Print and Go Back ESPN.com: SweetSpot [Print without images]

Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Young pitchers, strikeouts, and good defense


Following up his survey of run production in 2010 (summary: It's down), Jay Jaffe digs into strikeouts and young pitchers and what that means this season. Jaffe's big finish:



I'm glad Jaffe threw in that bit about "other changes in the game" because this probably isn't a simple thing. One change that doesn't generally show up in these discussions is, potentially, a big one: defense. There's a general impression that teams are focusing more on defense, in part because fielding is more cost-effective than hitting. Obviously, if teams are employing better fielders, fewer batted balls will become hits ... but there's more right?

If you're selecting for defense, you're taking runs away from your opponents and you're taking runs away from yourself. It's a two-fer.

Granted, we can make too much of this. When I look at lists of the best fielders at each position, I see a lot of guys who hit pretty well and would be in the lineup even if they weren't sterling defenders. But teams are paying more attention to defense; more to the point, they're paying attention to defense in a more systematic (and yes, intelligent) way, and they're probably slightly more willing to trade offense for defense. Which, again, will lead to run prevention on both sides of the team ledger.

And again, we're not really putting the pieces together yet. But we've got most of them on the table, I think.