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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Expanded Rosters Exacerbate Baseball’s Biggest Issue

It’s generally a good thing that the latest iteration of the MLB schedule attempts to put so many intra-divisional games late in the season, but that just means that so many of these extremely important games are played with wildly over-inflated rosters. Worse, it’s not the same for every team. Tampa Bay, for example, added only three new players, plus brought back David DeJesus from the disabled list. It’s valid to say that there’s no reason that the Rays couldn’t also have activated as many players as anyone else, but that also hardly seems to matter. That there’s even an option for any team to have more active players as their opponent is stunning.

It’s a complaint we see every year, of course. In 2009, Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin came out against it, saying “It’s like a Spring Training game” and “it’s like playing three-on-six in basketball or 11-on-18 in football.” While that’s not entirely accurate — it’s not like one team gets to add a second shortstop and two more outfielders during play — his point is well-taken, and his solution was the same one that everyone has: activate as much of your 40-man roster as you like, but designate a certain amount — say, 30 — for each game…

Remember, really, that this isn’t just about what’s fair and right when it comes to contesting very important baseball games. It’s also about not exacerbating one of the main problems facing the game right now. The biggest talking point about baseball right now, fairly or not, is length of game. There’s a certain beauty to the clock-free nature of baseball, and there are absolutely situations where the hand-wringing about the length of games goes too far, but it’s absolutely a valid question worth discussing.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 03:13 PM | 51 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: expanded rosters, length of games, pace of the game

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   1. Hank G. Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:11 PM (#4783965)
It’s a complaint we see every year, of course. In 2009, Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin came out against it, saying “It’s like a Spring Training game” and “it’s like playing three-on-six in basketball or 11-on-18 in football.”


Any GM who brings up fewer players than other teams and then complains about being outnumbered is an idiot.
   2. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:16 PM (#4783971)
Any GM who brings up fewer players than other teams and then complains about being outnumbered is an idiot.

Concur.

If you are so cheap that you can't spring for league minimum for a few extra guys for one month, then you can just suck it when you're outnumbered.
   3. Dale Sams Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:23 PM (#4783979)
Pace of game? How about you can only step off the rubber once per AB (Once on the rubber)? One catcher visit to the mound per inning. Let players call fewer time outs. Give pitchers warnings if they're taking too long to throw....etc...etc...
   4. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:23 PM (#4783980)
It's also nothing like playing 11-on-18 in football, as that suggests the other team has more players on the field at one time (I'm not sure what 6 on 3 basketball suggests, other than some serious foul trouble). That would be a real advantage.

Maybe it's like playing 53 vs. 64 players in football. Of course, both teams are just adding the crappiest of players to the roster, so the advantage is quite minimal (and, as noted, self-inflicted).

   5. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:32 PM (#4783989)
If it is such a competitive advantage, then all teams would bring up loads of marginal players. But teams have obviously noticed that it isn't a competitive advantage, so they haven't. Much ado about nothing.
   6. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:38 PM (#4783997)
his solution was the same one that everyone has: activate as much of your 40-man roster as you like, but designate a certain amount — say, 30 — for each game…
I am trying, but failing, to understand what problem this solves.
   7. catomi01 Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:49 PM (#4784015)
i've never understood this, but announcers have been complaining about this for the last couple of year...no clue why this is an issue. Call up all 15 extras as long as you're triple A team isn't in the playoffs...use the guys or not, what does it matter? Its not like a week in the big leagues is going to hurt anyone.
   8. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:50 PM (#4784017)
I am trying, but failing, to understand what problem this solves.


I think he's trying to stop the parade of relievers late in games that gets worse when rosters expand. The problem is he's still being too lenient. Making it 30 just means they'll deactivate their four other starting pitchers and you'd still have a huge bullpen. I'd probably have something where you just limit the pitching staff to something like 12 pitchers per game unless the game goes extras. Even that would not be very effective.
   9. The District Attorney Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:50 PM (#4784018)
"It doesn't matter much" is still not an actual argument that it should be allowed, though. (Kinda reminds me of batting order discussions: It doesn't matter much, yet, why not do what makes sense?)

