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the controversy continues . . .

I haven't had a chance to merge these two essays. First, below is a link to what I wrote in 2008:

Detailed Hook Numbers Essay 2008

The following is a brief recap, hopefully better understood, summary of the key nuance to this strategy field:

On the Strategies page (see the navigational bar on the left) is a link to a comprehensive page of line-up strategies. I’m sure most of you don’t need or want coaching about choosing your line-up and batting order. Hence, that page is mostly about to how to best use each specific column on your line-up card. No doubt many of you have pet strategies that are not included. However, in that guide are possibly all the generally accepted strategies endorsed by the consensus of Scoresheet experts who espouse their genius in scoresheet-talk or mcscoresheet.


One column that might separate the most excellent Scoresheet managers from the merely good Scoresheet managers is the Hook column.


The studies I have seen as well as my own observations completely back-up the claim that if you have a very deep competent bullpen, you can save several runs each week by giving your weaker starting pitchers a low hook number such as 3.0 or 3.5. ERA is the most important stat in the Scoresheet sim. It is the most important component of the pitcher’s half of the result targeted. Relief pitchers tend to have lower ERAs than starters due to the fact that starters are charged with any runners who score that they left on base when they were relieved. Therefore, it is generally to your advantage to get your weaker starters out of the game A.S.A.P. and bring in your relievers. 3.0 is the minimum Hook number for a pitcher in your starting rotation. Basically, we are just maximising our pitchers with the lowest ERAs.


Another thing it does is truncate the bad weeks your starter had. Using the example, I recently brought up in scoresheet-talk: Let's say you have a Roy Halladay who is pitching consistently around 3.00 ERA all year - and your Scoresheet opponents for this example are perfectly league average. One week he pitches he pitches a complete game shutout, which he replicates on your Scoresheet team. The next week he pitches a complete game again giving up 6 earned runs. Your Scoresheet team hooked him after 6 innings and 4 earned runs. Hence, his Scoresheet
ERA matched his real life ERA in each week, yet his ERA for the two weeks combined in real life is 3.00, while his ERA combining both weeks in Scoresheet is 2.40. You fairly gained something significant by truncating Halladay's bad week.


The danger as Ari Houser pointed out is that Halladay might have given up those 4 runs much earlier in the game that second week. He would have been hooked, while he the sim owed him some good innings. Meanwhile, you burn through your bullpen leading to some possible dreaded AAA pitchers. That is why this is best only for teams with deep staffs.


Conversely, if your team does not have enough innings from its pitchers to use throughout the week, then you need to set your Hooks as high as possible. 9.0 is not too high – although some experts may disagree. Their argument would be there is no sense in setting the hook higher than what a AAA pitcher would give you. Well, I suppose, but at that point the game is lost anyway, so I’d rather keep the pitcher in there rather than have the sim take, perhaps, my only available reliever. Such a high hook number can’t hurt you more than the pitcher hurt his real life team. Typically, though, Scoresheet managers hook their aces at about 5.5 and the other starters at about 4.5.


In the past I have generally used X.5 to encourage the lefty/righty switches when runners are on base. However, Ken Warren has generously shared one of his pet strategies, which is to avoid changing pitchers with runners on base in the first place. Those runners do not count against the reliever’s ERA targeting – nor even the starter’s ERA targeting except that he will be credited with those runs for future ERA luck balancing. When a reliever comes into the game with runners on, his targeted ERA will be based on what it would be if no runners were on base. Having runners on base is a high leverage situation, so this is the best time for your reliever to be effective. If he had a bad week, that is not good – and he’s only going to be more horrible since those runners won’t count against him. If he had a good week, but did give up some hits, you still won’t have the benefit of his low ERA, because the inherited runners are not affecting that target. He could have a 0.00 targeted ERA, but still let in those runners he inherited.


This is actually a reflection of the advantages relievers have with their ERAs in real life. There is no evidence that more runs are scored in Scoresheet during innings in which relievers appear than in real life and I don’t think anyone is suggesting otherwise. However, the scenario played out in the paragraph above is only the basis I see for the hypothesis that mid inning pitching changes with runners on should be avoided in a Scoresheet game. It seems to make sense, but is not proof that avoiding mid-inning pitching changes is helpful. I have not seen any strong evidence that it works other than Ken’s strongly attested anecdotal evidence. He claims it is all logical, but brings up the all-star effect as a major part of the reason. Just because the ERA targeting is off does not mean the batter’s targeted production takes over. The reliever’s effectiveness is considered, just not the inherited potential run on base. Ken dismisses the importance of pitching targets other than ERA. However, in these cases, it is very important.


Actually, my anecdotal evidence contradicts Ken’s, but I can’t claim to have studied it scientifically. A high reliever hook number, say 2.0 or 3.0 would help avoid those mid inning switches. However, early in my Scoresheet career, I sensed I had better luck when I gave my relievers a small 1.0 hook taking them out of the game before things got out of hand. I played year after year like that winning my division 15 years in a row while averaging 101 wins per season.


Another reason for higher reliever Hooks: if your reliever has a very bad week, it makes some sense to burn all his runs out in one game rather than add gasoline to each fire he comes in to put out. On the other hand, low hook numbers truncates a reliever’s bad weeks just as they do a starting pitcher’s. The biggest difference between starters and relievers in Scoresheet is that starters make about 1.3 starts per week. Relievers make roughly 2.3 appearances per week, depending on need, their hook numbers, their ranking on your line-up card, and their use in real life. Anyway, it is more difficult to truncate a reliever’s bad week, because he is more likely to come back and pitch that week.


Ultimately, it boils down to whether you are better off getting rid of your pitcher mid inning with a runner on base and facing an opposite sided batter or not. The whole point of a hook number is to hook the pitcher earlier than he was in real life during his bad weeks. If the runs and runners against are indicating he is pitching poorly, you don’t have to wait for his all his outs owed to come.


Thus, the ideal hook numbers for relievers is still open to debate. Of course it depends on the quality and depth of your relievers – as well as your starters. Otherwise, there are two equations that need to be answered regarding reliever hooks. 1) Whether the runs saved by keeping ERA targeting “on” when runners are on base is greater than runs saved by truncating a reliever’s bad outing by bringing in a reliever with a different handedness. 2) Whether indeed you do win more games by blowing it with the full extent of a relievers’ bad outing and thereby hopefully saving your team his reappearance than by minimizing his bad outings each outing.

John Carter