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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Bill James Mailbag - 2/6/13

And what better day for it than the Babe’s birthday, pt. 2…

At the time Babe Ruth allegedly corked his bat, was that against the rules?

Yes.  And he didn’t “allegedly” cork his bat; he was caught using a bat glued together from three pieces of wood.  Sisler and Kenny Williams were caught with funny bats at about the same time.

Are NFL offensive linemen the only subgroup of players in the big 4 sports for which POSITIVE statistics aren’t kept? Or is there some statistic of measurement used for offensive linemen that i’m not aware of? I’m thinking that all other the other players in the NFL have some stats kept on them; same for all of MLB, NBA, and NHL players, right? Just curious.

It’s a good question.  Do they keep stats in hockey?

Regarding the question about Malcolm Gladwell and authors you like, recently I have been reading Noam Chomsky, and I have to say his style reminds me a lot of your style. And for this reason I find it very enjoyable, even though I disagree with nearly every single thing the man says. But he explains his points in bracingly clear prose, like you do.

Thanks, Jules.  I always enjoy being compared to a raving lunatic.

I recently moved to the SF Bay Area and have been told several times by old Giant fans that Willie Mays would purposely stop at first base on a sure double in order to have McCovey bat with a runner on first. Could this be true? Mays taking himself out of scoring position?

You know, I’ve read that.  I doubt that it is true… I would suppose that what happened is that Mays, in some situation, turned down an effort to make a double because it was kind of a breakeven gamble, and then EXPLAINED what he had done by saying that he wanted to keep the hole for McCovey.  Looked at in that way, it actually reflects extremely sophisticated on-field decision making from Mays:  That, in calculating whether to push the gamble of trying for a double, he adjusted his calculations to include the fact that even if he succeeded, he would be closing the hole for McCovey.  Mays was an extremely sophisticated player in those ways, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he DID do that.

The District Attorney Posted: February 06, 2013 at 03:20 PM | 69 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: babe ruth, bill james, football, george sisler, giants, history, sabermetrics, willie mays, willie mccovey

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   1. Moeball Posted: February 06, 2013 at 05:28 PM (#4364379)
Are NFL offensive linemen the only subgroup of players in the big 4 sports for which POSITIVE statistics aren’t kept? Or is there some statistic of measurement used for offensive linemen that i’m not aware of? I’m thinking that all other the other players in the NFL have some stats kept on them; same for all of MLB, NBA, and NHL players, right? Just curious.


IIRC, I remember the Rams BITD talking about all the "pancakes" that Orlando Pace got, presumably when flattening a defensive lineman with a ferocious block. The Rams actually kept track of this stuff; I'm guessing other teams do this as well? If I were on the O-Line I would want all the help on my side I could get at contract negotiation time.

I recently moved to the SF Bay Area and have been told several times by old Giant fans that Willie Mays would purposely stop at first base on a sure double in order to have McCovey bat with a runner on first. Could this be true? Mays taking himself out of scoring position?


Actually, Mays was in scoring position when he was on first base. At least, that's what Orlando Cepeda joked about when he led the NL in RBIs in '61. Cepeda said he was amazed at the number of times he could hit a double with Mays on first and Willie would still score (something unusual back in the days of a lot of "station to station" baserunning). Seems to me I see that sort of play happen fairly frequently nowadays - is it because a lot of "doubles" nowadays have the batter cruising into second whereas batters in the past may have been getting triples on those drives (in which case a runner would be scoring from first anyways)? Or is it because runners today are a lot faster than previous generations and any long drive to the wall is just going to score a runner from first a lot of the time?
   2. SoSH U at work Posted: February 06, 2013 at 05:36 PM (#4364391)
The Pace Pancake stuff actually started when he was at Ohio State and they were trumpeting him for the Heisman.

I don't know if more guys score from first on doubles today than they did historically. Anyone know?
   3. AROM Posted: February 06, 2013 at 05:40 PM (#4364402)
In 1961, Mays scored from 1st on a double 6 out of 10 times. Looking from 1960-1962, he was 16 for 25.

