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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Castrovince: Bucs live by defensive analysis

More to the point, the 2013 season, at large, proved the merits of moving guys around. No Major League team, according to Baseball Info Solutions, used defensive shifts more than the Pirates last season, and, ergo, the Buccos’ internal data suggests that they completed more plays “out of position” than anybody and were one of the most efficient defensive teams in the league.

This was the method by which the Pirates maximized the impact of their pitching staff and overcame an offense that, unlike any other postseason club, ranked in the lower-third in the Majors in runs per game.

“It’s a huge reason,” said Hurdle, “why we won the amount of games that we won without getting the kind of offensive support that teams that won the same number of games had.”

And the on-field shifts are an extension of an organizational shift that took place shortly after Huntington arrived in 2007. Huntington and Co. wanted to find both a statistical analyst and a computer architect to build a new system for player evaluation.

“We ended up finding them in the same guy,” Huntington said with a laugh.

That guy is Dan Fox, a former computer programmer and Baseball Prospectus writer who arrived in 2008 and, over time, has married the scientific and the strategic into a tangible whole.

When the word “rudimentary” was used to describe the Pirates’ analytics department before Fox came aboard, Fox laughed.

“If,” said Fox, “by ‘rudimentary,’ you mean ‘nobody,’ then yes.”

...Getting the Major League staff on board was a credit to Hurdle, who arrived in 2011 and was equally willing to embrace new ideas.

“It gave me an excellent opportunity to put into play what I share with the men all the time—to be open-minded, use your eyes, use your ears,” Hurdle said. “When we have the skill set of the people in the organization that we have, why not take your ego and kick it to the door? Listen to what they have to say, visually go over the information, the analytical work that’s been done, look for a statistical advantage and if it makes sense, put it into play and trust it.”

Thanks to FG.

Repoz Posted: February 22, 2014 at 10:15 AM | 48 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: pirates, sabermetrics

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   1. JE (Jason) Posted: February 22, 2014 at 10:37 AM (#4660681)
Had Barry Bonds heeded Andy Van Slyke's advice to move in a few steps against the light-hitting Francisco Cabrera, maybe his throw would have nabbed Sid Bream at the plate in that famous 1992 NL Championship Series sequence.

Why does this silliness keep getting regurgitated? Had Bonds moved in a few steps, he might not have gotten to the ball at all. Only if he had moved over toward the alley would he have had a better chance to throw out Bream. Of course, that's not what Van Slyke was yelling to Barry.
   2. cardsfanboy Posted: February 22, 2014 at 10:53 AM (#4660691)
In the other sports when a defensive scheme works, teams offensive schemes are modified against them and there is some type of tug o' war going on that eventually reaches an equilibrium. In baseball the offensive schemes will shift relative to the scoring environment(which is almost all about the umping and equipment) but how does an offense adjust to defensive positioning? Yes I guess they could work with their players going the other way etc...but if that was something that was really a possibility, you imagine they would have already been doing that.

In other sports if something works too well, the league sometimes just comes up with rules to combat that scheme. I guess if this works too well, we could have another round of crackdowns on the gloves or something.
   3. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: February 22, 2014 at 12:09 PM (#4660706)
Nah, they'll just penalize the pitchers for the fielders being too good and steer the game toward even higher levels of the Three True Outcomes than it already features.
   4. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: February 22, 2014 at 12:50 PM (#4660718)
Had Barry Bonds heeded Andy Van Slyke's advice to move in a few steps against the light-hitting Francisco Cabrera, maybe his throw would have nabbed Sid Bream at the plate in that famous 1992 NL Championship Series sequence.

Cabrera wasn't even a light hitter - he had decent pop, but was impatient (killing his OBA, but that doesn't mean you play in on him).
   5. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: February 22, 2014 at 01:10 PM (#4660722)
Just eyeballing it, I would think the Pirates led the NL (and therefore all of baseball) in lowest FIP. If not they were a very close second to the Dodgers.
   6. McCoy Posted: February 22, 2014 at 01:19 PM (#4660727)
Why does this silliness keep getting regurgitated? Had Bonds moved in a few steps, he might not have gotten to the ball at all. Only if he had moved over toward the alley would he have had a better chance to throw out Bream. Of course, that's not what Van Slyke was yelling to Barry.

the issue isn't even really a matter of playing in or not but that Bonds was shading towards the line and had to run over to get the ball in a way that carried his body and momentum away from the plate. Playing in wouldn't have changed that. If Bonds was sitting in your basic LF position he probably makes a throw that doesn't carry towards first base and can charge straight in on the ball easily making a good a throw and then it is all up to LaValliere to make the catch and apply the tag. If anything playing in but staying over would have made the play even less close.
   7. BDC Posted: February 22, 2014 at 02:45 PM (#4660756)
So steroids were to blame.
   8. Walt Davis Posted: February 22, 2014 at 06:10 PM (#4660821)
Did the Pirates also make fewer plays "in position"? Obviously putting players "out of position" will increase your "out of position" plays but, pretty much by definition, decrease your "in position" plays. The important thing is the net gain.

When I looked at Rfield numbers last year, while many were crediting improvement in the Pirates infield defense, the bulk of the improvement vs. 2012 was in the OF. And Martin who I see was +16 in Rfield. Last year Barajas was credited at -12 so that's a 3-win improvement right there.

All told, the Pirates improved in Rfield by 69 runs. Some key changes:

+28 Martin vs Barajas
+13 Walker
+12 McCutchen
+8 Alvarez
+14 various 1B/LF/RF (all Marte basically)
-5 Barmes/Mercer

So roughly +28 at C, +26 in OF and +16 in the IF. Martin is definitely above-average by Rfield but he'd project to about one win worse defensively for 2014.

I'd never wondered about it before but ... I can see how IF shifting would improve results at 2B but does it help 3B?

EDIT: WAR also credits the pitching staff with an improvement of about 4 - 4.5 wins.
   9. Walt Davis Posted: February 22, 2014 at 06:25 PM (#4660825)
Not that I think any would happen, but in terms of rule changes you could require that no more than 4 of the 7 fielders can be on any one side of 2B. So you could either shade your CF over to RF or your SS on the wrong side of 2B but not both. That would most likely just put the SS half an inch to the 3B side and then umps will probably let them cheat a bit and ...

(actually it occurs to me the umps might not let them stand directly in the batters vision like that.

You could make a similar rule just covering IFs but one of the neat things about the rulebook is that, as far as I know, the only positions identified are C,P, DH and the rule about 1B glove size. As long as they are in fair territory, the non-C/P can stand wherever they want. Therefore, legally defining "infielder" or "shortstop" gets kinda messy. I wonder what would happen if a manager turned in a lineup that just listed everybody as a "fielder"?
   10. BDC Posted: February 22, 2014 at 07:00 PM (#4660834)
In cricket, only one fielder can play on the "leg" (batsman's) side, behind the batsman – but this is indirectly to protect the batsman from harm, a legacy of the famous "leg theory" that the English inflicted on Bradman and Australia. I don't know if there's any corresponding health-and-safety reason to limit baseball fielders, and I agree that it's very cool that they're not limited except by pitcher's plate and catcher's box (and fair territory).
   11. Rennie's Tenet Posted: February 22, 2014 at 07:45 PM (#4660848)
Teams should have a play where all of the infielders charge the plate.
   12. bobm Posted: February 22, 2014 at 08:20 PM (#4660856)
You could make a similar rule just covering IFs but one of the neat things about the rulebook is that, as far as I know, the only positions identified are C,P, DH and the rule about 1B glove size. As long as they are in fair territory, the non-C/P can stand wherever they want. Therefore, legally defining "infielder" or "shortstop" gets kinda messy. I wonder what would happen if a manager turned in a lineup that just listed everybody as a "fielder"?

At the risk of being pedantic, all the positions but center fielder and left fielder are explicitly identified. Infielder and outfielder are defined. The existence of a right field and right fielder implies the existence of a left field and left fielder; the rules also imply a three man outfield (implying a center fielder) and a four man infield. See particularly 10.03 (a) comment below about moving fielders.

1.04 THE PLAYING FIELD. The field shall be laid out according to the instructions below, supplemented by Diagrams No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 on adjoining pages. The infield shall be a 90-foot square. The outfield shall be the area between two foul lines formed by extending two sides of the square, as in Diagram 1. [...]

1.17 Playing equipment including but not limited to the bases, pitcher’s plate, baseball, bats, uniforms, catcher’s mitts, first baseman’s gloves, infielders and outfielders gloves and protective helmets, as detailed in the provisions of this rule, shall not contain any undue commercialization of the product. [...]

2.00 [...]

A DOUBLE PLAY is a play by the defense in which two offensive players are put out as a result of continuous action, providing there is no error between putouts.
(a) A force double play is one in which both putouts are force plays.
(b) A reverse force double play is one in which the first out is a force play and the second out is made on a runner for whom the force is removed by reason of the first out. Examples of reverse force plays: runner on first, one out; batter grounds to first baseman, who steps on first base (one out) and throws to second baseman or shortstop for the second out (a tag play).

Another example: bases loaded, none out; batter grounds to third baseman, who steps on third base (one out); then throws to catcher for the second out (tag play). [...]

An INFIELDER is a fielder who occupies a position in the infield.

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule. [...]

An OUTFIELDER is a fielder who occupies a position in the outfield, which is the area of the playing field most distant from home base. [...]

[4.09 comment] APPROVED RULING: One out, Jones on third, Smith on first, and Brown flies out to right field. Two outs. Jones tags up and scores after the catch. Smith attempted to return to first but the right fielder’s throw beat him to the base. Three outs. But Jones scored before the throw to catch Smith reached first base, hence Jones’ run counts. It was not a force play. [...]


7.05(g) Comment: In certain circumstances it is impossible to award a runner two bases. Example: Runner on first. Batter hits fly to short right. Runner holds up between first and second and batter comes around first and pulls up behind him. Ball falls safely. Outfielder, in throwing to first, throws ball into stand.

[...] If an unusual play arises where a first throw by an infielder goes into stands or dugout but the batter did not become a runner (such as catcher throwing ball into stands in attempt to get runner from third trying to score on passed ball or wild pitch) award of two bases shall be from the position of the runners at the time of the throw. (For the purpose of Rule 7.05 (g) a catcher is considered an infielder.)

PLAY. Runner on first base, batter hits a ball to the shortstop, who throws to second base too late to get runner at second, and second baseman throws toward first base after batter has crossed first base. Ruling—Runner at second scores. (On this play, only if batter-runner is past first base when throw is made is he awarded third base [...]

