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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

As shifts suppress offense, time has come to consider a rule change

Lefthanded hitters have lost 22 points on their batting average on balls in play to rightfield this year alone – and 85 points in nine years.

Good material with some good numbers in here.  But it’s questionable that this is the solution:

Support of an “illegal defense” rule – or at least the consideration of it – is gaining some traction in baseball. Such a rule might stipulate, for instance, that you cannot have three infielders on one side of second base. A shortstop would be able to shift as far as directly behind second base on a lefthanded hitter, but no farther.

Karl from NY Posted: July 22, 2014 at 03:10 PM | 90 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: defense, rules of play, sabermetrics

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   1. Willie Mayspedester Posted: July 22, 2014 at 06:33 PM (#4755944)
And all this time I thought ESPN had the most annoying sports website.
   2. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 22, 2014 at 06:47 PM (#4755950)
Support of an “illegal defense” rule – or at least the consideration of it – is gaining some traction in baseball. Such a rule might stipulate, for instance, that you cannot have three infielders on one side of second base. A shortstop would be able to shift as far as directly behind second base on a lefthanded hitter, but no farther.


Or, you know, you'd think hitters might learn to adjust to the defense, if it's not asking too much.
   3. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: July 22, 2014 at 06:52 PM (#4755952)
OK, I considered it: no. No, no, no. This is seriously dumb. No.

Any other stupid suggestions?
   4. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: July 22, 2014 at 07:02 PM (#4755957)
CFB where are you mate? Or is it Walt?

One of these guys has posted a lot about this clearly showing shifts eliminates singles(hence the BA drop), but overall production is the same. Unless the shift is making guys strikeout more, then that's it!

Or am I misremembering?
   5. PreservedFish Posted: July 22, 2014 at 07:02 PM (#4755958)
Wow, I strongly disagree with the illegal defense thing. I think shifting is fascinating. It rewards flexible players (both hitters and fielders) and it increases strategy. It's a great thing.
   6. Pat Rapper's Delight Posted: July 22, 2014 at 07:14 PM (#4755962)
While the NFL does have an illegal formation penalty, that's applicable to the offense rather than the defense so it's hard to tell which way MLB would follow.
   7. Dale Sams Posted: July 22, 2014 at 07:24 PM (#4755965)
Red Sox have seven guys who over a full season would strike out 150 times. I don't think that's on the shift.
   8. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 22, 2014 at 07:28 PM (#4755968)
While the NFL does have an illegal formation penalty, that's applicable to the offense rather than the defense so it's hard to tell which way MLB would follow.


It applies to the team that has the ball.
   9. Into the Void Posted: July 22, 2014 at 07:28 PM (#4755969)
While the NFL does have an illegal formation penalty, that's applicable to the offense rather than the defense so it's hard to tell which way MLB would follow.


Sounds somewhat similar to the NBA's three second rule.
   10. Chris Fluit Posted: July 22, 2014 at 07:45 PM (#4755978)
I'll wade in against this tide of negativity.

I think it's a creative idea worth talking about- and potentially implementing in a couple of years if offensive levels continue to fall. It's a better idea than lowering the mound again. It's similar to the introduction of the shot clock and the three-point line in the NBA or the elimination of the red line/introduction of the two-line pass in the NHL- rules innovations that create offense or restore the offense/defense balance- or, you know, moving the mound back in 1894, lowering the mound after 1968 or any number of adjustments that MLB has made over the decades.

I enjoy the shift and have defended it against the cranky old guard that dislike any innovation. But I also like offense and right now, the game is becoming unbalanced. A couple of simple rules about defensive positioning won't address every contributing factor, but it will give the offense- and especially left-handed hitters a fair shot.

Also, I would consider a second rule requiring all infielders to stand on the infield dirt/in front of the outfield grass- eliminating the "rover" who plays in short right against lefties.
   11. theboyqueen Posted: July 22, 2014 at 08:04 PM (#4755983)
Wow, to me the idea of eliminating fixed positions altogether and being much more dynamic in defensive positioning is much more compelling than whatever problem "illegal defense" in baseball purports to address. I would be all for proposals that make contact hitting and speed more valuable but if anything, this proposal makes contact hitting and speed LESS valuable.
   12. BDC Posted: July 22, 2014 at 08:05 PM (#4755984)
I understand that rule changes balance a game, but they should also encourage creativeness. This one doesn't. It just nails the fielders to zones in hopes scoring will go up. But the shift is a small factor if any at all. What if scoring still goes down? Then you've got boring defensive tactics AND fewer runs.
   13. PreservedFish Posted: July 22, 2014 at 08:09 PM (#4755987)
I think it's totally fantastic that coaches and teams are finally - after more than a century! - reexamining where fielders position themselves. It's like the game of baseball had this little pocket of potential that has been unexplored since deadball days. It's exciting and it's great.

Shifts reward creativity, speed, versatility, intelligence ... everything good.

Also, lefties have had an unfair advantage in baseball from time immemorial. Serves them right that they need to deal with this now.
   14. ursus arctos Posted: July 22, 2014 at 08:20 PM (#4755992)
Lefties are penalized by the way that contemporary umps call strikes off the plate.

Fix that, rather than eliminating an outlet for defensive strategy and offensive innovation.
   15. Bug Selig Posted: July 22, 2014 at 08:24 PM (#4755993)
It's a better idea than lowering the mound again.


The only benefit of banning the shift is that we'd be rid of moron red-ass pitchers who think that batters have some kind of moral imperative to hit the ball where the defense wants them to hit it. Lowering the mound, on the other hand, would swing the pendulum toward offense while likely (granted, only if you believe that velocity and stress are both proportional to force and therefore to each other) reducing elbow explosions.

Why would we even consider drawing a bunch of "thou shalt not" lines on the field? Baseketball was a joke, not a proposal. What about when a team is trying to cut down a game-ending run and goes to 5 infielders and 2 outfielders? The rules define where exactly 2 of your 9 defenders must be, and that's a feature rather than a bug. A huge part of playing defense is figuring out where to stand - outfielders are constantly adjusting in/out and left/right - infielders play in/back, guard lines, position for double plays, take away bunts. Positions other than pitcher and catcher only exist for scorekeeping purposes (there are some generic references to infielders or outfielders and a 1B can use a different glove, but nobody is forced to stand in any particular place), and I think it would be nuts to mess with that.
   16. Ziggy Posted: July 22, 2014 at 08:29 PM (#4755995)
Glad to know there's agreement on something. Creative defense is a good thing, not a bad thing.

