Sunday, August 13, 2006

Weekend mini-wrap, and thoughts on pinch-hitting

So I'm driving to dinner on Friday night, and I turn the radio on to hear "And Jake Woods is now coming in to take over for Gil Meche," and I look at the time, and the game's only been going for like maybe an hour. Then, they go on to explain that Meche caught a case of Steve Blass disease and walked half of the state of Texas in the first inning, which is impressive, given that it was 105 degrees out and most Texans don't really go for walks under those conditions. Despite my incessant claims that Kip Wells sucks -- and he backed up my claim by giving up 6 runs in the 4th inning -- even the worst scrub can do a decent job when they're handed a 10-0 lead after two innings, usually. So the Mariners easily won that sucking contest as the Rangers beat them 14-7.

Today, at least, the Mariners only had to overcome a 5-0 deficit, and almost did, but still lost the game 5-4. I wish they wouldn't do things like pinch-hit for Adam Jones, but hindsight is always 20-20, I suppose. I didn't see today's game at all, I just followed the score from time to time. Mark Lowe seems to be okay, which is good; I was a little worried after the articles about his elbow being sore.

Anyway, the pinch-hitting for Adam Jones got me thinking about some things, and I'm not really sure how they fit together. Bear with me a second:

1) Starters are supposed to be higher quality pitchers than relievers, and in theory, a reliever who becomes a starter is expected to post an ERA one run higher than they did as a reliever, and vice versa. (Maybe not quite true, and recently examined on Hardball Times, but let's go with it for now.)

2) Pitchers in the National League post an ERA one run lower than pitchers in the American League, due to the fact that the National League sucks and that most (but not all) pitchers hit worse than most (but not all -- hi, Carl Everett!) designated hitters. This is also not exactly true, of course, but the transition between leagues definitely seems to favor pitchers in the National League.

2a) Someone like Ryan Franklin, therefore, who go from being a starter in the AL to a relief pitcher in the NL, should have seen his ERA drop by two runs -- one from the league switch, and one from the shift to the bullpen. Right? Well, not so fast...

3) Relievers in the NL supposedly don't quite reap the same benefit of starting in the NL -- even Wikipedia points this out -- because late-inning NL pitchers tend to be pitching to pinch-hitters rather than to pitchers, unless the opposing starting pitcher is doing well enough to stay in the game, in which case the reliever's team is probably sucking it up and this reliever isn't their best guy anyway.

4) In a Baseball Prospectus article, it was discussed that Pinch-hitters may actually suck WORSE than the guys they're pinch-hitting for. This doesn't apply to pitchers, but still. If pinch-hitters really did hit .228/.306/.336 as a whole in 2005, that's about the same as Carl Everett's .227/.297/.360 in 2006. Would you really feel heartened seeing your manager bring in Carl Everett as a pinch-hitter on a regular basis? Didn't think so.

4a) The conclusion, therefore, should be that NL relievers are still getting an easier ride than AL relievers, despite pinch-hitters, shouldn't it?

So what am I getting at? I'm not really sure -- there's a lot of holes in everything I'm thinking about here, and I know it. I should try to hunt down data on how often relief pitchers face pitchers and how often they face pinch-hitters. But anyway, Ryan Franklin's ERA rose when moving from the AL to the NL and the rotation to the pen. On the other hand, he also moved from a pitcher-friendly home park to two hitter-friendly parks. His peripherals continue to suck, of course.

But it's not just about Ryan Franklin. I'm just not sure what it's about. More on this as I get more coherent about where I'm going with it.

No comments: