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Friday, June 14, 2019

Rosenthal: It’s not baseball, it’s Bludgeon Ball. And the frequency of home runs is nothing short of numbing – The Athletic

The statistical context of the game shifts and so does the evaluation of its players. I get not liking the style of play. The claim that the current style and statistical context prevents the accurate evaluation of the game’s current players is a silly argument.

The same kind of adjustment is now necessary. Fans love homers. Children, and many adults, love sugar. But at some point, enough is enough. How can teams accurately evaluate hitters in the current environment? How can they accurately evaluate pitchers? Statistics determine how players are paid. And every night, often several times a night, something happens that is just . . .  not . . . normal.

Jim Furtado Posted: June 14, 2019 at 05:40 AM | 83 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: commentary

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   1. John DiFool2 Posted: June 14, 2019 at 06:53 AM (#5851851)
Paywall (sigh)...

Ty Cobb and company would be utterly horrified at what they would be witnessing today. Can't say I'd blame them.

Point of departure: WI Babe Ruth never existed? Would the game have evolved the way that it has? Without the revolution he is nothing, and Rogers Hornsby would have gotten all the press instead?
   2. PreservedFish Posted: June 14, 2019 at 07:29 AM (#5851853)
WI Babe Ruth never existed? Would the game have evolved the way that it has?

Yes.
   3. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: June 14, 2019 at 08:39 AM (#5851858)
The claim that the current style and statistical context prevents the accurate evaluation of the game’s current players is a silly argument.
If we were still in an era in which a lot of players went to arbitration then we'd likely see some wacky results from arbitrators' decisions, players being judged on the strikeout/home run/whatever rates of a few years ago.
   4. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 14, 2019 at 09:11 AM (#5851865)
The claim that the current style and statistical context prevents the accurate evaluation of the game’s current players is a

Agree. Rosenthal has a good point here about the aesthetics of the game. He should've stuck to that.
   5. Ithaca2323 Posted: June 14, 2019 at 09:16 AM (#5851866)
Rosenthal's comment about evaluating players is idiotic. Teams have access to all sorts of data we don't see. They're not wandering around in the dark.

That said, I don't really find this style of game all that interesting.

It does seem to mean Pujols will probably pass Mays this year, and might get to 700 before his carer ends
   6. wjones Posted: June 14, 2019 at 10:31 AM (#5851906)
Good thing they implemented drug testing, so homers wouldn't be so prevalent.
   7. wjones Posted: June 14, 2019 at 10:32 AM (#5851907)
Good thing they implemented drug testing, so homers wouldn't be so prevalent.
   8. bunyon Posted: June 14, 2019 at 10:39 AM (#5851911)
The thing is, offensive players are scoring runs in the most efficient manner. I agree that it's not an aesthetically pleasing manner. But the only way to get them to change is to make their approach not the most efficient. The only way to do that is with rules/grounds/ball changes. Wishing it other won't cut it.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: June 14, 2019 at 10:41 AM (#5851913)
The thing is, offensive players are scoring runs in the most efficient manner. I agree that it's not an aesthetically pleasing manner. But the only way to get them to change is to make their approach not the most efficient. The only way to do that is with rules/grounds/ball changes. Wishing it other won't cut it.

Right, and that's what everyone is saying; deaden the ball.
   10. Der-K: at 10% emotional investment Posted: June 14, 2019 at 10:56 AM (#5851925)
Agree.
I'm not a "I wish things were the way they was" type, but more aesthetically pleasing forms of ball are easily attainable.
   11. SoSH U at work Posted: June 14, 2019 at 11:15 AM (#5851934)
I don't know if deadening the ball will work (it might simply depress offense), but MLB has to do something. You might as well try the easily implemented potential fixes first.

   12. Man o' Schwar Posted: June 14, 2019 at 12:13 PM (#5851954)
Seems like deadening the ball would be a very easily implemented fix. Change the manufacturing specs to make them less bouncy.

Find a ball from 1988, take it to the factory, and say "make me this".
   13. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: June 14, 2019 at 12:17 PM (#5851956)
AAA went to the MLB ball this year, and as of about a month ago the home run rate was up about 50%. The ball is ridiculous. It's hard to imagine anything other than a swing for the fences approach with this ball.
   14. bfan Posted: June 14, 2019 at 12:21 PM (#5851960)
Seems like deadening the ball would be a very easily implemented fix. Change the manufacturing specs to make them less bouncy.


That means less everything; yes it reduces HRs, but it reduces the speed of grounders too, so less of them leave the infield (less singles), and less balls get into the gaps for extra base hits. That strikes me as a terrible result.
   15. SoSH U at work Posted: June 14, 2019 at 12:22 PM (#5851961)
Seems like deadening the ball would be a very easily implemented fix.


In case I wasn't clear, I agree. That's the kind of fix that would be the easiest to implement and least disruptive fix to try.

but it reduces the speed of grounders too, so less of them leave the infield (less singles), and less balls get into the gaps for extra base hits.


And that's my worry.

But something has to be done.

