Lindbergh: Explaining the position-player pitching parade

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at Baseball Prospectus on May 23, 2014:

When Andrew Koo wrote about the rate of position player appearances last August, he noted that while such appearances had hit an all-time high in 2013, he was “hesitant to declare” a pattern based on a single season. Nine months later, though, the pattern is looking pretty clear. Here’s how this season’s total so far compares to the totals for each season since 1977 (before which it becomes tougher to untangle the pitcher-hitter hybrids).

In light of recent events, it’s difficult to believe that there was only one position player pitcher in 2005 and 2006 combined. Last season set a new high with 14 position player pitching appearances, and it looks like that record won’t stand long. When Tigers utility infielder Danny Worth broke out the knuckleball on Wednesday, he became the 11th position player to pitch in 2014—and we’re still over a week away from the end of May. There have been more position players already this season than there have in all but six other seasons in the last 37.

So what’s going on here? We know that position players tend to pitch in blowouts; are games being won by wider margins now than they have been historically?

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Originally published: May 23, 2014. Last Updated: May 23, 2014.