This, like many other proposals we've heard over the last few months, is a solution searching for a problem. Offensive contexts change in baseball. All the time. Constantly. It's on a downhill slope right now, but it's not even very far downhill. It only looks like it compared to sillyball. Leave it alone, in 10 years offense will go up again, like it always does. And then people will complain about cheap home-run records again. Baseball is doing just fine.
   17. Lance Reddick! Lance him! Posted: July 22, 2014 at 08:30 PM (#4755996)
If defenses put more players on one side of the field, batting average goes down when batters hit it to that side? What a revelation! What happens when they hit the ball to the vacated areas? Tom? Tom????

The exact level of analysis that can be expected from Verducci.
   18. BDC Posted: July 22, 2014 at 08:40 PM (#4755999)
Of course, if you make every fielder start from a big designated X, zone rating systems become a doddle.
   19. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: July 22, 2014 at 08:47 PM (#4756002)
I'm with Ziggy in 16. I actually suggested this type of rule about a week ago in another thread but his point is exactly why it is not a good idea. The game has historically ebbed and flowed offense to defense and back again. Don't be like the NFL which constantly tinkers with the rules.
   20. Moeball Posted: July 22, 2014 at 09:50 PM (#4756028)
Do we make this like "Over the Line" and just say left field is closed?

Barry Bonds, where are you?

Ted Williams would love all this hoopla about the shifts.

You see, the thing is, if you want to guarantee a left handed power hitter will hit balls to the right side of the field, you have to be willing to pitch him on the inside half of the plate. As Mr. Williams used to say, however, "history is made on the pitch inside". Inside fastballs are absolutely the best pitches for left handed power hitters to crush for HRs to right field, which totally defeats the purpose of the shifts.

Now, if you pitch away from the left handed hitter, and he still tries to pull the ball, those are going to be the ones that get hit for ground balls right into the teeth of the shift, which absolutely serves the batter right, if he is stupid enough to try to pull pitches that are on the outside part of the plate. I have absolutely zero sympathy for batters that do this. If the pitch is going away from you, those are the pitches you should be poking the other way, which will be the easiest singles you've ever seen with an occasional double thrown in.

I mention Bonds because when the Padres used to put the shift on against him all the time, you would frequently see the following results:

1)Pitch him on the inside part of the plate and he hits HRs to RF.
2)Try to go away from him so that he can't do 1) and often the pitcher misses off the outside part of the plate in which case Bonds walks.
3)Successfully pitch him on the outside part of the plate and you have the best chance of getting him out, but I actually did see a couple of times where he did take those the other way for hits to the unguarded left field.

Batters should absolutely LOVE seeing shifts being employed by the opposing team.

   21. DKDC Posted: July 22, 2014 at 10:17 PM (#4756043)
Please don't change the rules. The players will change to adapt, as they always have. Some players won't survive but that's just a consequence (a feature?) of the creative destruction.

How lucky are we to have a game that hasn't made any meaningful rule changes in 40 years, yet it keeps shifting and evolving before our eyes?

Laissez Faire.
   22. JE (Jason) Posted: July 22, 2014 at 10:18 PM (#4756044)
And all this time I thought ESPN had the most annoying sports website.

Hmmm, I don't have a problem with the other authors (e.g., Jaffe, Corcoran), just Verducci.
   23. Greg Franklin Posted: July 22, 2014 at 10:21 PM (#4756047)
Good discussion. I am pro-shift, anti-rule change for the reasons given by the honorable Bug Selig in #15.

If the victims of the current shifting regimen are slow LH groundball hitters, that tells me baseball should absolutely reward slow LH hitters like Wade Boggs over slow LH hitters like Chris Davis. The game is more fun when Boggs is bashing outside pitches into the gaps instead of Davis tapping them into short RF. I'm willing to wait for the player population to be more shift-resistant.
   24. cardsfanboy Posted: July 22, 2014 at 10:25 PM (#4756049)
I really dislike this idea, as pointed out, creative shifts are fun, and it creates a rule that doesn't really fix a problem. Again the drop in offense is caused by an increase in strikeouts and a decrease in walks. (and a drop in homeruns, but as Walt will point out, that drop in homeruns is just because of the strikeout rate going up, homeruns are still leaving the park at the same percentage per fly ball as they have in the silly ball era) Shifts are not making a noticeable difference in the drop in league wide offense. babip is the same, as it was in the silly ball era, which would be the first thing you would expect shifts to figure into. (And to head off arguments, not saying positioning doesn't matter, but there could be a case made that some teams are using the data wrong and are making adjustments that are incorrect...whatever the case/cause is, league wide offense isn't being hampered because of the shift)

You want to improve offense you need to figure out what can be done to reduce the strike outs and increase the walks again. Walt thinks that the strikezone has increased which is a possibility and as he says Occam's razor the answer since it's the simplest and most likely answer.

Also I like the concept of positions not being mandatory that baseball enjoys, technically speaking baseball has 3 positions...catcher, pitcher and fielders. There is nothing in the rules determining where a fielder has to play, line up at the line of scrimmage or any of these lawyer ball rules that other sports(most notably football) enjoy. The only rule on positioning is that only the catcher is allowed to have his body not in fair territory(Before Keith Hernandez even that wasn't true) before the pitch.
   25. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: July 22, 2014 at 10:27 PM (#4756051)
I would rather reduce the strikeouts and reduce walks too, if we can.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: July 22, 2014 at 10:31 PM (#4756054)
The point is quite simple ...

we have seen very little change in overall production on balls in play or on contact over the last few years. There were downward shifts from 2007 to 2008 and further from 2009 to 2010. Both are before the massive outbreak of shifts and the latter is consistent with an increase in the size of the strike zone, especially the low strike zone. But that doesn't explain everything.

FWIW, I presented the data in his Table 1 in a couple of threads already, in a bit more detail. Bobm presented it in a lot more detail a few months ago.

Here they are again for LHB pull (BA/SLG/BABIP)

2008 410/757/358
2009 401/738/350
2010 399/711/351
2011 378/686/332
2012 374/677/312
2013 373/686/323
2014 349/641/301

So this year, yes, a clear step down. The "problems" are:

(a) if anything LHB are pulling the ball more ... which would make sense since you get much better production pulling the ball. Or possibly it's just a shift in way things are coded. I still don't know why people are recommending hitting the opposite way a lot more ... sure, now and again to keep them honest but you're still way better off pulling the ball on average.

(b) ISO is down 21 points from 2013-14. 13 points of that is due to a drop in HR rate. How do IF shifts affect that? Meanwhile, GB have never produced XB so IF shifts likely aren't responsible for the rest although somebody here raised the notion that 2B on the OF grass allows RF to play deeper, cutting off some FB doubles. Possible but it would be better to handle that by looking at OF positioning as well as IF positioning and then we can speculate about how they're related.

(c) Overall LHB production in 2013 was 254/322/399; in 2014 it's 252/321/386. That change in both BA and SLG is explained entirely by a drop in HR rate, primarily driven by a drop in non-pulled HR. How does the explosion in IF shifts explain that?

(d) b-r doesn't supply an "on-contact" split but "fair terr" is close enough. But it doesn't supply that separately for LHB vs. RHB but here are overall numbers for the same period:

2008 338/533/309
2009 338/539/308
2010 334/522/306
2011 331/518/303
2012 336/535/305
2013 334/523/306
2014 334/518/307

So the explosion in shifts has had no effect on the overall BABIP. It has had no effect on overall BA for fair balls. There has been a small drop in ISO/SLG but even that predates the explosion in shifts (i.e. look at 2010-11). Again that is primarily due to a drop in HR/PA rate. Applying 2009's "peak" HR/PA rate to 2010 shows them to be 376 HRs short. That's a 9 point drop in ISO (total drop 13). The HR rate dropped a bit again in 2011 but picked back up in 2012 before dropping a bit again.

Now, LHB pull numbers are well down over the last two years. But overall numbers are not shifting. This suggests a compositional change. What I am asking is for the people with more detailed numbers to actually map out that compositional change.

But it's quite simple ... the shift appears to be affecting some LHB hitters but it is not an explanation for the decline in offense because it is not causing a drop in the overall numbers. The small drop in overall on-contact numbers is primarily due to a drop in HR/PA rate.

So, what's driving the big drop in overall offense. THE STRIKEOUTS! You can't hit HR if you can't hit the ball. It's also harder to hit HRs when pitches 1.5 feet off the ground are being called strikes, probably especially in a transition period from when those pitches used to be called balls.

He presents numbers on Ortiz. Except he looks at 2008-14. It's true that on pull balls, Ortiz's BIP production took a big dip in 2008. But Ortiz has been shifted on his entire career. I'm not aware of a massive increase in the number of shifts Ortiz faced in 2008 vs. 2005-7 but I don't know that anybody tracked that either so I can't rule it out.

I honestly don't see why anybody thinks this article presents interesting findings. It presents some LHB pull numbers that we've been working with here all season (starting with a classic bobm table of course) and it pulls out a host of struggling LHB batters which is what every other "OMG THE SHIFT" article does.

So again I call for somebody with the fancy numbers to actually MEASURE WHAT'S GOING ON. Then we can discuss why. That means looking at RHB pull GB, RHB pull FB, RHB mid GB, etc. It means adjusting for a drop in HR rate. It means looking at changes in the proportion of pull/mid/opp by both sets. It means looking at any changes in GB/FB rates (by RHB/LHB at least). It means looking at production on those strikes that used to be balls (and the balls that used to be strikes). It may mean making some adjustment to the FB/LD data which clearly underwent a shift from 2012 to 2013. I'm curious if there's been a similar change in pull/mid/opp -- maybe with 3 guys on the pull side, grounders that used to be fielded by the non-shifted 2B going to his right were coded "mid" while those same grounders now being fielded by a shifted SS going to his left are coded "pull" potentially resulting in a decrease in pull production and an increase in mid. B-R does not supply sufficiently detailed data to answer most of these questions.

Oh, and really it should include OF positioning but if anybody is paying attention to that, they aren't writing about it. It would also be nice to know if IF defensive quality has increased in an absolute sense but I'm not aware of any way to get at that.

CAVEAT: I keep trying to remember to use OBP (which includes SFs) not BA but I forgot this time, reported BA, too lazy to change it. Doesn't make any real difference of course.


   27. cardsfanboy Posted: July 22, 2014 at 10:40 PM (#4756059)
ISO is down 21 points from 2013-14. 13 points of that is due to a drop in HR rate. How do IF shifts affect that?


I agree with you, but there could be an argument made that in an attempt to avoid the shift that batters aren't hitting the ball as hard as they are trying to guide the ball. I very much doubt this, but it is an argument that can be made.
   28. valuearbitrageur Posted: July 22, 2014 at 11:02 PM (#4756065)
I don't always agree with him, but Walt is one of the greatest posters this site will ever have.
   29. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: July 22, 2014 at 11:32 PM (#4756077)
Kudos to a bunch of posters above who vividly convey why the shift is fun and interesting and should be embraced.

This article is relatively meaningless without comparable numbers for RHB. League-wide offense has been going down for the 10 years represented in the data, of course LHB has gone down. A lot of the LHB groupings are "here are 10 LHBs who were great 5 years ago, when they were in their prime, and now they aren't as good at 34 years old. WTF?"

The lack of self-awareness is kind of off the charts. Verducci probably wrote several articles 10 years ago suggesting rule changes to "bring sanity" to offensive levels.

And, Walt rocks.
   30. Jim (jimmuscomp) Posted: July 22, 2014 at 11:45 PM (#4756080)
#28 - I couldn't agree more.

I have learned a ton, quickly, from Walt's posts.
   31. Shredder Posted: July 22, 2014 at 11:47 PM (#4756081)
Wow, to me the idea of eliminating fixed positions altogether and being much more dynamic in defensive positioning is much more compelling than whatever problem "illegal defense" in baseball purports to address. I would be all for proposals that make contact hitting and speed more valuable but if anything, this proposal makes contact hitting and speed LESS valuable.
Does baseball truly have "fixed positions" outside of pitcher and catcher? If you want to put 7 guys in the outfield, what's stopping you? Put six guys between first and second if you want. I always just assumed that baseball defense evolved to where the largest portion of the field was covered by the seven players available. The shift is just another step in that evolution.

Of course, the really dumb thing about this is that no one cared when the shift was employed against just a handful of players in the league. Now it seems like there's at least one guy per team, and sometimes more. I think the Angels had three at one point when Hamilton and Ibanez were both active. I'm pretty sure "hit 'em where they ain't" still applies. It's just that the places where "they ain't" are changing.
   32. Dan Posted: July 22, 2014 at 11:51 PM (#4756082)
Lefties are penalized by the way that contemporary umps call strikes off the plate.

Fix that, rather than eliminating an outlet for defensive strategy and offensive innovation.


This guy makes a good point that I'm surprised no one else commented on. The shift does seem to hurt lefties more than righties, but it still isn't a HUGE factor overall in the decrease in offense as Walt so kindly demonstrated for us. The problem overall is the rise in strikeouts. If there's going to be a rule change it should probably be moving the mound back farther from home plate rather than lowering it. That's the best way to counter the increased velocity over the past 15 years or so, if we think we really need to make a rule change to shift the balance of power back towards the hitters. And like the post I quoted said, if we're worried particularly about lefties, then get the stupid umpires to stop calling pitches 3-6 inches off of the plate outside to lefties as strikes. The expansion of the LH strike zone to (and sometimes THROUGH) the line of the RH batters' box has gotten absurd.
   33. Dan Posted: July 22, 2014 at 11:54 PM (#4756083)
Does baseball truly have "fixed positions" outside of pitcher and catcher? If you want to put 7 guys in the outfield, what's stopping you?