   16. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: June 14, 2019 at 12:33 PM (#5851967)
If I were MLB I would be bribing and/or browbeating every independent, semi-pro, and winter league I can find to implement an assortment of rules and regulations. Thicker bat handles in the Cape Cod League, smaller gloves in the Atlantic League, a deadened ball in the Arizona Fall League, etc etc. Try to see what effects some of the ideas floating around might have and then implement some of the ones that seem to work without wrecking anything.
   17. Davo Posted: June 14, 2019 at 12:38 PM (#5851968)
Re 13, check out the stats on the Padres’ AAA team, the El Paso Chihuahuas. 145 homers in 66 games!!! A .550 slugging percentage!!! Averaging almost 7 runs a game!!!
   18. akrasian Posted: June 14, 2019 at 12:48 PM (#5851970)
#16, good idea. Test to see what works and what side effects there are.

Of course, deadening the ball -slightly- would be a good start. I don't think anybody wants a 19th century ball, but if 400 foot fly balls start only going 390 feet, that ball wouldn't have a big effect on ground balls. And that could be implemented right away, while they test other changes in independent and minor leagues.
   19. Bote Man sez Davey is MoY Posted: June 14, 2019 at 01:13 PM (#5851985)
For every problem there is a solution which is simple, elegant, and wrong.

The suggested fixes bring on a host of unintended consequences which I absolutely do not claim to know, but smarter commenters than I have speculated on. Whatever Rob Manfred would consider, he should get good advice and take his time not to create more problems than he's solving.

But it seems that MLB just can't stand the prosperity. They lowered the pitcher's mound so offense increased. Then the A.L. wasn't satisfied and implemented the Designated Hitter rule, so offense there increased. Then guys bulked up and hit a lot of home runs, so they scolded and tested and drove that devil out of the game; yay America!

Now the apparently juiced ball is allowing the likes of Jarrod Dyson to hit unexpected home runs, so now come the demands to deaden the ball.

And the entire time the meat heads in the broadcast booth have been extolling the virtues of "small ball".

There's just no pleasing everybody.
   20. Hysterical & Useless Posted: June 14, 2019 at 01:44 PM (#5851996)
"Deadening" the ball doesn't mean going back to a 1906 baseball, or a WWII balata ball, or a 1960s "little dead ball era" ball. The specs for an MLB ball describe a range within which the manufacturer is supposed to work. I don't believe those standards have been suddenly altered, but, given the way homers have skyrocketed both in the majors and AAA, it seems safe to assume that they are using the most tightly wound balls, with the highest CoR, that they can. So try winding the balls a little less tightly, to the levels used in the 70s and 80s perhaps. It's unlikely that offense would revert all the way back to those levels--players are bigger now, hitting techniques have changed, people in the game seem to have caught on that 4 total bases and 2 outs in 4 PA is better that 2 total bases and 2 outs in 4 PA--but we wouldn't be seeing double-digit numbers of homers in a game, and Eckstein-sized players hitting them out to the opposite field.
   21. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: June 14, 2019 at 02:04 PM (#5852001)
Comparing the International League and MLB in their last full year with a "dead" ball and 2019 to date:

League  Year  AVG  OBP  SLG
IL     2018   252  320  389
MLB    2014   251  314  386
IL     2019   264  342  446
MLB    2019   249  321  427 

It's striking how similar the "dead ball" numbers are. This year the IL is more or less MLB with 20 more points of batting average. (I don't know what chunk of this difference is caused plate appearances by pitchers in MLB.) I'd suspect that MLB fears that deadening the ball would result in a lower offense version of 2014, basically 2014 plus the shift and more strikeouts (i.e., the 2018 IL minus 20 points of average).
   22. bunyon Posted: June 14, 2019 at 02:15 PM (#5852006)
It seems to me the thing that has to change is the perceived value of the strikeout. The game was more aesthetically pleasing (to me, of course) when people thought (incorrectly) that a strikeout was "worse" than a ground out or flyout. It was a step forward for reason when we figured out that isn't the case. But it's made the game less fun to watch. I suspect even with a deadball, swinging for the fences will make sense. HR are an inefficient way to score runs.

I have no good ideas how to make strikeouts worse for the offense. The only one I have is dramatic as hell: make the field bigger. No, I don't know how to do that. I suppose you could remove one fielder, too. But, again, unintended consequences out the wazoo.

Also, I wasn't suggesting people here weren't aware we can't just wish it back to 1975. But it sure seems a lot of columnists feel that way.
   23. . Posted: June 14, 2019 at 02:23 PM (#5852011)
Technically, the K is worse than a GO or FO but not so much that you wouldn't take more Ks in exchange for the extra pop swinging in the way that ups Ks gives you.

There was more than just a misguided "we don't want to K, it's worse for our offense" thing going on, though. Not wanting to K was more cultural norm, primarily because it made one look oafish and incompetent.(*) (In much the same way that throwing the football was seen as borderline sissified, real men run the football.)(**) Never say never, but it's hard to imagine those cultural norms ever coming back. Maybe if there's another war akin to World War II or something ....

(*) And to a not insignificant degree, selfish.

(**) Someone, Woody Hayes maybe, famously quipped that three things can happen if you try to throw the football and two of them are bad -- but that wasn't deep down really the beef with throwing the football.
   24. bunyon Posted: June 14, 2019 at 02:27 PM (#5852016)
It's no coincidence that when the eggheads pointed out that a K is the same* as a ground out or fly out, that the cultural norm fell. The rationale came first, the norm second, as a way to enforce what was considered to be best for the game. When the rationale for the norm was shown to be wrong, it didn't take very long to toss the norm to the gutter. I definitely agree it isn't coming back. The only way to bring back the norm is to actually make a K worse for the offense.


