Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized comments prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.

My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text and are prefaced by my initials (MB).

(R) I think that whoever wrote this never played a game past little league.
(MB) Actually, I've played ball for around 35 years now and will continue to be a big fan of the game long after my playing days are over. I was a supporter of the DH rule when it was first proposed (some years prior to its adoption by the American League). Since then, I've seen the rule quickly adopted by every professional and amateur organization save the National League.

(R) Did you know that most pitchers are the best athletes on the team.
(MB) I'd rather doubt that if you took the 10 most athletic pitchers in the majors and put them next to the 10 most athletic position players that it would be much of a contest. These days, the most athletic players on most teams are likely to be the shortstop or the center fielder. Can you say "Alex Rodriguez" and "Ken Griffey, Jr."?

(R) Babe Ruth was a pitcher, and he wasn't too bad of a hitter.
(MB) Which is exactly why he was converted into an outfielder. His everyday bat was considered *far* more important than his once or twice per week pitching outings. Consider what would happen if any pitcher today showed Ruthian abilities at the plate. Mark McGwire started as a pitcher (prior to making it to the majors), but that was a short-lived experiment for obvious reasons. It's extremely difficult to make a case which says that all pitchers should hit just because a minor handful of former pitchers could hit.

(R) Have you ever watched Tom Glavine hit? Not too bad, huh?
(MB) "Not too bad" as compared to what? Would you like to have nine Tom Glavines in your starting lineup?

(R) What are the chances of another hitter moving the runner to third without bunting? About 40%.
(MB) Any base hit, most ground balls, and the majority of fly balls to center and right would get the job done. I think that would account for rather more than 40% of situational opportunities. Also, it should go without saying that a base hit would not only advance the runner (and probably score him), but the team would not suffer an out on the play.

(R) When a pitcher bunts him over it is about 95%.
(MB) I don't have the actual stats in front of me, but I'd bet a large sum that pitchers aren't successful on 95% of their bunt attempts. In fact, I'd doubt that anybody in the history of the game has been successful on 95% of their bunt attempts. But, just for the sake of argument, let's take that number as read and run with it.
    When a pitcher bunts, he's not trying to get a hit. What he's doing is called a "sacrifice" since he's giving up a precious out in return for an improved chance of advancing a base runner. Obviously, this can't be done if there are two outs at the time and the pitcher will likely not get an opportunity to bunt if the game is a blowout or if it is in the late innings. In such situations, a pinch hitter will likely take his place.
    If there is one out and the pitcher sacrifices successfully, what has really been accomplished? There will now be two outs and it will take a base hit to score that runner. Since it would have taken a base hit to score him in the first place and since a failed attempt to get a base hit might still move the runner up, it would seem that the sacrifice does nothing more than give up a precious out for very little in return. In fact, the opposition may well intentionally walk the leadoff hitter after a successful sacrifice, setting up a force play and taking their chances with the normally less-dangerous second-place hitter. I can't see but where the chances of scoring a run are *decreased* by executing a sacrifice bunt with one out. Therefore, the pitcher is not bunting because he's a great athlete or a great bunter or because it will help his team score. The pitcher is bunting because it is likely to be his best (or only) chance to put the ball in play and potentially lead to something good.
    If the situation is nobody out and a runner on base with the pitcher at bat, there is no decision to be made at all. He lays down a bunt and shouldn't do anything else under penalty of having to listen to Roseanne sing the National Anthem every day for the next month. This still gives up an out, but it does give real hitters two good chances to bring home the runner. Often, they will hit successfully to the point where the sacrifice ends up being meaningless and ends up doing nothing more than giving away an out and potentially putting a crimp in what could have been a big inning.

(R) Did you ever think about the fact that when there is a bunt situation when a pitcher is hitting that the fielders will play in? Then the pitcher has a much greater chance of getting a groundball through the infield.
(MB) That will happen only if he actually swings the bat instead of bunting. The "chop play" is only attempted a handful of times per year and is successful on even rarer occasions. It does make a good highlight on SportsCenter, though. It's in the same category as the "fake to third and try to catch the runner off first" play that works maybe once a decade.

(R) Also, there is not much difference between a 28% chance of getting a hit and a 20% chance is there?
(MB) Over 600 at-bats, the difference will be 48 hits. Also, the .280 hitter is more likely to get extra base hits than is the .200 hitter. As a result, he will also likely draw more walks since pitchers will be more careful working to him. I'd say that this is a huge difference with respect to the effect on the game.
    One should also consider that a position player who bats .200 is also likely to be more productive overall than is a .200 hitting pitcher due to the higher percentage of extra base hits by the position player. Consider the season Mike Schmidt hit .196 or the .201 disaster suffered by Mark McGwire in their early careers. Would anybody confuse their total productivity with that of a pitcher who may have hit for a similar average?

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