I guess one can never speak too soon, but it's nice to go into a season pretty sure that at least a handful of teams will be worse than the Brewers. One of them is Washington, who finds itself three or four starters short of a rotation:
Many of you are probably familiar with the DIPS theory of pitching: for the most part, pitchers have little control over batted balls. All they have control over are strikeouts, walks, and homers, and to a lesser extent, batted ball types, like fly balls and ground balls. A tee would, of course, strike no one out, but allow no walks. Given that hitters would have to generate all the power themselves (no 90 mph of power to send in the other direction) let's say there wouldn't be any home runs, either.
So, how would a pitcher do if he gave up no walks, no homers, and struck out none? Well, we can use a stat called Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP), which is a kind of quick-and-dirty approximation on ERA, using only BB, K, and HR. The formula is [(13*HR + 3*BB - 2*K)/IP] + 3.2. (The 3.2 is approximate and varies a bit from year to year, but not by enough to matter much.)
So, a tee's FIP over 200 innings (it wouldn't get tired, of course) would be [(13*0 + 3*0 - 2*0)/200] + 3.2 = 3.2. Do you realize what a breakthrough this is? In a year with a lot of offense, a tee could win the Cy Young Award! Why trade for Jon Lieber when you could just buy a tee? Why shop on the free-agent market when you could shop at Dick's Sporting Goods? Now that OBP is no longer undervalued and defense is getting hot, I think tees are next. That corpulent gentleman next to you outside of Dick's the morning after Christmas? Gord Ash, my friends.
Believe it or not, it gets better. A pitching staff consisting of several tees wouldn't need days off, so the starting tee wouldn't have to go more than two or three innings. That way, every time the pitcher's spot came up in the lineup, we could pinch-hit a real batter. (Hey, 'Rillo! Come back, we found more ABs for you!) Imagine how effective the pitching staff would be, constituted like so:
- SP: Ben Sheets
- SP: Chris Capuano
- SP: Dave Bush
- SP: Tee
- SP: Tee
- CL: Francisco Cordero
- SU: Matt Wise
- SU: Jose Capellan
- LH: Brian Shouse
- MR: Tee
- MR: Tee
- Mop-up: Tee
The first team to adopt this approach will surely be the object of scorn...until, that is, they win the division with a $45 million payroll. Jim Bowden may be forced into it this year, but if Doug Melvin acts fast, he may be able to take the rest of the central by surprise. Albert Pujols may keep in shape over the winter by hitting off a tee, but do you think he's accustomed to hitting off a tee in a high-pressure, in-game situation? Neither do I.