* Your technical point is correct, it's slightly worse but for this argument we're not in the second decimal. For the batter figuring out to approach the game, an out is an out.
   25. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: June 14, 2019 at 02:44 PM (#5852023)
I wasn't even alive in 1975, but it seems to me that the baseball of 1975 was pretty awesome and far better than what we have today and I would love to get back to it.

Even better yet would be the baseball of 1935. Let the whole league hit .300, with a few guys hitting 50-60 home runs but most guys hitting more like 5 or 10. That seems like really fun baseball to me. And get the game finished in a crisp hour and 40.
   26. . Posted: June 14, 2019 at 03:01 PM (#5852033)
Letting your games get longer and longer with less and less action at the very same time attention spans are getting shorter and shorter is a recipe for disaster and no amount of IG-friendly bat flips and brushback pitches is going to fix it.
   27. BrianBrianson Posted: June 14, 2019 at 03:11 PM (#5852035)
If you want hitters to put more balls in play, deadening the ball so balls in play are even more likely to be outs won't help. It'll hurt.

Make balls in play more valuable. Smaller gloves. You won't like it, but ... AstroTurf!
   28. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: June 14, 2019 at 03:29 PM (#5852050)
How much more valuable does a ball in play have to be before people would move off of the dingers-first approach? Surely someone good at numbers could come up with a decent estimate. Then we might be able to make a WAG if smaller gloves (and AstroTurf!) could get us near there.
   29. Nasty Nate Posted: June 14, 2019 at 03:38 PM (#5852058)
If you want hitters to put more balls in play, deadening the ball so balls in play are even more likely to be outs won't help. It'll hurt.
I'm not sure. If balls didn't travel as far, wouldn't that affect the outcome of flyballs much more than for line drives and ground balls? I.E. if you hit it high it has to go far/fast or else it's an out - but that's less true for a line drive, correct? I could be wrong.
   30. bunyon Posted: June 14, 2019 at 03:42 PM (#5852061)
ok, I have an idea. A subtle change to the field. Keep the bases 90 feet apart but make the infield a true diamond, with the rubber at its center. This will make the 3B-HP-1B angle 95.6 degrees and the HP-1B-2B angle 84.4 degrees. There will be no effect on the positioning of the 3Bman and 1Bman but the 2B and SS will be pulled in, letting more balls through. Additionally, the increased angle at HP will result in more OF area and balls that are now just fall will be just fair.

The result: balls in play more valuable.
   31. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: June 14, 2019 at 03:55 PM (#5852067)
As much as I like crazy ideas, you could just pull the fences back. OFers have more ground to cover, increasing the probability that a ball to the outfield is a hit. If the fences go back far enough a liner into the gap might be a triple or a HR.
   32. SoSH U at work Posted: June 14, 2019 at 04:03 PM (#5852069)
As much as I like crazy ideas, you could just pull the fences back. OFers have more ground to cover, increasing the probability that a ball to the outfield is a hit. If the fences go back far enough a liner into the gap might be a triple or a HR.


You can't do that without expensive alterations to many existing stadia or entirely new taxpayer funded palaces. I would like to see mandatory deeper distances on future construction.

ok, I have an idea. A subtle change to the field. Keep the bases 90 feet apart but make the infield a true diamond, with the rubber at its center. This will make the 3B-HP-1B angle 95.6 degrees and the HP-1B-2B angle 84.4 degrees. There will be no effect on the positioning of the 3Bman and 1Bman but the 2B and SS will be pulled in, letting more balls through. Additionally, the increased angle at HP will result in more OF area and balls that are now just fall will be just fair.



If you're altering the field, just reduce the distance between the bases. That will bring the fielders closer and make basestealing easier. It's one solution (besides smaller gloves, which I think will have minimal effect) that will truly incentivize BIP over swinging and missing.
   33. bunyon Posted: June 14, 2019 at 04:09 PM (#5852074)
I don't think you want massive alteration. The game isn't that far out of whack. It feels like it but if all of a sudden routine ground balls are hits, sure, you'll see less TTO but you'll also have nine hole hitters batting .420.

Bringing the fences in does make sense and I'd be all for it. But it's unlikely for the reasons given in your first quote comment. Of course, the same would be true of a wider field.

That's really the point, there just aren't any simple solutions. It worked when players had the wrong idea of the relative value of K to in play-out. It's going to be really hard to alter the rules to change just that valuation and not other things.
   34. SoSH U at work Posted: June 14, 2019 at 04:24 PM (#5852082)
Bringing the fences in does make sense and I'd be all for it. But it's unlikely for the reasons given in your first quote comment. Of course, the same would be true of a wider field.


Reducing the distance between the bases wouldn't require any field alterations. And you ought to be able to tailor it to meet your aims (start at 87.5 feet, for instance).
   35. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: June 14, 2019 at 04:25 PM (#5852084)
Laugh me to ridicule if you must, but: why not make the ball just a tiny bit bigger?
   36. SoSH U at work Posted: June 14, 2019 at 04:33 PM (#5852086)

Laugh me to ridicule if you must, but: why not make the ball just a tiny bit bigger?


That might work. The risk is what it might do to pitcher arms, which aren't exactly sturdy as is.
   37. Dingbat_Charlie Posted: June 14, 2019 at 05:35 PM (#5852119)
My understanding is that the ball isn't bouncier, but more aerodynamic (link).

