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Wednesday, May 09, 2018

James Paxton’s No-Hitter Is a Clear Product of Baseball’s All-or-Nothing Era

The third no-hitter of the 2018 MLB season and the 299th in professional baseball history belongs to James Paxton of the Seattle Mariners. Over nine innings in Toronto, the big Canadian lefty struck out seven Blue Jays and needed just 99 pitches to finish the job, throwing as hard as 100 mph in his final frame. While it wasn’t as dominant an effort as his 16-strikeout outing last week, Paxton’s no-no perhaps best represents this current era of baseball—an all-or-nothing affair in which making contact has more or less vanished.

Consider that, entering Tuesday’s action, the league as a whole was hitting just .244 this season. That mark ties for sixth lowest in a season of play since 1871, and in the 20th century, only 1908, ‘67 and ‘68 have been worse.

Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: May 09, 2018 at 02:36 AM | 109 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: blue jays, jamex paxton, mariners, no-hitter

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   1. Scott Ross Posted: May 09, 2018 at 04:13 AM (#5669067)
Paxton’s no-no perhaps best represents this current era of baseball—an all-or-nothing affair in which making contact has more or less vanished.


He struck out 7.
   2. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: May 09, 2018 at 04:54 AM (#5669068)
Consider that, entering Tuesday’s action, the league as a whole was hitting just .244 this season. That mark ties for sixth lowest in a season of play since 1871, and in the 20th century, only 1908, ‘67 and ‘68 have been worse.

Comparing essentially April stats, to other full seasons, is dumb. Since it is typically the worst offensive month of the year.

Still strikeouts are definitely reaching a point, where I think MLB should consider possible solutions. My personal preference, is to move the rubber back 6 feet...
   3. zachtoma Posted: May 09, 2018 at 05:36 AM (#5669069)
Additionally, in the 7th, 8th, and 9th the Jays did hit a number of balls hard and in play. Kyle Seager made a tremendous play and later a very good one for the final out of the game. There were a couple rockets out to Ben Gamel and Dee Gordon that took them for a ride. I understand the argument about the K-heavy style of play, but this particular game isn't the best case in point.

I would not want to change the geometry of the game but then again, baseball wasn't designed when every pitcher was throwing 95-100. You could shrink the strike zone a bit more but you have to control for the increasing HR's a little bit - maybe go back to a deader ball. Restoring a sense of balance to the game will probably come from a combination of lots of little tweaks - I suspect the pitch clock could help, and maybe bring velocities down by making pitchers work at a swifter pace - it'd be better to avoid overly dramatic solutions for now. I'd like to see substitution rules that limit the use of one-out guys and mid-inning changes too. Cap the pitching staff at 12.

The problem is, baseball has been selecting for one type of pitcher for so long now, that you can't do this without a lot of disruption to the existing player pool. You'd have to bring up a new generation of pitchers with these usage restrictions in mind.

I just did a back of the envelope calculation that says in order to offset the rise in avg. FB velocity (from 89 to 93), you'd have to move the mound back to approx. 63 feet.
   4. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: May 09, 2018 at 06:14 AM (#5669070)
Has any league anywhere ever experimented with Bill James' old "thicken the bat handles" idea?
   5. Leroy Kincaid Posted: May 09, 2018 at 07:11 AM (#5669076)
Has any league anywhere ever experimented with Bill James' old "thicken the bat handles" idea?


The Hanseatic? Of Extraordinary Gentlemen? 20,000 Under the Sea?
   6. TomH Posted: May 09, 2018 at 07:22 AM (#5669078)
Argh, Leroy. Those comments put you in a league... of your own
   7. bfan Posted: May 09, 2018 at 07:23 AM (#5669079)
Still strikeouts are definitely reaching a point, where I think MLB should consider possible solutions. My personal preference, is to move the rubber back 6 feet...


This, although i think 2 and 1/2 feet would do it.
   8. TomH Posted: May 09, 2018 at 07:26 AM (#5669080)
Deaden the ball a it, lowering exit vel by 5%, and suddenly swinging max for bigger launch angle won't be The Thing. When batting approach changes, pitchers will also begin maximizing control over velocity. When KOS go down, defense and speed will be more impt for players, and scouting will reflect that. Which will drive more Joey Gallos out of MLB, and more Billy Hamiltons in. Further lessening reliance on Big Fly. Cycle perpetuates, and we're back to 1975 again. It's not that hard.
   9. TomH Posted: May 09, 2018 at 07:29 AM (#5669081)
agree that lowering mound by a couple of inches, or moving rubber back, are also good ideers. Mandating thicker handles could also work. Moving batters' box back by an inch would be good if hitters get the upper hand, and would lower HBPS a bit too.
   10. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: May 09, 2018 at 07:40 AM (#5669084)
It's not that hard.


Tell him Wash.
   11. Greg K Posted: May 09, 2018 at 07:47 AM (#5669087)
Echoing number 1 and 3, it's a shame that Paxton's performance is being used to start a conversation that has little to do with what happened last night.

The play Seager made on Pillar has to be one of the best "no-hitter savers" in history.
   12. Greg Pope Posted: May 09, 2018 at 08:20 AM (#5669092)
I just did a back of the envelope calculation that says in order to offset the rise in avg. FB velocity (from 89 to 93), you'd have to move the mound back to approx. 63 feet.

What would this do to breaking balls? Wouldn't sliders start to move 3 feet earlier? And curve balls would break more? Changeups would start dropping 3 feet earlier. I wouldn't think pitchers can control when the ball starts to move. Some of those pitches could be rendered worthless.
   13. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: May 09, 2018 at 08:27 AM (#5669093)
Observation - If your reaction to a complete game no hitter is "this is what's wrong with baseball" you aren't a baseball fan. Particularly given the issues mentioned above that the big increase in Ks and swinging for the fences wasn't really relevant here.
   14. Rally Posted: May 09, 2018 at 08:27 AM (#5669094)
Echoing number 1 and 3, it's a shame that Paxton's performance is being used to start a conversation that has little to do with what happened last night.


Yes, this writer deserves shame for trying to force discussion in his direction. March him through the streets of King's Landing! Shame!

Paxton pitched a great game. It was only possible because the Blue Jays put a lot of balls in play last night (by 2018 standards) and the Mariners successfully defended them. If the Jays had whiffed like the previous team Paxton faced, it still might have been a team no-hitter but he would not have been on the mound at the end of it, probably would have needed 2-3 innings of relief.
   15. Brian C Posted: May 09, 2018 at 08:39 AM (#5669096)
It's worth noting that this hack uses Paxton's no-hitter to kvetch about not just one irrelevant factor (too many strikeouts) but two, since he uses the second half of TFA to whine about how starters aren't allowed to finish games as often as they used to. It's really kind of a low-key masterpiece of fitting one's square peg of an agenda into a round hole of actual circumstances.
   16. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: May 09, 2018 at 09:54 AM (#5669120)
This, although i think 2 and 1/2 feet would do it.

To be clear, I only said 6 feet, because I like the number that ends up on. But I do think moving it back a bit, is something worth considering.
   17. bfan Posted: May 09, 2018 at 09:58 AM (#5669122)
It's worth noting that this hack uses Paxton's no-hitter to kvetch about not just one irrelevant factor (too many strikeouts) but two, since he uses the second half of TFA to whine about how starters aren't allowed to finish games as often as they used to. It's really kind of a low-key masterpiece of fitting one's square peg of an agenda into a round hole of actual circumstances.


Spot on, and it is about exhibit 6 as to why people are getting so skeptical about journalists. There is a narrative out there in the popular press (baseball is broken because of too many walks, strike-outs and HRs) that may or may not be true, but when you try and fit every event into the popular narrative, and it is clearly apparent that an event does not fit the case, you invite in the skepticism-are you reporting or are you advancing a cause?

Nolan Ryan's walks plus strike-outs in his 7 no-hitters: 15; 21; 23; 13; 16; 16; 18 (as opposed to the 10 total for last night's no-hitter). I would guess that K's are over-represented in no-hitters, so this article is so wrong on so many fronts.
   18. Omineca Greg Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:01 AM (#5669124)
They were rocking in Ladner (Paxton's home town) last night I'm sure.

As a friend commented on Ladner, "It's the suburb you choose if you a) want to live near Vancouver b) want to make a nightmarishly frustrating drive through a tunnel twice a day, and c) owning a cow is very important to you."

...it's a shame that Paxton's performance is being used to start a conversation that has little to do with what happened last night.

OK, you're right. I'll quit doing that. Exciting game, great performance, and lots of dramatic defence. Fun.
   19. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:09 AM (#5669131)
Greg do you cheer for the M's?
   20. Omineca Greg Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:24 AM (#5669142)
Greg do you cheer for the M's?

I think I'm like most British Columbians in that the Blue Jays are first in my heart, but if the Mariners are doing well, I'm happy about that too.

Actually, I used to be a big Royals fan, but the years when they were bad eventually took their toll on me, and I turned my back on them.

Which made their World Series win bittersweet for me. I couldn't enjoy it as much as I should have. Fans of lousy teams, don't let that happen to you! Let my sad story of corrupted and tainted pleasure be a cautionary tale.

And I was an Expos fan when they were around. I loved the casual presentation of the games, the broadcasting networks always treated their games like an afterthought, compared to the relative pageantry of a Blue Jays broadcast.
   21. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:28 AM (#5669144)
Still strikeouts are definitely reaching a point, where I think MLB should consider possible solutions. My personal preference, is to move the rubber back 6 feet...


That seems like it's going to result in a hell of a lot more offense, and a lot more broken pitchers.

   22. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:32 AM (#5669148)
They were rocking in Ladner (Paxton's home town) last night I'm sure.

As a friend commented on Ladner, "It's the suburb you choose if you a) want to live near Vancouver b) want to make a nightmarishly frustrating drive through a tunnel twice a day, and c) owning a cow is very important to you."


I was always sad Tyson Gillies never made it with the Phillies. Would have been nice to have a player from Kamloops.
   23. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:39 AM (#5669152)
I think I'm like most British Columbians in that the Blue Jays are first in my heart, but if the Mariners are doing well, I'm happy about that too.


That's cool. I really liked the Blue Jays of the early 90s and the M's of the late 90s. As a Met fan, I can honestly say I didn't enjoy the Royals WS victory at all, so there's that. I miss the Expos as a former division rival and enjoyed my trip to Montreal to see them a bunch of years ago. :) I am just generally curious what teams everyone roots for.
   24. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:41 AM (#5669153)
I was always sad Tyson Gillies never made it with the Phillies.


It's also a shame that Buck Rodgers never managed the Dodgers
   25. PepTech, the Legendary Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:41 AM (#5669154)
I suspect this conversation has been had on this site before, but I'm curious about it - there was some talk on the broadcast last night about how the Canadian crowd sort of came around to Paxton's side in the last few innings and was cheering him on. Granted, this was a nearly unique situation with a Canucklehead in Canadia... but what is the prevailing opinion about visiting no-hitters (or, as a special case, a perfect game)? At some point, do you give in and hope for history? What circumstances (the score, your team's record, the fame of the pitcher, something else?) could induce you to root for your own team's failure?
   26. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:44 AM (#5669156)
What circumstances (the score, your team's record, the fame of the pitcher, something else?) could induce you to root for your own team's failure?


If my team has no hope of coming back, I'd want to see history (whether at the game or watching at home). Unless it's a Yankee pitching.

I don't see anything additionally disappointing about my team getting no-hit rather than any other kind of loss.
   27. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:48 AM (#5669158)
Only no-hitter I ever witnessed in person to was the White Sox's Wilson Alvarez's against the Orioles at Memorial Stadium, and IIRC the crowd mostly cheered.

One exception was my wife, who couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about, because she'd seen plenty of games where one team "didn't score any runs".
   28. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:51 AM (#5669162)
Orioles at Memorial Stadium


Not to derail the thread, but what was your opinion of that stadium as a place to watch baseball? My dad was a Baltimore Colts fan and often spoke fondly of it.
   29. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:51 AM (#5669163)
At some point, do you give in and hope for history? What circumstances (the score, your team's record, the fame of the pitcher, something else?) could induce you to root for your own team's failure?


I am a diehard Red Sox fan and that comes with the hatred of the Yankees you'd expect. I was at the Mike Mussina game (first 26 retired) in 2001. I remember standing up in the ninth inning cheering and my friend leaned over and said "are you rooting for the perfect game or the Sox to get a hit?" My response was (and still is) "I honestly don't know." I was happy to see Manaea get his no hitter against the Sox a few weeks ago. It's history and definitely on the bucket list. I saw a triple play last year, I've seen a straight steal of home, I've seen the Sox win a division, a pennant and World Series, I'd love to see a no hitter. My preference would be a Sox no-no but if it's an opponent, that would be great.
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:52 AM (#5669166)
Still strikeouts are definitely reaching a point, where I think MLB should consider possible solutions. My personal preference, is to move the rubber back 6 feet...



That seems like it's going to result in a hell of a lot more offense, and a lot more broken pitchers.


Agree. I'd rather they deaden the ball, and shrink the strikezone a bit, and re-orient the strike zone higher. The launch angle stuff won't work against high strikes.
   31. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:09 AM (#5669177)
I just did a back of the envelope calculation
Now that you can pay all your bills online, etc., do people just keep envelopes around to make rough calculations on the backs of them?
   32. Ithaca2323 Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:12 AM (#5669178)
I am a diehard Red Sox fan and that comes with the hatred of the Yankees you'd expect. I was at the Mike Mussina game (first 26 retired) in 2001. I remember standing up in the ninth inning cheering and my friend leaned over and said "are you rooting for the perfect game or the Sox to get a hit?" My response was (and still is) "I honestly don't know."


How much of this was due to the fact that it was a 1-0 game, though? Would you have felt differently at 12-0?
   33. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:13 AM (#5669179)
Also, tip of the cap to Panik for #24.
   34. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:14 AM (#5669180)
Orioles at Memorial Stadium

Not to derail the thread, but what was your opinion of that stadium as a place to watch baseball? My dad was a Baltimore Colts fan and often spoke fondly of it.


Out of the nearly 30 stadiums I've been to, it was right behind Tiger Stadium and Wrigley. The seats were cheap and easy to get via walk-up, so you didn't need to plan to attend weeks or months in advance. There was plenty of free street parking within a 10 minute walk of the park, the team was good to great for 25 years, and the atmosphere in the Hagy years was electric. This week's Yankees-Red Sox series is being touted for its historic nature, and rightfully so, but there was a 5 game series between the O's and the Yanks in August of 1980 that could've likely rivaled the 1908 Giants-Cubs playoff game for anticipation and excitement, with 5 sellouts and 3 games that came down to the final pitch. I've been to hundreds of games over the years and I've never witnessed anything quite like it.

