>> Monday

For those of you that are new here, the genesis of this blog--about three years ago to the day, in fact--was largely inspired by Matt's and my infatuation with the long-extinct Fire Joe Morgan. Of course, with the hindsight of knowing that FJM's main contributor, Ken Tremendous (a.k.a. "Michael Schur"), is the man primarily responsible for Parks and Recreation, I have to wonder where my head was at. That said, FJM's influence over our blog in these three years--particularly my posts--has been tremendous (, Ken).

One of FJM's most recent posts at the time of our inception was this--a scathing deconstruction of a Baseball Tonight debate on run support. The notion being challenged was that a pitcher has some influence over the number of runs his team scores when he's on the mound--a sentiment that the BBTN panelists that night unanimously shared, though on highly disparate terms. One of those panelists was Steve Phillips who said:

There's a rhythm and a flow that happens to a team when things are going well. When you're scoring runs, when you're playing well -- pitchers who work too quickly sometimes get their hitters out of a flow; they work too slowly, they get out of the flow. And when you have a star on the mound, sometimes everybody stands around and watches. 

The reason I bring all of this up is that Phillips, during tonight's Mets-Braves game, reiterated points B ("work too slowly") and C ("star on the mound"), attempting to explain Johan Santana's poor run support since joining the Mets. 

Back in April 2006, my immediate instinct was to summarily reject the notion based on the premises that the FJM authors a) were funny, b) seemed to know what they were talking about, c) supported my own assumptions on the run support issue, d) supported my assumption that Steve Phillips is a goof, and e) generally agreed with me about everything. 

Three years later, though, I'm far more sympathetic to seemingly idiotic notions. In fact, when I finish writing this post, I plan to take up the issue with the number crunchers at FanGraphs to see if they can offer any further insight, but as I see it, the argument proposes the following hypotheses, each with tangible implications that could plausibly prove it true:

1) Pitchers hurt their run support by working too quickly.

Possible effect: His teammates mimic his haste at the plate, resulting in careless hacks early in the count.

2) Pitchers hurt their run support by working too slowly.

Possible effect: His teammates grow wary from the length of the game, resulting in careless hacks early in the count.

3) Pitchers hurt their run support by being too good.

Possible effect: His teammates grow complacent, diminishing their focus at the plate. 

4) Pitchers hurt their run support by sucking.

Possible effect: His teammates feel increased performance pressure at the plate, resulting in poor swing/take decisions.

Another thought to consider: Bad pitchers are more likely to create early deficits for his team. Early deficits encourage the oposing pitcher to pitch to contact, rather than inducing swings and misses. Pitching to contact is more likely to result in runs. Ergo, bad pitcher gets more run support than good pitcher.

I'm not necessarily giving Phillips the benefit of the doubt on all this, but I do think there's enough plausibility in these hypotheses that the ideas are worth considering. I can't imagine any effect would be remarkably pronounced, and I also suspect that the contradictory nature of each effect would cause their results--if any--to cancel out. But I could just as easily see one of these hypotheses bearing out, at least to some small extent.

I'll let you all know when FanGraphs gets back to me. (Or not.)


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Zuch 6:08 PM  

I gladly admit that I heartily enjoy Parks and Recreation and look forward to its second season (that it definitely deserves, probably only according to me and five random Amy Poehler fans).

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