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Old 05-10-2019, 02:44 AM
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Baseball: why so many 4-strikeout innings recently?


In baseball, if a catcher drops a third strike, the runner can attempt to advance to first base. If successful, the runner is safe and no out is made. The pitcher, however, is still credited with having made a strikeout. This makes it possible for a pitcher to get 4 strikeouts in an inning (and theoretically more, though this has never happened in an MLB season game)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...ikeout_leaders

Looking at this list, something unusual stands out. For the first hundred years listed, 4-strikeout innings were rare events, happening once every few years. Around the mid-90s, however, it suddenly started happening several times a year (8 times in 2012 alone), and more than 2/3 of 4-strikeout innings have happened in the last 25 years.

So what happened to cause such a sudden change? Did pitchers suddenly start throwing harder, causing more passed balls? Did catchers start using a different stance that made throwing to first harder? Did batters suddenly become Olympic-level sprinters? Did a rule change make them more likely?
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Old 05-10-2019, 06:25 AM
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I believe the number of strikeouts have increased over the years. As a result I expect you'd see more 3 strikeout Innings and 4 strikeout innings.
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Old 05-10-2019, 07:09 AM
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If the batter has two strikes on him and the pitcher throws a wild pitch, can the batter swing and advance to first? Never saw it happen, but is it possible?
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Old 05-10-2019, 07:34 AM
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I believe the number of strikeouts have increased over the years...
And increased dramatically. Baseball last expanded in 1998 and there were 31,893 strikeouts total that year. Last season that number had risen to 41,207. The rate of strikeouts per team, per game last season was 8.84. Forty years ago it was 4.77.

There could be other factors involved. Perhaps an increase in the types of pitches (sliders, split-finger fastballs) more likely to bounce before they reach the catcher?
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Old 05-10-2019, 07:46 AM
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If the batter has two strikes on him and the pitcher throws a wild pitch, can the batter swing and advance to first? Never saw it happen, but is it possible?
Yes. I've seen it.

It was not the case that the batter was intentionally swinging at a pitch he knew would be wild. Rather it was a batter who just liked to swing, and so happened to swing at a ridiculous pitch. (I'm pretty sure Javy Baez was last example I saw, guy loves pushing the timber... This might be it, he's swinging at a pitch in the dirt. He got a base hit earlier this year hitting a ball after it bounced.)

It's not strategic, at least not that I've ever seen. A ball hurled by a pitcher just moves too quick for a batter to consider the situation rationally and decide to get a free base.

Edit: the bouncing ball base hit is hilarious enough to be worth linking. His little shrug is great.

Last edited by Hellestal; 05-10-2019 at 07:50 AM.
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Old 05-10-2019, 07:55 AM
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The rule is actually called an "uncaught third strike"

The most obvious reason would be the total number of games has increased. 162 games x 30 teams = 2,430 games, plus the postseason.

Secondly, pitchers throw harder than ever with lots more movement which makes it harder on catchers to make a clean catch.

Third, competitiveness. Teams, standings, game, etc.. are so close sometimes that players need to take advantage of any chance they get.


Quote:
Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
If the batter has two strikes on him and the pitcher throws a wild pitch, can the batter swing and advance to first? Never saw it happen, but is it possible?
Yes, as long as there is no runner on first or there are 2 out.
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Old 05-10-2019, 08:02 AM
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One factor is there are more batters swinging for the fences every at bat rather than try to put the ball in play, hence more strikeouts. Some of this I think is due to defensive shifts, rather than slap a ball the opposite way they think they need to go for the homer. Personally I'd like to see what Pete Rose or Rod Carew would have done with the shift- probably hit about .400.
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Old 05-10-2019, 08:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kayaker View Post
If the batter has two strikes on him and the pitcher throws a wild pitch, can the batter swing and advance to first? Never saw it happen, but is it possible?
As it happens, it happened last night in the Cardinals-Pirates game: Harrison Bader struck out swinging in the sixth inning, but reached first when Neverauskas's pitch got by the catcher.