Last year, Mike Trout was 7 for 11. Similar enough by percentage. Let me see if I can find league averages.
   4. Nasty Nate Posted: February 06, 2013 at 05:42 PM (#4364412)
If it was actually better for the Giants to have Mays on first and the hole for McCovey, did opposing teams simply not hold Mays on and position their fielders as they would if he were on 2nd?
   5. puck Posted: February 06, 2013 at 05:43 PM (#4364416)
I don't know if more guys score from first on doubles today than they did historically. Anyone know?

No idea, but I might guess they score from 1st less often nowadays, a little like how there are fewer triples with fewer cavernous parks. Plus in the sillyball era it was a riskier gamble.
   6. AROM Posted: February 06, 2013 at 05:44 PM (#4364418)
AL, 2012 scored from 1st on double 38.6%

For NL 1961 it was 41.2%.

That does not mean players are slower. Could be outfield defense has improved more than running speed has. Could also be an issue with ballpark configurations. Or just random fluctuation.

Edit: Or risk tolerance by 3B coaches/managers.
   7. SoSH U at work Posted: February 06, 2013 at 05:45 PM (#4364424)
Thanks AROM.
   8. SoSH U at work Posted: February 06, 2013 at 05:47 PM (#4364426)
If it was actually better for the Giants to have Mays on first and the hole for McCovey, did opposing teams simply not hold Mays on and position their fielders as they would if he were on 2nd?


Which would mandate he take second base. No stolen base, of course.

I doubt the opposing team would have done that.

   9. smileyy Posted: February 06, 2013 at 05:52 PM (#4364434)
If it was actually better for the Giants to have Mays on first and the hole for McCovey


This should be derivable from game logs, right?
   10. Rennie's Tenet Posted: February 06, 2013 at 05:56 PM (#4364439)
Offensive linemen occasionally recover fumbles and make tackles. There are probably other things that get counted.
   11. Nasty Nate Posted: February 06, 2013 at 06:12 PM (#4364466)
Which would mandate he take second base.


Which the opposing team would want, hypothetically.
   12. Nasty Nate Posted: February 06, 2013 at 06:14 PM (#4364469)
Tight ends are technically offensive linemen....
   13. McCoy Posted: February 06, 2013 at 06:19 PM (#4364478)
I took a look at a couple of years of game logs for Mays and McCovey and what I found was that there are very view events that could have resulted by Willie purposefully stopping at first instead of going for a double. I'll have to take a look and see if I can find my summary again.
   14. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: February 06, 2013 at 06:23 PM (#4364485)
I recently moved to the SF Bay Area and have been told several times by old Giant fans that Willie Mays would purposely stop at first base on a sure double in order to have McCovey bat with a runner on first.


If Willie Mays does it, its smart baseball. If Rickey Henderson does it, he's lazy.
   15. McCoy Posted: February 06, 2013 at 06:24 PM (#4364488)
Here is the post:

Did some playing around with PBP files and this is what I found for 1965.

In 1965 there were 15 situations in which Willie Mays hit a single with McCovey on deck and less than 2 outs. In those 15 situations Willie ended up stealing second base while McCovey was batting 4 times. McCovey hit into a double play twice, forced out Mays another time, and was walked twice despite having Willie on base. In the 4 times that McCovey made an out without removing Mays Willie did not steal a base though there was one situation in which he got picked off first base but in the ensuing run down an error was committed and Mays ended up on third.

If Willie was holding up at first to let McCovey bat then why did he steal a base over 25% of the time when McCovey was up? Why did he never attempt to steal a base when McCovey failed to get on base?
   16. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 06, 2013 at 06:58 PM (#4364507)
Tight ends are technically offensive linemen...

How is that? TEs are eligible receivers and can line up anywhere
   17. zachtoma Posted: February 06, 2013 at 07:01 PM (#4364510)
noam chomsky is not a crank. the fact that he is so easily dismissed as one perfectly illustrates the problem.
   18. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: February 06, 2013 at 07:35 PM (#4364529)
I think the term "interior lineman" is used in the Mailbag....
   19. Moeball Posted: February 06, 2013 at 07:38 PM (#4364532)
In 1961, Mays scored from 1st on a double 6 out of 10 times. Looking from 1960-1962, he was 16 for 25.