Rule 7.06(a) Comment: When a play is being made on an obstructed runner, the umpire shall signal obstruction in the same manner that he calls “Time,” with both hands overhead. The ball is
immediately dead when this signal is given; however, should a thrown ball be in flight before the obstruction is called by the umpire, the runners are to be awarded such bases on wild throws as they
would have been awarded had not obstruction occurred. On a play where a runner was trapped between second and third and obstructed by the third baseman going into third base while the throw is
in flight from the shortstop, if such throw goes into the dugout the obstructed runner is to be awarded home base. Any other runners on base in this situation would also be awarded two bases from the base they last legally touched before obstruction was called. [...]

Rule 7.10(b) Comment: PLAY. (a) Batter hits ball out of park or ground rule double and misses first base (ball is dead)—he may return to first base to correct his mistake before he touches
second but if he touches second he may not return to first and if defensive team appeals he is declared out at first.

PLAY. (b) Batter hits ball to shortstop who throws wild into stand (ball is dead)—batter-runner misses first base but is awarded second base on the overthrow. Even though the umpire has
awarded the runner second base on the overthrow, the runner must touch first base before he proceeds to second base. [...]

10.03 OFFICIAL SCORE REPORT (ADDITIONAL RULES)
(a) In compiling the official score report, the official scorer shall list each player’s name and fielding position, or positions, in the order in which the player batted, or
would have batted if the game ended before the player came to bat.

Rule 10.03(a) Comment: When a player does not exchange positions with another fielder but is merely placed in a different spot for a particular batter (for example, if a second baseman goes to the outfield to form a four-man outfield, or if a third baseman moves to a position between the shortstop and second baseman), the official scorer should not list this as a new position. [...]

[10.06 comment] 1) Runner on first. Batter hits to right fielder, who throws to third base in an unsuccessful attempt to put out runner. Batter takes second base. The official scorer shall credit batter with one-base hit.

[10.12] (8) whose failure to stop, or try to stop, an accurately thrown ball permits a runner to advance, so long as there was occasion for the throw. If such throw was made to second base, the official scorer shall determine whether it was the duty of the second baseman or the shortstop to stop the ball and shall charge an error to the negligent fielder. [...]

[10.16a comment] (3) With two out, Abel reaches first on an error by the shortstop in misplaying a ground ball. Baker hits a home run. Charlie strikes out. Two runs have scored, but none is earned,
because Abel’s at-bat should have been the third out of the inning, as reconstructed without the error.


   13. Where have you gone Brady Anderson? Posted: February 22, 2014 at 08:36 PM (#4660862)
I expect there will some adjustment in roster construction and usage due to defensive shifting. The really good hitters (David Ortiz being one example) will be productive no matter what. Starting position players who are vulnerable to the shift and are not great hitters might become bench players, and a player who can hit to all fields might get more playing time instead.
   14. Jim Wisinski Posted: February 22, 2014 at 09:49 PM (#4660878)
I wonder what would happen if a manager turned in a lineup that just listed everybody as a "fielder"?


He would be forced to play the game with a team of ironically fat guys who are bad at defense.
   15. Buck Coats Posted: February 22, 2014 at 10:33 PM (#4660895)
If defensive shifting was having a major impact, wouldn't that affect batters' on-contact stats? And yet hasn't Walt Davis (I think it was him at least) recently shown that the recent decline on offense is entirely due to rising strikeouts, and then on-contact numbers haven't changed since the days of peak offense?
   16. G.W.O. Posted: February 23, 2014 at 06:38 AM (#4660940)
#10 I don't think the analogy holds up. The anti-leg-theory field restrictions exist to stop bowlers aiming at the batter's body. There's no baseball field placings that make a HBP a desirable outcome.
   17. bjhanke Posted: February 23, 2014 at 07:30 AM (#4660944)
Huh. And here I thought that the Pirates lived by Andrew McCutcheon and a bunch of young pitchers. I had no idea that the other 8 position players were all Gold Gloves due to computer-generated positioning. Still seems improbable to me. Did they all actually win Gold Gloves? If so, I must have missed the huge media coverage. - Brock Hanke
   18. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 23, 2014 at 10:22 AM (#4660966)
There's never huge media coverage of anything in Pittsburgh. The shifts (and the related focus on high-GB pitchers) have been getting extensive coverage in local media for quite some time, though, and it's pretty obvious when you watch the team in the field.
   19. bjhanke Posted: February 23, 2014 at 10:51 AM (#4660983)
Vlad - I don't doubt for a minute that the Pirates use a lot of shifts. They are in the same division as the Cardinals, and have provided a serious challenge recently, so I have heard a lot about them. However, I have no memory of anyone suggesting that this is the key to the team's success. What I hear is that they got a large group of good young pitchers all at once, and Andrew McCutcheon is so good that even a just-decent lineup around him will score enough runs for the pitchers they have. What I've heard bout the pitchers is that the Pirates have bought in to the concept of "pitch to contact", which means throw low stuff to get grounders. I mean, I spent most of the last decade listening to Tony La Russa and his pitching coaches. I know about pitching to contact. I just have never heard it coupled to the idea of shifting the defense before. And the way it was presented, it was like the pitchers and Andrew were just OK; it was the fielding, driven by the shifting, that was doing all the winning. I have grave doubts about taking it that far, and more respect for Andrew and the Arms than that. - Brock
   20. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2014 at 11:34 AM (#4660997)
Vlad - I don't doubt for a minute that the Pirates use a lot of shifts. They are in the same division as the Cardinals, and have provided a serious challenge recently, so I have heard a lot about them. However, I have no memory of anyone suggesting that this is the key to the team's success. What I hear is that they got a large group of good young pitchers all at once, and Andrew McCutcheon is so good that even a just-decent lineup around him will score enough runs for the pitchers they have. What I've heard bout the pitchers is that the Pirates have bought in to the concept of "pitch to contact", which means throw low stuff to get grounders. I mean, I spent most of the last decade listening to Tony La Russa and his pitching coaches. I know about pitching to contact. I just have never heard it coupled to the idea of shifting the defense before. And the way it was presented, it was like the pitchers and Andrew were just OK; it was the fielding, driven by the shifting, that was doing all the winning. I have grave doubts about taking it that far, and more respect for Andrew and the Arms than that. - Brock