And if anything, Memorial was even better when the Colts were riding high, meaning before Irsay took over. I haven't been to as many football stadiums, so I can't really compare, but it's hard to imagine that any other venue could've topped Memorial Stadium during the Unitas and early Bert Jones years. AFAIC Robert Irsay was my personal Walter O'Malley.
   35. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:39 AM (#5669200)
Also, tip of the cap to Panik for #24.


Thank you! #curtaincallbutnotontheroad

Out of the nearly 30 stadiums I've been to, it was right behind Tiger Stadium and Wrigley


I always imagined it being on par with, but not like, Tiger Stadium. That is the ballpark, along with Old Comiskey, that I regret not getting to attend. The late 70's early 80's Orioles teams are probably a bit underrated mostly due to the fact that they were so so good in the late 60's early 70's. Must have been an awesome time to watch the AL East (as I know you have noted in previous threads is your favorite division).

And if anything, Memorial was even better when the Colts were riding high, meaning before Irsay took over. I haven't been to as many football stadiums, so I can't really compare, but it's hard to imagine that any other venue could've topped Memorial Stadium during the Unitas and early Bert Jones years. AFAIC Robert Irsay was my personal Walter O'Malley.


Dad grew up in Jersey and was a Unitas fan so he never took to the Jets or the Giants. He definitely shares your view on Irsay (and O'Malley as he was a Brooklyn fan too) but inexplicably continues to support the Indianapolis incarnation of the Colts franchise. I care little for the NFL but by the time I was old enough to know they were in Indy so I had no problem rooting for them when I cared.
   36. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:45 AM (#5669209)
99 pitches, 7 Ks, and a grand total of 15 swings and misses by 29 batters.

Doesn't sound like a "clear product of all or nothing era".
   37. TJ Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:49 AM (#5669212)
Honest question- How much of the increase in strikeouts is on the hitters rather than the pitchers? Is the focus on TTO, launch angles, etc, driving K's more than velocity?
   38. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:52 AM (#5669213)
Honest question- How much of the increase in strikeouts is on the hitters rather than the pitchers?


A tremendous amount.
   39. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:54 AM (#5669216)
Dad grew up in Jersey and was a Unitas fan so he never took to the Jets or the Giants. He definitely shares your view on Irsay (and O'Malley as he was a Brooklyn fan too) but inexplicably continues to support the Indianapolis incarnation of the Colts franchise. I care little for the NFL but by the time I was old enough to know they were in Indy so I had no problem rooting for them when I cared.

Funny, but although I loathe the memory of Robert Irsay to the maximum extent of the law, I've never really hated the Indy Colts, and I wouldn't be surprised if your Dad has the same reason, whether he's even aware of it or not.

Ballmer Coats jersey

Indy Colts jersey

Interesting bargain the NFL and the Indy Colts made with the Ravens:. Indy kept the uniforms, while the Ravens got to keep the most important link of all to the former team: The marching song**. There's never been a better one in the entire history of the NFL.

** Obviously with new lyrics
   40. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:59 AM (#5669217)
There's never been a better one in the entire history of the NFL.


And if there were any category that's most impressive to lead, it's NFL marching sons. Congrats, you've got a better tune than the Skins and the Bears and a couple of songs nobody has played since the 1950s.


   41. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 12:06 PM (#5669224)

Still strikeouts are definitely reaching a point, where I think MLB should consider possible solutions. My personal preference, is to move the rubber back 6 feet...
I'm not clear why you would propose altering something that has been a fundamental part of the game for thousands of years rather than tinkering with things that have routinely been tinkered with, such as mound height, or ball deadness, or the strike zone, or the like.
   42. aberg Posted: May 09, 2018 at 12:10 PM (#5669227)
Now that you can pay all your bills online, etc., do people just keep envelopes around to make rough calculations on the backs of them?


Well done.
   43. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 12:14 PM (#5669234)
I'm not clear why you would propose altering something that has been a fundamental part of the game for thousands of years rather than tinkering with things that have routinely been tinkered with, such as mound height, or ball deadness, or the strike zone, or the like.

Definitely agree with this sentiment.

I think deadening the ball is big, because it would force hitters off the launch angle bang wagon. We just need something to make pitching more difficult, so offense doesn't crater.
   44. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 12:26 PM (#5669242)
Funny, but although I loathe the memory of Robert Irsay to the maximum extent of the law, I've never really hated the Indy Colts, and I wouldn't be surprised if your Dad has the same reason, whether he's even aware of it or not.


Yep. He likes to say that he pulls for the horseshoe.


I'm not clear why you would propose altering something that has been a fundamental part of the game for thousands of years rather than tinkering with things that have routinely been tinkered with, such as mound height, or ball deadness, or the strike zone, or the like.


Yes, agreed. I think lowering the mound would be a good start. Tinkering with the strike zone will only work, I believe, if they go to robot balls/strikes.
   45. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: May 09, 2018 at 12:36 PM (#5669251)
I'm not clear why you would propose altering something that has been a fundamental part of the game for thousands of years rather than tinkering with things that have routinely been tinkered with, such as mound height, or ball deadness, or the strike zone, or the like.

Because I think it is the change most likely to have the desired effect. Crazy notion, I know.

The dimensions of the baseball diamond were set at a time with much lower talent and athleticism levels, and hasn't kept pace with the development and improvements athletes have made. The fact that it hasn't changed in 150 odd years, is an indictment, not something to celebrate. It just shows that it is long long past due.

I think deadening the ball is big, because it would force hitters off the launch angle bang wagon. We just need something to make pitching more difficult, so offense doesn't crater.

Like say, moving the rubber back a few feet?
   46. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 09, 2018 at 12:39 PM (#5669253)
There's never been a better one in the entire history of the NFL.

And if there were any category that's most impressive to lead, it's NFL marching sons. Congrats, you've got a better tune than the Skins and the Bears and a couple of songs nobody has played since the 1950s.


Admittedly that's a fair point, but it's still a great tune, right up there with Michigan's and the U. of Texas in terms of its melody if not the lyrics. Just my two cents' worth.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Funny, but although I loathe the memory of Robert Irsay to the maximum extent of the law, I've never really hated the Indy Colts, and I wouldn't be surprised if your Dad has the same reason, whether he's even aware of it or not.

Yep. He likes to say that he pulls for the horseshoe.


Even if your Dad grew up in Jersey, if he's a reader he might like this book: Bill Gildea, When The Colts Belonged To Baltimore. The author is a former Washington Post writer who grew up in Baltimore during the Unitas era, and when it comes to describing the connection between the team and the city, he gets everything right and says it beautifully.
   47. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 12:40 PM (#5669255)
Like say, moving the rubber back a few feet?

I worry about injury, and I don't like to mess with tradition.

I'd far prefer subtler changes. Restrict the number of pitchers on the roster, so you can't have 4 guys going max-effort for one IP in every game. Shrink the strike zone. Lower the mound.
   48. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 12:44 PM (#5669269)
Like say, moving the rubber back a few feet?


But that's going to really screw the balance between hitting and pitching, I think. Offense would explode, and pitchers would suffer (both from having to adjust to the new distance and having to throw more pitches to get through an inning).

As I've said before, if you're going to tinker with the distances, reducing the space between the bases is likely to have the effect you're looking for. It's one thing that truly increases the value of putting the ball in play vs. swinging and missing, which, to me, is the key to changing the balance.

