Lichtman: The penalty for pitchers going through the batting order

From Mitchel Lichtman at Baseball Prospectus on November 5, 2013:

If, like many of us, you’re a prolific baseball blog reader, you’ve probably heard a lot lately about the “times through the order” penalty (TTOP). For those of you who have no idea what that is, here is a quote from page 187 of The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball: “As the game goes on, the hitter has a progressively greater advantage over the starting pitcher.” Essentially, the more times a batter faces a pitcher during a game, the better he does at the plate.

The way the TTOP is traditionally measured is by looking at a starting pitcher’s performance using, say, wOBA against, the first time through the batting order, the second time, and so on. (Like TAv, wOBA is an all-in-one offensive rate statistic, but on the OBP scale instead of the BA scale.) Theoretically, a starter’s wOBA should be about the same for batters 1-9, and then 10-18, etc., since the pitcher is obviously the same, and in most cases the batters are more or less the same (I don’t include pitchers batting or pinch hitters). You might even think that a pitcher improves as the game goes on, as he gets thoroughly warmed up—especially on a cold night—and gets a feel for all of his pitches, at least until he perhaps enters a decline phase due to fatigue, assuming he is allowed to stay in the game that long.

But that’s not what we see, as the last letter of the acronym TTOP implies. Here are some actual numbers from The Book (p. 186, Table 81.) based on data from 1999-2002. The total sample is 469,721 PA between starting pitchers and starting lineups, not including IBB and bunts.

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Originally published: November 5, 2013. Last Updated: November 5, 2013.