   38. Dr. Vaux Posted: June 14, 2019 at 05:49 PM (#5852123)
How about doing away with walks and strikeouts, and instead having every batter's plate appearance last until he hits a fair ball (but the batter can get awarded first base if the umpire deems that the pitcher is insisting on not throwing the ball close enough to the plate)? That wouldn't shorten the game or increase its pace, but it would at least make every plate appearance end with some sort of action play.
   39. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 14, 2019 at 06:39 PM (#5852139)
Baseball is fine, and I continue to enjoy it. I’d probably enjoy it more without the decades long Baseball Is Dying chorus, but it’s a free country. That baseball has evolved organically is a feature, not a bug. The Launch Angle Revolution and the Shift Era are just the latest changes, but there are strategies within the game to counter both if teams wish to make use of them. Let the players play without the bright boys messing up the game.
   40. SoSH U at work Posted: June 14, 2019 at 06:50 PM (#5852141)
The Launch Angle Revolution and the Shift Era are just the latest changes, but there are strategies within the game to counter both if teams wish to make use of them.


What is the strategy to counter the Launch Angle Revolution?

   41. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 14, 2019 at 07:11 PM (#5852142)
What is the strategy to counter the Launch Angle Revolution?

The higher strike and more breaking balls are two approaches, along with better pitching in general.
   42. mathesond Posted: June 14, 2019 at 07:14 PM (#5852143)
2-strike strikeouts.
   43. Walt Davis Posted: June 14, 2019 at 07:43 PM (#5852146)
No players with a (verified) BMI over 27 unless their body fat is over 25% (we always gotta allow for a Bartolo).

My brother, even more of a contrarian than me, long ago noted that baseball is weird in that it rewards you for putting the ball out of play (in the right direction) and suggested HRs should be foul balls.

But yes, the tricky bit is not reducing HRs per se (expand the strike zone) or decrease Ks (shrink the strike zone) but somehow radically changing the risk/reward ratio of the TTO approach. Deadening the ball will decrease HRs but it won't necessarily change that tradeoff. The on-contact production of the TTO approach is much greater than the on-contact production of the contact approach. So yes, as someone above noted and I think everybody here basically knows, you have to increase BIP production while somehow decreasing the probability of hitting it out on-contact.

A simple forumal is V = (V|C)*P(C) ... value (in runs created say) equals value conditional on contact times the probability of contact ... (plus walks, etc.) If those two things were independent, then a deadened ball (reducing V|C) would certainly reduce scoring. But it doesn't do anything to P(C). P(C) is tricky ... shrinking the strike zone would reduce Ks but it wouldn't necessarily increase contact ... OK, it probably would some but it would also increase walks.

But the key bit is they aren't independent. Batters have realized that while rake and take decreases P(C), the increase in V|C more than compensates for that. There's no reason to think that deadening the ball changes that relationship substantially. For Javy Baez, the smart approach will always be to maximize V|C by swinging hard. That was true for Mike Schmidt in 1975, it's true for Javy Baez during ManfredBall. (Javy could obviously benefit from the "take" part of "rake and take" unless it seriously reduced his "rake" output.)

Then there are the pitchers. For any given V|C it is always in their (short-term) interest to decrease P(C) via strikeouts. Unless you could demonstrate long-term (health) benefits of allowing more contact or limit rosters to 10 pitchers there is really no way to change that relationship.

By the way, if anything, LD %s have incresed in the last decade. The trade has been GBs for FBs and Ks. GBs have never had run value. Sure, smaller gloves or astroturf might increase the value of GBs a bit. (The aesthetic value of 10 GB vs. 1 HR, 1 LD and 8 cans of corn is up to you.)

Further by the way, where's the praise for the sesaon Buxton is having? He hs more doubles and triple than singles, has an ISO of 185 on BIP, has as many LDs as GBs. The way he's hitting this season seems to be about what you guys want (yes the K-rate is still 25%), still generating runs but in a more "exciting" manner. (His production on GB? 222/222 ... awesome!)

I will say that, yes, a style of game where Dyson has already tied his career high in HR (a whopping 5) and where for the last 2+ seasons, he's got a flat G/F ratio is pretty absurd. Tiny speed guys should hit like tiny speed guys. Still, even for him ... 239/267 on GBs, 374/614 on LD/FB (mostly LD production of course). On 874 GBs, he has just 46 RBI ... on 384 FBs (not LDs), he has 50 RBI. Speed guy, doesn't K that much (16%), walks at a league-average rate ... and it's still not 100% clear he shouldn't be swinging for launch angle. So this seems a good place to target the tinkering ... make Jarrod Dyson (Billy Hamilton, Dee Gordon ... maybe even Albert Almorea) more valuable.

** yes, these numbers are all iffy but Schmidt listed at 6'2" 195 lbs; Javy at 6' 190. I'd guess Javy lifts weights more often.
   44. PreservedFish Posted: June 14, 2019 at 07:52 PM (#5852149)
How about doing away with walks and strikeouts, and instead having every batter's plate appearance last until he hits a fair ball (but the batter can get awarded first base if the umpire deems that the pitcher is insisting on not throwing the ball close enough to the plate)? That wouldn't shorten the game or increase its pace, but it would at least make every plate appearance end with some sort of action play.


