Bullpen Analytics and the Three-Batter Rule

Bernie Carbohydrate

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Looking at our expected bullpen, I wonder how the new Sox manager will adjust to the three-batter rule. This analysis by Paul Mammino (admittedly on 2015 data) suggests that there is a positive correlation between velocity and the number of runs a reliever saves his team per inning.

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Sure, we probably all knew that, but what we don’t know yet is what happens when pitchers who heretofore have been throwing to a single batter are forced to pitch to three batters. At that point, we must think about possible velocity degradation after, say, 15- 20 pitches, instead of the extant practice of throwing lights out for 5-15 pitches then handing the ball off to the next fellow.

A really selective hitter (take Brett Gardner, who sees 4.33 pitches per appearance) will be less likely to encounter a fresh arm in the late innings. The pitching revolution of 2015-2019 was to pull the starter after two runs through the lineup, seeing how the OPS against often ballooned the third trip through. The next revolution might be pairing that strategy with relievers whose velocity may not be overwhelming in the first at-bat, but is sustainable across three batters.

At that point, should we be looking to RP who have recent starter experience? In this world is a Martín Pérez more valuable out of the pen than in the rotation?

Edit: Typos
 
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InsideTheParker

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I truly believe that if I had started this thread ON THE MAIN BOARD it would have already been removed and I would have been chastized.
p.s. I am not unsympathetic, b/c I have SIBO, but I have had that so long it's probably responsible for the Sox pitching going South last season.
 

HurstSoGood

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A Red Sox fan and a citizen of the world, what is my responsibility here? And if I falter, who among you will stand a post in my stead? I'm not sure how much longer I can hold out. Or in, as they say.
A wise man once claimed that "in order to find his equal, an Irishman is forced to talk to God." Surely, Pedro would have sage advice for you.
 

richgedman'sghost

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And now the thread is completely changed, and anyone who didn't see it this morning is lost and confused.
Yeah what the heck are you all talking about? It makes no sense. Something the moderator makes weird choices on when to split the thread out.
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

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I hate the 3-batter rule.
The Athletic agrees with you (paywalled), and old friend Joe Kelly is unhappy:

Now it’s going to be about being able to get a guy out in a big spot, in a big jam. In the past I would always say ‘yes’, and now it’s going to change my answer to that question. That kind of sucks.”
For me, the frequent pitching changes were a godsend, as they gave me lots of chances to go to the little boys' room. But that's not a topic for the Main Board, so let's just say that we'll all have to plan very carefully -- you, me, Dave Roberts, Sox manager TBA, etc.

As some on this board know, I think a lot about what makes for good relief. You can be cruising along, everything under control, and then, --wham-- runs, runs, runs. And no longer can you just go to the lefty and fill the gap. The Sox are going to have to have three, four, even five layers of protection of 2020 or there will be quite a stink.

Looking at a guy like Matt Barnes, the question is, can he absorb more that he used to? In 2019 he gave us 64 innings in 70 appearances. Under the new rule, is that going to be more like 64 innings in 50-60 appearances, or can he be pushed to 80 innings in 70 games? And if he pushes too hard, is he going to blow something out?

Sorry, just throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks.
 

shanks

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Feb 10, 2006
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question : if a pitcher just ain’t got it that night, he could potentially have to walk 3 batters before he can be switched out?

side note: wonder how many phantom “blisters” comes outta trying to circumvent this.
 
Aug 11, 2019
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With regard to the three-batter rule, in 2019 the Red Sox had 64 instances when a relief pitcher faced fewer than 3 batters in an inning; however, in 12 of those cases, the game ended before the pitcher had a chance to pitch to another batter, i.e., they lost the game on the last batter faced or they got the final out(s) in an inning that the Red Sox won in the bottom half. All told, Red Sox relievers pitched 665.0 innings during regular season, so about 9.6% of those innings have no more than 2 batters (or 7.82% if the 12 games referred to above are removed). bb-ref game logs and team pitching splits
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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The Athletic agrees with you (paywalled), and old friend Joe Kelly is unhappy:



For me, the frequent pitching changes were a godsend, as they gave me lots of chances to go to the little boys' room. But that's not a topic for the Main Board, so let's just say that we'll all have to plan very carefully -- you, me, Dave Roberts, Sox manager TBA, etc.