For NL 1961 it was 41.2%.


So basically Willie was able to do 60% of the time what an average runner could do only 40% of the time? It's one thing to hear from old legends just how fast he was, but to see it in measurable numbers is pretty cool.

I've watched a lot of big, slow sluggers over the years - in the last 15 years or so I saw a lot of guys like McGwire, Thome, etc. When they hit a drive into the gap that went to the wall, they were usually lucky to chug into 2nd base with a double on the play whereas faster runners may have gotten a triple. Frequently, I saw runners score from first which made me wonder what was going on.
   20. Ray (RDP) Posted: February 06, 2013 at 07:39 PM (#4364535)
noam chomsky is not a crank.


I don't think crank is a _strong_ enough word. James characterizes him accurately above.
   21. Juan Uribe Marching and Chowder Society Posted: February 06, 2013 at 09:15 PM (#4364583)
I am positive we will be able to come to a group consensus as to just what kind of human being Noam Chomsky is.
   22. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: February 06, 2013 at 09:49 PM (#4364603)
I wonder where Noam Chomsky stands on Joe Paterno's child-molestation enabling, Bill. At this point, your calling anyone a raving lunatic is like David Samson dismissing another person as short.
   23. Walt Davis Posted: February 06, 2013 at 09:56 PM (#4364606)
James characterizes him accurately above.

No he doesn't. The writer to James describes him perfectly accurately. You may disagree completely with Chomsky but he's not "raving" in any sense of the word, he lays his arguments out clearly, calmly and logically.

I mean I consider 95% of libertarianism to be sheer idiocy but y'all aren't out on the street corners raving about the evils of eminent domain either.
   24. tfbg9 Posted: February 06, 2013 at 10:09 PM (#4364618)
Garden Gnome Chomsky has been/is an academic fraud, and a Pangaea-sized hypocrite. He also constantly interrupts the other guy in debates whenever possible, which really bugs the crap out of me. Really hate that move.

   25. FrankM Posted: February 06, 2013 at 10:26 PM (#4364631)
That does not mean players are slower. Could be outfield defense has improved more than running speed has. Could also be an issue with ballpark configurations. Or just random fluctuation.

Edit: Or risk tolerance by 3B coaches/managers.


All such advance percentages (like first to third on singles) are a bit lower thse days than in the Mays era.

Besides the factors AROM suggests above, I suspect more runners were in motion back then.
   26. Moeball Posted: February 06, 2013 at 10:27 PM (#4364632)
He also constantly interrupts the other guy in debates whenever possible, which really bugs the crap out of me. Really hate that move.


That move should have an official name, like the "Wally George" (there's a throwback for you!) or something like that. Feel free to nominate other possibilities.
   27. McCoy Posted: February 06, 2013 at 10:35 PM (#4364636)
So basically Willie was able to do 60% of the time what an average runner could do only 40% of the time? It's one thing to hear from old legends just how fast he was, but to see it in measurable numbers is pretty cool.

Regression.
   28. Bob Meta-Meusel Posted: February 06, 2013 at 11:50 PM (#4364675)
I wonder where Noam Chomsky stands on Joe Paterno's child-molestation enabling...


Simple, really. It's all the fault of the US Government, and never in a million years would have happened under benevolent rulers like Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot.
   29. Morty Causa Posted: February 07, 2013 at 12:44 AM (#4364704)
Noam Chomsky, the Abe Simpsons of political discourse:

Old Man Yells At Cloud
   30. Morty Causa Posted: February 07, 2013 at 12:47 AM (#4364705)
Wonder if anyone has ever asked Bill James if he's read Steven Pinker's book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and what he thinks of it?
   31. bunyon Posted: February 07, 2013 at 01:06 AM (#4364715)

I am positive we will be able to come to a group consensus as to just what kind of human being Noam Chomsky is.


His name appears next to crank on the list of drugs at Bosch's clinic.
   32. bjhanke Posted: February 07, 2013 at 01:21 AM (#4364721)
Tight ends, like split ends, are part of the offensive line. They cannot line up anywhere they please. They must line up at the line of scrimmage, just like other linemen. The two guys who line up on the line of scrimmage, and are closer to the sidelines (one on each side) than anyone else who lines up on the line are considered "ends", and are eligible to receive passes. "Tight end" is actually an old term from the days when one of the ends would always line up right next to the offensive tackle, and usually served as a blocker. This year's Vanderbilt team, which ran a huge number of what we now call "wildcat" plays, were actually using an old formation called the "single wing", with a tight end next to the tackle, and a big running back lined up right next to him, but a couple of feet deeper, because he was a running back. The "quarterback", who was Vandy's best running back, would follow this single wing and hope it got enough push for him to get yards.

The terms "strong side" of the line and "strong safety" to defend that are also holdover terms from those times, referring to the side where the end lined up right next to the tackle. In the NFL, I believe that Jackie Smith, who was the first, and Dave Casper, who was the most famous, were the first "tight ends" who regularly lined up away from the tackles and could run deep routes. That's why they're in the Hall of Fame. Running backs, which include flankers and slot receivers, must line up behind the line of scrimmage, because they are, technically, running backs. Every once in a while, actually pretty often, you'll see an offside call because the offensive team had too few or too many men on the line of scrimmage. That's because an end set up too far back, or a back set up on the line. If I remember right and they haven't changed the rule, you used to have to have a jersey number above 80 or below 40 to be eligible to receive a pass. If you were going to set up with an offensive tackle as your "end", you had to tell the officials. That's called the "tackle eligible" play, and allows you to circumvent the requirement for jersey numbers (if that rule still exists).

In VERY old football, before people threw any serious number of passes, the defensive line rules used to require seven men on the line of scrimmage. According to my father, who played high school ball in the 1920s, the standard practice against a team that did pass a lot for the times was for the defensive center - what we'd now call the nose guard - to back up and go into pass coverage as soon as the ball was snapped, essentially playing like a modern middle linebacker. But he had to start out from a position on the line of scrimmage. That rule was gone by the time I started following football in the mid-1950s. - Brock Hanke
   33. SandyRiver Posted: February 07, 2013 at 09:42 AM (#4364777)
Nitpicks: The call would be illegal formation rather than offsides, which is called for being on the other team's side of scrimmage. I think the rule is that there must be at least seven players on (meaning, within one yard of) the line of scrimmage. I don't think there's a rule against having more than seven, but I'm not sure of that.
   34. BDC Posted: February 07, 2013 at 09:56 AM (#4364782)
I don't think there's a rule against having more than seven, but I'm not sure of that

Wasn't that exactly what was called against the 49ers in the first series of the Super Bowl? They lined up with five interior linemen plus two tight ends, but inadvertently one of the wide receivers was on the line rather than a step back. Illegal formation, because there were eight men on the line.

The jersey-number principle still exists. When the Saints played in Arlington a few weeks ago, the stadium PA continually announced before a Saints snap that "69 is now eligible." (Talk about "that's what she said.") 69, whoever he was, was wearing a tackle's number but lining up at tight end. He never seemed to run a route or catch a pass, but they dutifully told us every time he hauled himself onto the field.
   35. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 07, 2013 at 10:24 AM (#4364805)
I think that definition of tight end is anachronistic and is incorrectly derived from formation rules rather than actual use. Look at the Patriots. Hernandez starts in the backfield and moves to the slot. The RB (they were doing it with Ridley, IIRC against Houston) moves from the backfield. Or somebody would move from the line to the backfield. In games you constantly see a WR move up or back from the line of scrimmage based on motion. If there are two people on the right side lining up for passes, thee inside one does not have to be the one to cover the tackle. Who is covering the lineman does not determine what they are referred to.
   36. JJ1986 Posted: February 07, 2013 at 10:33 AM (#4364810)
The jersey-number principle still exists. When the Saints played in Arlington a few weeks ago, the stadium PA continually announced before a Saints snap that "69 is now eligible." (Talk about "that's what she said.") 69, whoever he was, was wearing a tackle's number but lining up at tight end. He never seemed to run a route or catch a pass, but they dutifully told us every time he hauled himself onto the field.


