Carleton: Too tired for a third time through the order?

From Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus on June 28, 2018:

Let’s talk about the “third time through the order” penalty (TTOP). It’s widely known that when a starting pitcher takes his third turn through the lineup, he gets worse results than he did the first two times through. It’s there just looking at the raw numbers. It’s there when you do a slightly more sophisticated analysis. It’s even something around which teams have designed their pitching strategy. But the question that’s always bedeviled researchers is “why?”

One theory is that when a batter has seen a pitcher for the third time he’s probably seen all of his pitches, and so it’s easier to pick up the motion or the release point. The other main theory has been that the third time around, the pitcher is more tired because he’s thrown a lot more pitches by that point. Maybe it’s a little bit of both. In the past, I’ve been firmly on the side of the fatigue hypothesis. I’ve found evidence that pitch count serves as a mediator variable for the TTOP effect, but today I wanted to take a deeper look at that relationship.

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Originally published: June 28, 2018. Last Updated: June 28, 2018.