Dubuque: How to kill the strikeout

From Patrick Dubuque at Baseball Prospectus on February 27, 2017:

Last week Marlins manager Don Mattingly philosophized on pace of play, theorizing that a large part of the problem is strikeouts. Beyond the aesthetic concerns of balls no longer being put in play, strikeouts slow the game down just due to the number of pitchers thrown per plate appearance. The skipper is quoted as saying:

Analytically, a few years back nobody cared about the strikeout, so it’s OK to strike out 150, 160, 170 times, and that guy’s still valued in a big way. Well, as soon as we start causing that to be a bad value—the strikeouts—guys will put the ball in play more. So once we say strikeouts are bad and it’s going to cost you money the more you strike out, then the strikeouts will go away. Guys will start making adjustments and putting the ball in play more.

Mattingly is correct; the social taboo on strikeouts has been lifted, thanks to those pesky RE24 tables. Strikeouts, the way the game is currently constructed, aren’t really that deleterious. There was a time, in the late 80s, when this realization was exciting: Rob Deer was a secret treasure of statisticians, half a fish drawn in the dirt for smart baseball fans.

But Deer is out of fashion now; he’s just about everywhere you look, choking the game with seven-pitch, no-contact at-bats, slowly transforming the game into a handful of pull tabs. And if, like Mattingly, you’re hellbent on pruning them from baseball, it’s going to require an artificial disincentive to do the job. So it’s time to change the rules. Why not? ‘Tis the season, apparently.

Read the full article here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=31250

Originally published: February 27, 2017. Last Updated: February 27, 2017.