At live games they do this on many more plays than you'd think watching on tv. The broadcasts choose to ignore it most of the time for some reason.
   37. Zach Posted: February 07, 2013 at 10:53 AM (#4364822)
Yes. And he didn’t “allegedly” cork his bat; he was caught using a bat glued together from three pieces of wood. Sisler and Kenny Williams were caught with funny bats at about the same time.

Wait, that's the bat James is always going off on when calling Ruth a corker? Shouldn't there be some actual cork involved before you level that accusation? The bat at the link uses multiple pieces of hard wood glued together so that the grain lines up differently. If I recall correctly, George Brett has a bat company that does something similar.

As I understand the story, the rule as written had some ambiguity. Ruth used a nonstandard bat that obeyed the written rules, but wasn't precisely what the rules makers had envisioned. They updated the rule, and he stopped using the bat. Big whoop.
   38. Nasty Nate Posted: February 07, 2013 at 11:04 AM (#4364830)
I think that definition of tight end is anachronistic and is incorrectly derived from formation rules rather than actual use. Look at the Patriots. Hernandez starts in the backfield and moves to the slot. The RB (they were doing it with Ridley, IIRC against Houston) moves from the backfield. Or somebody would move from the line to the backfield. In games you constantly see a WR move up or back from the line of scrimmage based on motion. If there are two people on the right side lining up for passes, thee inside one does not have to be the one to cover the tackle. Who is covering the lineman does not determine what they are referred to.


When Hernandez is in the backfield or split outside when the ball is snapped, I would consider him a RB or WR on that play.

Whoever is covering the lineman is the "end." If he is next to the tackle, he is called the tight end, if he is spread he used to be called the "split end" but everyone just calls him a wide receiver now. Also, the wing back in the single wing offense described in #32 is usually considered a tight end now, so that a team can have 2 tight ends on one side even though one of them technically isn't on the "end" of the line (because he lines up a step back and so is actually a "back").
   39. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 07, 2013 at 11:26 AM (#4364853)
I don't get your point. Fans and analysts give players' positions based on what they do, not where they line up. A big guy who goes over the middle and occasionally blocks is a TE and a fast guy who lines up outside and goes deep is a WR. Brandon Lloyd does not become a TE because he is the one covering the tackle on a certain play.

And this goes back to the original point. Why is a TE considered an offensive lineman if anyone can be the player to cover up a tackle? Even if the TE is next to the tackle, why is he part of the OL? Everything that has been described is formation rules and says nothing about "the TE is an offensive lineman."
   40. Nasty Nate Posted: February 07, 2013 at 11:30 AM (#4364858)

And this goes back to the original point. Why is a TE considered an offensive lineman if anyone can be the player to cover up a tackle? Even if the TE is next to the tackle, why is he part of the OL? Everything that has been described is formation rules and says nothing about "the TE is an offensive lineman."


He can be considered a lineman because he is a big guy who lines up amongst that group of people who are called linemen and he blocks often.

Fans and analysts give players' positions based on what they do, not where they line up. .... Brandon Lloyd does not become a TE because he is the one covering the tackle on a certain play.


Yes and no. If Brandon Lloyd started to line up next to the tackle on every play instead of out wide (i.e. "wide" receiver), people would start to call him a tight end.
   41. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: February 07, 2013 at 11:33 AM (#4364862)
I don't think there's a rule against having more than seven, but I'm not sure of that

Wasn't that exactly what was called against the 49ers in the first series of the Super Bowl? They lined up with five interior linemen plus two tight ends, but inadvertently one of the wide receivers was on the line rather than a step back. Illegal formation, because there were eight men on the line.

from the
NFL rulebook: "Offensive team must have at least seven players on line."
   42. Crispix reaches boiling point with lackluster play Posted: February 07, 2013 at 11:35 AM (#4364864)
Offensive linemen occasionally recover fumbles and make tackles. There are probably other things that get counted.

Pitchers occasionally steal bases and catch line drives, too.
   43. JJ1986 Posted: February 07, 2013 at 11:39 AM (#4364868)
Yes and no. If Brandon Lloyd started to line up next to the tackle on every play instead of out wide (i.e. "wide" receiver), people would start to call him a tight end.


