Marc Stocco on How Pitching and Pitching Strategy Have Changed Over the Last Decade
Marc Stocco of Surrey, BC, has his sights set on major league baseball. A challenge for student athletes with professional aspirations is paying attention to all the ways that MLB is changing. In the 2010s, the pitching role has become the primary factor in team success.
Here are the top major developments that Stocco notes in pitching strategy since 2010.
Teams are Placing a Priority on Data Analytics
Journalists speculate that 2020 was the last season for Moneyball’s Billy Beane, the Oakland general manager that brought mathematics and statistics into the MLB mainstream. Billy is considered by many to be the early adopter of data analytics in baseball during the 2000s.
No one could ignore the rise of the Oakland Athletics despite an alarmingly low payroll. Beane and his coaches embraced the numbers. Soon, more ball clubs did the same. By 2010, MLB had more computers, high-tech cameras, and government-level data platforms than ever before.
The first position to make extensive use of data analytics is the pitcher. Coaches understand that pitchers control the pace of the game and they initiate each play. By applying data analytics first and foremost to pitchers, the 2010s became the decade when quality pitching dominated every other part of the game.
Strikeouts are Up and Rising
As a byproduct of data analytics applied to improving a team’s bullpen, strikeouts are at an all-time high.
In 2020, the average number of total team at bat per game was 32.5. Based on the current strikeout rate, that means that about 22 at bats put a ball in play compared to 23.5 in 2010.
These numbers may seem mild, but the effects have been astronomical. Batting coaches are applying the analytics against better defensive fielders (as well as increased strikeout rates), and as such, hitters are training to swing for the seats more often in order to make every hit count, says Marc Stocco.
Deeper Bullpens are More Important than Ever Before
In 2020, three out of every four managerial MLB decisions involved whether or not to switch out a pitcher. For this reason, many analysts joke that head coaches are nothing short of “glorified pitching coaches” going into the 2020s.
The numbers don’t lie. Fresh pitchers have more control over their game. And frequent pitcher changes make it even more difficult for baseball players to acclimate to any one pitching style.
Throwing Speed is Important, but Not as Much as Breaking Balls and Change-ups
Marc Stocco notes that there is pressure like never before for pitchers to throw harder and faster. Ironically, pitching in excess of 90 miles per hour is rarely called for in a real professional game.
Fast balls are easier to hit (says the data). As such, major league pitchers achieve more value from non-fastball pitches. By current MLB trends, fastballs are the pitches one uses to keep the batter on their toes while also reducing strain to the pitching arm (breaking balls tend to put more wear and tear on the arm and shoulder).
Fans and MLB Executives are Growing Impatient with the Pace of Play
A peculiar development to pitching strategy in the 2010s was the amount of time that pitchers took in between pitches to consider their next pitch and communicate with their catchers.
As a result, major league baseball game times have lasted longer and longer. Over the course of 10 years, the average MLB game lasted nearly 20 minutes longer than it had before. Because of this, major league pitchers and leaders are already brainstorming new ways to force pitchers to move faster in between plays and pitches, says Marc Stocco.