Several years ago, I think during his first year as the Rays' manager, Joe Maddon employed a shift on Ortiz that involved the SS playing just to the right of the 2B bag, the 2B around midway between 1B and 2B (perhaps a bit closer to 1B), and the 1B close to the line and then the 3B went out into left field, and the outfielders all shifted over to the right, so he essentially had a SS, 2B, 1B, LF, LCF, RCF, and RF. I would love to see a team experiment more with defensive alignments like this, especially against hitters with flyball tendencies. I want to see MORE creative defensive positioning, not stupid rules locking us into the orthodoxy. Wouldn't this rule also kill the extra infielder in bases loaded walk off situations?

edit: Google helped me find an article describing the shift I was thinking of.
   34. PreservedFish Posted: July 23, 2014 at 12:04 AM (#4756092)
Was that Chass' last coherent article?
   35. Sean Forman Posted: July 23, 2014 at 12:09 AM (#4756094)
I think we'd all like to see more balls in play and more balls in play that are iffy chances for outs. I wonder if it might not be time to reduce glove size. Fielding is so much better than in the past that players are forced to try and hit line drives in order to reach on a hit which is contributing to rising strikeouts. Reduced glove size would increaese the value of contact hitters and create an incentive to avoid strikeouts where there is none now.
   36. PreservedFish Posted: July 23, 2014 at 12:15 AM (#4756097)
Perhaps we should just promote a cultural of mockery surrounding strikeouts. Strikeouts have ceased to be embarrassing!
   37. Greg K Posted: July 23, 2014 at 12:19 AM (#4756100)
While the NFL does have an illegal formation penalty, that's applicable to the offense rather than the defense so it's hard to tell which way MLB would follow.

I don't know much about it, but would the best comparison be fielding restrictions in cricket?

I've had cricket-minded friends explain fielding restrictions to me five or six times, but I always seem to forget the premise. If I'm recalling right for certain segments of the match (particularly in one day internationals) the number of guys you have playing deep is limited. This is to encourage guys to try and wallop the ball with less fear of being caught out.

Though this description sounds absolutely nightmarish.

A circle of radius 30 yards (27 m) measured from the centre of the pitch divides the infield from the outfield. A 15 yards (14 m) radius circle drawn from where the batsman stands encompasses an area known as the close infield. During the first 10 overs of a 50-over innings a maximum of two fielders are allowed to be deployed in the outfield. A minimum of two fielders (other than the bowler and wicket-keeper) have to be deployed in the close infield. If the number of overs in the innings is restricted to less than 24, the length of the fielding restrictions is reduced to eight or nine overs.

The restriction of having a maximum of three fielders in the outfield is applied for a further two blocks of five overs, with the captains of the fielding and the batting sides deciding the timing of one block each. These five-over spells are called Powerplay 2 and Powerplay 3 and may be shortened if the length of the innings is restricted (Powerplay 1 is the first block of 10). Powerplays were first encountered in the One Day International between England and Australia on 7 July 2005.

For the rest of the innings, a more generous maximum of five fielders in the outfield applies.


So for cricket fans...was one-day cricket just mind numbing conservative play before these rules were instituted? Or like 20/20 is the one day international restrictions just a strategy to jam into one day a game that is meant to be played over a few?
   38. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 23, 2014 at 12:28 AM (#4756106)
The shift does seem to hurt lefties more than righties,


Of course it does. You can't employ the same shifting against righties as you do against lefties because you need someone to cover first when you get that groundball to the left side of the infield that you're anticipating.

But, considering everything else about batting favors the lefty over the righty, it's one they'll have to live with (or, learn to go opposite field from time to time).

And count me among the majority. Baseball has a wonderful way of balancing itself when things get out of whack. When SBs start to fall to low levels, throwing becomes less integral in selecting for catchers, at which point SBs become a better bet. It happens in any number of ways, usually without the need for league interference.
   39. David Manel Posted: July 23, 2014 at 01:56 AM (#4756126)
Somewhat related to this topic, I just wrote a piece about defensive shits and ground ball numbers. I interviewed Clint Hurdle, Clint Barmes, Dan Fox and Jimmy Rollins. If you're interested here's link. http://www.bucsdugout.com/2014/7/16/5900337/pirates-defensive-shifts

The takeaway is that teams shift for more reasons than simply limiting BABIP. They're also interested in changing hitters' approaches, especially the dangerous power-pull ones.

   40. David Manel Posted: July 23, 2014 at 02:19 AM (#4756130)
Also, (to save you traveling to the link) the Pirates are much more fluid with their shifts than I thought. That is, many adjustments are made on-the-fly during the game. And, those decisions are the made by players and coaches.
   41. bobm Posted: July 23, 2014 at 02:32 AM (#4756132)
[33] IMO (and regarding Walt's point) the most interesting part of the Chass' article is Maddon on outfield shifts:

In Ortiz's case, Maddon found that when Ortiz hits the ball on the ground, he most likely hits it to the right side, but when he hits it in the air, he is most likely to hit it from left-center field to right-center field, specifically in the left-center and right-center gaps rather than straightaway center.

"We just try to utilize our players in the right spots based on where he hits the ball," the 52-year-old Maddon said.

"The infielders are on the pull side," he explained. "We call it the triangle where the second baseman gets deep on the grass, more toward first base than second base, kind of in the hole and deep. The shortstop moves between second base and the second baseman.

"The left fielder goes to left-center, the third baseman goes to left field, the center fielder goes to right-center, because it's rare that he hits the ball to straightaway center. It's always left-center or right-center. And he pulls the ball right down the line."


BTW, it is hard to believe this is the same Murray Chass.
   42. bjhanke Posted: July 23, 2014 at 03:25 AM (#4756138)
I know very little about cricket, but one of the few things I do remember is that, in cricket, you can hit the ball over all 360 degrees. And you get to choose whether or not to run when you hit the thing. The only kind of guaranteed out is a caught fly ball, IIRC. Apparently some hitters had perfected the old Ross Barnes technique of bunting everything that might be hard to hit into what we would call "foul territory" and on the ground, leading to games with hundreds of runs and, literally days of play in a game. The defense rules were changed to prevent that, although I don't know why restrictions on defense would lead to less offense. I THINK I've heard that there's another restriction, which is that a batter cannot score more than six runs in one inning (apparently, cricket batters just bat once through the lineup, but a batter can keep hitting until he goes out).