Other sports don't have anything like this, AFAIK. What is the purpose of it? Just play with 25 guys. (I don't even like the idea of each team designating 26+ eligibles. Again, why? And again, other than "the extra guys are no good anyway.")
   10. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:53 PM (#4784025)
Why is any of this really a problem? Is there a line for the bathroom in the clubhouse?

Besides, if you are competing to win games, there are only a handful of roles September call ups are really going to help, anyway:

1) A few extra arms in case your bullpen gets overused, or there is a blowout;
2) A really fast guy who does nothing but pinch run;
3) A completely no-hit, all-field infielder and outfielder for late inning situations;
4) An extra catcher to do a little more pinch hitting or pinch running for them, without worrying about losing all of your catchers on the roster;
5) In the NL, maybe a guy who is a DH, a guy you can't afford to carry because of the lack of a position, but in September, it is no biggie (Adam Dunn).

Of course, you can also do what the Red Sox did several years ago. They traded for lefty reliever Mike Stanton for a final weekend series against the Yankees, to get out a few lefties. But that is about the only time I have seen a guy traded specifically to be used for a single series...
   11. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4784028)
Scioscia said something similar the other day. I actually like the suggestion of having a bit of a limited roster for each game. It's hardly a "baseball's biggest issue" but it seems silly to me to have a situation where one team has a larger roster than their opponent.
   12. Jose Can Still Seabiscuit Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:57 PM (#4784035)
The bigger issue is the silliness of having roster expansion at all in September. I think it would make more sense to do it in April. You can start the minor league seasons a few weeks later (or at least the AAA seasons). There would be some practical benefit too as teams would be able to stretch out pitchers a bit longer with deeper bullpens earlier in the season if they wished.
   13. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 04:59 PM (#4784039)

Other sports don't have anything like this, AFAIK. What is the purpose of it?


The rule, along with a number of other rules, facilitates teams that are out of contention bringing up minor leaguers to give them some experience at the major league level without having to cut a bunch of veterans or sending them down. Given that historically the problem has been unwillingness by teams to bring their minor leaguers up rather than the reverse, I think it is a good thing.
   14. DKDC Posted: September 02, 2014 at 05:12 PM (#4784052)
It would be interesting to quantify the impact (if any) this has on the game.

Article idea for someone with time would be to try to quantify the potential advantages of having a bigger roster and see if it has any real impact on run scoring/prevention in certain situations, and whether those advantages are large or distributed unevenly or are small and largely offset each other.

Cribbing the list in #10:

1) Do LHH face a higher percentage of LHP relievers in September, and if so, what is the RC impact?
2) Do PRs add more baserunning value in September?
3) Do PHs add more value in September?
4) Is BABIP lower in late-and-close situations in September?
   15. Ray (RDP) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 05:15 PM (#4784057)
I think he's trying to stop the parade of relievers late in games that gets worse when rosters expand.


It's able to get worse? How can we tell?
   16. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 05:25 PM (#4784070)
I like it when young guys and minor-league lifers get a few weeks' worth of service time at the end of the year. It's fun to see some new faces.
   17. BDC Posted: September 02, 2014 at 05:26 PM (#4784072)
Exactly, Ray - do they really use more pitchers per game in September? Why would a contender want to?

Writers must think it's football and having another ten special-teams guys as cannon fodder might conceivably be an advantage. But in baseball, the seventh-best outfielder in your organization is no secret weapon, as several here have noted.
   18. BDC Posted: September 02, 2014 at 05:27 PM (#4784075)
In other news, my BBTF banner ad now celebrates Frequent Urination Day.
   19. cardsfanboy Posted: September 02, 2014 at 05:29 PM (#4784079)
The bigger issue is the silliness of having roster expansion at all in September. I think it would make more sense to do it in April. You can start the minor league seasons a few weeks later (or at least the AAA seasons). There would be some practical benefit too as teams would be able to stretch out pitchers a bit longer with deeper bullpens earlier in the season if they wished.


Agree with this part, I think it makes more sense to have a 40 man roster in April, and then reduce it down as the season goes to 25.


The rule, along with a number of other rules, facilitates teams that are out of contention bringing up minor leaguers to give them some experience at the major league level without having to cut a bunch of veterans or sending them down. Given that historically the problem has been unwillingness by teams to bring their minor leaguers up rather than the reverse, I think it is a good thing.


