Join 3,524 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)

Tags:

When can a relief pitcher enter a baseball game? (Also, unassisted triple plays.)
August 23, 2009 6:53 PM   Subscribe

When can a relief pitcher enter a baseball game? (Specifically, in reference to the first inning of today's Phillies-Mets game.) Also, why are there more unassisted triple plays than before?

Phillies-Mets game today. Top of the first, two outs, Phillies up 6-0. Pedro Martinez is batting, Oliver Perez pitching. Three balls, no strikes to Martinez... and Perez gets pulled for a new pitcher. Right in the middle of the at-bat. Martinez strikes out to end the inning.

So what happened? I was under the impression that pitchers can't be pulled in the middle of the at-bat except for an injury, which is not what happened as far as I can tell. Rule 3.03 states that substitutions can be made whenever the ball is dead but the definition of the ball being "dead" seems to be scattered in bits and pieces throughout the rules.

Also: the game ended with an unassisted triple play. As a Phillies fan, I knew that Mickey Morandini had one in '92; the list at mlb.com indicates it was the ninth all-time, and there have been seven since then, including one each in '07, '08, and '09. Why are there more now than there used to be? (I don't think the presence of more teams now quite explains it.)
posted by madcaptenor to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
The precise definition of the ball being dead is a bit confusing, but for the purposes of your question, the ball is dead between pitches, and you can absolutely replace pitchers during an at bat. It's not done that often though.
posted by chrchr at 7:09 PM on August 23, 2009


Re: The unassisted triple play: While I'm a Phillies fan and loved that Bruntlett pulled it off, to me that particular situation is more based on luck than any particular skill. You could tell in Bruntlett's reaction that he didn't really even think about it... ball was hit to him, he caught it. Runner left second ... so he stepped on the bag. Finally -- oh, here comes a runner, I should tag him. Did I just get three guys out?!? Awesome!

So, to answer your question, I would think the only thing that might increase the chances of this occurrence would be double-steal attempts being more prevalent?? (Just a guess on my part.)
posted by Ike_Arumba at 7:20 PM on August 23, 2009


I think there are two possible reasons for the recent increase you're describing:

- More Teams in the league * More Games in the Season + more games in the playoffs means there are more opportunities for rare events to pop up.

- The ideas behind moneyball probably lead to more "manufactured" runs- double steals, hit and runs, etc. If managers are calling these types of plays more frequently, then that will also increase the probability that the event will happen.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:23 PM on August 23, 2009


I would say that the likely reason it's become more common is because of changes in batting and running strategy by coaches.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:24 PM on August 23, 2009


A pitcher can be replaced at any time. I believe a starter must throw one pitch, however, because otherwise the away team could name a starter they had no intention of starting and then determine their pitcher based on the top of the first inning. This is never done btw, more high school highjinks type of stuff.
posted by boatsforshoes at 7:27 PM on August 23, 2009


Ike_Arumba: I agree, an unassisted triple play is more about luck than skill. If it were about skill Utley would have had one, not Bruntlett. (Yeah, he wasn't in the game today, but you know what I mean.) Although this is the only one I've seen, my sense has always been that that's just something that falls into your lap; Bruntlett didn't have to do anything particularly impressive, just be in the right place at the right time.

jenkinsEar: there are only 30 teams now, compared to 16 for the first half of the century, so that doesn't seem to explain things. (Not that I've actually worked out the statistics.) The changes in strategy seem like a better explanation.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:32 PM on August 23, 2009


boatsforshoes: I actually remembered that rule as that the starter had to pitch to one batter, but I obviously can't be trusted here because I thought you couldn't replace a pitcher in the middle of an at-bat.
posted by madcaptenor at 7:34 PM on August 23, 2009


I think the sample size on unassisted triple plays is far too small. There have been five in this decade, but there were six in the 1920s. They are just freakish, lucky things and I doubt there are too many lessons that can be drawn about the recent "uptick" in them.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 8:01 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


jenkinsEar: The ideas behind Moneyball are more about not manufacturing runs by lots of fiddly baseball-expert tricks like hit-and-runs and double steals, and instead just trying to put guys on base (encouraging walking as a means for doing so) and get them home (ideally by home runs).

(Actually, the actual real idea behind Moneyball is exploiting market inefficiency, and on-base percentage was the most obvious market inefficiency at the time.)
posted by dfan at 8:06 PM on August 23, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's no rule that you can't relieve a pitcher during an at bat.