Holy christ this is a terrible idea.
   45. Ziggy is done with Dominican discotheques Posted: June 14, 2019 at 08:03 PM (#5852152)
If you're altering the field, just reduce the distance between the bases. That will bring the fielders closer and make basestealing easier.


Unless there are runners on, this won't do much to change where fielders play. First basemen always need to be able to get to first, and so will always stay close-ish to the bag, but the other three fielders will just end up playing as shallow outfielders. If where they currently stand maximizes their probability of getting to balls, that's not going to change if you move the bases.

You'll get the difference when fielders have to hold runners on. But I can see all kinds of unintended consequences here. Who knows how this would effect base stealing? Shorter distances to run, but also shorter distances for catchers to throw (and for pitchers to throw on pickoff attempts). If it ends up being really easy to steal maybe defense just lets them run wild. If you're not going to catch them anyway, why bother? In which case there wouldn't be any difference to where fielders play, even with runners on. This would mean that pitchers would need to be really careful to not allow walks (because they automatically turn into doubles/triples due to steals), which leads to more strikes thrown, which leads to more contact. On the other hand, if stealing doesn't get much easier (because of shorter throw for the catcher), fielders need to move in when there are runners on. With a runner on second, 1B plays in (because he always does) and so does 2B (to hold the runner), and 3B (to receive a throw). But SS still plays at normal depth. Unless there's a lefty at bat, in which case the 2B plays back, and the SS holds the runner.

So I guess either way there will be more balls in play. Although it looks like there's a fair chance we'd see more shifts.
   46. SoSH U at work Posted: June 14, 2019 at 08:16 PM (#5852156)
Unless there are runners on, this won't do much to change where fielders play. First basemen always need to be able to get to first, and so will always stay close-ish to the bag, but the other three fielders will just end up playing as shallow outfielders. If where they currently stand maximizes their probability of getting to balls, that's not going to change if you move the bases.


No, where they play is based on a combination of range and ability to throw the base runner out once the ball has been fielded. If the batter has a shorter distance to run to first, then they will have no choice but to play closer. Which will allow more balls to go through, as well as more between the infielders and outfielders (both line drives and popups of varying types).

Shorter distances to run, but also shorter distances for catchers to throw (and for pitchers to throw on pickoff attempts).


The ball travels much faster than the runner, so the shorter distance doesn't have nearly as much effect on getting a thrown ball to the base as it would running to the base.

   47. John DiFool2 Posted: June 14, 2019 at 10:00 PM (#5852185)
Here's a point of discussion. Yes, it has an obvious answer, but I don't think that answer really works.

Why hasn't anyone made a serious run at Bonds' record?

Heck, we haven't had anybody clear 60 since Barry.

Now, given how easy HRs are now to hit, isn't that a bit strange?

Do all the extra strikeouts reduce a player's HR opportunities?
   48. SoSH U at work Posted: June 14, 2019 at 10:09 PM (#5852190)
Why hasn't anyone made a serious run at Bonds' record?


I think because there's only one truly great power hitter right now, and he's usually hurt.
   49. PreservedFish Posted: June 14, 2019 at 10:11 PM (#5852191)
I think it's a fluke, and we'll have 50+ HR seasons again soon, and probably 60+.

However, I suppose it's possible that the juiced ball is not as impactful as the juiced ballplayer.
   50. Jack Sommers Posted: June 15, 2019 at 03:10 AM (#5852212)
I wonder why fly ball BABIP is down so much last couple of year ? report link

   51. Dr. Vaux Posted: June 15, 2019 at 04:33 AM (#5852214)
Maybe the focus on launch angle results in a lot of ground balls being traded for weak fly balls instead; it's still not a line drive, but it's a different kind of non-line drive.
   52. PreservedFish Posted: June 15, 2019 at 07:39 AM (#5852219)
BABIP pointedly ignores a rather important subset of flyballs: homeruns. On the same leaderboard, it looks like a flyball is about 50% more likely to go out of the park today than a decade ago. That effect is so huge that AVG on flyballs is itself up dramatically even despite the lower BABIP.

Launch angle proponents will happily admit that they're just trying to loft flyballs into the outfield on every PA. I remember Chris Taylor saying exactly that a few years ago. It stands to reason that big booming flies are both more likely to be caught and more likely to go over the fence, and are less likely to drop for singles and doubles.

Anyway, these statistics are always sketchy - who knows if a "flyball" is categorized the same today as it was in 2009?
   53. It's regretful that PASTE was able to get out Posted: June 15, 2019 at 07:47 AM (#5852220)
Anyway, these statistics are always sketchy - who knows if a "flyball" is categorized the same today as it was in 2009?


From having worked with Baseball Info Solutions, I'm pretty certain ball trajectories are recorded in essentially the same way they have been since about 2005 or so, at least by them--I don't know offhand where THT et. al. get their data.
   54. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: June 15, 2019 at 10:48 AM (#5852229)
However, I suppose it's possible that the juiced ball is not as impactful as the juiced ballplayer.
I think that the juiced ballplayer probably has more unequal effects than the juiced ball. As in, Bonds was naturally possessed of inner-circle talent and also had an insane work ethic, so he probably benefited more from juicing than just about anyone. A less talented and less driven ballplayer would see much less effect. Whereas a juiced ball helps everyone more or less equally. So more home runs overall today, but more huge individual totals from the sillyball era. IOW, the standard deviation of home run rates (or ISO or whatever) was likely higher in the sillyball era than today.
   55. Jose is an Absurd Time Cube Posted: June 15, 2019 at 10:57 AM (#5852232)
If baseball wants to change the game while i think deadening the ball might be an option I think making gloves significantly smaller is the way to go. It keeps the home run ball as a thing (which fans love) but it encourages putting the ball in play. Right now a ball in play other than a hot shot is getting gobbled up.
   56. Fernigal McGunnigle Posted: June 15, 2019 at 11:26 AM (#5852233)
This is just home runs per AB for players with 300+ ABs in 2001 and 2018:

year    median  mean    low     high    stdev
2001    0.032   0.036   0.0     0.15    0.022
2018    0.037   0.037   0.0042  0.089   0.017 


A 29% higher standard deviation in 2001. Not proof of anything, but at least it doesn't disprove my #54.

EDIT: Remove the top & bottom results from each year (i.e., treat Bonds 2001 as pure outlier) and the std dev is only 17% higher in 2001:

year    median  mean    low     high    stdev
2001    0.032   0.035   0.0     0.11    0.02
2018    0.037   0.037   0.0054  0.083   0.017 
   57. Jack Sommers Posted: June 15, 2019 at 11:42 AM (#5852240)
Launch angle proponents will happily admit that they're just trying to loft flyballs into the outfield on every PA. I remember Chris Taylor saying exactly that a few years ago. It stands to reason that big booming flies are both more likely to be caught and more likely to go over the fence, and are less likely to drop for singles and doubles.


Wouldn't fly ball percentage be up overall then ? And wouldn't IFFB rate ALSO be up if that were the case ?

Neither really seems to be the case though. 2005-2019

EDIT:

What I'm wondering is making the ball less aerodynamic to reduce HR will certainly reduce HR but I am skeptical it will increase other types of hits. So the "more K's than hits" thing won't go away. It will actually get worse. There will be fewer hits overall, as there will be fewer HR, without the number of singles, doubles, triples to offset the HR losses.
   58. bobm Posted: June 15, 2019 at 02:19 PM (#5852256)
Bill James long ago identified that the loss of the inside pitch by pitchers and the use of thin handled bats were tied to the growth in TTO offense.

excerpt from Bill James' book, "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract."


For all intents and purposes, the league policy now is that the hitter can stand right on top of home plate, and the pitcher can't do much about it. A few pitchers can still get by with knocking the hitter back off the plate, but not very many; that's pretty much a lost art. The batters own the inside corner.


Finally, there is a hundred-year trend in bat design. Nineteenth-century bats had barrels almost as thick as the hitting area. Bats from 1920 had thinner handles, from 1950, still thinner, from 1980, still thinner, from 1999, thinner yet. More and more of the bat's weight has been concentrated into the sweet spot, the contact area; even the end of the bat has been hollowed out to increase a little bit more the ratio between the bat's weight and its surface area.

The effect of this is to increase bat speed. The hitters of the Nellie Fox/Richie Ashburn type, who choked up on the bat and tried to punch the ball into the outfield, are just about gone. Almost everybody now holds the bat right down on the knob, and tries to hit the ball hard.


Just for fun:

The number of pitchers used per game has been increasing for a hundred years -- but increased more rapidly between 1983 and 1995 than ever before. In 1983 major league managers used 1.60 relievers per game; in 1995 they used 2.45, a 53% increase in 12 years. Projecting that rate of increase for another two generations, by the year 2020 major league managers would be using six relievers per game.
   59. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: June 15, 2019 at 02:35 PM (#5852260)
The hitters of the Nellie Fox/Richie Ashburn type, who choked up on the bat and tried to punch the ball into the outfield, are just about gone. Almost everybody now holds the bat right down on the knob, and tries to hit the ball hard.


This part is even more true than when James wrote it: dropping a pinky (holding the knob in the palm) used to be very rare; now a whole bunch of guys do it. Couple extra inches of bat to swing = more power, less bat control.
   60. phredbird Posted: June 15, 2019 at 04:54 PM (#5852275)

As much as I like crazy ideas, you could just pull the fences back. OFers have more ground to cover, increasing the probability that a ball to the outfield is a hit. If the fences go back far enough a liner into the gap might be a triple or a HR.


i have been screaming this for years.

it isn't just a little more ground for OF to cover. it's a lot of ground for OF to cover. the OF increases geometrically. the gaps become enormous. and if OF just back up, hits are going to fall in front of them.

batters will adjust when they see just trying to strong back it out isn't going to work like it used to.


i hand wave the expense argument. the owners are swimming in money. they make major alterations to their stadiums constantly.
   61. Jack Sommers Posted: June 17, 2019 at 05:34 PM (#5852937)
In theory, I actually like this idea. But the obstacles are more than just money.

How do you move the fences back in left field in Fenway ? In Wrigley ? Rip out the bricks and vines ? In Right field in San Francisco ?

Also while I think that you could justify the expense if you wanted to, from an aesthetic point of view, a lot of stadiums would just look like crap if they tried to move the fences back 10-15 feet.

I'm not saying it can't be done in a lot of places. However it should also be noted that some parks that were viewed as TOO difficult to homer in when they first opened, such as Comerica, Citi Field, even, Even Petco, all moved their fences IN, not out.

No team wants to be left out. And the league wouldn't be able to mandate that all 30 teams make the same level of changes, because as pointed out above, some stadiums couldn't really be changed much even if the owners wanted too.

