Friday, May 08, 2009

All Right, I Did It

As threatened, and with little better to do, I ran an Out Of the Park Baseball simulation wherein I took the reins of a team that batted its pitcher eighth all year. That is, I ran one fictional, eight-team league, in which the pitcher batted eighth for my team, the Steamers. (The game came up with that name randomly. Since “steamer” has acquired a rude and widespread connotation, and is therefore reasonably funny, I chose to run that team, which comes from a city called “Team 4.” And since there are 15 more teams in two leagues, I’ll leave it up to you to guess the other city names. No peeking.) Once I’d set up this league, I made a copy of the league folder, then finished the simulation, called Pitchers Bat Eighth (PB8).

Then I completed the Pitchers Bat Ninth (PB9) simulation with the copy of the league—identical in every detail, except that the Steamers’ pitchers always batted ninth. In neither simulation did I want to knock myself out setting up the best possible team; nor did I want to play GM (or even on-field manager) and deal with trades (or in-game strategy). So to pare my roster to 25 players, I dumped as many of the one-star players as possible—see, players are rated in many ways, including number of stars. I have no idea how good my team actually is, but OOTP gave me a “manager’s score” of 21 out of 100—astonishingly bad, but then, it’s not as though I closely scrutinized day-to-day operations. Indeed, I was very much an absent figurehead. I’ve been called worse.

In the PB8 simulation, the Steamers went 72-90, finishing third in their division. They went 81-81 in PB9 and finished second in their (obviously not very good) division. (I still got a horrendous manager’s score of 28—I defy any other absent figurehead to do better.) I know that doesn’t prove anything, but I’m guessing that if I ran another, say, 999 simulations with each version, the results would support the notion that always batting your pitcher ahead of an actual major league hitter is a bad idea. Do the results tell us that it’s stupid to occasionally make this lineup maneuver? No. I could run another simulation in which a particular pitcher always bats eighth, or in which Wednesday was always Pitcher Bats Eighth Day, but I’m not going to. If I did, though, I have no doubt that the results would still show batting the pitcher eighth to be an unwise decision, even if the difference is just one win.

Here’s how my Steamers—interestingly, the only Steamers player whose name I remember is Jim Kirk—did in the respective simulations:

PB8 Steamers 72-90, 3rd place (of 4)
League Overall
H 1380 8th 15th
R 730 7th 15th
Avg .250 8th 15th
OBP .318 7th 13th
SP .419 5th 10th
OPS .737 6th 12th

PB9 Steamers, 81-81, 2nd place (of 4)
League Overall
H 1512 5th 9th
R 818 3rd 5th
Avg .259 4th 10th
OBP .326 5th 11th
SP .441 4th 6th
OPS .767 3th 7th
First, note that the PB9 Steamers averaged about four more hits every five games, so it should not surprise you that they scored about 0.9 runs a game more than the PB8 team. Bill James’ work showed that in a practical sense, 10 runs translated, more or less, to one “win,” so it would fit that the PB9 Steamers won nine more games than the PB8’s.

The above numbers still don’t prove anything, I realize that—small sample size, only a simulation, etc.—but still, in none of these categories did the PB8 Steamers outperform their PB9 counterparts. You can be certain that much of these differences had to do with the lineup change.

In any case, I really don’t want Bruce Bochy even to consider batting his pitcher anywhere but ninth.


  1. The Book: Playing the Percentages in Baseball discusses the pitcher-batting-8th thing. I'd be more detailed, but my copy is on my wife's Kindle, and she's not here. But if I remember correctly, they found a slight advantage to batting the pitcher 8th. Don't quote me, though, at least not until my wife gets home.

  2. I would never quote you until your wife got home.

    I sure would be interested in what you dig up, though, because no doubt there’s a context, or several, that I hadn’t considered.