I agree with this, but disagree also. I think if both teams are mathematically eliminated, expand the rosters to 40 players. If not stick with a 25 day of game roster.


I'm all in favor of expanding rosters in the regular season, I've argued for 28 man roster with a three man healthy scratch roster per series and a 11 man max pitchers...but that is a separate issue than expanding 40 man rosters.

   20. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 05:29 PM (#4784080)


It's able to get worse? How can we tell?



Exactly, Ray - do they really use more pitchers per game in September?


From TFA:

Since 2000, we’ve seen 790 games that didn’t go into extra innings and saw one team use at least seven pitchers. Guess which month saw the overwhelming majority of them?...

Put another way, 57% of all such games this century have come just in September, which for our purposes also includes the rare times it’s happened in regular season play in early October
   21. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: September 02, 2014 at 05:32 PM (#4784081)
25 man game day roster, that has to include the four pitchers who threw the first pitch in your team's last four games.
   22. JJ1986 Posted: September 02, 2014 at 05:35 PM (#4784083)
25 man game day roster, that has to include the four pitchers who threw the first pitch in your team's last four games.


I really dislike suggestions like this. They encourage teams to try to game the rules. Why not just limit it to 21 or 22 players?
   23. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 06:44 PM (#4784125)
Concur. Just make it a 21 man game day roster, with the proviso that if the game goes more than, say, 12 innings you're allowed to use one more (so as to put one of your starters into a very long game).

Given the choice between that and just making the damn hitters stay in the box and pitchers pitch, though, I'd take the latter every day of the week.
   24. God Posted: September 02, 2014 at 06:55 PM (#4784135)
Keep the status quo. September callups are awesome. All these harebrained "game day roster" rules would be annoying, ineffective, and most important, unnecessary. The system is perfect the way it is now. It provides at least three tangible benefits:

1) Teams out of the running can try out young players for jobs next year against real (not Spring training) competition

2) It's a thrill for fans to get an early peek at the top prospects. There hasn't been a Dodger at bat all season more exciting than last night when Joc Pederson made his MLB debut representing the winning run with two runners on and two outs in the ninth.

3) If September callups didn't exist, there would be no way for injured players on contending teams to rehab injuries, since the minor league season is over.
   25. God Posted: September 02, 2014 at 07:01 PM (#4784139)
25 man game day roster, that has to include the four pitchers who threw the first pitch in your team's last four games.


So a guy who's retired, or who just suffered a career-ending arm injury like Nolan Ryan, would be forced to be on a team's active roster for 4 days afterward because... well, why, exactly? What benefit does a rule like this offer? What problem does it solve? How is it better than the way things are done now?
   26. PreservedFish Posted: September 02, 2014 at 07:04 PM (#4784141)
I agree with God. These rules are all convoluted and they are "solving" a problem that is barely even a problem.
   27. cardsfanboy Posted: September 02, 2014 at 07:08 PM (#4784147)
So a guy who's retired, or who just suffered a career-ending arm injury like Nolan Ryan, would be forced to be on a team's active roster for 4 days afterward because... well, why, exactly? What benefit does a rule like this offer? What problem does it solve? How is it better than the way things are done now?


Obviously anyone put on the DL wouldn't be required in this situation.... As to a recently retired player? sure, if he's official, treat as a dl.

(note: I'm not really arguing for or against the point, but just not sure that is a legitimate complaint about this proposal...note: my complaint of this proposal is the minor league player called up to fill in for a day to day injured pitcher who is going to miss one start and then is going to be sent down, is now being forced on the roster for one week? Or what about the times when a team has 3 off days in 8 days and only use 4 pitchers?)



   28. BDC Posted: September 02, 2014 at 07:15 PM (#4784153)
OK, Retro, serves me right for not RTFA :)
   29. flournoy Posted: September 02, 2014 at 10:09 PM (#4784236)
Of course, you can also do what the Red Sox did several years ago. They traded for lefty reliever Mike Stanton for a final weekend series against the Yankees, to get out a few lefties. But that is about the only time I have seen a guy traded specifically to be used for a single series...


On September 29th 1991, the Braves acquired Damon Berryhill and Mike Bielecki from the Cubs to help with catching and pitching depth in the last few games of the season. Of course, both players also factored into the Braves' future plans.
   30. The Duke Posted: September 02, 2014 at 10:30 PM (#4784247)
#12 -- great idea. Much more useful
   31. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 02, 2014 at 11:20 PM (#4784274)

So a guy who's retired, or who just suffered a career-ending arm injury like Nolan Ryan, would be forced to be on a team's active roster for 4 days afterward because... well, why, exactly?




(note: I'm not really arguing for or against the point, but just not sure that is a legitimate complaint about this proposal...note: my complaint of this proposal is the minor league player called up to fill in for a day to day injured pitcher who is going to miss one start and then is going to be sent down, is now being forced on the roster for one week? Or what about the times when a team has 3 off days in 8 days and only use 4 pitchers?)


I'm assuming the proposal was for September only, in which these concerns don't really matter that much.
   32. Best Regards, President of Comfort, Esq. Posted: September 02, 2014 at 11:42 PM (#4784286)
I'm assuming the proposal was for September only
Since the article is about expanded rosters, duh.
   33. silhouetted by the sea Posted: September 02, 2014 at 11:55 PM (#4784292)
This sounds like just another thing for people who really don't like baseball but can't admit it to complain about.
I don't know if they still do it (and don't carer enough to check) but college football used to have no limit on players on the home team but they limited the size of the traveling squad. Teams like Ohio State and Nebraska used to suit up 120 players for home games.
   34. Bhaakon Posted: September 03, 2014 at 01:13 AM (#4784327)
Since 2000, we’ve seen 790 games that didn’t go into extra innings and saw one team use at least seven pitchers. Guess which month saw the overwhelming majority of them?...

Put another way, 57% of all such games this century have come just in September, which for our purposes also includes the rare times it’s happened in regular season play in early October


That's as much a result of the playoff races coming to head as the supply of extra pitchers. The postseason has a 25-man roster, yet teams use 7 or more pitchers in 9 innings with some regularity.
   35. if nature called, ladodger34 would listen Posted: September 03, 2014 at 12:13 PM (#4784546)
My biggest problem with these complaints is that the folks making noise about it are insinuating that like rule only applies to certain teams.
   36. Steve Treder Posted: September 03, 2014 at 12:39 PM (#4784571)
The bigger issue is the silliness of having roster expansion at all in September. I think it would make more sense to do it in April. You can start the minor league seasons a few weeks later (or at least the AAA seasons). There would be some practical benefit too as teams would be able to stretch out pitchers a bit longer with deeper bullpens earlier in the season if they wished.

In the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, rosters were expanded not only from September 1st to the end of the season, but also for the first month following Opening Day.
   37. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 03, 2014 at 12:45 PM (#4784578)
The postseason has a 25-man roster, yet teams use 7 or more pitchers in 9 innings with some regularity.


Wouldn't that be because you need fewer SP in the post-season than in the regular season?
   38. alkeiper Posted: September 03, 2014 at 09:53 PM (#4785038)
I believe the NY-Penn League has a rule where you have a 35 man roster, but you designate 30 players as active before the game.

I'd stipulate a 25 man gameday roster. Whoever you want from your active roster. Presumably teams would make their other four starting pitchers inactive, so that gives you room for maybe two relievers, an extra hitter and your pinch runner. That seems like a fair compromise.
   39. vortex of dissipation Posted: September 04, 2014 at 04:25 AM (#4785141)
In the 1940s, '50s, and '60s, rosters were expanded not only from September 1st to the end of the season, but also for the first month following Opening Day.


I remember that one of the major story lines in one of Jim Brosnan's books was who was going to get sent down once the rosters were reduced a month into the season.
   40. PASTE Thinks This Trout Kid Might Be OK (Zeth) Posted: September 04, 2014 at 09:02 AM (#4785182)
I'd stipulate a 25 man gameday roster. Whoever you want from your active roster. Presumably teams would make their other four starting pitchers inactive, so that gives you room for maybe two relievers, an extra hitter and your pinch runner. That seems like a fair compromise.