How often does Hernandez line up on the line? Even when he's tight it seems like he's the H-Back and Gronkowski (or someone else) is actually on the line.
   44. Nasty Nate Posted: February 07, 2013 at 11:42 AM (#4364873)
How often does Hernandez line up on the line? Even when he's tight it seems like he's the H-Back and Gronkowski (or someone else) is actually on the line.


Well as I said above, they are considered tight ends nowadays even if they are not the end, as long as they are tight to the tackle or other tight end.

This year Gronk and Hernandez weren't on the field at the same time all that often because of injuries.
   45. just plain joe Posted: February 07, 2013 at 11:45 AM (#4364874)
from the
NFL rulebook: "Offensive team must have at least seven players on line."


I'm sure that is the rule for other levels as well. There is a high school here that routinely uses eight men on the line of scrimmage, the apparent goal is to overload and then overwhelm the defense. Their name for this is "Smash Mouth Football".
   46. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 07, 2013 at 12:01 PM (#4364887)


He can be considered a lineman because he is a big guy who lines up amongst that group of people who are called linemen and he blocks often.


But he doesn't have to line up and and the original claim was that "technically" a TE is a lineman. Then you made an argument based on rules of formations that was slightly off (TEs or ends do not have to be on the LOS and cover the tackle). Now it is based on what they may do. What is it that makes them "technically" OL's? Because I am seeing nothing that makes them be considered linemen.
   47. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: February 07, 2013 at 12:09 PM (#4364895)
I don't think there's a rule against having more than seven, but I'm not sure of that

Wasn't that exactly what was called against the 49ers in the first series of the Super Bowl? They lined up with five interior linemen plus two tight ends, but inadvertently one of the wide receivers was on the line rather than a step back. Illegal formation, because there were eight men on the line.


Yes and no. The penalty was to do with this rule, and was illegal formation, but wasn't exactly as you describe. You have to have 7 men on the line AND certain players have to be 'covered' by other players further outside lining up on the LOS.
   48. JJ1986 Posted: February 07, 2013 at 12:11 PM (#4364898)
Yes and no. The penalty was to do with this rule, and was illegal formation, but wasn't exactly as you describe. You have to have 7 men on the line AND certain players have to be 'covered' by other players further outside lining up on the LOS.


So is it that if the slot receiver (or tight end or h-back) is on the line and covered by the split end, then he's an ineligible receiver?
   49. SOLockwood Posted: February 07, 2013 at 12:11 PM (#4364899)
Mays said in his 1966 autobiography that when Cepeda followed him in the lineup he would consciously be more aggressive about stealing bases because that would lead to Cepeda getting more fastballs. Whereas when McCovey followed him he would tone down the stealing in order to keep the hole open.
   50. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 07, 2013 at 12:47 PM (#4364926)

So is it that if the slot receiver (or tight end or h-back) is on the line and covered by the split end, then he's an ineligible receiver?


Yes. If there are more than 7 players on the LOS, a player other than the tackles will be covered up and ineligible. That's why you see outside receivers step back after a player motions to the line of scrimmage.
   51. Nasty Nate Posted: February 07, 2013 at 01:25 PM (#4364952)
7 or more people have to be on the line - so they are linemen, that is where the word came from. That was my thinking.

But the original claim was that "technically" a TE is a lineman.


I used the word "technically" because I knew the intent of the original question was about tackles, guards, and centers. Maybe I should have said "TE's are linemen in several ways, and they accrue positive statistics."
   52. smileyy Posted: February 07, 2013 at 01:26 PM (#4364954)
Do the formation rules as they apply to eligible receivers actually do anything with respect to how the game is played? I guess they cover the cases of plays run with more or less than the traditional 5 "offensive linemen"?
   53. Nasty Nate Posted: February 07, 2013 at 01:30 PM (#4364958)
Do the formation rules as they apply to eligible receivers actually do anything with respect to how the game is played?