In my view, the other ideas, while worthwhile first steps, (such as deadening the ball, reducing glove sizes, thickening bat handles and pushing back the fences) will help in one area, but I fear that players will still believe swinging from the heels is going to lead to best results. You need to increase the value gap between putting the ball in play and failing to do so.
   49. Tom Nawrocki Posted: May 09, 2018 at 12:50 PM (#5669284)

But that's going to really screw the balance between hitting and pitching, I think. Offense would explode, and pitchers would suffer (both from having to adjust to the new distance and having to throw more pitches to get through an inning).


I don't think they'd necessarily need more pitches. Reducing the efficacy of fastballs would reduce strikeouts and put more balls in play. The increase in offense might counteract the fewer number of pitches seen per batter, but it might not.
   50. bookbook Posted: May 09, 2018 at 12:54 PM (#5669291)
Thousands of years?
   51. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: May 09, 2018 at 01:04 PM (#5669311)
I think deadening the ball is big, because it would force hitters off the launch angle bang wagon.
There are very few things that could get players off of a bang wagon, but I suppose deadening their balls would indeed be one of them.
   52. PepTech, the Legendary Posted: May 09, 2018 at 01:13 PM (#5669323)
Thousands of years?
A rare breach in the wall for Our Favorite Pedant :)
   53. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 01:14 PM (#5669325)
There are very few things that could get players off of a bang wagon, but I suppose deadening their balls would indeed be one of them


Just ask Mickey Mantle

Even if your Dad grew up in Jersey, if he's a reader he might like this book: Bill Gildea, When The Colts Belonged To Baltimore. The author is a former Washington Post writer who grew up in Baltimore during the Unitas era, and when it comes to describing the connection between the team and the city, he gets everything right and says it beautifully.


Score! Fathers Day gift!

   54. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: May 09, 2018 at 01:15 PM (#5669326)
I think deadening the ball is big, because it would force hitters off the launch angle bang wagon.

There are very few things that could get players off of a bang wagon, but I suppose deadening their balls would indeed be one of them.


It would certainly work better than moving the rubbers.
   55. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 01:18 PM (#5669328)
There are very few things that could get players off of a bang wagon, but I suppose deadening their balls would indeed be one of them


REDO! Just ask Yadier Molina.
   56. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 09, 2018 at 01:23 PM (#5669331)
There are thousands of ball fields set at 60'6". I'd hate for MLB to change their distance, because I doubt anyone would follow their lead, and suddenly it'd be like the varying 3 point lines in various basketball leagues.

   57. Panik on the streets of London (Trout! Trout!) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 01:32 PM (#5669334)
There are thousands of ball fields set at 60'6". I'd hate for MLB to change their distance, because I doubt anyone would follow their lead, and suddenly it'd be like the varying 3 point lines in various basketball leagues.


This is a VERY good point.
   58. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: May 09, 2018 at 01:55 PM (#5669339)
Something to keep in mind - in 1968, when offense was at its scarcest, baseball raised the mound. Two questions:

1) Is there something subtle like that which could have a similar effect?
2) Is scoring down in MLB in a big-time way, or are we more concerned with the changing nature of how teams score runs?
   59. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 01:58 PM (#5669340)
2) Is scoring down in MLB in a big-time way, or are we more concerned with the changing nature of how teams score runs?


The latter.
   60. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 01:59 PM (#5669341)
in 1968, when offense was at its scarcest, baseball raised the mound.

Lowered

2) Is scoring down in MLB in a big-time way, or are we more concerned with the changing nature of how teams score runs?

The nature. Too many HR, too many Ks, not enough balls in play.
   61. Random Transaction Generator Posted: May 09, 2018 at 02:05 PM (#5669344)
there was some talk on the broadcast last night about how the Canadian crowd sort of came around to Paxton's side in the last few innings and was cheering him on. Granted, this was a nearly unique situation with a Canucklehead in Canadia


If it had been any other pitcher doing that against the Jays, I don't think he gets even 1/3rd the support from the fans.
He acknowledged the fans just before he was interviewed by the Seattle broadcasters by lifting his arm up in the air and pointing at his large maple leaf tattoo on his forearm/elbow.
We know he's proud to be Canadian.

If there is one thing Canadians love, it's one of their own making it big in an American-dominated sport, even at the expense of their own Canadian team.
Steve Nash/Andrew Wiggins scoring big against the Raptors, Votto/Paxton/Morneau/Walker against the Jays...

Of course, Canadians playing for Canadian teams in American sports is even better. Hence the over-sized support Brett Lawrie got in Toronto, and what Russell Martin currently gets for the Jays.

   62. Fancy Crazy Town Banana Pants Handle Posted: May 09, 2018 at 02:16 PM (#5669357)
Something to keep in mind - in 1968, when offense was at its scarcest, baseball raised the mound. Two questions:

1) Is there something subtle like that which could have a similar effect?
2) Is scoring down in MLB in a big-time way, or are we more concerned with the changing nature of how teams score runs?

1) First of all, they lowered the mound after 68. And secondly, the effect of doing so was not actually all that large. Though of course it is hard to tell exactly how big the actual effect was, and how much is noise, and weather, and other factors that influence run scoring. 1972 was the second lowest run scoring year post deadball era. Overall, the 4 years before lowering the mound produced 3.86 r/g, and the four years after produced 4.00 r/g. That is part of the reason the AL went with the DH following 72.

Which is why I don't think lowering it further will do much. It is also hard to see how that will lead to more contact per se, rather than even more homers, and more balls from pitchers.

2) A bit of both, but mostly the latter. The 4.07 runs per game we had 3 years ago is on the edge of what is desirable in terms of run scoring. Though it has bounced back a bit with the swing-plane revolution. But strikeouts are completely through the roof, which reduces exciting balls in play.
   63. GGIAS (aka Poster Nutbag) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 02:35 PM (#5669383)
I will fix this whole scoring thing, the current commissioner will love the idea too:

1. NL Adopts the DH

2. The DH MUST get on base every at bat. Once he makes an out, he must now pitch his teams next defensive inning with NO mound visits allowed.

3. After 5 innings, if the game is still 0-0, ghost-runners begin each inning on 2nd base. The ghost-runners CAN steal bases, but the Safe/Out determination is made via rock-paper-scissors between the nearest base coach and the
furthest umpire. (Quicker than replay, no room for arguments)

4. The final game of every series will actually be played with a 2 hour time clock, instead of innings, to facilitate "getaway days" and travel time.

   64. phredbird Posted: May 09, 2018 at 02:45 PM (#5669398)

i know this sound counter-intuitive, but i believe a long way towards solving the problem of too many Ks vs. balls in play problem would be to change park dimensions. haven't fences been coming in for the last generation or so?

i could be wrong, but even if fences have not come in that much there's been another change in the game: the hitters and pitchers are pretty much pushing the upper boundaries of strength. so everybody is swinging as hard as possible and throwing as hard as possible. the result is what we see, the all or nothing approach of hitters. seems the fences are set at a place where hitters achieve an optimum result with certain types of contact.

if the fences go back, we're returning to one of the main features of the dead ball era, adjusted for the present era of heightened overall strength: big parks where balls in the gap or over a fielders head are doubles and triples and the occasional IPHR.

it's the easiest thing to change, too.

just my two cents.
   65. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: May 09, 2018 at 02:47 PM (#5669399)
What would this do to breaking balls? Wouldn't sliders start to move 3 feet earlier? And curve balls would break more? Changeups would start dropping 3 feet earlier. I wouldn't think pitchers can control when the ball starts to move. Some of those pitches could be rendered worthless.
This comment from Greg deserves more attention.

