Reading Tim Kurkihjidsian's latest article (it's pretty good) about the magic number of the 100-pitch start, I came across an interesting paragraph that seems to corroborate the postulate I suggested in my last post about Jeter:
There is an growing discord in baseball between the managers and players in an organization and the management of an organization over the use of numbers/statistics/quantifiers to make baseball decisions.
Consider this paragraph, which attributes the slow but significant decline in pitches per start to:
Today's young general managerTwenty years ago, nearly 90 percent of all GMs had played in the major leagues. Now there are three out of 30: Philadelphia's Ruben Amaro Jr., the White Sox's Kenny Williams and Billy Beane of the A's.
An interesting stat, though it's not like any of those players had major league careers of major significance.
This decade has brought a new breed of GM, one who is highly educated, can run a spreadsheet and has mountains of data to support his theories.
It certainly has, suggesting that the Moneyball revolution has really shaken the management of the game to its core.
"We have a new wave of general managers who are deeply into mathematics, analysis, metrics -- I'm not saying it's wrong -- because that's what they charted in the minor leagues," said Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey.
I'm not really sure what he means here. Does he mean the GM started charting these things in the minor leagues of being a GM?
"I don't know the numbers, but the new wave of GMs are the ones who have charted that the chance of injury is, say, greater at 85 pitches than it is at 75. And with every five-pitch increment, there's a 22.8 percent more likely chance that someone gets hurt. With each 10 extra pitches, it goes up by five percent."
Interesting. So it seems like a basic calculation: after X number of pitches, you get a diminishing return on your investment in a starting pitcher. Obviously a pitcher isn't much more likely to get hurt between 50 and 55 pitches, but if a pitcher's chance of going on the DL rises significantly after, say, 105 pitches... is it really worth leaving them in for another inning when you have a reliever who can throw that inning almost as well?
The new GMs sometimes clash with the old-school manager about how the club should be run. Often, the GM wins.
I sure wish Wayne Krivsky would clash with Dusty Baker about having the player with the lowest VORP of any starting major leaguer hit leadoff and get the most at-bats for the Cincinnati Reds. Literally! He's 865th in the majors in VORP! Where is the stat-conscious GM when I need him?
"My GM used to load reams and reams of paper on my desk about that night's game," one former manager said. "Sometimes I'd read it; sometimes I just throw it in the trash.
But in the end, if it comes down to him or me, he's usually going to win. And if the discussion is about pitch counts, he is always going to win."
It seems as though the disconnection between the front office's love of player statistics and players' and managers' distaste for them is only going to increase in coming years. I wonder if there will be real consequence from it.