Gee Brock, I've heard the exact opposite. The general line has been that the Pirates pitchers are nothing special, but a great defense covers for them, and leads to great run prevention.
   21. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: February 23, 2014 at 11:47 AM (#4661000)
However, I have no memory of anyone suggesting that this is the key to the team's success.


http://www.post-gazette.com/sports/pirates/2012/06/12/Defensive-shifts-add-up-to-outs-in-major-leagues/stories/201206120219
http://www.piratesprospects.com/2013/07/pirates-defensive-shifts-the-hidden-secret-behind-baseballs-best-team.html
http://triblive.com/sports/pirates/4689239-74/pirates-defensive-season#axzz2u9xnubz9
http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/how-the-pirates-built-a-playoff-team/
http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/44307/burnett-may-miss-those-defensive-shifts

What I hear is that they got a large group of good young pitchers all at once...


The Pirates do have a good group of young pitching prospects, but most of those guys (Taillon, Glasnow, Kingham, etc.) aren't in the majors yet. Last year's rotation was actually kind of cobbled together. The best two starters for most of the season (Burnett and Liriano) were veteran acqusitions, as was the guy expected to be the #3 (Wandy), and even Charlie Morton was a 29-year-old in his sixth ML season. And part of the reason they were able to make it through the rash of pitching injuries they suffered was that they picked up Jeanmar Gomez, a groundball-heavy guy who could lean on the defense.

What I've heard bout the pitchers is that the Pirates have bought in to the concept of "pitch to contact", which means throw low stuff to get grounders.


Not really, no. The Pirates like strikeouts just fine. They're just emphasizing ground balls as a point of focus by encouraging pitchers to go with two-seamers over four-seamers, which allows them to take better advantage of their defense (and the shifts).

And the way it was presented, it was like the pitchers and Andrew were just OK; it was the fielding, driven by the shifting, that was doing all the winning. I have grave doubts about taking it that far, and more respect for Andrew and the Arms than that.


It's possible that the impact has been overstated, but it's definitely been a key component of the team's success, and a major focus of the front office for the last several years.
   22. Voros McCracken of Pinkus Posted: February 23, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4661015)
Gee Brock, I've heard the exact opposite. The general line has been that the Pirates pitchers are nothing special, but a great defense covers for them, and leads to great run prevention.

This is why I posted that I believe they led the majors in FIP last year. I think that general line is absolutely untrue.
   23. bobm Posted: February 23, 2014 at 12:44 PM (#4661018)
Team Pitching Split Finder

For single team seasons, From 2009 to 2013, Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates, Ball In Play (within Hit Location), sorted by greatest Year for this split

                                                    
Rk             Split Year  ERA   BA  OBP tOPS+ sOPS+
1   PIT Ball In Play 2009 3.59 .309 .305    81   108
2   PIT Ball In Play 2010 4.04 .321 .316    85   117
3   PIT Ball In Play 2011 3.08 .308 .305    83   104
4   PIT Ball In Play 2012 3.17 .293 .290    87    94
5   PIT Ball In Play 2013 2.77 .292 .289    98    91


While I cannot explain the small discrepancy between BA and OBP here, it seems that the Pirate pitching staff has improved on balls in play versus the league average (sOPS+ declining). However, the Pirates have also greatly improved the TTO split relative to their performance on BIP (tOPS+ increasing).

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/23/2014.
   24. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: February 23, 2014 at 12:49 PM (#4661022)

This is why I posted that I believe they led the majors in FIP last year. I think that general line is absolutely untrue.


FIP isn't park-adjusted. The Pirates play in a stadium that massively suppresses HRs. Their FIP tells us very little.

They were 3rd in Team FIP (per Fangraphs) but only 13th in Pitching WAR (which should be park-adjusted). In the FIP stats, they were 12th in K/9, 20th in BB/9, but 1st in HR/9. That looks like park-effect to me.

They're also 5th in BABIP, suggesting the defense is doing a fair bit of the work.
   25. bobm Posted: February 23, 2014 at 12:51 PM (#4661024)
Note lack of improvement on balls not in play relative to team performance overall despite improvement in this split versus the league.

For single team seasons, From 2009 to 2013, Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates, Not in Play (within Hit Location), sorted by greatest Year for this split

                                                   
Rk            Split Year  ERA   BA  OBP tOPS+ sOPS+
1   PIT Not in Play 2009 7.96 .142 .453   159   120
2   PIT Not in Play 2010 7.87 .139 .428   146   127
3   PIT Not in Play 2011 6.94 .128 .421   150   121
4   PIT Not in Play 2012 5.61 .113 .366   132    95
5   PIT Not in Play 2013 4.44 .074 .352   101    63


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/23/2014.
   26. bobm Posted: February 23, 2014 at 12:59 PM (#4661029)
Note also the split by batters faced is obviously still heavilyweighed towards BIP, but narrowing.

