Thursday, March 30, 2006

Spahn and Sain, Sabermetric Style

I just received my copy of The Book, Playing the Percentages in Baseball, written by Tom Tango, Mitchel Lichtman and Andrew Dolphin, and so far it is really good. I'll try to have a review up sometime, but there's one idea in it that I think would work for the Nats.

They point out that a lineup without a pitcher batting scores about 5.25 runs per game. A lineup with the pitcher batting 65% of the time scores 4.83 runs per game. That 0.42 difference adds up to 68 runs per season, or about 6-7 wins. So, if you can avoid your pitcher hitting, you can get 6-7 cheap wins. How do you do that? Pinch-hit for the pitcher every time. They point out that quality starters earn you more than 0.42 runs per game, so you don't want to pull them for a pinch hitter in the second inning. But less than quality starters (which we have plenty) don't earn that much, so pulling them early would be beneficial. Here's how it would work:

Game 1: Livan
Game 2: Patterson
Game 3: Astacio, Armas, Rodriguez
Game 4: Ortiz
Game 5: Armas, Astacio, Rodriguez

You would pull the pinch hit move only in games 3 and 5. Given our weak rotation, we might even think about this for game 4, too, by using another reliever like Eischen instead of Rodriguez, something like:

Game 3: Astacio, Armas, Rodriguez
Game 4: Armas, Ortiz, Eischen
Game 5: Ortiz, Astacio, Rodriguez

This strategy costs some flexibility in using your third-best reliever (Rodriguez) and you lose 2 pinch-hitters, but the authors (and I) think it is worth it. The authors point out that 0.42 runs per game is like adding a Barry Bonds or Alex Rodriguez to your lineup. I suspect that our weak lineup and bench means we are not going to get that much increase, so maybe for us this is worth only about 4-5 wins rather than 6-7 over a season.

This would never happen in reality, of course. I can just picture trying to explain this to Frank Robinson -- he'd probably get so frustrated he'd punch me in the throat. But if I ran the Nats I'd try it, because we need help with the back end of our rotation and our offense. We don't have anything to lose.

2 Comments:

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Yuda said...

This could actually help Armas be more effective, too. If he doesn't have to worry about endurance and can just *bring it* for 2-3 innings, I think he could be a much better pitcher.

 
At 5:24 PM, Blogger DM said...

I agree. Looking back, the time to try this was last September when we really had only a 2-man rotation.

A problem with this is it essentially eliminates the ability of the weaker pitchers to get a Win, which they would be pissed about.

 

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