Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Take Him Out, Leave Him In About the author, Boyd Nation

Take Him Out, Leave Him In

Publication Date: August 22, 2006

Today we bounce an interesting idea against one of my long-term conceptions of the game and see what happens. The broad topic here comes from an alert reader who posed the question, "Are there some coaches who are better at knowing when to pull pitchers than others?" I crunched a bunch of numbers, of which you won't see that many because they didn't turn up anything that's interesting within themselves (which, in itself, is interesting), and discovered that the answer is probably, but that it turns out not to matter much.

I came up with two measures, which I'll name and then we can all forget about them because, as I said, they don't turn out to matter much. The first I call Last Inning Percentage (LIP), and it's the percentage of a team's runs allowed that they give up in the last inning that the starter pitches in. The other is called Full Inning Percentage (FIP), and it's the percentage of a team's game in which the starter is pulled after a complete inning, the assumption being that it's better if the starter is pulled because the coach spots something rather than waiting until he's actually in trouble in mid-inning.

As far as these being actual skills, one of the markers of an actual skill is that it's repeatable. I only have two years worth of parseable box scores at this point, so I can't be sure, but it appears that FIP is repeatable -- the correlation between FIP scores from 2005 and 2006 is strong enough that, although there's some randomness involved, it looks likely that knowing when to pull the pitcher is a skill. LIP is more random, but there may still be something there.

What gets interesting, though, is what happens when you try to correlate one of these with winning percentage. Essentially, there is no connection between knowing when to pull the pitcher and winning. Now, there are obviously extremes where it would be deadly, but within the range where the actual performances are, it has no effect whatsoever on the bottom line.

This actually ties into a long-term claim of mine -- coaching matters quite a lot, but in-game coaching tactics are largely a waste of time. Similar to my finding that it just doesn't really matter if you bunt, a lot of in-game tactics are just ways for the coach to keep himself occupied, and Tony Gwynn's strategy of finding a comfortable chair to watch from may be the best one. Recruiting matters, teaching matters a lot at this age, and selecting who gets the plate appearances and the innings pitched matters. Another interesting possibility that I haven't figured out how to study yet is how much pitch calling during the game matters. But the little stuff -- just do your best, and focus on the other things.

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Boyd's World-> Breadcrumbs Back to Omaha-> Take Him Out, Leave Him In About the author, Boyd Nation