Ask and ye shall receive...
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Old 05-10-2019, 09:06 AM
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One factor is there are more batters swinging for the fences every at bat rather than try to put the ball in play, hence more strikeouts. Some of this I think is due to defensive shifts, rather than slap a ball the opposite way they think they need to go for the homer. Personally I'd like to see what Pete Rose or Rod Carew would have done with the shift- probably hit about .400.
They probably never would have seen the shift. It's only the batter that extreme pull hitters that see the crazy shifts the guys the spread the ball around even today aren't shifted against.
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Old 05-10-2019, 09:39 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BobLibDem View Post
One factor is there are more batters swinging for the fences every at bat rather than try to put the ball in play, hence more strikeouts. Some of this I think is due to defensive shifts, rather than slap a ball the opposite way they think they need to go for the homer. Personally I'd like to see what Pete Rose or Rod Carew would have done with the shift- probably hit about .400.
There are still hitters who hit the other way, and no one is hitting .400. Rod Carew was a great hitter but the average pitcher he faced wasn't as good as they are today, and no one would shift on him, anyway.

4-strikeout innings are a product of strikeouts, and there's just more strikeouts now. While this is partially because teams don't select hitters to avoid strikeouts as much as they used to, it is also that teams select PITCHERS who amass many strikeouts more than they used to; this is a product of modern sabermetrics, which quite some time ago demonstrated that there is a very strong correlation between a pitcher's strikeout rate and his likelihood of continued success.
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Old 05-10-2019, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by Sparky812 View Post

Secondly, pitchers throw harder than ever with lots more movement which makes it harder on catchers to make a clean catch.
This has the most noticeable effect. It's a lot harder to be a catcher now than it used to be because of all that movement, it looks to be they're chasing a lot more pitches than they used to, throwing harder means the uncaught pitch gets further away and takes more time to retrieve, and that just increases the 3rd strike opportunities.

The number of teams and the additional games affect the overall statistics for the league but most people mostly watch their home or favorite team's games. They see the same number of games each year but can still notice the increase in 3rd strike steals.
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Old 05-10-2019, 12:24 PM
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The number of wild pitches is definitely increasing, though. Just sampling from the AL

2018: 68 WP per team
2008: 54 WP per team
1998: 55 WP per team
1988: 51 WP per team
1978: 40 WP per team
1968: 51 WP per team
1958: 31 WP per team

Modern level of wild pitches are at all all time high (if you are wondering, passed balls are very rarely charged in modern baseball - they're maybe a quarter the number of WP.) That is even true if you go back to the olden days, which is fascinating, because back in the days of Ty Cobb, fielding percentages were WAY lower than today; teams back then made what we today would consider a total of errors quite unacceptable for a decent college squad. The most sure-handed team made way, way more errors than any team makes today. That really strikes me as being weird; I'd have thought butterfingers totals in fielder errors and failing to catch pitches would have been more or less in line with one another. Isn't that interesting? Since an extra strikeout HAS to involve a WP or a PB, i guess it's logical there's a connection.

Note that WP and PB will also be disproportionately likely to happen to any team with a knuckleball pitcher. If you look up the season totals in ANY season in which a prominent knuckleballer was a full time starter, his team will almost always be at or near the top of WP and PB totals, so bear in mind just adding one or two knuckleballers to a league makes a measurable difference in the overall averages.

FUN FACT: While looking this stuff up I noted something I had not known; knuckleballer Charlie Hough retired with a career record of 216-216. That has got to be a record for the most decisions for a perfectly .500 pitcher, right? Has to be.
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Last edited by RickJay; 05-10-2019 at 12:33 PM.
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Old 05-10-2019, 05:41 PM
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Thanks so much for making me wonder too.

Indeed, it is. The closest career .500 pitcher is one Howard Ehmke who made his MLB debut in 1915 and finished with a career record of 166-166.

Frank Tanana (240-236) came close. The only pitcher with more wins than Hough who finished under .500 was deadball-era hurler Jack Powell, who wound up at 245-254.
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