The closest to it are the following to rules:

3.05a, the starting pitcher must pitch to at least one batter or substitute batter until the batter is put out or reaches first base, or the chief umpire judges that the starting pitcher is too injured to pitch;

3.05b, essentially the same thing, but applies to when a reliever comes into the game, and also can terminate via the end of the half inning (for example, if the reliever comes in with two outs and immediately picks off a runner, they are not required to go out at the start of the next inning and pitch to a batter).

The ball is dead whenever the umpire calls time (3.12). Umpires do this a lot. They'll also generally do it upon request of the players, or the managers, or the coaches, as long as nothing is obviously still going on. The ball was almost certainly dead in the situation you describe.
posted by Flunkie at 8:12 PM on August 23, 2009


This could be a stretch, but with the advanced technology up to date play backs of players last ten batted balls etc. there could be something said about player/defensive positioning leading to more players "being in the right place at the right time".

simpler... maybe better defensive positioning has led to "better hit balls" not getting through the defense??
posted by boatsforshoes at 8:16 PM on August 23, 2009


Ummm, just to be clear:

When I said that "there's no rule that you can't relieve a pitcher during an at bat", I meant no general rule. The two rules that I listed are specific situations in which you can't do so. Other than those two specific situations, you can relieve a pitcher during an at bat.
posted by Flunkie at 8:18 PM on August 23, 2009


Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell has it.

There's really only one play where an unassisted triple play occurs. No outs, runners on 1st and 2nd, hit and run, line drive to a middle infielder who touches 2nd and tags out the runner from 1st who is now near 2nd. (There have been two by 1Bs but they were pretty much the same thing except they tagged out the runner off 1st and touched 2nd.)

It's just luck. You can't do anything in that situation to increase the likelihood of turning an unassisted triple play. If you don't buy that it is just luck, the only explanation is that there are more hit and runs, which I'm not sure is true.
posted by mathlete at 8:41 PM on August 23, 2009


mathlete, an unassisted triple play could also hit on a line drive hit to third with the bases loaded--maybe on a failed squeeze play (popped up bunt).

As for frequency, you could argue that weaker pitching leads to more situations in which multiple runners are on base with nobody out. Since that's the prerequisite situation for an unassisted TP, the more runners on base, the more situations for unassisted triple plays.

One last bit of speculation: changes in the game could mean more line drives, which would theoretically mean more unassisted triple plays. Since fewer home runs are being hit than 10 years ago with the end of the steroids era, more players are trying to hit singles and doubles than home runs, and so are aiming for hard line drives instead of long fly balls.

Line drive rate is a statistic, and dedicated Moneyballers use it to measure a hitter's value, so maybe that's something too...
posted by j1950 at 9:04 PM on August 23, 2009


As has been said, triple plays are just so rare and dependent on luck, I can't chalk it up to different strategies or whatnot. It's sort of like saying if the odds of something was ten-million-to-one, and you doubled it, it's still only ten-million-to-two.

My first inclination was that it could be due to more aggressive baserunning, and guys running on contact, but I'd think they would've done that a lot more a couple of decades ago when teams couldn't rely on home runs nearly as much as they can now.

There do seem to have been a lot of cycles this year, though. That's also dependent on luck, but the more offense there is in a given era, the better your chances of getting four hits, let alone a cycle.

As for mid-at-bat relief, I seem to recall there being some kind of scoring rule to determine which pitcher gets credit for that at-bat, and there was this chart showing which counts would make the first pitcher of record, and which would make the second one of record. I don't know how to look it up, though.

In your example, Perez left with a 3-0 count, but the reliever got the strikeout, so I assume he'd get credit for the out. But if it had been a walk, I think it would've gone to Perez.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:31 PM on August 23, 2009


mathlete, an unassisted triple play could also hit on a line drive hit to third with the bases loaded--maybe on a failed squeeze play (popped up bunt).

I'm not saying other plays are not possible, just not likely. All 15 unassisted triple plays have been pretty much the same.