Football, I know more about. In my dad's day (high school ball in the 1920s), the defense had to have 7 men on the line of scrimmage. It wasn't just the offense. Dad played center on offense and what we would call "nose guard" on defense (the rule was also that, if you took a player out of the game for a rest, he could not enter again until the second half, or the rest of the game. See "Chuck Bednarik" for the last guy to play like that in the NFL). However, Dad's defensive assignment was to back up and cover the responsibilities we would assign to the middle linebacker. He wasn't supposed to stuff runs. His impression was that what killed this was the forward pass. With 7 men on the line, the defense just could not deal with the pass, especially when the shape of the football was slimmed to make passing easier. I don't think that baseball is in anything like that kind of crisis. - Brock Hanke
   43. SandyRiver Posted: July 23, 2014 at 06:59 AM (#4756149)
He presents numbers on Ortiz. Except he looks at 2008-14. It's true that on pull balls, Ortiz's BIP production took a big dip in 2008. But Ortiz has been shifted on his entire career. I'm not aware of a massive increase in the number of shifts Ortiz faced in 2008 vs. 2005-7 but I don't know that anybody tracked that either so I can't rule it out.


Ortiz' wrist injury in 2008 had a huge effect on his performance that year and the next, maybe even into 2010, so using the "injury seasons" numbers to make a conclusion seems suspect.
   44. Greg K Posted: July 23, 2014 at 07:39 AM (#4756154)
I THINK I've heard that there's another restriction, which is that a batter cannot score more than six runs in one inning (apparently, cricket batters just bat once through the lineup, but a batter can keep hitting until he goes out).

There is a boundary running 360 degrees around the cricket batsmen...sort of like the outfield wall, except it is usually just a rope on the ground. Hitting it over the wall on the fly is 6 runs, hitting past the rope on a bounce or rolling is 4. Theoretically I believe you can run as long as you want if the ball remains in play (though in practice I don't usually see guys getting more than 2 runs that way very often).

Batsmen can theoretically score an infinite amount of runs in an innings, though in a test match 100 runs (a century) is considered a very good score.

I suspect at one point in the early days of cricket there was no boundary and guys ran for as many runs as they could on a hit, but the authorities soon put a stop to that.* If you want to run all day, play soccer!

*In one of the Flashman stories, Flashman gets challenged by a portly fellow to a one-on-one game of cricket. In a bit of a dick move, he hits a ball through a window into a nearby house and scores 20 odd runs while the poor guy hunts around for the ball.
   45. Lassus Posted: July 23, 2014 at 08:30 AM (#4756161)
There was a Real Sports last night about the rule changes currently being promoted in golf to get more people to play. They are apparently getting all kinds of feedback on too expensive (well, yes), too long, too difficult, etc.. I missed the start, so I don't know if they bothered connecting the loss in viewership and players to the loss of Tiger, but many in the industry are apparently pretty freaked out.
   46. I Am Not a Number Posted: July 23, 2014 at 08:55 AM (#4756166)
There should be a rule against pitchers throwing those darned spinny pitches. It's hard enough to hit the straight ones. And if I like the pitches waist high, that's where the pitcher should throw them. And no diving for balls on defense. If you can't catch it properly, it should be a hit.
   47. BDC Posted: July 23, 2014 at 08:59 AM (#4756167)
The key fielding restriction in all types of cricket is that there can only be two fielders in the quadrant behind and beyond the batsman (so, "southwest" as a RH batsman faces, "southeast" for LH). This is to prevent the "bodyline" tactic where bowlers used to deliver the ball directly at the batsman, forcing him to slice the ball backwards to a gang of fielders, or alternatively maiming him. It has the effect of increasing offense, but safety was the original motive.
   48. AROM Posted: July 23, 2014 at 10:01 AM (#4756185)
Lefthanded hitters have lost 22 points on their batting average on balls in play to rightfield this year alone – and 85 points in nine years.


For this I am issuing a citation for cherry picking. Look at BABIP for lefthanded hitters overall, and I see it was .298 in 2005 - and .298 again in 2014.

I don't know where they are getting the data for pulled balls, but there is a ton of inconsistency in coding that stuff, and certainly no reason to think that coding from 2005 can be reasonably compared to 2014. But even if that holds up, it just means lefty hitters are getting those hits back when they go the other way. To me that's a good thing. I like hitters using the whole field.
   49. Blastin Posted: July 23, 2014 at 10:49 AM (#4756199)
I missed the start, so I don't know if they bothered connecting the loss in viewership and players to the loss of Tiger, but many in the industry are apparently pretty freaked out.


It's almost like they had only one massive crossover superstar that appealed to young people in the last several decades.
   50. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 23, 2014 at 10:57 AM (#4756203)
It's possible the falloff in Tiger's game is hurting, but it's worth noting that the boom in golf participation long predated Tiger's arrival (and came at a time when the PGA was rather bereft of a Tiger or Jack or Arnie like superstar), so I'm not sure how connected play is to PGA viewership.

   51. Lassus Posted: July 23, 2014 at 11:07 AM (#4756209)
It's possible the falloff in Tiger's game is hurting, but it's worth noting that the boom in golf participation long predated Tiger's arrival (and came at a time when the PGA was rather bereft of a Tiger or Jack or Arnie like superstar), so I'm not sure how connected play is to PGA viewership.

Granted, I don't know a single number, but I remember hearing (perhaps falsely) that Tiger - all by himself - brought on a pretty big increase in participation and viewership separate from whatever growth was already occurring. I'm just curious how much of the current downturn can be attributed to his loss.
   52. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: July 23, 2014 at 11:09 AM (#4756210)

For this I am issuing a citation for cherry picking. Look at BABIP for lefthanded hitters overall, and I see it was .298 in 2005 - and .298 again in 2014.

I don't know where they are getting the data for pulled balls, but there is a ton of inconsistency in coding that stuff, and certainly no reason to think that coding from 2005 can be reasonably compared to 2014. But even if that holds up, it just means lefty hitters are getting those hits back when they go the other way. To me that's a good thing. I like hitters using the whole field.


This was the information I really wanted to see, thanks AROM. This really highlights how unneeded this sort of rule is.
   53. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: July 23, 2014 at 11:12 AM (#4756214)
Granted, I don't know a single number, but I remember hearing (perhaps falsely) that Tiger - all by himself - brought on a pretty big increase in participation and viewership separate from whatever growth was already occurring. I'm just curious how much of the current downturn can be attributed to his loss.


