Billy Beane: ‘Capitalism’ is destroying MLB hitters – CNBC

Ed Feng, a sports data expert who runs The Power Rank subscription service, cited a classic baseball movie to explain the phenomenon. “In Moneyball, we learned about on-base percentage as the most important stat. A hitter should get on base, even if it means taking a walk,” Feng said.

“The converse for pitching is that you shouldn’t walk guys. That just beefs up their OBP [on-base percentage],” he said. “If you look at some formulas for defense independent pitching, you find that not walking one batter is worth 50 percent more than striking that batter out.”

Yet maybe the hitters aren’t taking that lesson.

“For today’s player, striking out is not anything frowned upon,” said Rick Honeycutt, pitching coach for the LA Dodgers. “Twenty years ago, people prided themselves on not striking out.”

He gave an example with his all-star ace: “I see it all the time with Clayton Kershaw, the hitters know a fastball is coming, and they still want to swing.”

Honeycutt said he thinks the game has changed to the point “where everybody wants to be power: power arms or power bats—they want home runs. I see less guys willing to go the opposite way, especially with two strikes.”

He also noted similarly to Beane that the talent is on the pitchers’ side. “Bullpens are getting more powerful,” and “more teams are going to younger hitters, who don’t have that experience, and starting pitchers are going to take advantage of them.”

So what happens from here on out? Can batters come back? Here, Beane extends his markets analogy. “At some point there will be a correction. We may have this conversation about hitters in a few years: where’s all the pitching?”

He added: “I’ve seen lots of spikes: hitting, pitching, fielding. Capitalism will start filling those voids. You will see a wave of talent coming into that area, which you’ll expect in the hitting department.”

Eventually, that could put upward pressure on something else for which baseball is noted—its big salaries.

“Any normal market will tell you, when there’s a scarcity in something, that will increase the price,” Beane added.


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