For single team seasons, From 2009 to 2013, Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates, For any choice in Hit Location, sorted by greatest Year for this split

                               
Rk              Split Year   BF
4    PIT Ball In Play 2009 4462
7    PIT  Not in Play 2009 1682

22   PIT Ball In Play 2010 4505
25   PIT  Not in Play 2010 1795

37   PIT Ball In Play 2011 4535
27   PIT  Not in Play 2011 1782

42   PIT Ball In Play 2012 4218
45   PIT  Not in Play 2012 1879

57   PIT Ball In Play 2013 4200
60   PIT  Not in Play 2013 1947


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 2/23/2014.
   27. Walt Davis Posted: February 23, 2014 at 06:17 PM (#4661138)
(b) A reverse force double play is one in which the first out is a force play and the second out is made on a runner for whom the force is removed by reason of the first out. Examples of reverse force plays: runner on first, one out; batter grounds to first baseman, who steps on first base (one out) and throws to second baseman or shortstop for the second out (a tag play).

See, if the IF has shifted and the 3B takes the throw at second, it's not a double play. :-)

You'll note that the bits cited are examples for rule explanation purposes (not the rules themselves) and official scoring examples. Obviously you use the common language to describe those things. Most of the rest is the definition of the field -- I didn't say that "infield" and "outfield" weren't defined ... and, yes, by extension, someone who stands in the infield can be usefully referred to as an "infielder."

But is there a spot where "second baseman" is defined? Are there any rules specific to second basemen? (maybe around balk rules at 2B -- i.e. the 1B has to be holding the runner on or it's a balk to make a play on him but this is not true at 2B.)

The rules are inherently contradictory -- an infielder is a player who positions himself in the infield ... except when he moves to the outfield in which case he's still listed as an infielder. So an "infielder" can in fact be positioned wherever the team wants.

Anyway, obviously these terms are well-known and been around forever and no contract/rule book needs to define such terms. But official scoring rules and examples of applying rules are not rules of play.
   28. greenback calls it soccer Posted: February 23, 2014 at 06:38 PM (#4661145)
While I cannot explain the small discrepancy between BA and OBP here

Isn't this just due to sac flies?
   29. bobm Posted: February 23, 2014 at 07:46 PM (#4661171)
You'll note that the bits cited are examples for rule explanation purposes (not the rules themselves) and official scoring examples.

Come on. You wrote "identified" and the statement was not true. The infield fly rule is indeed a long-standing workable rule. And those "bits" do count in the rules as more than just bits:

IMPORTANT NOTE:

The Playing Rules Committee, at its December 1977 meeting, voted to incorporate the Notes/Case Book/Comments section directly into the Official Baseball Rules at the appropriate places. Basically, the Case Book interprets or elaborates on the basic rules and in essence have the same effect as rules when applied to particular sections for which they are intended.

This arrangement is designed to give quicker access to any written language pertaining to an Official Rule and does not require a reader to refer to different sections of the Official Baseball Rules book in considering the application of a particular rule.Case Book material is printed in smaller type than the rule language and is labeled as Comment.
   30. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 23, 2014 at 08:00 PM (#4661173)
You're still missing his point Bob. There are specific rules that govern who the pitcher is and what he's allowed to do. There are specific rules that govern who the catcher is and what he is allowed to do. There are even specific rules governing the DH position. Nothing you've highlighted points out how the other seven defensive positions have specific rules governing who plays them, what they can/can't do, etc. That they mention a second baseman to help explain a rule is not the same thing. And the infield/outfield designation for the infield fly reinforces his point, since infielder/outfielder is defined by where the guy happens to be standing when the pitch is thrown, not some permanent designation.

   31. bobm Posted: February 23, 2014 at 08:57 PM (#4661184)
Youre still missing his point Bob. 

No, I am not. First and foremost, I objected to this statement:

one of the neat things about the rulebook is that, as far as I know, the only positions identified are C,P, DH and the rule about 1B glove size.


It's simply not true and is IMO about as neat as the Lincoln-Kennedy coincidences. Identify does not necessarily mean define. The rules (or comments printed in same) name positions and acknowledge the standard 3-man outfield (EDIT: and the fact that shifting a player's location on the field temporarily does not change his position.).

That said, his main point is the (need or) difficulty of writing enforceable rules if one wanted to limit the effectiveness of shifts. If one can import instant replay from the NFL, one could make a good stab at rules limiting shifts. IIRC the NFL even prescribes what uniform numbers each position is limited to (as eligible / ineligible receivers).
   32. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 23, 2014 at 09:15 PM (#4661193)
It's simply not true and is IMO about as neat as the Lincoln-Kennedy coincidences. Identify does not necessarily mean define. The rules (or comments printed in same) name positions and acknowledge the standard 3-man outfield (EDIT: and the fact that shifting a player's location on the field temporarily does not change his position.).


Really, so what rules govern play/participation by the second baseman, shortstop or rightfielder as they do catcher, pitcher or DH? Because that was and remains his point, which none of your examples have rebutted.

   33. cardsfanboy Posted: February 23, 2014 at 11:36 PM (#4661245)
Really, so what rules govern play/participation by the second baseman, shortstop or rightfielder as they do catcher, pitcher or DH? Because that was and remains his point, which none of your examples have rebutted.


Rule 1.11 gives the first baseman permission to wear a different glove.
   34. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: February 23, 2014 at 11:39 PM (#4661247)


He would be forced to play the game with a team of ironically fat guys who are bad at defense.


I don't get the sense that Prince Fielder is being at all ironic about his weight. His fatness strikes me as completely sincere.
   35. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 24, 2014 at 12:05 AM (#4661257)
Rule 1.11 gives the first baseman permission to wear a different glove.