I have heard the same thing. It reminds me of something Joe Sheehan said after the 2008 World Series (I think). His point was that part of the reason for lousy TV ratings was Fox so heavily hyped the Red Sox/Yankees that not having either team in the World Series was a self-fulfilling prophecy on the ratings.
   54. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: July 23, 2014 at 11:14 AM (#4756215)
Hey, Rory McIlroy appeals to young people in the British Isles. He's all over the tabloids.
   55. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 23, 2014 at 11:18 AM (#4756218)
Granted, I don't know a single number, but I remember hearing (perhaps falsely) that Tiger - all by himself - brought on a pretty big increase in participation and viewership separate from whatever growth was already occurring. I'm just curious how much of the current downturn can be attributed to his loss.


I have heard the same thing. It reminds me of something Joe Sheehan said after the 2008 World Series (I think). His point was that part of the reason for lousy TV ratings was Fox so heavily hyped the Red Sox/Yankees that not having either team in the World Series was a self-fulfilling prophecy on the ratings.

I could certainly expect viewership sans Tiger will drop (and always has), but the connection between viewership and participation is not nearly as strong.
   56. Harveys Wallbangers Posted: July 23, 2014 at 11:28 AM (#4756223)
golf participation has cratered in the u.s. over the last few years. but that is likely tied more to the economic downturn in 2008/2009 versus any golfer becoming less popular.

but certainly golf officials are concerned.
   57. Lassus Posted: July 23, 2014 at 11:36 AM (#4756230)
golf participation has cratered in the u.s. over the last few years. but that is likely tied more to the economic downturn in 2008/2009 versus any golfer becoming less popular.

Good point. But between larger pie-pan golf holes, party/competition driving ranges, and charging less greens fees, I somehow doubt any solution based on people having less money will really be paid attention to.

(And to be fair, Tiger was not really just "any golfer" becoming less popular, that's simply not accurate as far as impact.)
   58. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: July 23, 2014 at 11:57 AM (#4756241)
I'm not in favor of a rule banning defensive shifts, but I don't understand the "everything will work itself out" mentality either. Baseball is in a bad place right now IMO -- waaayyyy too many strikeouts, not enough offense -- and some changes might really help. Lowering the mound seems like the most obvious approach, but they could also tinker with the ball (lower the seams maybe?).
   59. Davo's Favorite Tacos Are Moose Tacos Posted: July 23, 2014 at 12:07 PM (#4756250)
38. The shift does seem to hurt lefties more than righties,

Of course it does. You can't employ the same shifting against righties as you do against lefties because you need someone to cover first when you get that groundball to the left side of the infield that you're anticipating.
Also, if your second baseman fields a ground ball in short right field, he can still throw out the batter at first.

If your shortstop fields a ground ball in short left field, the throw is just too far to get the batter out at first.
   60. Greg K Posted: July 23, 2014 at 12:12 PM (#4756255)
If your shortstop fields a ground ball in short left field, the throw is just too far to get the batter out at first.

Well, unless it's Dioner Navarro running.
   61. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: July 23, 2014 at 12:25 PM (#4756268)
Also, if your second baseman fields a ground ball in short right field, he can still throw out the batter at first.

If your shortstop fields a ground ball in short left field, the throw is just too far to get the batter out at first.


Great point.

Along those lines, my 11-year-old son is playing on a travel baseball team this year where the bases are much farther apart than what's found at Little League. A hard-hit ball to the rightfielder results in an out about 70 percent of the time. Our centerfielder threw one guy out on a one-hopper straight up the middle. It's a very different game.

   62. Daniel in Toronto Posted: July 23, 2014 at 01:27 PM (#4756308)
I hate the idea of an "illegal defense". Teams with too many "lefty pull hitters" will need to just adapt, either learning to "go the other way" when hitting, or there will be less "value" for these guys (leading to lineups of more righties).

Baseball has all sorts of unusual defenses: the rotation play when the other team is bunting with 2 men on, 5 infielders if the "winning run" is on 3rd and less than two out, etc.

This "illegal defense" idea should be called "The Yankees Protection Act". They set up their team with lots of left-handed pull hitter to take advantage of the short porch to hit HRs in right field.

Before anyone even considers such an idea, the Yankees should have to move their fences back in RF. :)
   63. TerpNats Posted: July 23, 2014 at 02:35 PM (#4756343)
Noting #62: 2014 may well become the first year in the wild-card era that neither the Yanks nor the Bosox qualify for the playoffs. If you don't think that scares Fox, TBS, SI, etc., you've got another thing coming, although thanks to the three weaklings in the NL West, the Dodgers or Giants would have to fold like a house of cards not to make the playoffs. It's entirely possible Derek Jeter's final game in Boston Sept. 28 could have no postseason implications for either team.
   64. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: July 23, 2014 at 05:09 PM (#4756473)
I could certainly expect viewership sans Tiger will drop (and always has),


Well, I would imagine there are fewer strippers and porn starlets watching golf these days.
   65. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: July 23, 2014 at 05:20 PM (#4756479)
I'm not in favor of a rule banning defensive shifts, but I don't understand the "everything will work itself out" mentality either. Baseball is in a bad place right now IMO -- waaayyyy too many strikeouts, not enough offense -- and some changes might really help.

Did you miss the out of control offense of the 2000s? Did you think it would so suddenly end? Now people act like we're entering a new dead ball era.

   66. PreservedFish Posted: July 23, 2014 at 05:24 PM (#4756487)
If your shortstop fields a ground ball in short left field, the throw is just too far to get the batter out at first.


To even the playing field, we should allow batters to elect which direction they'd like to run the bases in.
   67. Joe Bivens, Minor Genius Posted: July 23, 2014 at 05:29 PM (#4756490)
Golf has been on the downturn since before '08. Rounds have been steadily decreasing every year since 2000.
   68. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: July 23, 2014 at 05:38 PM (#4756498)
Golf took off in the 90s, as the game trickled down to the non-elites, Bobs and Bubbas started hitting the courses, and course construction took off. Then Tiger arrived, and everything went crazy.

Its like any other bubble, and will take time to unwind.

Wow, I didn't know that 2013 was the 8th straight year in which more courses closed than opened.

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-01-16/golf-course-closings-outpace-openings-for-eighth-straight-year.html


Since 2006, course closings have outnumbered openings after more than 4,500 courses had opened over the previous 15 years.

Since 2006, 643 18-hole courses have closed, the organization said. The decline has followed a 40 percent growth from 1986 through 2005, a period with more than 4,500 courses opening, according the foundation data.


   69. cardsfanboy Posted: July 23, 2014 at 06:07 PM (#4756526)
I think we'd all like to see more balls in play and more balls in play that are iffy chances for outs. I wonder if it might not be time to reduce glove size. Fielding is so much better than in the past that players are forced to try and hit line drives in order to reach on a hit which is contributing to rising strikeouts. Reduced glove size would increaese the value of contact hitters and create an incentive to avoid strikeouts where there is none now.