Perfect illustration of possible unintended consequences and why you should be conservative about screwing with the geometry of the game.
   66. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 02:50 PM (#5669402)
it's the easiest thing to change, too.

The ball is the easiest thing to chance; you don't even have to tell anyone you're doing it.

Lots of stadiums don't have dead areas between the fences and the stands, making it expensive to move them.
   67. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: May 09, 2018 at 03:01 PM (#5669415)
What would this do to breaking balls? Wouldn't sliders start to move 3 feet earlier? And curve balls would break more? Changeups would start dropping 3 feet earlier. I wouldn't think pitchers can control when the ball starts to move. Some of those pitches could be rendered worthless.


Ok, I'll address this.

Do you think 60'6" is a magical distance that allows humans to throw sliders, curve balls and changeups? That we somehow were lucky enough to discover when Abner Doubleday placed the peach baskets 60'6" apart?

Or, do you think it is more likely that human pitchers have been conditioned to pitch 60'6", and that they would be able to adjust?

Sure, there would be a period where pitchers had to adjust, and it would impact the game. But after a year or two, they'd be just fine.

That said, changing the pitching distance is basically the last change I would even consider.

   68. Karl from NY Posted: May 09, 2018 at 03:13 PM (#5669426)
Yeah, deaden the ball. Make it a millimeter or two bigger and a gram or two heavier. That should get what we want: less velocity both pitched and hit, more contact and BIP but fewer for home runs. Without messing with the dimensions of the pitching distance or anywhere else on the field or the won't-be-enforced strike zone.

Doubt MLB would do it, since it would lend credence to all the past accusations of changing the balls, but that really is the solution.
   69. phredbird Posted: May 09, 2018 at 03:27 PM (#5669437)
it's the easiest thing to change, too.

The ball is the easiest thing to chance; you don't even have to tell anyone you're doing it.

Lots of stadiums don't have dead areas between the fences and the stands, making it expensive to move them.


changing the ball falls into the same category of Messing With the Game that traditionalists will raise a ruckus about, but yes i'll concede it's a relatively easy fix.

i guess i meant easiest in the sense that it would be the most transparent fix that doesn't alter any of the other dimensions we are used to.

fences have been moved around forever, i don't see how it would be so prohibitively expensive. maybe at fenway since the left field abuts almost right to the street. i'm sure just about all the parks could be worked on with a bit of creative construction.

it doesn't have to be drastic. i'm not talking about removing whole sections to create cavernous spaces.

   70. bunyon Posted: May 09, 2018 at 03:31 PM (#5669443)
There is no quick solution other than deadening the ball. I'd like to see a combination though:

1) deaden ball slightly
2) move fences back and/or make them taller
3) call rule book zone

1 could be done next year. Hell, it could probably be done before end of this season (do they buy all the balls in the spring or are they manufactured over the year?

2 will take some time and there will be push back. Homers should be crushed. A strong guy popping up a 100 mph fastball shouldn't get you over the fence.

3 is virtually impossible and would have the longest adjustment period in that the way it works is for hitters to realize they have to swing at pitches that aren't "fat". In the meantime, Ks go up, which is the opposite of intent.



Oh, and 4: enjoy no-hitters. They're cool. But we should also expect more of them as we go to more TTO games.
   71. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 03:35 PM (#5669447)
changing the ball falls into the same category of Messing With the Game that traditionalists will raise a ruckus about,

They've changed the ball a bunch of times. Just a few years ago they moved the ball much closer to the liveliness side of the allowed tolerances.
   72. bunyon Posted: May 09, 2018 at 03:37 PM (#5669450)
Oh - I would absolutely, under no circumstances, consider changing the fundamental distances: 60.5 feet, 90 feet. Those stay.

Moving fences, making the ball a hair softer, those kind of things are invisible and happen over time anyway.
   73. phredbird Posted: May 09, 2018 at 03:44 PM (#5669455)
They've changed the ball a bunch of times. Just a few years ago they moved the ball much closer to the liveliness side of the allowed tolerances.


right, but isn't that the sort of thing that is done on the down low? it wasn't publicized, was it?

assuming you could do either one with minimal disruption, which would you choose, dead ball or bigger outfields?

i like the approach of number 70, actually. a combination of tweaks.
   74. Karl from NY Posted: May 09, 2018 at 03:45 PM (#5669457)
Moving the fences out doesn't help the problems. That does nothing for contact and K rates. You just turn some HR into outs and a few into doubles off the wall.
   75. Blastin Posted: May 09, 2018 at 03:47 PM (#5669460)
I just want the edges of the strike zone moved in. Homers don't bother me.
   76. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 04:09 PM (#5669479)
I just want the edges of the strike zone moved in. Homers don't bother me.

But, if you cut Ks and leave the HR alone, scoring will explode.
   77. phredbird Posted: May 09, 2018 at 04:14 PM (#5669485)
Moving the fences out doesn't help the problems. That does nothing for contact and K rates. You just turn some HR into outs and a few into doubles off the wall.


the K rates are up because the environment we have now encourages a TTO approach.

hitters adjust if they know that swinging for going over the fences isn't going to work as well. moving fences makes swinging for line drives that fall where fielders have more ground to cover into a better bet for scoring runs.
   78. Karl from NY Posted: May 09, 2018 at 04:27 PM (#5669503)
I don't think they do. When Citi Field's fences were built far away, most of the Mets' hitters led by David Wright famously complained about them rather than adjust.
   79. eric Posted: May 09, 2018 at 04:36 PM (#5669512)
They've changed the ball a bunch of times. Just a few years ago they moved the ball much closer to the liveliness side of the allowed tolerances.


right, but isn't that the sort of thing that is done on the down low? it wasn't publicized, was it?


Was this ever confirmed or admitted? I mean I believe it's true, but I wasn't sure of the official results on that front.

Either way, since I do believe it's true, what that means is I think MLB is very, very aware of offensive levels and the way the game is played. The fact that they've provided equipment and rules that have resulted in the game the way it currently is means this is the game they want, or close to it (and anything they don't like they're probably already working on a solution).

What that further means is that all this hand-wringing about how to change the game is probably not worth a whole lot (read: worth even less than anonymous internet message-board whining about how a colossal business plies its trade typically is). We're getting the product that makes the most money for MLB and we will continue to get the product that makes them the most money.

If you want thicker bat handles or softer balls, then knock the guy in the seat next to you over the head and explain why the game in its current state is so bad. Only when MLB sees the effects in its bottom line will any changes be made.

For me, I'll continue to enjoy the game. It's not like soft ground balls to second were any more exciting than strikeouts. But now, with guys swinging from their heels, every time there is contact there's a lot more potential for excitement.
   80. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 04:44 PM (#5669517)
Was this ever confirmed or admitted? I mean I believe it's true, but I wasn't sure of the official results on that front.

I believe so. I recall reading about testing that showed the ball in compliance, but results now clustered at the lively end of the compliance range, whereas in years past, the balls were more evenly distributed across the range.

Not sure if the test was MLB or an independent lab.
   81. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 05:06 PM (#5669541)
The fact that they've provided equipment and rules that have resulted in the game the way it currently is means this is the game they want, or close to it (and anything they don't like they're probably already working on a solution).


Given their applied fixes to the pace of play issue is the no-pitch intentional walk, the six-mound-visit limit and hope, I'm not sure this confidence is well-placed.
   82. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: May 09, 2018 at 05:09 PM (#5669546)
Lower the mound and stop calling pitches off the plate strikes. The wide strike zone is a thing imo. See how things go from there.

