Pitchers and Catchers

Can you feel it? Pitchers and catchers report today (spring roster). What can we expect in ’07? A couple of articles this morning may hold some clues. Hint: throwing strikes is good.

First, the guys at Gaslamp Ball continue their interview with Paul DePodesta. Among many other things, DePo talks about how difficult but important it is to measure defense:

I think there is a lot of work being done in general with defensive metrics. I don’t think there are any that people are perfectly happy with. There is a lot more subjectivity with defense. It’s also just a lot tougher to measure. The primary reason being, as of right now, we can’t measure where every single player starts. So just measuring ultimately the outcome deprives us of the beginning context of the play, which is critically important if you are going to use it as a reliable metric. So we’re all going to keep trying because it is a critical element of the game and can’t just be overlooked.

This goes hand in hand with something DePodesta mentioned in Part 1 of the interview, that rotation newcomers Greg Maddux and David Wells “force contact.” We’re basically looking at the Minnesota Twins model here: Get pitchers to throw strikes and put your defense to work.

Another point DePodesta makes relates to innovation, which is paramount to the success of a “small-market team”:

We certainly don’t want to be behind the curve, but we also more importantly and more positively, we want to be on the cutting edge as much as we can. Sandy has a reputation and history of being on the cutting edge.

That last sentence is an understatement. Sandy Alderson was reading and applying the wisdom of Bill James back when most baseball folks thought James was a nutcase.

I also love DePo’s eloquent reminder of baseball’s appeal:

We know we don’t have this game figured out. That’s kind of the beauty of baseball is that we know we never will.

Can I get an amen from the congregation?

Meanwhile, over at the U-T, the emphasis on “throwing to contact” also turns up in Tom Krasovic’s article. One area where the Padres have been able to gain a competitive advantage in recent years is through building a cheap but effective bullpen. Here’s a great quote from GM Kevin Towers:

With relievers, it’s easier to get somebody who is on the rebound, if you identify the right type of pitcher.

Did you notice the way Towers just slipped “if you identify the right type of pitcher” in there like it’s no big deal? Folks, that’s why he gets paid the big bucks.

Spring training begins now. Yeah, I think I can feel it.

. . .

Reminder: Your picks for 2007 Opening Day roster are due by 11:59 p.m. PT Friday (tomorrow). Winner gets a spiffy Ducksnorts T-shirt.

29 Responses »

  1. Today is just a bit nicer knowing that pitchers and catchers report this morning…

    Ahhhh… Baseball…

    The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

  2. One thought…when everyone is talking about pitching to contact I keep thinking about the majority of the best pitchers throughout the game…name most of them and you will notice that none of them “Pitched to Contact”…they were K guys. They were nasty. They won.

    Clemens, Carlton, Mathewson, Cy Young, Drysdale, Gibson, Ryan, etc…all “Missed Bats”.

    Sure, there are exceptions (Greg Maddux is exhibit A), but they seem to be few and far between. Give me a staff of guys that miss bats and I will win more often in the playoffs than a staff full of guys who “Pitch to Contact”.

  3. CM – nice … thanks! You betcha I’ll come!

  4. 2 – I don’t think anyone disagrees with that … it’s an issue of supply, however … and the “quality” of the pitches that “miss bats” … in other words, if you “miss bats” and “miss the plate”, that doesn’t do any good … and my primary point is that *very few* guys can miss bats and not miss the plate … and so teams are left with a choice of guys who “pitch to contact” or guys who try to miss bats and not miss the plate … and I agree with the Padre brass that they are better off (both in a bottom-line wins&losses performance sense, but also in a “moneyball” sense) filling in the pitching staff with guys that “pitch to contact”.

  5. I don’t know about that…When I think of “Pitch to Contact” I think of guys that throw puss up there and are essentially saying, I know I will get you out 75% of the time. As long as I don’t give up dingers, I should be an okay pitcher.

  6. Re: 5 the two best Padre pitchers all time (Randy Jones & Trevor Hoffman) are both contact pitchers

  7. OT: any news on the Ducksnorts fantacy baseball leauge?