If you allowed this managers would use the four extra roster spots on four relievers.
   41. Bunny Vincennes Posted: September 04, 2014 at 09:33 AM (#4785203)
I love "The Sky Is Falling" articles about baseball every week. I've read the Chicago Tribune every day from 1929 to 1945 sports section. They ##### about the same #### amidst, actually reporting on the games.
   42. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 04, 2014 at 10:37 AM (#4785260)
If its not a big deal to have expanded rosters in September, what is the argument for having roster limits the rest of the year?
   43. TDF, situational idiot Posted: September 04, 2014 at 10:54 AM (#4785275)
If its not a big deal to have expanded rosters in September, what is the argument for having roster limits the rest of the year?
The teams would have to pay all of those extra players.

September callups seem to make a lot of sense. For teams that are clearly in the playoffs, you get to give the stars an occasional rest without screwing the roster up too much; for teams that are clearly out, you get to give minor leaguers a tryout and have an easy backup if they tank (still need to sell tickets); for those in-between, you get to go batshit crazy trying to win every single game. As a fan, I don't see a problem.
   44. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 04, 2014 at 11:51 AM (#4785332)
The teams would have to pay all of those extra players.


If they called them up, they must see some value in them. You're not required to call up as many players as you can.
   45. Baldrick Posted: September 04, 2014 at 11:58 AM (#4785342)
But it's a tragedy of the commons. Some teams would see value in paying 38 guys. And once some teams do it, you're at a competitive disadvantage if you don't also do it. So everyone will end up paying them. The solution is to artificially restrict the market.
   46. Steve Treder Posted: September 04, 2014 at 12:04 PM (#4785350)
The solution is to artificially restrict the market.

Yes, and there is intrinsic tactical interest in limiting the number of substitutions. The bigger-than-25 roster is a double-edged sword.

I think the way they did it roughly from 1946-68 struck the best balance.
   47. nick swisher hygiene Posted: September 04, 2014 at 12:26 PM (#4785383)
Constant shuttling in and out of relievers during games, constant shuttling up and down of relievers between games. As many have said, the game speed problem can be solved in other ways, but depriving teams of this basically infinite supply of relief arms would do it too.

I'm with Jose on the April call ups; I'd like a game day roster significantly smaller than the current one (18? 20?); and I'd love, love, love to see in-season roster moves drastically curtailed.

But I recognize this is weird to most folks. I just dislike one aspect of baseball's uniqueness, what I'll call "in-season importance of organizational depth." I want to see games, and seasons, decided by a consistent, coherent group of players--let's call them a "team."
   48. Davo Dozier Posted: September 04, 2014 at 12:38 PM (#4785387)
Man, when I run those OOTP simulations, I always call up a full 40-man active roster once September 1st hits.

I'll be damned if I lose a 25-inning game by running out of pitchers!
   49. BDC Posted: September 04, 2014 at 01:36 PM (#4785436)
The Rangers tried using 60 guys this year, and look where it got them.
   50. TDF, situational idiot Posted: September 04, 2014 at 02:37 PM (#4785532)
The teams would have to pay all of those extra players.

If they called them up, they must see some value in them. You're not required to call up as many players as you can.
They see paying the league minimum, pro-rated over 25 or so games, as worth the money compared to paying league minimum (or more) for the entire year. And the extra roster spots are just as likely to be retread vets or more relievers making a couple of million as opposed to a 22 year old.

Starting in the mid-80's, teams agreed to keep only 24 on the active roster (the CBA says "24 or 25", and an arbitrator ruled nothing forbade the owners from colluding. The rule is still 24 or 25, but language was inserted to forbid collusion) - obviously the teams saw value in a smaller roster through the year with an expanded roster in September then.

EDIT: Link about roster size (from 2011), with the story about the 24 man roster.
   51. Hank G. Posted: September 05, 2014 at 12:42 PM (#4786090)
Some teams would see value in paying 38 guys. And once some teams do it, you're at a competitive disadvantage if you don't also do it. So everyone will end up paying them. The solution is to artificially restrict the market.


And we need to do that because baseball owners are hurting financially?

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