I will gladly support a reduction in glove size, the glove is designed to protect the hand, it shouldn't be more than that. Limit glove size to a typical second baseman glove size and maybe make a first baseman exception. I absolutely believe that is a better way to
1. Encourage more balls in play
2. Encourage better skilled defenders(which reduces the fat body defenders as a general rule for the more athletic which in turns brings back more speed type players and possibly in theory brings back more contact hitters)

I think rules like this that effect the equipment are more sensible approaches to the perceived problems than more radical solutions. (The lower seamed baseball probably isn't a too outlandish solution either...although I think that will just up the power numbers as a ball with less movement is going to be easier to cream, and may not approach some of the other perceived problems such as not enough balls in play)




   70. Captain Supporter Posted: July 23, 2014 at 06:52 PM (#4756561)
A couple of simple rules about defensive positioning won't address every contributing factor, but it will give the offense- and especially left-handed hitters a fair shot.


Baseball players can learn to hit to the opposite field. Left handers can also lay a bunt down the third base line. Managers seem reluctant to ask their high paid .240 hitters to do that (yes, I mean you, Joe Girardi and you, Mark Teixeira). Its a skill that atrophied a bit when players became home run happy, but they can learn again.
   71. Lassus Posted: July 23, 2014 at 07:11 PM (#4756568)
Golf took off in the 90s, as the game trickled down to the non-elites, Bobs and Bubbas started hitting the courses, and course construction took off.

I don't doubt any of this, but growing up in a non-elite rural suburb of a small decaying industrial city, it was mostly the Bobs and Bubbas I saw even in the 70s and 80s, all public courses. Leaving home for cities in the 90s is when my playing time plummeted due to the expense.
   72. cardsfanboy Posted: July 23, 2014 at 07:15 PM (#4756570)

Baseball players can learn to hit to the opposite field. Left handers can also lay a bunt down the third base line. Managers seem reluctant to ask their high paid .240 hitters to do that (yes, I mean you, Joe Girardi and you, Mark Teixeira). Its a skill that atrophied a bit when players became home run happy, but they can learn again.


Funny thing, Mike Matheny said he hoped that some of the Cardinal players would bunt against the shift...seems he forgot he can actually order them to bunt. I understand that bunting against the shift might be a "feel" thing for the batter, so it might make sense for the manager to not actually order them, but it was a funny comment coming from the manager.
   73. toratoratora Posted: July 23, 2014 at 08:32 PM (#4756620)
Wilbon had a great line today about the proposed rules changes, "What is this? Affirmative Action for left handed pull hitters?"
   74. Bunny Vincennes Posted: July 23, 2014 at 10:19 PM (#4756668)
What I don't understand is these articles and the handwringing is by the same people who were ######## about too many homeruns just a few years ago and pining for 1970's baseball. Shut the #### up and watch baseball and enjoy it for the changing game that it always has been. Seriously, what is your problem? What is your moment of perfection? Its ####### baseball. Enjoy it, being at the ballpark is better than being at the office.
   75. Sunday silence Posted: July 23, 2014 at 11:45 PM (#4756716)
how much could outlawing the shift possibly jump start the offense? Last year 1 in 25 AB was against a shift. This year it's more like 12 AB; so at best maybe the league ba. goes up 4 pts if you outlaw shifts. It's not a big contributor. These guys havent done the math.

Robot umps to raise the bottom of the strike zone would help a lot though.
   76. bjhanke Posted: July 24, 2014 at 02:29 AM (#4756745)
GREGK and BDC - Thank you VERY much for the cricket info. There is a local cricket league in STL, but it always plays in the middle of the day, when I sleep. I'd heard something about a "six run" rule, but got it wrong. I became aware that I must have it wrong when I read a 1950s British comic book, and one of the characters says to the hero, "Hit 'em for six!" That implied that there must be one kind of hit that was worth 6 runs, rather than a limit on the batter's whole inning. I've been confused about that ever since. I did know that cricket matches could go over a day in length and that there were batsmen who could score over 100 runs in a game, but I thought that maybe that had gone out of fashion in recent years, where there are fewer spectators who can devote two days to a single game, so they had to cut down on the scoring. And they put a restriction on the defense that enables the fair-foul bunt in order to get rid of hit batsmen? Good idea, but does not decrease offense, at least for Ross Barnes.

Funny cricket story. I played for several years in Washington U.'s intramural softball league, as a grad student. We never had a real softball pitcher; the guy who pitched for us actually had hands so large he threw a knuckleball with a softball. I could catch a knuckleball, which is how I ended up playing every game. Anyway, the year after John graduated and left town, we had no pitcher. But one of the guys found, in the Medical School, a man who had been the test team pitcher for India. "Test team" means the national team, I believe, so this guy could REALLY throw a cricket ball. What we did not know was that he'd always thrown overhand, and had always had to hit the ground before the ball reached the wicket. He had no idea how to throw underhand, and no idea what a strike zone might be. By the end of the season he did know how to pitch softball, but we lost every game in the process of him learning that. Then everybody graduated, and there was no team any more.

Davo's point about shifting for righties and the SS being unable to throw them out at 1B because he's playing too deep is VERY important, and I've never heard it before. Great comment!

Just judging from what I get through sports media outlets, golf had a big downturn when Tiger Woods was 1) caught cheating on his wife and was divorced while 2) having his game fall apart, possible due to obvious personal reasons. The sport had built its marketing efforts largely around Tiger, so they didn't really have a good marketing backup. There is a lesson in there for sports - don't put all your marketing eggs in one player's basket. If LeBron James gets caught cheating and his game falls apart, basketball will have to scramble. Baseball at least seems to have learned that lesson, at least on a national stage (STL is obsessed with Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright).

Baseball's main problem right now is trying to decrease the number of strikeouts without increasing the number of home runs. Lowering the strike zone is a very good method of approaching those problems with one effort, but people now complain about lack of scoring, and the strikeouts keep going up. I have no idea what to do, short of moving the pitching rubber back to 70 feet or turning fly balls hit into the lower deck into triples or something.

But many thanks to GREGK and BDC. I now know at least twice as much as I used to know about cricket. - Brock Hanke
   77. Dan The Mediocre Posted: July 24, 2014 at 06:54 AM (#4756756)
I'm not in favor of a rule banning defensive shifts, but I don't understand the "everything will work itself out" mentality either. Baseball is in a bad place right now IMO -- waaayyyy too many strikeouts, not enough offense -- and some changes might really help. Lowering the mound seems like the most obvious approach, but they could also tinker with the ball (lower the seams maybe?).


As a point of reference, the current R/G is basically what you would have found in the 80's.
   78. Jeltzandini Posted: July 24, 2014 at 07:45 AM (#4756759)
The sport had built its marketing efforts largely around Tiger, so they didn't really have a good marketing backup.


