2024 SABR Analytics: Watch highlights from Rule Changes: Pitching and Baserunning Panel

2024 SABR Analytics: Javy Guerra, Vince Gennaro, Eno Sarris

At the SABR Analytics Conference on Friday, March 8, 2024, in Phoenix, Arizona, a panel discussion was held on baseball’s rule changes focusing on pitching and baserunning.

Panelists included former major-league pitcher Javy Guerra; Eno Sarris of The Athletic; former SABR Board President Vince Gennaro; and moderator Rob Mains of Baseball Prospectus.

Here are some highlights from the panel:

On succeeding against the pitch clock 

  • Gennaro: “It’s suggesting that there are a new set of competencies to be successful in today’s game than there were 5, 6 or 7 years ago, and that’s an interesting element in and of itself. How do you screen for that? How do you select for that? It’s no longer about raw talent, because we can work with that person and develop them. Well, can they process at the pace they need to process? But again … if you’re growing up in that system, then that probably makes the adjustment a lot easier.”

On an increase in stolen bases 

  • Guerra: “I think it’s a team-to-team thing. Playing on so many different teams, I think you know how your style of play has to be. … If you have the luxury to sit back, you will, but I think the two throwovers really changed a lot. … Once you threw over once, they were really cognizant of knowing like, ‘Oh, man, I shouldn’t throw over again because he’s gonna get the free go.’ So I think the runners started taking bigger leads and I think it created more offense because more guys were more quicker-minded to go ahead and advance.”
  • Mains: “The number of stolen bases was up about 40% year-over-year for April, May, June, July (and) August last season. The success rate, though, kept climbing, climbing, climbing. Then in September, we saw the success rate decline to still-very-high levels, and the number of stolen bases shot up. We ended up the year with an 80% success rate, and roughly, if you look at run expectancy tables and you take into account the number of outs, break-even, is a little bit south of 75%. So we were way above break-even for the first time in baseball history.”

2024 SABR Analytics: Javy Guerra, Vince Gennaro, Eno Sarris, Rob Mains

On the disengagement rule

  • Sarris: “I think there’s a lot of noise in that we have seen players have troubles like that over the course of their career so there’s definitely some signal. And we have to acknowledge that these rules will exacerbate that situation. Specifically, I would say there is noise in those numbers, but this current environment will exacerbate problems with runners on, for sure. And that’s gonna be something where if you’re evaluating players, you have to be able to take that signal from the noise.”

On how rule changes affected older pitchers who had to adjust more 

  • Sarris: “One thing that I did see on the SABR website, there’s a really cool research piece that showed that [pitchers] who had to make the most adjustments into their pace — that amount of adjustment was correlated with poor performance overall. The people who had to spend the most time adjusting to the pitch clock, it did affect their performance. The question then: Was that just the adjustment period and now they’re done, they’re fine now? Or what will happen in year two and year three?”

Transcription assistance from Liam Hamm.

For more coverage of the 2024 SABR Analytics Conference, visit SABR.org/analytics.


Originally published: May 1, 2024. Last Updated: March 20, 2024.