There's absolutely no way you can move the mount back, move the bases, etc. That would be like changing the rim height in basketball and would alter everything so much you'd have to have two eras to define the sport and nobody wants that.
   83. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 09, 2018 at 05:21 PM (#5669557)
Raising the strike zone (not the mound) would help to slow down the launch angle craze, since it's almost impossible to hit a high fast ball without a level (or tomahawking) swing. The result would be that good hitters would make swing adjustments, bad hitters would be out of luck, and in the long run we'd likely see fewer strikeouts.
   84. Walt Davis Posted: May 09, 2018 at 05:22 PM (#5669558)
There's no such thing as a line drive swing. If batters could swing for line drives, they'd already be doing so. The launch angle phenomenon shifts the G/F ratio. LD %ages have been steady or going up -- it's hard to tell because they pretty clearly changed how they categorize "LDs" a few years ago.

Who's to blame? Back in 1993-94, Ks went up a lot but on-contact production went up even more and sillyball was born. Given the rise in Ks was accompanied by a big rise in scoring, it makes sense to pin blame more on batters than pitchers. Plenty of other factors too like Coors, other new small parks, expansion, maybe the ball, etc.

On-contact production then stayed stable until 2013-14. Ks continued to rise between 93 and 2012 though -- fairly slowly but this is presumably due to the pitchers ... although again there were other changes going on. Anyway, batters weren't doing any more damage when they hit the ball -- possibly they were having more trouble making the same hard contact without taking more risks on swinging/missing. But the simpler explanation was changes to pitching (cut fastballs, velocity, more/better relievers).

For 2012-14, Ks really took off and scoring plummeted. The drop in offense clearly wasn't the batters' idea, it was even at least briefly accompanied by a drop in on-contact production. Much of this was due to a substantially larger strike zone, especially on the lower end. The rest presumably was due to pitchers emphasizing Ks and velocity and yet more relief pitchers.

In the last few years, since mid-2015 which is why some of us suspect it was at least partly changes to the ball, on-contact production has jumped again, for the first time since 1994. This looks to be batters and launch angles. It also may have been that, in reaction to the expansion of the zone to below the knees, the batters learned how to hit low pitches hard. Supposedly the big thing these days is the 4-seam, "non-sinking" fastball that they can't get launch angle on.

Making things harder on hitters isn't going to help contact. It will still be in the pitchers' interest to strike out as many as they can. That's always been true and the only possible benefit of more contact to the pitcher is a reduction in the pitch count -- but in exchange for more baserunners so it's not clear that helps and it's not clear teams aren't going to pull the starter after 6 innings anyway. But it's not clear to me what you do to push batters to more contcact anyway.

Meanwhile ... April (and bear in mind this year started a week earlier and was very, very cold ...

2014 4.21 R/G, 249/317/389 ... 20.8% K rate, 0.89 HR/G (team-game)
2015 4.27 R/G, 250/315/390 ... 20.1%, 0.91
2016 4.24 R/G, 249/319/405 ... 21.3%, 1.05
2017 4.42 R/G, 247/317/407 ... 21.6%, 1.17
2018 4.47 R/G, 244/319/400 ... 22.7%, 1.09

Relative to last year, BA is down a bit but OBP is up a bit (more walks I assume) while ISO is down a bit (lower HR-rate). With the jump in K-rate and BB-rate, contact is down ... although last I heard, hitting a HR still required making contact. Scoring up a bit could be a random bounce, could be due to the walks (which could be a random bounce), the walks might be a reaction to the ISO jumps of 2016-17.

In April 1988, MLB hit 254/323/390, 4.53 R/G, with a K-rate of 15%. Take out the walks and a game is about 73-74 ABs. That "10 point" difference in BA between 1988 and 2018 is of course just one percent or, maybe, 0.75 hits per game. (That's per game, not team-game). There's no guarantee that extra 0.75 hit would have belonged to the Jays last night.

There were a ton of no-hitters for 2012-15 -- 22 of them! -- but only one in 2016 and one in 2017 before this latest spurt. From 1983-88, there were 2 in April and 6 overall -- 2015 had 7 all by itself.
   85. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 05:24 PM (#5669559)
There's absolutely no way you can move the mount back, move the bases, etc. That would be like changing the rim height in basketball and would alter everything so much you'd have to have two eras to define the sport and nobody wants that.


If the game becomes unplayable/unwatchable under its existing dimensions or rules*, then you have to make changes. By all means, start with the smaller ones. But if they don't work, you have to be open to more substantive ones. You can't rule things out because of concerns for the damn record book.

* Which, obviously, it's nowhere close to being. And, as Eric noted, some people prefer the TTO style, so we don't even know how much today's balance is really a problem. But it is.

   86. eric Posted: May 09, 2018 at 05:32 PM (#5669564)
although last I heard, hitting a HR still required making contact.


Or one heck of a dropped third strike.
   87. zack Posted: May 09, 2018 at 06:16 PM (#5669577)
Personally I think, as part of a suite of changes to encourage balls-in-play, they need to make the fielders wear these. And maybe have a horse or seven run around the infield grass before the game.
   88. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 09, 2018 at 06:22 PM (#5669580)
Raising the strike zone (not the mound) would help to slow down the launch angle craze, since it's almost impossible to hit a high fast ball without a level (or tomahawking) swing. The result would be that good hitters would make swing adjustments, bad hitters would be out of luck, and in the long run we'd likely see fewer strikeouts.

For 2012-14, Ks really took off and scoring plummeted. The drop in offense clearly wasn't the batters' idea, it was even at least briefly accompanied by a drop in on-contact production. Much of this was due to a substantially larger strike zone, especially on the lower end. The rest presumably was due to pitchers emphasizing Ks and velocity and yet more relief pitchers.

In the last few years, since mid-2015 which is why some of us suspect it was at least partly changes to the ball, on-contact production has jumped again, for the first time since 1994. This looks to be batters and launch angles. It also may have been that, in reaction to the expansion of the zone to below the knees, the batters learned how to hit low pitches hard. Supposedly the big thing these days is the 4-seam, "non-sinking" fastball that they can't get launch angle on
.

I'm not sure whether that was addressed to me, but when I say to raise the strike zone, I also mean to raise it at the lower end by a corresponding amount. IMHO that would reduce strikeouts on the low outside breaking ball, because pitches that are now possibly marginal strikes, and can't be passed on, would appear more clearly low and marginally less tempting. Pitchers wouldn't be as easily able to tempt batters on pitches that appear to be coming at knee level, and their strikeout rates would decline.

And in the long run, it would also force hitters to level off their swing, because as I said, it's very hard to barrel up on a high strike with a swing that's launched from below. In the short run, batters who persisted in trying to "launch" high strikes would find themselves striking out even more than they do now, but in the long run the better hitters will learn to adjust their swing to the new reality. You'd have a slightly different set of winners and losers, but overall I think the game would benefit by having more balls put in play. As it stands now, when you have a good power pitcher who can consistently throw that 4-seam "non-sinking" fastball up in the zone, those batters with the big launch angles are almost helpless, while at the same time they're swinging at those low outside breaking balls for fear they'll be rung up by the umpire. This isn't any magic bullet, but I think it'd be a move in the right direction.

   89. bfan Posted: May 09, 2018 at 06:31 PM (#5669584)
I do not get the injury concern. Aren't pitchers throwing the ball as hard as they can now? What would change if you added another 30 inches (my suggested number)? I really do not see the difference; it isn't as if we are converting a 60 foot throw to a 200 foot throw.

