and below average starting pitchers in this era of baseball are more capable than ever, and relief pitchers have hugely increased in ability, effectiveness, and deployment. The new status quo is being viewed through standards that are archaic and outdated, by individuals who are unwilling to learn and adjust. Analytics is also responsible for the rise in pitching development success, fueled by a rise in implementation of technology in order to help pitchers learn and improve their capabilities.

April is the first full month of baseball during Major League Baseball’s regular season, and this April, pitchers were extremely dominant. This has sent fans of baseball into panic mode over the lack of success hitters are having at the plate, and that panic is hinged around the rate at which position players are striking out. The strikeout rate of Major League Baseball’s position players has steadily climbed over the last decade, leading to complaints from fans about the lack of action.

I collected statistics for the performance of position players from 2010–2021, split up by month. Since the 2020 season was shortened, and did not start until July, a large majority of my findings are results from 2010–2019. I used Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) to measure the effectiveness of hitters during each month, the gold standard stat for benchmarking batting ability. Based on my findings, April is the month where hitters are least effective, which explains the dominance of pitchers during the first month of the 2021 season.

The numbers clearly show that hitters start slow in April, improve during the summer months, and fall back down to earth when the weather starts to get chilly during September and October. Pundits and amateurs alike are using the month of April to push their agenda about the current state of the game, scapegoating analytics along the way. The strikeout is seen as a negative event that the hitter is solely responsible for, ignoring the pitcher’s role in the context

Pitchers are throwing harder than they ever have, and are throwing secondary pitches at a more frequent rate as well. Jacob deGrom, Shane Bieber, and Corbin Burnes are leading the way for starting pitchers who are wreaking havoc on hitters so far this season. At this very moment we are seeing guys like Aroldis Chapman, James Karinchak, Justin Lawrence, Emmanuel Clase, Josh Hader and many other notable names pushing the limits for relievers beyond what we think is possible in real time.

The increasing effectiveness of pitchers is not going to break the game of baseball, it’s impossible. Critics are not being patient enough waiting for the pendulum to swing back towards position players. Banning the shift, electronic strike zones, pitch clocks, etc. are not going to make hitters more successful at the plate. Criticizing the three true outcomes approach that is becoming increasingly popular amongst hitters is also foolish, as it is a direct response to how skilled pitchers have become. No one is giving position players and MLB organizations enough time to figure this out, and that is what is going to harm the game the most.

National League

So far the NL East has been very mediocre, with the Washington Nationals holding the best record in the division at 12–12. The Mets are still my pick to win the division with the Braves being close behind. The Nationals and Phillies are behind, but also have a chance to sneak into one of the two NL Wild Card slots. So far the Mets and Braves have underperformed in two completely different ways. The Mets starting rotation has been one of the best in baseball, but the position player group and bullpen have scuffled to begin the season. The Braves position player group has pulled most of the weight for the team, with the starting rotation and bullpen struggling. Keep a close eye on how these teams fare in May and June, as there will be more data to review along with trends stabilizing into habits.

American League

The Royals have been atop of the AL Central for almost the whole season, much to the surprise of a lot of individuals. The Royals made a couple additions of veterans to their young position player group, and it will be interesting to see if they can maintain their current pace for the entire 162 game season. The Minnesota Twins were the favorites to win the AL Central, and so far they have underperformed due to injuries and inconsistency. The Chicago White Sox continued to be plagued by injuries, as Luis Robert will be placed on the Injured List with a hip flexor strain suffered in Sunday’s game against Cleveland. The Tony La Russa Redemption Arc has not gone well so far this season, as he looks like an overwhelmed 76 year old that is out of touch with modern baseball based on his illogical distribution of plate appearances to position players, and incompetent management of the starting rotation and bullpen.

Another Baseball Event to Ramble About

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. was one of the most hyped prospects in the history of baseball, and rightfully so. He had the name recognition, as the son and namesake of Hall-of-Famer Vladimir Guerrero Sr., and hails from a family of Afro-Dominican players that has an extensive history with professional baseball. After an illustrious minor league career, he reached the majors at 20 years old, while his father reached the majors at the age of 21. While Vlad Jr. has been less productive to begin his career compared to his father, he just achieved a feat his father never did. On April 27th, 2021 Vladimir Guerrero Jr. hit three home runs in a single game, and can brag about it to his father forever. Enjoy Vlad Jr. for the moment, because who knows what he will become. He is incomparable to his father, or any other position player. He has only played 209 games at the major league level in his brief career, and he is 22 years old. He still has a long career ahead of him, and hopefully it is filled with milestones just like his father’s. Let that man play, and do not straddle ridiculous expectations on him because it will only ruin the moments that we get to see him in between the lines.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store