I think that rather than causing Tiger's popularity, the marketers mostly just reacted to it. The ratings disparity for Tiger/non-Tiger tournaments was present practically from the moment he turned pro. He was a genuine phenomenon, and he really did singlehandedly cause a boom in the whole golf industry.

Which isn't to say that the industry's slump wouldn't have happened if Tiger's career hadn't cratered post-scandal. It was overbuilt, the economy collapsed, and phenomena don't stay phenomena forever.
   79. My name is Votto, and I love to get blotto Posted: July 24, 2014 at 08:45 AM (#4756773)
And all this time I thought ESPN had the most annoying sports website.

Hmmm, I don't have a problem with the other authors (e.g., Jaffe, Corcoran), just Verducci.


I think he meant SI's new website layout. It was re-designed last month and is now a beehive of "in your face" graphics.
   80. BDC Posted: July 24, 2014 at 09:01 AM (#4756781)
De rien, Brock :)

I don't even think all the strikeouts are a big problem. Except insofar as they're recorded by a string of semi-anonymous relievers. The Rangers, like a lot of teams I imagine, have one of these corny scoreboard animations where a stallion kicks a fence or some ####### thing for every strikeout and another horseshoe appears. At least I think that's what it is. Anyway, you get to 10 or 12 horseshoes, which seems impressive, but it's taken four pitchers to get there. Alternatively, Darvish will get his 10 or 12, reach his pitch limit in the seventh, and leave the game. Anticlimactic.
   81. Morton's Fork Posted: July 24, 2014 at 12:29 PM (#4756920)
The rule change that would solve this problem seems obvious: switch the locations of first and third base so that a batter runs around the bases counter-clockwise. And to incorporate another great idea: only make this rule change in the National League. Hilarious World Series bloopers!
   82. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: July 24, 2014 at 02:29 PM (#4757032)
I think he meant SI's new website layout. It was re-designed last month and is now a beehive of "in your face" graphics.

And whitespace. Lots and lots of glorious whitespace for phone/tablet users. I haven't gone back to si since the redesign, I am basically done with them.
   83. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: July 24, 2014 at 02:34 PM (#4757033)
Yeah, I don't see anything on the SI page anymore except generic news stories that could be at Yahoo or NBC or any other website.
   84. Benji Gil Gamesh Rises Posted: July 24, 2014 at 02:56 PM (#4757058)
Back to the article, plenty above have picked apart the stats used, but what I object to most is this:

1) Verducci begins by essentially noting that shifts have become much more common. Fine.

2) He then "asked a veteran major league hitting coach what can be done to inject more offense back in the game. His first response was to address the new defensive positioning." So one hitting coach said that, and he apparently had other ideas for more offense.

3) We then jump directly to: "Support of an “illegal defense” rule – or at least the consideration of it – is gaining some traction in baseball."

Unless that opinion was expressed by others and was simply left out of the article (I would say doubtful, but even if so that's a major writing/editing fail), that "traction" statement is simply not true.
   85. BDC Posted: July 24, 2014 at 03:09 PM (#4757071)
For some reason when I think of "illegal defense" in baseball I get this image of Dennis Rodman standing somewhere between the pitcher and catcher guarding nobody in particular.
   86. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: July 24, 2014 at 03:51 PM (#4757126)
"Support of an “illegal defense” rule – or at least the consideration of it – is gaining some traction in baseball."

Well, one hitting coach semi-supports it. That means the idea is gaining traction!
   87. Greg K Posted: July 24, 2014 at 04:11 PM (#4757140)
I did know that cricket matches could go over a day in length and that there were batsmen who could score over 100 runs in a game, but I thought that maybe that had gone out of fashion in recent years, where there are fewer spectators who can devote two days to a single game, so they had to cut down on the scoring. And they put a restriction on the defense that enables the fair-foul bunt in order to get rid of hit batsmen? Good idea, but does not decrease offense, at least for Ross Barnes.

[caveat: I actually don't know that much about cricket, and I know some here do, so anyone feel free to correct me on any of this]
At the moment I think there are three main forms of cricket.

1) Test Match - this is the traditional form, and (among the English cricket fans I know) still by far the most important. The Ashes (which is the test match between England and Australia) is the most important date on the cricketing schedule for them. The match lasts five days (or less if the game ends). Essentially there are two innings (each team bats twice). Each man bats until he is out, and ten out is the end of your innings. You have 11 players, but at any given time two batsmen are on the field (called a "partnership") so when you're down to one man you are done.

However, if you are winning by a lot and think you have enough where you can hold down your opponent in their last innings you can "declare" which means you're done batting and end your inning voluntarily. The reason you do this is that the test match has a set time limit (5 days) and if the time runs out while the game is still ongoing it is a draw. It doesn't matter if you're up 511-12, if on the last day the ump calls time and the other guys still have some batsmen live, no one wins. So the strategy is to score enough runs quickly so you have enough time to get the other guys out. In contrast, if you're losing and have no hope of catching up, you play for a draw...don't try to score runs, just play not to get out. Block off the wicket and don't even try to run anywhere.

How this works for fans is you can buy tickets for any given day of a test match. The ticket's good for all day so you can go in the morning, step out for some lunch and come back later. Also the players get breaks for "lunch" and "tea".

2) The new form is 20/20 (which is technically written as Twenty20 which I think looks stupid). It's meant to be a faster version of the game meant to be played in a time comparable to other sports (I don't know the average time, I went to one that took about three hours think?) It's called 20/20 because the span of the game is not time, but 20 "overs". An "over" is six bowls. So in baseball parlance each team gets 120 pitches to do as much damage as they can.

As a result it's a lot more wide open. In test cricket where you want to avoid outs at all costs and take runs when the opportunity is there, in 20/20 1) an out is much less of a blow, and 2) You can't wait, you need to score before your balls run out. It creates a game much more similar to baseball (though I'm sure cricket fans hate to hear that)

3) The third style is One-Day International. Which I don't know much about, but as far as I can tell is an older version of 20/20 that tried to condense the test match style into one day.
   88. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: July 24, 2014 at 05:16 PM (#4757183)
You can't wait, you need to score before your balls run out.

That's what she said.
   89. bjhanke Posted: July 25, 2014 at 03:59 AM (#4757401)
Greg - Thanks to you, too. I now know at least three times as much as I ever did about cricket. - Brock
   90. Sunday silence Posted: July 25, 2014 at 05:07 AM (#4757406)
...the test match has a set time limit (5 days) and if the time runs out while the game is still ongoing it is a draw. It doesn't matter if you're up 511-12, if on the last day the ump calls time and the other guys still have some batsmen live, no one wins..


and people still wonder how Britain lost its empire.

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