Unless you believe that batters reaction times are getting incrementally better (and they may be, with modern training techniques, but I do not think so), the nature of what pitchers can do today is basically giving the batters 5% less time to react, than they used to. Better fielding is making contact just for the sake of contact less valuable (you could hit .200 by putting a crappy swing on the ball, 30 years ago, and now, with faster fielders who can cover more ground using bigger gloves and now being better positioned to stand right where you hit the ball, a crappy swing putting the ball in play yields you a .100 average, so you take pitches forever), so you don't "protect the plate" with 2 strikes any more...if you can't drive the ball, you take the pitch and hope that marginal pitch is called a ball. If it is a strike and you struck out, it is just another strike-out, instead of a weak grounder to short.

I do not get the tradition concern. The game today is so much different that it was 30 years ago; no one is yelling tradition when a regular season game non-extra-inning game sees 7 pitchers used. 30 years ago, 20 pitchers pitched more innings than the league leader of 2017 did. Forget the strike-outs and walks; the way pitchers are used and the way the game plays out is fundamentally different than it was 30 years ago.

Other major sports change when things are not working. The NBA got so enamored with defenses clogging the lane and playing back from the offensive player, so they added the 3 point line. That is as dramatic as anything anyone is talking about in baseball (BTW-to cut down on HR's, you could make a run scored by a HR worth .5, and all other runs worth the full 1; does that work for you?). The NFL has seen too much reliance on kicking field goals, so they moved the goal posts back 10 yards; narrowed the goal posts; raised the penalty for missing a field goal (from ball goes on the 20 to ball goes where the missed kick was). They addressed the boring nature of extra points; added a 2 point scoring option; changed the way penalties are assessed...there is lots that football has done as well.
   90. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: May 09, 2018 at 06:32 PM (#5669585)
I'm not sure whether that was addressed to me, but when I say to raise the strike zone, I also mean to raise it at the lower end by a corresponding amount. IMHO that would reduce strikeouts on the low outside breaking ball, because pitches that are now possibly marginal strikes, and can't be passed on, would appear more clearly low and marginally less tempting. Pitchers wouldn't be as easily able to tempt batters on pitches that appear to be coming at knee level, and their strikeout rates would decline.

And in the long run, it would also force hitters to level off their swing, because as I said, it's very hard to barrel up on a high strike with a swing that's launched from below. In the short run, batters who persisted in trying to "launch" high strikes would find themselves striking out even more than they do now, but in the long run the better hitters will learn to adjust their swing to the new reality. You'd have a slightly different set of winners and losers, but overall I think the game would benefit by having more balls put in play. As it stands now, when you have a good power pitcher who can consistently throw that 4-seam "non-sinking" fastball up in the zone, those batters with the big launch angles are almost helpless, while at the same time they're swinging at those low outside breaking balls for fear they'll be rung up by the umpire. This isn't any magic bullet, but I think it'd be a move in the right direction.


Agree with this. Bringing back the "balloon" chest protector the AL used to use would aid in this. If Umps don't have to hide behind the C, they stand up taller, and will naturally call more high strikes and fewer low ones.
   91. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 07:31 PM (#5669605)
I do not get the injury concern. Aren't pitchers throwing the ball as hard as they can now? What would change if you added another 30 inches (my suggested number)?


One-inning relievers may be throwing as hard as they can now, but starters aren't. So if you move the mound back, there will likely be added incentive to pick up that "lost" velocity. Additionally, pitches are harmful. If you increase offensive levels, it will likely (though I suppose it's possible that can be offset by greater contact rates, but I'm skeptical that would be the case) lead to more pitches thrown, which will lead to more pitcher injuries.
   92. Howie Menckel Posted: May 09, 2018 at 08:34 PM (#5669649)
I was always sad Tyson Gillies never made it with the Phillies.

at least Johnny Podres was an expansion pick of....
   93. Walt Davis Posted: May 09, 2018 at 09:17 PM (#5669693)
I'm not sure whether that was addressed to me

It wasn't, just running down the history. I haven't seen a breakdown on the strike zone for the last couple of years so I don't know if that low strike has been maintained anyway. It's hard for me to see how raising the strike zone is going to help much. If the current philosophy (which you've explained) is correct then we'd see at least as many Ks and fewer HRs so lower scoring without any increase in contact.

It arises in many contexts (including political, social, etc.) but the notion that somehow making it harder for group A to succeed will lead group A to change such that it succeeds more have little/no basis in reality. First, reducing HR rates by, say, 20% doesn't necessarily mean that a TTO approach isn't still the optimal approach, it just means that scoring goes down by .3 R/g (or whatever). Due to slowly then quickly rising K-rates, the TTO approach has had diminishing returns (in terms of R/g) over the last decade but batters didn't change their approach. K-rates took big jumps in the mid-2010s and what have we seen in response? More TTO.

Batter success (or pitcher success) is really always relative to average. Seems to me that all that most of the suggestions offered do is to lower/raise the average batter performance. There's no guarantee that has any effect whatsoever on the RELATIVE value of a TTO approach. Create a 230/300/360 league and a guy with Rob Deer's numbers is posting a 131 OPS+.

You're looking for some combination that decreases Ks, decreases HRs, increases LD%. But (however defined) in 2018, the LD% (as % of contact) is 24%. In 2008, it was 18%. In 1998 it was 21%. In 1988 it was 20% (that's the earliest it was collected). Those numbers shouldn't be directly compared but there's no evidence that batters are less adept at hitting LDs, they are just making more contact.

By the way, HR/FB (which includes LDs) for those years ... 1988 8.2%; 1998 7.8%; 2008 7.5%; 2018 9.0%. Given that mixes "LDs" and "FBs", there may not be a big change (although the definition of "GB" pretty clearly changed somewhere in there). The big change occurred in 2016 (or mid-2015). In 2015, HR/FB was 8.2% just like in 1988. Restricted flight baseballs would presumably cut that number down but I see no reason to think it would increase LDs.

I think of it as a distribution of launch angles (now). There's a range that produces GBs, a range that produces LDs and a range that produces FBs. Even in 2018, we are still seeing about 40% of contact resulting in GBs. That leaves 24% for LDs so 36% for FBs. But even if players reduced the average launch angle, it would convert some FBs to LDs but (I strongly suspect) it converts LDs to GBs. You just end up with 50%, 24%, 26%. If you can trade a bunch of Ks (but very few walks) for contact then you might keep scoring the same.
   94. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 09:53 PM (#5669719)


Batter success (or pitcher success) is really always relative to average. Seems to me that all that most of the suggestions offered do is to lower/raise the average batter performance. There's no guarantee that has any effect whatsoever on the RELATIVE value of a TTO approach.


That's my feeling, and why I suspect that a solution that makes putting the ball in play more valuable relative to swinging and missing is what's necessary to push the game away from TTO. And I feel like a lot of the things offered will only reduce offense, but not drive players away from the current approach to hitting they're taking now.
   95. eric Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:05 PM (#5669732)
Really, it comes down to home runs. Walks are always good for a hitter and strikeouts are always good for a pitcher. So unless the engrained cultural norms (3 strikes and 4 balls) are going to change then we're really trying to reduce HRs. Shrinking the strike zone would just results in fewer Ks, but more BBs, and likely even more HRs.