But I don't follow your examples. A line drive hit to third with the bases loaded, I can see two unassisted outs -- catch and touch 3rd -- but how is the third baseman going to get another out? The runners aren't going with the bases loaded, so the runners off 1st and 2nd are near their bases. Same thing with the popped up squeeze bunt: fielder catches it, tags the runner from 3rd who may be far from the fielder. Then, it'd be a long run to get another unassisted out.
posted by mathlete at 9:44 PM on August 23, 2009


As for mid-at-bat relief, I seem to recall there being some kind of scoring rule to determine which pitcher gets credit for that at-bat, and there was this chart showing which counts would make the first pitcher of record, and which would make the second one of record. I don't know how to look it up, though.

It's in the official rules.


10.15 Strikeouts
A strikeout is a statistic credited to a pitcher and charged to a batter when the umpire calls three strikes on a batter

10.16 Earned Runs And Runs Allowed
(h) A relief pitcher shall not be held accountable when the first batter to whom he pitches reaches first base on four called balls if such batter has a decided advantage in the ball and strike count when pitchers are changed.
(1) If, when pitchers are changed, the count is
2 balls, no strike,
2 balls, 1 strike,
3 balls, no strike,
3 balls, 1 strike,
3 balls, 2 strikes,
and the batter gets a base on balls, the official scorer shall charge that batter and the base on balls to the preceding pitcher, not to the relief pitcher.
(2) Any other action by such batter, such as reaching base on a hit, an error, a fielder's choice, a force-out, or being touched by a pitched ball, shall cause such a batter to be charged to the relief pitcher.
Rule 10.16(h) Comment: The provisions of Rule 10.16(h)(2) shall not be construed as affecting or conflicting with the provisions of Rule 10.16(g).
(3) If, when pitchers are changed, the count is
2 balls, 2 strikes,
1 ball, 2 strikes,
1 ball, 1 strike,
1 ball, no strike,
no ball, 2 strikes,
no ball, 1 strike,
the official scorer shall charge that batter and the actions of that batter to the relief pitcher.

posted by mathlete at 9:50 PM on August 23, 2009


All 15 unassisted triple plays have been pretty much the same.

No, a couple times it has been done by the first baseman. (See today's thread for details)
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:01 AM on August 24, 2009


dfan, my (poorly expressed) thought was that by putting guys on base rather than trying to field home-run sluggers, managers would be more likely to find themselves manufacturing runs, and playing small ball- leading to double steals, etc.
posted by jenkinsEar at 5:08 AM on August 24, 2009


All 15 unassisted triple plays have been pretty much the same.

No, a couple times it has been done by the first baseman. (See today's thread for details)


I mentioned this in my 1st post above. I still think that's pretty much the same. They just tagged the runner from 1st and raced the runner back to 2nd base. Which may or may not have looked ridiculous.
posted by mathlete at 5:34 AM on August 24, 2009


jenkinsEar has it. If there's any "reason" for unassisted triple plays being more common recently, it's the move of managerial trends away from the "load up on baserunners and sit on a homer" strategy that most teams were running in the worst steroid-abuse years. Many more teams than used to play small-ball and try to "create" runs now, and more moving runners = more reasonable chances for this to happen. I've personally never heard of an unassisted triple play that didn't involve moving runners.

It's definitely still incredibly rare and very luck-based.
posted by Pufferish at 8:13 AM on August 24, 2009


I mentioned this in my 1st post above. - mathlete

Missed that, sorry. All I meant was, it's not always a stationary second baseman.

--

The resumption of unassisted triple plays is maybe because of the "move of managerial trends away from the...strategy that most teams were running in the worst steroid-abuse years." - Pufferish

I don't understand. The drought of unassisted triple plays went from the 1920s thru the 1960s. Those were not steroid years. So when the drought ended it was not because of rejecting strategies from the steroid years, in fact the steroid years were still in the future.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:12 PM on August 24, 2009


Well, the drought started in the 30s, but it was still an offensive era that continued from the 20s.

Before that drought started, there were two on back-to-back days (the latter being the other time it ended a game). While I still maintain that's just a freak coincidence, I see that there were 6 in the '20s, 5 so far in the '00s... both offensive decades. That clustering is kind of weird.

And I'm kind of surprised it doesn't happen more often, but thinking about why it is so unusual would probably make my head spin. In browsing the sister thread on MeFi, I'm sure the answer's there, but it also makes me think all the baseball fans spend more time on MeFi than AskMeFi. Holy crap, that thread is long.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 10:43 PM on August 24, 2009


« Older My iMac iSight camera is "...   |  Is there any way to transfer m... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.