Which Walt addressed.

   36. bobm Posted: February 24, 2014 at 12:44 AM (#4661275)
Really, so what rules govern play/participation by the second baseman, shortstop or rightfielder as they do catcher, pitcher or DH? Because that was and remains his point, which none of your examples have rebutted.

Not only those noted above, such as all the comments which you give no weight to and the definitions of infield(er) and outfield(er) and the difference in gloves, but also substitution rules and the allowed position prior to the play, including:

3.08
(a) If no announcement of a substitution is made, the substitute shall be considered as having entered the game when—
(1) If a pitcher, he takes his place on the pitcher’s plate;
(2) If a batter, he takes his place in the batter’s box;
(3) If a fielder, he reaches the position usually occupied by the fielder he has replaced, and play commences;
(4) If a runner, he takes the place of the runner he has replaced. [...]

4.03
When the ball is put in play at the start of, or during a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory. [...]
(c) Except the pitcher and the catcher, any fielder may station himself anywhere in fair territory. [...]

4.06 [...]
(b) No fielder shall take a position in the batter’s line of vision, and with deliberate unsportsmanlike intent, act in a manner to distract the batter.

[Emphasis added]


To back up for a moment, the rulebook rules are not collectively exhaustive, nor are they intended to be. Why else would you need Rule 9.01(c), which states, "Each umpire has authority to rule on any point not specifically covered in these rules" ?

The rulebook is not an instruction manual on how to play the game of baseball. It is the minimum necessary set of definitions and limitations for competitive play, with new definitions and limitations added and amended when the collective understanding proves to be less clear than previously perceived.

Shifts are not new, and have long been accepted as part of the game, even though computer and radar data collection and analysis may raise their effectiveness to the point of spurring a revisiting of that consensus. Peter Morris in A Game of Inches gives examples of shifts from the 19th century, long before the Ted Williams shift. However, unlike the movement of the pitcher's rubber, the outlawing of the spitball, or the mandate about fielders in fair territory at the start of the play, there was never a limitation placed on shifts. Since there is no limitation on shifts and the customary positions are known to everyone, as the existence of 3.08 and 10.03 (a) demonstrate, why would one expect or need to see positions defined in the rulebook any more specifically than required?

Further, even when amendments are made, the rulebook is inconsistent. For example, despite the DH rule 6.10 (b) reading in relevant part, "If a manager lists 10 players in his team’s lineup card, but fails to indicate one as the Designated Hitter [...] the umpire-in-chief shall direct the manager who had made the omission to designate which of the nine players, other than the pitcher, will be the Designated Hitter[,]" Rule 1.01 still reads, "Baseball is a game between two teams of nine players each [,]" which is clearly no longer true in the strictest sense. [Emphasis added]
   37. bobm Posted: February 24, 2014 at 12:48 AM (#4661277)
For example, MLB fielder positions rule-making and enforcement re: Rule 4.03 -

The source of the recent skirmishing between Keith Hernandez and the umpires at first base is Paragraph 4.03 of the Official Baseball Rules: ''When the ball is put in play at the start of, or during, a game, all fielders other than the catcher shall be on fair territory.''

With a runner on first base, Hernandez likes to hold him close by placing his right foot at the inside corner of the bag and his left foot across the foul line. He explains: ''I can handle the tag a lot more quickly that way. And, when the ball is pitched, I can shove off on my left foot and rush the plate for a bunt.''

But he was warned two weeks ago by Umpire Harry Wendelstedt, who invoked Paragraph 4.03. Since then, some umpires have looked the other way, some have told Hernandez to keep both feet in fair ground and the issue is not exactly resolved.

But Eddie Haas, the manager of the Atlanta Braves, adds a footnote:

''This all started when Clint Courtney was managing farm teams for the Braves in places like Richmond and Savannah in the 1960's. He had a problem: Some of his pitchers had trouble giving intentional walks without throwing the ball away, past the catcher and everybody else.

''Clint used to be a catcher, and he had a lot of trick stuff that he'd pull. So, he began to station his first baseman well behind the catcher when they were giving an intentional walk. That way, he had a backup in case the pitcher threw the ball away with a man on base. He got away with it for a little while, and then they made it explicit in the rules: All the fielders except the catcher have to start in fair territory.''

For now at least, Keith Hernandez, too.


http://www.nytimes.com/1985/08/01/sports/baseball-july-a-month-of-extremes.html
   38. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 24, 2014 at 12:53 AM (#4661278)
Not only those noted above, such as all the comments which you give no weight to and the definitions of infield(er) and outfield(er) and the difference in gloves, but also substitution rules and the allowed position prior to the play, including:


I give no weight to them because they do nothing that addresses what Walt was talking about, or the specific question I asked. There is nothing that requires a second baseman to do/not allow certain things or position himself a certain way or wear specific equipment, unlike what you find with the pitcher, catcher, DH and, at least in the equipment sense, first. You can keep pointing to instances where second baseman is mentioned in the rulebook, complete with boldface, and you'll still be missing the point.

As for 37, yes, no one but the catcher is allowed to position himself in foul territory. Walt addressed that (it's not first base specific, it's just a rule).
   39. bobm Posted: February 24, 2014 at 01:02 AM (#4661281)
And the infield/outfield designation for the infield fly reinforces his point, since infielder/outfielder is defined by where the guy happens to be standing when the pitch is thrown, not some permanent designation.

This is a clear misreading IMO that becomes apparent when one re-reads Rule 2.00 defining infielders, outfielders, and infield fly.