Without the rules, there would be occasional plays designed as passes to the center or guard.
   54. Srul Itza Posted: February 07, 2013 at 02:15 PM (#4365007)
I am shocked and disappointed that a burgeoning crapfest over Noam Chomsky has degenerated into a technical discussion of line formations in football.

Oh Primer, Where Art Thou?
   55. Petunia inquires about ponies Posted: February 07, 2013 at 02:21 PM (#4365016)
Do the formation rules as they apply to eligible receivers actually do anything with respect to how the game is played?

Without the rules, there would be occasional plays designed as passes to the center or guard.


Right. In most cases where you hear about this being a factor, it makes little or no functional difference - for example in the Niners' first play in the Superbowl they derived no specific advantage from breaking the rules, but the rules provide a sort of structural foundation for the way offenses function such that without them things would look very different.
   56. Gary Truth Serum Posted: February 07, 2013 at 02:22 PM (#4365020)

So is it that if the slot receiver (or tight end or h-back) is on the line and covered by the split end, then he's an ineligible receiver?

Yes. If there are more than 7 players on the LOS, a player other than the tackles will be covered up and ineligible. That's why you see outside receivers step back after a player motions to the line of scrimmage.

It's not just that the receiver is ineligible, although he would be in this case. If the receiver wears a number that would ordinarily make him eligible (anything outside of 50 to 79) covering him up results in an illegal formation even if no pass is thrown. The 49ers in the Super Bowl were not penalized for an ineligible receiver downfield, they were penalized for covering up the tight end on the line of scrimmage.
   57. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: February 07, 2013 at 02:30 PM (#4365034)
Without the rules, there would be occasional plays designed as passes to the center or guard.

There is a quirk in the rules where when in punt formation (which is determined by the depth of the snap) the eligible receivers need not be defined by their position on the line. At least, there is some high school coach who designed an entire offense based on confusion of eligible receivers where the QB would set up for a ten yard snap. IIRC, he was trying to sell (literally) his offensive scheme to other HS coaches around the country.
   58. BDC Posted: February 07, 2013 at 02:34 PM (#4365041)
there would be occasional plays designed as passes to the center

If it was good enough for Hawkeye and Spearchucker in M*A*S*H, it's good enough for me.

   59. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 07, 2013 at 02:43 PM (#4365057)

7 or more people have to be on the line - so they are linemen, that is where the word came from. That was my thinking.


But the players referred to as TE either as regards their role or position closest to the tackle, does not have to be on the line of scrimmage.


Without the rules, there would be occasional plays designed as passes to the center or guard.


Teams could also line up the center and guards and have everybody else crash the line. I believe this was the reason the rule was first put in place. Teams would have a bunch of people crashing into the line with a head of steam and players would be injured.

This article explains the history.
   60. smileyy Posted: February 07, 2013 at 03:07 PM (#4365096)
[53,55] I should have added clarification of:

Why can't the rules be "The guy who snaps the ball and the 4 guys on each side of him are ineligible receivers"?
   61. JJ1986 Posted: February 07, 2013 at 03:12 PM (#4365102)
Why can't the rules be "The guy who snaps the ball and the 4 guys on each side of him are ineligible receivers"?


I think you can play with an unbalanced line if you want. The center has to be one of the 5 middle guys, but not the middle guy.
   62. Nasty Nate Posted: February 07, 2013 at 03:13 PM (#4365103)

7 or more people have to be on the line - so they are linemen, that is where the word came from. That was my thinking.




But the players referred to as TE either as regards their role or position closest to the tackle, does not have to be on the line of scrimmage.


They are referred to as a TE, but I think in a literal sense they are considered a back (i.e. they can be in motion at time of snap etc.) and not an "end" when they don't line up on the line of scrimmage.
   63. Nasty Nate Posted: February 07, 2013 at 03:16 PM (#4365104)
I think you can play with an unbalanced line if you want. The center has to be one of the 5 middle guys, but not the middle guy.


Does he even have to be in the middle 5? Couldn't he be on the end and be an eligible receiver?
   64. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 07, 2013 at 05:09 PM (#4365239)


They are referred to as a TE, but I think in a literal sense they are considered a back (i.e. they can be in motion at time of snap etc.) and not an "end" when they don't line up on the line of scrimmage.