If you reduce the ability of a batter to hit HR, it doesn't mean HR themselves are less valuable, but it might mean the approach of always going for a HR is too costly if the chances of success are small enough and the penalty for failure (lots of Ks and pop-ups) stays the same. Then teams would value contact more and maybe even "small-ball" plays (SB, hit-and-run, *gasp* bunts??) might come back into vogue.

Again, if that's the game MLB determines is the best for their bottom line, which I doubt.
   96. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:13 PM (#5669740)
If you reduce the ability of a batter to hit HR, it doesn't mean HR themselves are less valuable, but it might mean the approach of always going for a HR is too costly if the chances of success are small enough and the penalty for failure (lots of Ks and pop-ups) stays the same.


I don't think it's necessarily that simple. If players find that simply swinging for maximum power (even if it results in more doubles or triples instead of homers) is still the best bet, it's not necessarily going to change their approach. And yes, doubles and triples are entertaining, but an increase there might not change the K levels.
   97. Walt Davis Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:52 PM (#5669786)
I suspect that a solution that makes putting the ball in play more valuable relative to swinging and missing is what's necessary to push the game away from TTO

I don't see what could do that. Putting the ball in play already is more valuable than swinging and missing so what you've got to do it make putting it in play more valuable than swinging and missing and taking (the "easy" part) and the HRs and LDs and hard GBs that come as a result of all that hard swinging (the hard part).

Seems to me there were three main differences in the olden days. (1) A lot of players were pretty small or at least skinny; (2) weight training was discouraged; (3) we couldn't measure launch angles and spin rates. On thing that has surprised me is that it's apparently a lot easier to train a batter to generate lift than I thought it would be.

The physics of hitting HRs hasn't changed. McCovey's HRs were no different than Schwarber's. The issue is that everybody know Don Kessinger didn't have the strength to hit HRs yet the standards (justified or not) of who "could" play SS didn't allow a bigger, possibly slower player to play there -- or the supply of big, strong baseball players was sufficiently small that you had no choice but to have 3-4 Kessinger types in your lineup.

But thanks to weight training and possibly selecting stronger/bigger players to advance through the minors, everybody has the strength to hit HRs. If everybody in the 60s could have hit like McCovey, they would have. Nobody was eschewing his style in favor of small ball, they simply couldn't succeed at his style. We all know the perils of listed heights and weights at b-r but Corey Seager is listed at 6'4", 220 lbs ... Mike Schmidt at 6'2", 195. Even if Schmidt did add 15-20 pounds of muscle to that frame, Seager at SS is still the same size. McCovey is listed at 6'4", 198 which maybe he was when he was young but not by the time I saw him.

Historically we don't have G/F ratios. All we can work with is GO/AO (ground outs to air outs). McCovey was at 0.97 in a 1.10 league; Schmidt was 0.66 in a 1.09 league; Aaron 0.84 in a 1.07 league; Banks 0.73 in a 1.06 league; Dawson 0.94 in 1.08; . Modern guys: Seager is 1.29 in a 1.11 league. Schwarber is 0.93 in a 1.11 league. Stanton is 1.05 in a 1.10 league; at least Gallo is down below Schmidt at 0.58.

Kessinger was a 1.19 in a 1.11 league; Bowa 1.04; Concepcion 1.34; Carew 1.84; Rose 1.65; Ichiro 1.51; Jeter 2.00; Andrus 1.58. The ground out seems alive and well.

I have no idea if that holds up but those league numbers are virtually the same. I'm surprised by that. Obviously there are many more Ks so the count of GOs and AOs is down (per team-season) but the ratio seems solid as a rock. I don't know how well G/F and GO/AO correlate at the league-year level but I'd think they have to be fairly close, at least once you adjust for HR rate.

I don't know where any of that goes but it suggests the power hitters of yesteryear were, if anything, more likely to hit a FB on-contact than those of today. But I would have expected much lower ratios for at least Schwarber and Stanton ... and not to see Andrus quite so high.

GO/AO is down so far this year at just 1.02. That could be seasonal or fluke -- it was right in line with the above in 2016 and 2017. The teams with the LOWEST GO/AO are Pitt, Minn, Det, KC and Cle all under 0.9 ... the four AL teams are all below league average in R/G, Pitt is 3rd in the NL. But the two lowest-scoring AL teams (CHW and Bal) have the highest GO/AO ... and the 3 worst NL offense are 5 of the highest GO/AOs.

Anyway, put me down for "if you can hit for power, you should go TTO (unless you're prime Pujols); if you can't, be fast and hit GBs," adding that I'm pretty sure we have a lot more guys who can hit for power now. Or ... they put in a rabbit ball mid-2015 and haven't gone back.
   98. This is going to be state of the art wall Posted: May 09, 2018 at 10:55 PM (#5669795)
I don't think it's necessarily that simple. If players find that simply swinging for maximum power (even if it results in more doubles or triples instead of homers) is still the best bet, it's not necessarily going to change their approach. And yes, doubles and triples are entertaining, but an increase there might not change the K levels.


Totally agree and here's an anecdote about how I was trained to play compared to what we see now, especially at the MLB level:

I was a fairly serious player (peaked in the summer of '98 and attracted low level college attention -- some juco for baseball even, but lost the passion and ended up playing DIII) and the strikeout stigma was real, even for good players.

My summer league coach, a total ####### but a former GLIAC player of the year that briefly played pro ball, one time told me to \"####### go up there and swing the bat as hard as you ####### can every time" when I was in a slump, and that was really the first time I had really heard that. Every broadcast, every coach, my dad was always "choke up with 2 strikes" and "go up there with a line drive swing". You didn't want to strike out especially.

We (I mean most in the baseball playing world) were treating the vast majority of plate appearances like a K mattered compared to an out otherwise, when it really doesn't.

Walt said "there is no line drive swing" and maybe he's right but there is certainly an uppercut swing, and the prevailing wisdom when I was coming up was also not to swing with too much of an uppercut. If you hit line drives, the power would usually "come naturally". That thinking is also outdated now.

The players and coaches have simply gotten more efficient in training and style and unlike in the NBA (where similar has happened with the death of the mid range shot and post game) this efficiency has not been an aesthetic boom.

_______________________________________________

adding that I'm pretty sure we have a lot more guys who can hit for power now. Or ... they put in a rabbit ball mid-2015 and haven't gone back.


there's evidence some of it's the ball but FFS have you seen the forearms on middle infielders these days? In a way, even without full blown PEDs, training and nutrition and legal supplements have turned almost everybody back into a power threat.
   99. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:02 PM (#5669806)

Anyway, put me down for "if you can hit for power, you should go TTO (unless you're prime Pujols); if you can't, be fast and hit GBs,"

Agreed, but these days anyone who can't consistently hit at least 20 home runs might want to think about another approach to swinging, at least with two strikes. It can be done. Too many players who hit 10 or 15 home runs wind up striking out 150 times with miserably low walk totals, fooling themselves into thinking they're Aaron Judge.
   100. SoSH U at work Posted: May 09, 2018 at 11:03 PM (#5669807)
I don't see what could do that.


That's why I think moving the bases closer, in conjunction with the things to make homers harder, might be one of the few things that truly work. That would pull infielders in, turning more ground balls into singles, probably producing more ROEs and increasing the distance between the infield and outfield, allowing for more balls to drop between them. If BABIP (or OBP*BIP) increases enough, it can increase the value gap between swinging and missing (the inevitable byproduct of the power-hitting approach) and contact.

*As long as I'm dreaming, this new world counts ROE as part of OBP, as it should already.
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