   62. bobm Posted: June 17, 2019 at 06:49 PM (#5852964)
you could just pull the fences back.

Or raise the height of the fences using glass (or taut netting). Maybe it's not adding area, but it would mean one has to hit the ball higher and farther to get a home run.
   63. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: June 17, 2019 at 07:13 PM (#5852968)
In Right field in San Francisco ?
No better incentive to put the ball in play than if the outfielder would have to swim for it. Same in Pittsburgh.
   64. Benji Gil Gamesh VII - The Opt-Out Awakens Posted: June 17, 2019 at 07:22 PM (#5852970)
Step #1 should be no more, and no less, than undoing the changes to the ball that happened a few years ago.

*Then* you worry about whether and how to "fix" anything else.
   65. Dr. Vaux Posted: June 17, 2019 at 10:45 PM (#5853044)
Major League Baseball obviously wants there to be a ridiculous number of home runs, though--they changed the ball on purpose, after all. It's remarkable how poorly the commissioner's office has managed this. First, they (apparently) liked steroids because of home runs, so they facilitated their use for two decades. Then, when it looked like steroids were a PR issue for them, mainly because a media-disliked player broke a record, they went nuclear, even banning amphetamines, and then when they didn't like how there were fewer home runs again, they changed the ball, thereby undoing the only conceivably legitimate justification for doing what they did to the players who used to take steroids and amphetamines (lack of which is, I think, the biggest reason for the decline in innings pitched for starting pitchers, among other things). And they chose to make the change in the middle of a season, so it would be blindingly obvious that it wasn't some other nebulous raft of factors causing the power surge. Now they lament the strategic changes in hitting approach invited by the increased likelihood of long flyballs being home runs.
   66. Sunday silence Posted: June 18, 2019 at 01:21 AM (#5853065)
I would be hesitant about using an approach (thicker handles) when the only one clamoring for it is Bill James.
   67. DL from MN Posted: June 18, 2019 at 10:13 AM (#5853094)
making the ball less aerodynamic to reduce HR will certainly reduce HR but I am skeptical it will increase other types of hits. So the "more K's than hits" thing won't go away. It will actually get worse.


I think that's true. Making the ball 5% heavier would reduce HR but also reduce fastball velocity and spin rates making the ball easier to put into play. There spec for weight of a baseball is 5 to 5-1/4 ounces which is plus/minus 2.5%. They should try making balls at the upper end of the weight spec and see what happens.
   68. PreservedFish Posted: June 18, 2019 at 10:28 AM (#5853096)
making the ball less aerodynamic to reduce HR will certainly reduce HR but I am skeptical it will increase other types of hits. So the "more K's than hits" thing won't go away. It will actually get worse.


It's supposed to also incentivize a different type of swing/approach.
   69. . Posted: June 18, 2019 at 10:58 AM (#5853106)
It should be crystal clear to everyone by now that MLB *wants* a lot of homeruns. Before social media chicks dug the long ball and now after social media homeruns are far and away the most Instagram-friendly event in baseball. And even better, homeruns are now accompanied by bat flips and trash talk and back and forths about geezers and racisms and you're-out-of-touches -- also the kind of stuff that draws attention to the product. Without appealing to the IG generation, the MLB suits see a very crimped future and there's no way they're giving up Instagram for a bunch of slowly-put-together rallies. An infield hit, stolen base, hit behind the runner, sac fly run doesn't play well on modern media; it's that simple.

(All this is precisely why they juiced the ball in mid-2017. The internal demographics and public surveys must be godawful.)


   70. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 18, 2019 at 12:31 PM (#5853133)
Why hasn't anyone made a serious run at Bonds' record?


Because he was a historically great player, and those don't grow on trees?
   71. BrianBrianson Posted: June 18, 2019 at 12:36 PM (#5853138)
Indeed - in 2017, we saw a tie for the 9th highest single season HR total. That wasn't that long ago.
   72. Greg Pope Posted: June 18, 2019 at 12:45 PM (#5853143)
Without appealing to the IG generation, the MLB suits see a very crimped future and there's no way they're giving up Instagram for a bunch of slowly-put-together rallies. An infield hit, stolen base, hit behind the runner, sac fly run doesn't play well on modern media; it's that simple.

Assuming that's true, then they also should have unilaterally implemented the pitch clock when they had the chance. Because the pace of the game turns off those that they're catering to.
   73. AuntBea calls himself Sky Panther Posted: June 18, 2019 at 12:58 PM (#5853149)
Is the point that no one really cares to pay attention to the games now anyway, just the highlights? Therefore, the pace of the game is irrelevant, all that matters is the salience of the highlight.

This seems to have been going on in the NBA for awhile, for example.
   74. . Posted: June 18, 2019 at 02:10 PM (#5853208)
Is the point that no one really cares to pay attention to the games now anyway, just the highlights? Therefore, the pace of the game is irrelevant, all that matters is the salience of the highlight.

This seems to have been going on in the NBA for awhile, for example.


This is my position. The homerun/bat flip/trash talk ritual is the functional equivalent of the posterizing NBA dunk. Baseball had to have such an equivalent to compete in the IG era.

The pace of the game is essentially irrelevant to the deeper issues, although longer games probably do lower the local cable TV audience a smidge. That lowering can and will be easily offset by things like better highlight generation and especially more time between pitches for people to place their bets. To MLB, pace of game is a business, not aesthetic issue -- though it might be justified in terms of aesthetics if they think business will be better if it's shortened.