An INFIELD FLY is a fair fly ball (not including a line drive nor an attempted bunt) which can be caught by an infielder with ordinary effort, when first and second, or first, second and third bases are occupied, before two are out. The pitcher, catcher and any outfielder who stations himself in the infield on the play shall be considered infielders for the purpose of this rule. [Emphasis added]


If infielder and outfielder were not permanent designations, why would there be an explicit command that pitchers, catchers and outfielders are "considered" infielders in the limited situation "for the purpose of this rule" and not in any situation when they are stationed in the infield? (The comment to Rule 10.03(a) printed in the rule book is absolutely consistent with this reading.)

If one wanted to re-write this rule to clarify, an infield fly would be catchable by any pitcher, catcher or fielder stationed in the infield when making the catch.
   40. Sunday silence Posted: February 24, 2014 at 01:19 AM (#4661287)
It seems to me the infield fly rule you cite merely begs the question of how these designations like: outfielder, or second baseman are first derived. Are they arbitary, in the sense the manager could announce any names for these 7 positions? Or are the names defined by where they are standing?

This infield fly rule and all the other rules cited seem to acknowledge that there are names for these positions, but not that anyone designated by these names has to stay in any place. Other than in the field of play and not interfering with the batter.

I dont think Walt is arguing that a position player can take the field without a term designating his defensive position. He's saying that there's no rule that says where they have to play based on that term.

At least that's how I read the thread...
   41. Sunday silence Posted: February 24, 2014 at 01:20 AM (#4661288)
EDIT: double post
   42. bobm Posted: February 24, 2014 at 01:30 AM (#4661296)
There is nothing that requires a second baseman to do/not allow certain things or position himself a certain way or wear specific equipment, unlike what you find with the pitcher, catcher, DH and, at least in the equipment sense, first.

Was there anything in the rulebook about a DH prior to the instituting of the designated hitter rule in 1973? No, but somehow they managed to institute the DH rule anyhow.

P, C, 1B, 2B, SS, 3B and OFs have been awarded Gold Gloves since 1957. Honus Wagner's HOF plaque from 1936 lists him as the greatest shortstop ever. I think the idea that these fielding positions are somehow insufficiently defined in the rulebook or the minds of baseball stakeholders so as to preclude drafting a clear rule outlawing or limits shifts is just silly.

   43. bobm Posted: February 24, 2014 at 01:49 AM (#4661302)
[9] I wonder what would happen if a manager turned in a lineup that just listed everybody as a "fielder"?

It would be viewed as discourteous. :-)

4.01
Unless the home club shall have given previous notice that the game has been post-
poned or will be delayed in starting, the umpire, or umpires, shall enter the playing field
five minutes before the hour set for the game to begin and proceed directly to home base
where they shall be met by the managers of the opposing teams. In sequence—
(a) First, the home manager, or his designee, shall give his batting order to the umpire-
in-chief, in duplicate.
(b) Next, the visiting manager, or his designee, shall give his batting order to the
umpire-in-chief, in duplicate.
(c) As a courtesy, each lineup card presented to the umpire-in-chief should list the
fielding positions to be played by each player in the batting order.
If a designated
hitter is to be used, the lineup card shall designate which hitter is to be the desig-
nated hitter. See Rule 6.10(b). [...]

4.02
The players of the home team shall take their defensive positions, the first batter of
the visiting team shall take his position in the batter’s box, the umpire shall call “Play” and
the game shall start. [Emphasis added]


[40] I dont think Walt is arguing that a position player can take the field without a term designating his defensive position.

See above.

He's saying that there's no rule that says where they have to play based on that term.

No, nothing precludes shifts. The question is, does one have to explicitly define the fielding positions (EDIT: in the MLB rule book), even beyond the present infielder and outfielder, in order to preclude or limit shifts? No, as Walt wrote:

Not that I think any would happen, but in terms of rule changes you could require that no more than 4 of the 7 fielders can be on any one side of 2B.

Baseball in its history has added foul lines, batters' boxes, coaches' boxes and a catcher's box, and it has moved the rubber and lowered the mound. One modest proposal would be to add fielder's boxes on the field or to add two "shift lines" (akin to foul lines) running from home plate to the outfield wall.
   44. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 24, 2014 at 01:59 AM (#4661304)

Was there anything in the rulebook about a DH prior to the instituting of the designated hitter rule in 1973? No, but somehow they managed to institute the DH rule anyhow.


You're continuing to harp on one aspect of Walt's original comment. But that's only half of what he said, and not what he was commenting on in Post 27. Which is why I've been telling you you're missing the point.

I agree that if baseball wants to write a rule that would govern implementation of shifts, they could do so without anything in the current rule book that delineates what a second baseman is. I think you're right in that regard.

But Walt's other point, and the one he was making in 27 was that unlike the rules governing the players or the play at pitcher, catcher and designated hitter, there are no rules specific to a second baseman vs. a shortstop or third baseman. And nothing you've listed rebuts that. There are a great many rules governing the pitcher, obviously. There are rules that distinguish the catcher from the other positions. Same as with the DH and, at least on the equipment front, the first baseman. There are rules that distinguish between an outfielder and an infielder, though I'm not sure the determination of that is anything more than where they position themselves.* But there are no rules specific to the second baseman, other than the need to list someone as 4 for bookkeeping purposes.

