Carleton: Position players … catching?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on August 1, 2018:

#BaseballTwitter has an unhealthy obsession with position players pitching. I can’t say that I blame them. I once called position players pitching the ice cream truck of baseball. Sure, you might not want any ice cream, but you poke your head out the window to watch anyway. Because it’s an ice cream truck. And so far, 2018 has been a banner year for ice cream trucks. Indeed, even if the season ended today, 2018 would set a record for the most position players taking the mound.

Position players pitching is at once a novelty and a bit of a natural experiment. In a weird way, baseball has continually answered the question of “what would happen if you took a professional athlete, but gave him no training in hitting, and asked him to face major-league pitching?” There is still an entire half of the game devoted to figuring this one out. The answer is “not very good.”

On the other hand, we don’t get a lot of data points for the question of “what would happen if you let a professional athlete pitch without training?” The data that we have suggest the answer is “not good,” although it’s harder to infer anything from them, because by the time a position player is pitching the game is likely a joke, and everyone’s just going through the motions. There are times of desperation when a game deep into extra innings is handed to the second baseman, but there aren’t a lot of them.

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Originally published: August 1, 2018. Last Updated: August 1, 2018.