As some on this board know, I think a lot about what makes for good relief. You can be cruising along, everything under control, and then, --wham-- runs, runs, runs. And no longer can you just go to the lefty and fill the gap. The Sox are going to have to have three, four, even five layers of protection of 2020 or there will be quite a stink.

Looking at a guy like Matt Barnes, the question is, can he absorb more that he used to? In 2019 he gave us 64 innings in 70 appearances. Under the new rule, is that going to be more like 64 innings in 50-60 appearances, or can he be pushed to 80 innings in 70 games? And if he pushes too hard, is he going to blow something out?

Sorry, just throwing stuff on the wall to see what sticks.
So what you’re asking is whether the relief will be regular or irregular? What’s the prescription if the latter?

P.s. Your post was a tour De force.
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

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Isn’t there a DL or short “he can’t play” clause in the rule?
I think they'll use the same approach they did under the old "one batter" rule:

The current rule states that every pitcher has to face at least one batter — unless he’s injured during the at-bat. In more than three decades of covering baseball, I can remember only one instance of a manager trying to circumnavigate the rule, and oddly it was Cubs manager Don Zimmer in 1989.

The Cubs led the Pirates 4-3 in the bottom of the ninth on Aug. 6 at Three River Stadium in Pittsburgh when Calvin Schiraldi walked the first two hitters. Zimmer called on lefty Steve Wilson, who went 2-2 on Jay Bell. Zimmer strolled to the mound and motioned for closer Mitch Williams. As “Wild Thing” was on his way, Pirates manager Jim Leyland argued, citing the one-batter rule.

Williams went back to the pen, Wilson came back to the mound and Leyland protested the game on the grounds that Zimmer was stalling for Wilson. Bell bunted the runners over. Williams eventually came in after an intentional walk and gave up a tying sacrifice fly to Barry Bonds. The game wound up going 18 innings — and lasted five hours, 42 minutes — with the Cubs losing 5-4 on a Jeff King homer.
If The Gerbil had brought in Williams in the middle of Bell's at-bat would the ups have allowed it? Depends.
 

reggiecleveland

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question : if a pitcher just ain’t got it that night, he could potentially have to walk 3 batters before he can be switched out?

side note: wonder how many phantom “blisters” comes outta trying to circumvent this.
I expect these instances where a picher gets is some trouble extending an inning will add just as much time as the 3 batter rule will save.
 

Bernie Carbohydrate

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The ongoing discussion in the "Opener" thread makes me think that bullpen construction in 2020 is going to as challenging as taking the Browns to the Super Bowl. If every fifth day the Sox go with an "opener" and then use 2-4 other pitchers to get 27 outs, on the other four days there will be a premium on guys who can pitch a full inning, then bounce back and do so again the next night. Assuming a couple of AAAA types act as floaters (Chris Mazza, come on down!), we'll be deep in the bowels of the bullpen most nights.

Take Josh Osich, a guy who would project as a LOOGY in the old days (he's held LHB to a .659 OPS over his career) -- he can come in against a left-handed batter, but if opposing mangers stack two RHB he's gonna have a hard time pinching off a rally.
 

The Gray Eagle

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The ongoing discussion in the "Opener" thread makes me think that bullpen construction in 2020 is going to as challenging as taking the Browns to the Super Bowl. If every fifth day the Sox go with an "opener" and then use 2-4 other pitchers to get 27 outs, on the other four days there will be a premium on guys who can pitch a full inning, then bounce back and do so again the next night. Assuming a couple of AAAA types act as floaters (Chris Mazza, come on down!), we'll be deep in the bowels of the bullpen most nights.

Take Josh Osich, a guy who would project as a LOOGY in the old days (he's held LHB to a .659 OPS over his career) -- he can come in against a left-handed batter, but if opposing mangers stack two RHB he's gonna have a hard time pinching off a rally.
No offense, but you're talking a lot of shit here.
The whole point of this shitty new rule is to prevent relief pitchers from being used up and then flushed. If the number one guy in the inning doesn't face 3 batters, then you can't go to number two, so the whole strategy would basically go down the toilet.