* Your point about the infield fly stipulation is worth noting, but I'd really like to see confirmation that outfielders who position themselves in the infield would not be considered infielders in the few rare instances where such a distinction is relevant (two I can think of: overthrows from an infielder and balls that hit a runner after having passed an infielder. I suppose you could make a case for the former, but the latter would be a hard one to justify).
   45. bobm Posted: February 24, 2014 at 02:01 AM (#4661305)
As for 37, yes, no one but the catcher is allowed to position himself in foul territory. Walt addressed that (it's not first base specific, it's just a rule).

I copied that portion of the article about the genesis of the rule as an example of how such rules come about, e.g., closing loopholes.
   46. bobm Posted: February 24, 2014 at 02:13 AM (#4661308)
But Walt's other point, and the one he was making in 27 was that unlike the rules governing the players or the play at pitcher, catcher and designated hitter, there are no rules specific to a second baseman vs. a shortstop or third baseman. And nothing you've listed rebuts that.

While I disagree as to whether the rule book (or the comments therein) identifies the second baseman, shortstop, etc., I do agree that there are no rules specific to a second baseman vs. a shortstop. My point is that there is no need for them until there is a rules change, e.g., MLB chooses to regulate shifts.

There are rules that distinguish between an outfielder and an infielder, though I'm not sure that's anything more than where they position themselves.

Outfielder and infielder are permanent positions, independent of where the fielder stations himself. Rules 2.00 and 4.03 seem to intend "position" as a noun meaning the permanent or bookkeeping position listed on the lineup card. The infield fly rule uses the verb "station," and not "position," to mean where a fielder locates himself. Rule 4.06 muddies things by stating "takes a position" instead of "stations himself." Rule 10.03(a) Comment addresses the bookkeeping aspect of a temporary shift in location versus a change in position.
   47. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 24, 2014 at 02:52 AM (#4661309)



I do agree that there are no rules specific to a second baseman vs. a shortstop


And that was at the heart of Walt's post 27: ("Are there any rules specific to second basemen? (maybe around balk rules at 2B -- i.e. the 1B has to be holding the runner on or it's a balk to make a play on him but this is not true at 2B.)"


Outfielder and infielder are permanent positions, independent of where the fielder stations himself. Rules 2.00 and 4.03 seem to intend "position" as a noun meaning the permanent or bookkeeping position listed on the lineup card. The infield fly rule uses the verb "station," and not "position," to mean where a fielder locates himself. Rule 4.06 muddies things by stating "takes a position" instead of "stations himself." Rule 10.03(a) Comment addresses the bookkeeping aspect of a temporary shift in location versus a change in position.


That's one interpretation, but even if correct, it's largely irrelevant from a rules perspective, other than in the cases of the infield fly and the examples I listed. And there, the former specifically identifies the shifted outfielder as an infielder for the purposes of application of the rule and the latter two largely go unacknowledged (other than the clause in the IF fly rule). Since I'm not sure that clause should be interpreted to be considered all-exclusionary for all other situations where the outfield/infield designation matters, I'd need greater clarity before being convinced that the few rules governing infield play are not applicable to outfielders when stationed there.
   48. bjhanke Posted: February 24, 2014 at 03:11 AM (#4661310)
First, I appreciate being corrected as to local opinions of the Pirates. It's true that the Pirate do get a lot of press here in STL, because they are one of the strong teams in the Cards' division. However, just because that press hasn't mentioned anything about shifts causing great defensive numbers doesn't mean that it isn't an item in Pittsburgh itself. So, I stand corrected on that one. Still not sure that I buy it, but you've certainly demonstrated that it shows up in Pittsburgh media coverage.

BTW, "pitching to contact" as espoused by TLR and Dave Duncan, amounts, really, to just having their pitchers throw a lot more 2-seam fastballs than 4-seamers. The issue is that 4-seamers are faster (by about 2-3 mph), so pitchers tend to like them because they see the radar gun reading. However, 4-seamers also stay high. A 2-seamer sinks some, and is not quite as fast. Duncan spent a lot of time weaning pitchers off the 4-seamer. If the pitcher got stubborn, he got traded. And, in Duncan's defense, generally performed worse than he had for STL. For example, when the Cards traded J. D. Drew for Anthony Reyes (I think that's the right name) and Adam Wainwright, Reyes was MLB-ready while Wainwright was still developing in the minors. Duncan could not get Reyes weaned off of the 4-seam radar gun readings, Reyes didn't pitch particularly well, and got traded. He is, I think, out of baseball now. Wainwright, younger, listened to Duncan and became Adam Wainwright.

bobm - I know that you are right about the NFL and jersey numbers, because I can remember when that rule was adopted - it's been a while. I don't know the exact rules, but at the very least, they distinguish between "the line", who generally have numbers between 60 and 79, and the backfield, who generally have numbers less than 50, and the wide receivers and tight end, who generally have numbers in the 80s. But I do NOT know if that's exact. I do know that a "flanker" back (a back who is playing wide receiver, but lining up behind the line) has a "back" number, while the split end has a "wide receiver number." Someone out there probably knows this in a lot more detail.

I also remember that something had to be added or tweaked in MLB rules to deal with Keith Hernandez having one foot in foul territory. My memory is that this was just a simple clause addition to an existing rule that wasn't 100% clear, but it may have been more than that. But as far as I know, your RF can decide that he's King Kelly and start playing down on the infield grass to deal with bunts. No one will insist that he can't be called the Right Fielder because he did this. The only constraints that I know of are that he has to be in fair territory, he can't block the batter's sight of the pitcher, and he can't set up actually on the pitcher's mound. But, again, there are rules gurus out there, and I am not one of them. - Brock

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