Ramblings about strikeout rate and the silliness of pitchers batting

A few days ago Rob Neyer pointed out how three true outcomes (TTO) are increasing and wonders if something should be done about it. For those who don't know, the TTO is a walk, strikeout or home run. It's most of the plays that don't require the involvement of any fielder. Everyone knows that strikeouts have increased over the years. Walks may have too, but I'm not really sure.

Neyer wonders if something should be done to force more action in the field. Tangotiger wonders the same thing. Here's Tango:

Suppose you have 39 PA, regardless of style.  Would you prefer 12 K+BB+HR+HB and 27 BIP, or 9 non-BIP and 30 BIP?  That is, an increase of 33% more non-BIP at the expense of 10% fewer BIP.  Is that a good tradeoff?

I’m old school, and I prefer non-BIP to be closer to 20% than 30% of all PA.  I prefer runs per game to be in the high 3s or low 4s, and to be able to have a run environment where I can’t tell if the base-stealer or the power-hitter is the better overall player.

I was going to comment in that thread, but I'm actually curious about your opinions so figured I'd post it here.

This is something I've not given a lot of thought to other than the ideal run scoring environment for me. I like offense. I feel like I wasted my time better if I watched a 6-5 game than a 2-1 game. There's a point at which offense is too high and for me that's probably anything above 11 runs per game. A 6-5 game is the ideal game for me. During the regular season anyway.

In the playoffs you have two good teams playing one another so offense should be down in those October games.

Regarding balls in play, I'm not sure I really care. I like runs being scored. I like to watch the offense hit doubles, triples, home runs and I even like to see good baserunning. A fast guy who can steal a lot of bases is exciting to watch. On the other side of the ball I like to see strikeouts more than anything else. It's batter vs pitcher and one man wins and the other loses. I like to see great defensive plays too so I'd definitely not like a game in which all 27 outs were strikeouts.

They're at a little over 7 per game right now and that's just fine with me. If there's a starter on the mound who strikes out 6 per 9 I'm usually not too excited to watch the guy pitch. Put one on there who strikes out 9 and I'm a lot more excited.

The fear some have about a 6-5 run environment is that stolen bases would become extinct. That's not true. Teams would have to attempt to stolen bases in the same ways that batters have to attempt bunts. If you never bunt the defense plays back and makes it a lot easier to get the next batter out. If a team never tries to steal a base, the pitcher isn't the least bit concerned about the runner.

There would be fewer stolen base attempts, which I think is a good thing anyway. There would be fewer bunts too. This is another good thing. Starting pitchers would be throwing more pitches per inning, which would lead to them coming out of the game sooner than they do. This is also a good thing.

You may be thinking that fewer innings for the starter means more relievers on the roster. I don't think so. The 1975 Yankees 40-man roster included only 12 pitchers. A decade later it had 17. In 1995 they had 20.

Teams won't suddenly start carrying 15 pitchers on their active roster. They'll stick with the 12 they currently use and the relievers they have will just pitch more than they currently do. This is a good thing too. I can actually see this leading to fewer relievers on the active roster once teams see that relievers can be as effective over 95 or 100 innings as they are over 65 innings.

There is one thing that can be done to slightly reduce the number of strikeouts. Add the DH to the National League. This year the DH has struck out 148 times while the pitchers have struck out 168 times. The DH's have 808 plate appearances to 486 for the pitcher. This won't make much of a dent in the overall strikeout rate, but it's one simple thing that can be done.

Seriously, how much longer do we have to watch a batter hit .114/.146/.133? That's what pitchers are hitting this season. Would you rather watch that, along with pitch hitters who have hit .230/.305/.326 or the DH who has hit .280/.343/.471? Pitchers have a BABIP below .190 this season. It was under .230 last year. Either pitchers can't even hit the ball hard enough or they don't even bother to run. Either way, it's freaking ridiculous at this point that we have to watch pitchers bat. They have a .277 OPS this year.

If we divide the pitchers OPS by the league OPS and multiply by 100 we get 39. The league ERA is 3.85. Pitchers batting is the equivalent of a pitcher with an ERA of 10. Imagine one inning per game was pitched by a reliever who had an average ERA of 10. That's what the pitcher batting is. We'd never stand for such nonsense on the mound. You know who can have an ERA of 10? Every person on the field. You could put Tony Campana on the mound and over time he'd have an ERA less than 10. Position players are more qualified to pitch than pitchers are to hit. I don't see anyone begging to see more position players pitch.

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