Again, you are creating some semantic claim ("The seven players on the LOS are all linemen")and elevating it over how we understand the game as it is played. We don't change how we view of Aaron Hernandez based on where he lines up and he has no obligation to be on the line because we consider him a "TE." Can you imagine a play by play call of "Tight End Hernadez goes in motion, becomes a back. Lloyd steps to the line of scrimmage and is now a lineman." Nobody sees the letters "OL" besides a player's name and thinks anything other than "one of those five big guys who are ineligible receivers."
   65. Nasty Nate Posted: February 07, 2013 at 05:32 PM (#4365255)

Again, you are creating some semantic claim ("The seven players on the LOS are all linemen")


Yes! my initial post was mostly just semantic snark.

We don't change how we view of Aaron Hernandez based on where he lines up and he has no obligation to be on the line because we consider him a "TE."


Yes we do. That is why he is sometimes referred to as a hybrid TE/WR. If he started exclusively lining up in the slot and/or split out wide, people would stop considering him a tight end. If he was used more out of where the running backs normally start, he would be considered a running back. He is considered a TE now because the most often place he lines up is right next to a tackle (or the other tight end). You are right, it does not matter whether he is one of the 7 on the line or a back a few steps when calling him a tight end (except in a literal/historic sense).

Can you imagine a play by play call of "Tight End Hernadez goes in motion, becomes a back. Lloyd steps to the line of scrimmage and is now a lineman."


That happens all the time when people describe plays:
"Mike Vrable, in at tight end, caught the touchdown in the flat..."
"Refrigerator Perry was used as a running back in the Super Bowl..."
"Tebow was lined up as a wide-reciever for the trick play, but Sanchez' pass flew 30 feet over his head..."

Nobody sees the letters "OL" besides a player's name and thinks anything other than "one of those five big guys who are ineligible receivers."


The tight ends presumably practice sometimes with the rest of the line, and are coached by offensive line coaches (as they also practice with the receivers). They are sometimes considered part of the line, thus the need for the phrase "interior lineman" to differentiate between the tight ends and the real porkers in between.
   66. Golfing Great Mitch Cumstein Posted: February 07, 2013 at 06:03 PM (#4365286)


Yes we do. That is why he is sometimes referred to as a hybrid TE/WR.


My point was more about how we view him play by play. Yes, you hear people say that you could him consider him part of the WR corp. Nobody, though, is changing what they think he is play to play. And even more so, nobody changes what they consider him DURING the play, so you examples of Perry and Vrabel miss the point.

They are sometimes considered part of the line, thus the need for the phrase "interior lineman" to differentiate between the tight ends and the real porkers in between.


No you don't. You need two letters: "OL." Find an example of "offensive lineman" referring to a player who predominantly lines up in an eligible position, which is what tight ends do.
   67. Nasty Nate Posted: February 07, 2013 at 06:16 PM (#4365308)
No you don't. You need two letters: "OL." Find an example of "offensive lineman" referring to a player who predominantly lines up in an eligible position, which is what tight ends do.


Are you disputing that the term "interior lineman" exists?

Here's from wiki for "lineman" that refers to the tight end as part of the offensive line:

The interior offensive line consistis of the center, who is responsible for snapping the ball into play, two guards who flank the center, and two offensive tackles who flank the guards; NFL rules require that a team have all five of these interior linemen on the field for every offensive play. In addition to the interior line, a full offensive line may also include a tight end outside one or both of the tackles.

   68. Nasty Nate Posted: February 07, 2013 at 06:26 PM (#4365321)
My point was more about how we view him play by play. Yes, you hear people say that you could him consider him part of the WR corp. Nobody, though, is changing what they think he is play to play. And even more so, nobody changes what they consider him DURING the play, so you examples of Perry and Vrabel miss the point.


Can you re-phrase the point then, because I don't know what you mean.
   69. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: February 07, 2013 at 07:24 PM (#4365358)
Does he even have to be in the middle 5? Couldn't he be on the end and be an eligible receiver?

*sigh*
Did we learn nothing from M*A*S*H?

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