Sitting down and watching a game just for the game's sake is a fading thing. Among the leading indicators were the college football student sections (**), which started noticeably shrinking around 2010. That isn't a good thing, it isn't a bad thing (*)-- but it's very much a thing.

(*) To me, it's only a good or bad thing if the game itself is changed in a better or worse direction.

(**) And of course, the baseball mallparks.
   75. Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Griffin (Vlad) Posted: June 18, 2019 at 02:31 PM (#5853224)
Ty Cobb and company would be utterly horrified at what they would be witnessing today.


Integrated ball? Night games under the lights? Teams traveling on ridiculous contraptions that fly through the air?
   76. . Posted: June 18, 2019 at 02:40 PM (#5853231)
Ty Cobb and company would be utterly horrified at what they would be witnessing today.


I was goofing around on YouTube yesterday and flipped to the first game of the 1976 ABA finals -- Nuggets/Nets, Dr. J, etc. I should have been entirely in the tank for it but on a couple plays, I sort of said to myself really for the first time in YouTubing games from that era, "God, that's awful." And 1976 was my early childhood and all that. It's long been clear that even late 70s NHL, massive fan though I was, was piss poor compared to today's version.

All of which is to say that if mid and late 70s basketball and hockey can bring out these kind of thoughts, Ty Cobb era baseball -- all white, almost all prole, players having second jobs, shitty coaching and teaching -- must have been just unsurpassingly dreadful.(*) Its opinions aren't a worthy source for anything.

(*) In the Nuggets/Nets game, there were several plays of 2019 caliber and some -- like a few pure midrange all net jump shots -- where you can even say it's better than 2019. David Thompson's midrange J is only dated because analytics has made the midrange J somewhat obsolete. Aesthetically, it's awesome even with 2019 eyes. Plays like that from Cobb era baseball are inconceivable.
   77. Sunday silence Posted: June 18, 2019 at 02:46 PM (#5853235)
yeah but they werent allowed to basically palm the ball the entire time. In 70s hoops they are basically slapping at the ball so its really different the way they move. Then again I dont know what exactly you're referring to so..
   78. phredbird Posted: June 18, 2019 at 06:02 PM (#5853316)

How do you move the fences back in left field in Fenway ? In Wrigley ? Rip out the bricks and vines ? In Right field in San Francisco ?


look, you agree with me. it's just a matter of how to implement it.

i had a longer reply written, but thought better of it because i just don't want to get into this too much.

all i'll say is that

1- i don't care about fenway, wrigley etc. -- if they can tear down tiger stadium they can do the same here. enough of these sacred cows.

2 - there are design/architectural firms that live for this kind of thing.

and i reiterate that there is ample money to pay for this stuff.

moving the fences is the best way to change the game without corrupting it with stupid new rules and other tinkering.


   79. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: June 18, 2019 at 06:18 PM (#5853322)
moving the fences is the best way to change the game


I must say I've come around to this argument. I was all for making the ball a bit heavier, etc(not juiced like it is now), but now like the idea of moving fences back 5-6 feet(these 10-15 feet ideas are not needed). As pointed out, you move the fences back even a yard and the space grows exponentially in the outfield.

I know there were a lot of homers hit in that Rockies/Padres 4 game set, but that big outfield in Colorado is just great. The ball seemed to be in the gaps constantly in that series. There were a few triples in that series which were your more standard ones hit to the gap between CF and RF and the batsman just legging it out; good stuff to watch.
   80. Cris E Posted: June 18, 2019 at 06:20 PM (#5853324)
Cut back to 88' or 86' from home to first base. The change to the distance from 1b to 2b would be minimal but you'd get more infield hits. (OK, not a ton, but you'd make the defense hurry up and you might get some errors instead. Same diff.)
   81. GGC Posted: June 18, 2019 at 08:25 PM (#5853366)
This is no longer 1935, but I wouldn't object if Alex Cora started fining Boston hitters for striking out. The questions are: How high a fine does he have to impose to have an effect? Where would the money go?
   82. Jack Sommers Posted: June 19, 2019 at 02:10 AM (#5853483)
look, you agree with me. it's just a matter of how to implement it.


Yeah, I was already trying to figure it out and thought of those obstacles. So I was trying to think what the solutions might be, or solicit feedback on the solutions.
   83. Pat Rapper's Delight (as quoted on MLB Network) Posted: June 19, 2019 at 09:16 AM (#5853503)
It's long been clear that even late 70s NHL, massive fan though I was, was piss poor compared to today's version.

I took your lead and found a half hour of what was my hometown Cleveland Barons vs Pittsburgh Penguins game from 10/23/77 on YouTube last night. Definitely a different era. Funniest part to me though was the announcer. It was almost a one-man booth, but there was a 2nd voice that occasionally cut in for a sentence or two that sounded like it was being patched in from a long-distance telephone line. The lead announcer though called the game as though he only knew about half of the rosters: taking a few seconds after someone passed the puck to identify them by name who it was and using a lot of first-person plural in the commentary ("We win the faceoff," "Our guy comes away with the rebound," etc) but you could tell it was because he didn't know who it was... not because he was being a cartoonish buffoon like Hawk Harrelson. It was like they plucked some random fan out of his seat and brought him up to the broadcast booth.

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